Bottoms up: New service lets you help out-of-work servers with a “virtual tip” while wining and dining at home

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the first full three weeks since widespread lockdowns were instituted. Servers, bartenders, baristas and other service industry personnel have been particularly hard hit. A new venture called Service Industry Tips aims to help these workers by allowing you to tip out-of-work servers in your community as they enjoy meals and drinks at home that they would normally be enjoying at local businesses.

“The idea behind this is not tipping to pay someone’s rent but more to make them smile and help out in small ways,” said Raquel Carrion, admin for the New Paltz/Gardiner/Rosendale group.

When users visit the site, they are presented with the name and most recent employer of a local server. They can then choose to leave them a tip using Venmo or the Cash App (you’ll need an account). The server’s name is generated randomly. You can refresh to page to see another, though the service’s developers suggest tipping the first name that shows up so everyone gets a turn.

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We asked Carrion, who isn’t a server herself, why someone who prepared their own meal or drink would choose to use the service.

“The reality is, we could always stay home to enjoy food or beverages but we as consumers and community members choose to go out to enjoy the company and service of others,” she said. “In a community like this, it is easy to develop close relationships with our servers, bartenders and restaurant staff and this is our way of saying we miss you, we’re thinking of you and we can’t wait to see you again. It’s not news to anyone that typically eating and drinking at home is less expensive so think of sharing a small portion of that cost savings to someone who is no longer benefiting from your ability to go out.”

Carrion said that over 50 servers have signed up since Sunday and just over 100 tips have been given. The service is open to workers in other industries as well, including hair dressers, hotel cleaning staff and others. So far, only workers from the food and drink industry have signed up for the New Paltz/Gardiner/Rosendale group.

Here in the Hudson Valley, there also group in Kingston. Servers in the communities mentioned can sign up here.

If you decide to participate, consider being adventurous. Try a new recipe. Mix a new cocktail. Something more creative than mac & cheese and a Bud Light.

“I have made it a fun game,” said Carrion. “When I pour myself a glass of wine, I open the site and see the randomly generated servers name and tip as though they served me the glass. In this community, you’re likely recognize many of the names and it feels good to send them a note and a tip.”