Published December 23, 2016
The $111.05 New York restaurant receipt includes a $1,000 tip and the words "god bless!" scrawled across it. The handle @tipsforjesus is stamped in block letters next to an illegible signature.
In recent weeks, similar tabs have popped up in restaurants from coast to coast and even in Mexico, with tips of as much as $10,000 — all charged to American Express.
A Instagram account called "Tips for Jesus" has more than 60,000 followers. It is filled with photos of smiling servers holding receipts with outlandish gratuities on bills paid in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Phoenix and Ann Arbor, Mich. On Twitter, @Tipsforjesus has more than 4,000 followers despite never having issued a tweet.
Both social media accounts are accompanied by the tagline, "Doing the Lord's work, one tip at a time."
So who's the anonymous tipster leaving a trail of generosity across the continent?
No one has come forward, but the mysterious stranger apparently knows some Spanish.
A tab dated Dec. 5, 2013, from a resort in Punta Mita, Mexico, is posted on Instagram with the comment, "Muchas gracias Carlos!" — meaning "many thanks" to Carlos Mendez, a grinning young waiter holding a bill for $158.11 with a tip of 13,100 Mexican pesos, or about $1,000.
"I saw him looking so happy, holding the check," said Benito Robles, a concierge at the resort, last week. "I asked him, 'Why are you smiling?' and he showed me the tip."
Mendez went home to his wife and two kids in a nearby village and took some vacation, according to Robles.
The guessing continues.
And across the U.S., restaurant servers are posting pleas on Instagram asking the mysterious tipster to visit them, giving out the location of their restaurants.
Three Manhattan establishments were especially blessed the first weekend of December. A waiter in the restaurant at the NoMad Hotel got a $7,000 tip, another at The Smith restaurant was left $3,500, and $1,000 went to Aruj Dhawan, a 25-year-old fashion marketing student and immigrant from India working at Bo's Kitchen & Bar Room.
Dhawan served three guests who walked in one recent Saturday evening.
Their order — a bourbon, a beer, an appetizer, a pork ragout and a pork chop — amounted to $111.05, plus $1,000 for the waiter.
When they were gone, "Aruj approached me, handed me the receipt and said, 'Is this for real?'" said general manager Benjamin Cramer.
Again, before leaving, the tipster had snapped a photo of the waiter with the check and posted it on Instagram.
The tipster also wrote his cell phone number at the bottom of the tab, telling Cramer to call him if American Express had any issues with processing the receipt.
After seeing the amount, Cramer said he understood why the credit card company might be suspicious and he himself was curious. So he called the number. The man who answered reassured the manager that the tip was real.
The man demanded anonymity, so Cramer did not pursue tracking his identity.
A $1,000 tip also went to a waiter at the Hungry Cat in Los Angeles after three men finished their dinner, said restaurant spokeswoman Jannis Swerman. One of them stamped the check @tipsforjesus.
In another photo, a Phoenix bartender beams looking at his $2,500 tip.
"This middle-aged gentleman came in with a woman, and they sat at the bar," says Micah Olson, the bartender at a restaurant called Crudo who served them one of the most expensive whiskeys at $70 per ounce.
"They sat at the bar and had 5 ounces total," Olson says. "The guy was really cool and bought me two ounces."
The man asked for the check — $530.67 — and paid with his Amex.
"When they left, I saw the tip and I went, 'Wow!'" says the 35-year-old bartender. "I hope one of these days, we'll find out who he is."
He's not the only one with a knack for generosity at the table.
Seth Collins, of Lexington, Ky., has been leaving $500 tips around the country — following his late brother's instructions.
Before Aaron Collins died last year, he gave his brother a mission: Eat, be merry and leave a giant tip.
Through his family, he's given away more than 80 tips throughout the U.S.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.