I used to wait tables at an Applebees in Tallahassee, Florida, in the mid-1990s. Although the customers usually tipped me 20% or more on their tabs, those tips were just enough to cover groceries, gas, and pay my third of the rent. I was young, single, and unencumbered with the typical trappings of adult life. Reality didn’t stress me out in my early twenties. Still, I was sometimes haunted by the fact that I would never be able to buy a nice home, take a real vacation, or handle any major unexpected expenses with what I earned waiting tables at Applebees. And I watched many of my coworkers struggle to provide for their children. Sudden large medical bills completely devasted them, too. I had other career aspirations, but I knew a few twists of fate could easily put me in a position where life wasn’t so rosy. I vowed that one day when I “made it,” I would hand out big, fat tips to random strangers working in the service industry.
I often tried to convince a few big philanthropists to adopt my idea as their own, but no one was ever interested. In fact, they would often comment about how they gave someone a 100% tip, such as $20 on a $20 tab one time – like I was supposed to be impressed by their generosity. (And yes, a 100% tip is nice, but I was trying to convince them to give away life-changing money.)
Over the decades, I have given out the occasional $100 tip on a tiny tab. It always felt great, but those times also reminded me that I had not reached my goal to become the philanthropist who dolled out much bigger, life-changing tips. The hard truth was that I often needed the money that I was giving away, but it felt so good to make someone else’s day that I did it anyway.
As I approached the age of 44, I was quite aware that I still had not “made it.”
There I was: depressed, stuck, and numb. My talents were being under-utilized, and although I was “crushing it” at work – consistently surpassing all of my goals – I felt unappreciated and devalued. Promotional opportunities vanished, and my career seemed to have come to a grinding halt. I realized I was wasting my life in time-sucking, soul-crushing meetings talking about things I no longer cared about with people who did not value me and my contributions. I thought my life had become incredibly boring with no real purpose, too. I was losing interest in just about everything. I was in a funk – stuck in the trough of disillusionment. So, I quit my stable and secure (19-year) career at GEICO for a job at a small company with an elevated title and a little more pay. That major move didn’t change my outlook on life. Instead, I found myself in a similar situation – feeling depressed and stuck. I did not like working there. That’s ok – they decided they did not like me working there, either. I was suddenly let go; a perfect way to enjoy Christmas in 2018.
Being fired was the catalyst I needed. I decided to change my life drastically. I would take control of it, give it more meaning and make real connections with people. I founded a company to help people think creatively, laugh, and build stronger bonds with others. I was determined to be that philanthropist who handed out surprise $1,000 tips, too. Being unemployed and plowing my life’s savings into launching a new business wasn’t exactly the best time to start handing out money to strangers. Still, I wasn’t going to let a lack of money prevent me from giving away money. It was a simple hurdle. Every problem has at least one solution, right?Â
I started thinking about other ways to make this work. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could convince some friends to donate to the cause. Â And maybe I could convince the Internal Revenue Service to buy in on the idea so foundations, companies, and large corporate sponsors could make significant donations and get a tax write-off, too. I paid for all of the legal fees and paperwork, enlisted the help of some smart people, and on July 11, 2019, it was approved! The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted an official registered trademark for THE BIG FAT TIP one year later. So here we are: Welcome to The Big Fat Tip® official 501(c)(3) website!
We need your support to keep it going. There are many easy ways you can generate money for this cause besides your direct donations on this site:
1) Sign up for Amazon Smile – a small percentage of your total purchases will be given back to us!
2) Create a Facebook birthday fundraiser.
3) Ask your company to match your donation.
4) Buy a “Show Me Your Tips” or “Just the Tip” tee-shirt. All of the proceeds will be donated to The Big Fat Tip for each BFT branded tee-shirt purchased. By wearing that shirt, you will be showing your support and generating more awareness for the cause, too. Raise some money while you are raising a few eyebrows!
5) Encourage your friends, family, employers, and foundations to donate.
6) Share our information on your social media channels.
With your help, we can surprise more hard-working people and spread a little more joy all over the United States. Let’s recognize and support those in the U.S. service industry by showing our deep appreciation for what they do for us and our local economies. But more importantly, let’s push out positive energy through these surprises – lifting those around us and giving them hope. All of the recipients have different stories, but the one thing they all have in common is the strong, positive emotions they feel from these surprise random acts of kindness and their commitment to passing that on to someone else. You can be the driving force pushing that positive energy out into the world.
Deedre Daniel, Founder of The Big Fat Tip® and The Interesting Conversations Company®
Note: The BIG FAT TIP, Inc. does not have any employees or salary expenses. Volunteers carry out all efforts. Vetted volunteers are often recruited to hand out the tips so that they can directly feel the impact of making a stranger’s day.
PS: I am MUCH happier now. When I decided to revamp my life, I wrote a new personal mission statement:
To be interested in the world around me – approaching people with kindness, situations with curiosity, problems with creativity, and life without regrets.
The Big Fat Tip allowed me to fulfill part of that mission, and I am ever so grateful to all who have donated and inspired others to do the same. THANK YOU!