Birthday Reveler Leaves $1K Tip for Waiter, Says 'Pay it Forward'

PHOTO: An Albany waiter received a tip nearly 10 times the total bill.
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A birthday reveler left an unexpected gift for his waiter when he wrote out a gigantic tip 10 times the amount of the total dinner bill.

Michael Shafts was working a routine shift last week at The Ginger Man, a wine bar and restaurant in Albany, N.Y., where he has waited tables for the last four years, when one of his patrons left him $1,000 gratuity for his good service.

"Pay it forward. My birthday present to me!" wrote the diner on the receipt, then left with his wife in a limousine, according to The Ginger Man manager Julie Byron.

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After dropping off a veal loin chop topped with an Emmental mornay sauce and truffles for the male diner and the market fish entree for his wife, Byron noted that the pair had a very special bottle of wine with them and inquired about it.

"He told me it was a 47-year-old bottle of Amarone and that he was celebrating his 47th birthday," she said. "I wished him a happy birthday, then it was back to business as usual and I went to chat with a regular outside."

Later, Byron noticed the couple leaving in a limousine and bid them farewell. Upon returning inside, she was greeted by a wide-eyed Shafts, who presented his open billfold to her with the $1,000 tip written out.

"I did a double-take," she said. "Everybody was very excited. It’s thrilling and it's especially unusual for something like that to happen in the capitol district."

Because of the "pay it forward" message inscribed on the receipt, Byron and Shafts spoke at length about how he would use the money afterward. But his colleagues wouldn't have to wait long to find out.

"When he returned to work on Saturday night, he had envelopes of money for all of the staff, both front-of-house and back-of-house that had been working with him on Wednesday night," Byron said. "When all was said and done, he divvied up more than half."

Byron also noted that returning the good deed wasn't out of character for her employee.

"He’s a very hardworking young man," she said of Shafts, who works full time at Sunmark Federal Credit Union, pulls three part-time shifts a week at The Ginger Man and has a side business repairing iPhones, according to Byron.

"I always tell him that he’s my favorite. He’s honestly a great guy and it couldn’t have happened to a better person," she said.

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