Globetrotting mystery tipper hits N.O.

If the waiters and waitresses at restaurants around town seem extra alert this week, there’s a very good reason — a $10,000 reason, in fact.

A monster tipper who goes by the moniker Tips for Jesus has made a mark in New Orleans. After racking up a daunting tab of $9,094.98 for dinner at Galatoire’s Restaurant on Saturday night, the party added an even bigger tip, for $10,000.

It’s the stuff of legends in the service industry: the customer who leaves a tip so big it’s more like a lottery jackpot than a generous gratuity. But in the Internet age, this legend comes with a digital trail.

Tips for Jesus documents its activities on the photo-sharing social media site Instagram, where on Saturday, a receipt from Galatoire’s joined a parade of photos showing similarly outsized tips. They’ve been recorded at high-end restaurants, sports bars and diners around the country and overseas.

Galatoire’s management didn’t return a call Monday seeking comment on the episode. John Georges, publisher of The New Orleans Advocate, is an owner of Galatoire’s.

The tips, and their attendant publicity, began last fall, and Tips for Jesus quickly became an Internet sensation. Its Instagram account now has more than 82,000 followers.

Media outlets around the country have identified Jack Selby, a former vice president of PayPal, as the mystery tipper, based on interviews with past recipients of Tips for Jesus largess.

There may be more than one player involved, however. In February, San Francisco Magazine ran an article based on an interview, granted on the condition of anonymity, with what it called “the central figure of the 10-or-so-person Tips for Jesus clique.”

Where Tips for Jesus will turn up next is anyone’s guess. Past habits, at least as documented by the digital trail on social media, seem random. There was another $10,000 windfall on a $250 tab at a Los Angeles seafood restaurant, for instance, but then a $100 tip on a mere $2.50 bill at an IHOP restaurant in Hollywood, California, on Christmas Eve.

Earlier Saturday, before the Galatoire’s receipt was posted, another message appeared on the Tips for Jesus account asking simply, “In New Orleans where should we go?”

This spurred a slew of responses ranging from recommendations of favorite local restaurants from Instagram users around the country to pleas from local waiters to visit their workplaces.

The family-style Metairie restaurant RocketFire Pizza Co. even chimed in with a specific invitation through Instagram.

“I just thought, what the heck, we’ll take a chance and throw it out there,” said Jeff Januszek, a consultant who handles the restaurant’s social media accounts. “I mean, can you imagine how awesome and amazing it would be if they came?”

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.