COVID-19 fears have forced a lot of bars and restaurants to close across the Mountain West. That leaves workers in a tough spot. But some communities have found a creative way for would-be customers to chip in.
It’s called a virtual tip jar, which is essentially a Google spreadsheet listing the names and workplaces of hundreds of struggling service workers. Next to their names is a way to tip them through apps like Venmo and Paypal.
Tyler Brewington, a former service industry worker and current freelancer, started a virtual tip jar in Boise as he watched closures there have huge impacts on people’s lives.
At first, he thought he could help by buying gift cards and getting food to go, “but with restaurants that have transitioned to to-go orders and curb-side pickup only, there’s still a lot of servers who would otherwise be working that can’t now.”
So he looked for another solution, and found this virtual tip jar model.
“It’s mostly bar tenders, servers, restaurant workers, a few baristas” on the list here, Brewington said. “A couple people from different hair salons have put their info on there.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Boise’s list had more than 400 people.
While the tip jar certainly won’t replace a service worker’s lost income, Brewington said it can directly support many of the people who’ve served the community and are now struggling.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.