Waitress gets $5,000 tip from billionaire in challenge gone viral

A waitress at a Salisbury restaurant received a $5,000 tip from a Massachusetts billionaire last weekend in a challenge among diners that is going viral.

It was the last table of the night on Saturday for Jennifer Navaria, a server at Seaglass restaurant on Salisbury Beach. Navaria chatted with the party of four and brought them their food before leaving their $157 check.

She later returned to find what she initially thought was a $50 tip.

“There was no decimal point in what I thought was 50,” Navaria said of the tip line on the receipt, from her Haverhill home Monday. “But then when I went to the bottom [with the total], it was four digits, then a decimal point. So that’s when I knew it was not $50.”

The total on the check was $5,157.56 -- a tip in excess of 3,000%. It was paid for and signed by billionaire car dealership owner Ernie Boch Jr.

Boch told WFXT Monday he was inspired by the "2020 Tip Challenge," started by Dorchester native and New Kids on the Block star Donnie Wahlberg.

Wahlberg's wife, Jenny McCarthy posted a picture on social media, showing a $2,020 tip he left on an $87 bill for a server at an Illinois IHOP on New Year's Day. The challenge has gone viral, encouraging other generous diners to support their hardworking servers.

"Waiters and waitresses, they're such fine people," Boch said. "It really hit me, and I wanted to do it. I wanted to take that challenge, and I couldn't figure out when or where. But when I saw Jennifer, and Jennifer took care of our table, that's when I said, 'Here is when I'm going to do the challenge.'"

Navaria was in disbelief, asking the bartender and her manager what to do.

"I was shaking. And it was, like, really unbelievable," Navaria said. "It’s huge. You see this happening, but you would never think of it happening to you."

Navaria, who ran out of the restaurant after Boch to thank him but didn't find him, sent Boch a private message on Facebook before sharing her experience publicly on her page.

"I already thoroughly enjoy my job, but you (Boch) just made it that much better," Navaria said of her message to him. "And you made my night. But in fact, he really made my month."

Navaria hopes the challenge doesn't stop with her. Boch, too, is extending the invitation to other diners.

"Who’s making the next move? Who’s it going to be? Who’s going to help us out?" said Boch before being asked how much the next tip should be . "It’s got to be more than me. I was more than Donnie; it’s got to be more than me. Let’s keep it going."

Navaria said she is only beginning to consider what to do with the money but said she will likely pay off some bills and donate to an animal shelter.

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