PORTSMOUTH — Waitress Taylor Dube, 23, of Dover has worked at the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. Pizza Pub for the last three years. During the weekday lunch buffet, the average tip ranges between $2 and $5.
But on Wednesday afternoon, just as the lunch rush abated, Dube received the surprise tip of a lifetime from Seth Collins of Lexington, Ky.
Collins has been traveling the country since June 18 giving $500 tips. His goal is to visit all 50 states.
It all started in July 2012 after Collins' brother, Aaron, 30, died unexpectedly. Seth Collins found a will his brother had written three years earlier in which he indicated he'd like a super-generous tip to be given to a waitress, something like $500 on a pizza.
Seth raised money from family and friends, visited a local restaurant, generously tipped the waitress and captured it all on video. By the next morning, the video had gone viral; donations started pouring in. Seth Collins' PayPal account reached close to $50,000 within days, so he hit the road supporting "Aaron's Last Wish."
Collins, 34, enlists the help of friends, supporters and others to film the giving of each gift, then edits the videos and uploads them to the Aaron's Last Wish website, AaronCollins.org, and Facebook page to spread the message of giving and show those who have donated money exactly who it is going to.
Dube said she first heard about Seth Collins and his mission Tuesday night before from a customer who mentioned his next stop was New Hampshire. On Wednesday morning, she discussed it with a fellow waitress, but said she never, ever anticipated Seth Collins would show up at her restaurant during the inexpensive pizza buffet. "There are so many restaurants," Dube said.
The University of New Hampshire graduate said she "freaked out" when she received the tip.
Dube lives at home with her parents and 15-year-old brother in Dover. She has not yet figured out what she wants to do with her life, but it may involve working with children or in a health care setting. For now, she plans to put the gift away in a savings account.
She said wait staff often go unappreciated.
"This is how we make our living, waitressing, and there are people who don't even tip, so it means a lot," Dube said.
Collins said he tries to pick affordable restaurants where an average family of four could dine. That often lands him in pizza places. In Portland, Maine, on Tuesday he tipped a waitress at the local Flatbread Pizza Company.
Collins is headed to Boston for a few days, and will then continue south along the East Coast. He has only nine states left to visit.
Before his life changed in 2012, Seth Collins said he was living a rather staid life as an IT professional in Kentucky. but always enjoyed traveling.
He said his brother always had compassion for people, particularly for those in the service industry. Even at 12, he would pitch in a few dollars from his own allowance if he felt his parents did not leave a large enough tip.
By Wednesday, Seth Collins had given out more than $40,000 in tips for "Aaron's Last Wish."
"If it inspires people to do good for other people, then that's enough for me," he said. "I don't have any expectations."