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Virtual Tip Jars Pop Up To Support Service Workers In Boise And Beyond

Virtual tip jars list names of service workers and a way to tip them through apps like Venmo and Paypal.
Virtual tip jars list names of service workers and a way to tip them through apps like Venmo and Paypal.

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.

Click 'play' to hear the audio version of the story.

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.

Brewington said he got the idea from a Washington, D.C. group, but now virtual tip jars are popping up from Cody, Wyoming to Denver.

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.

Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

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.

Member support is what makes local COVID-19 reporting possible. Support this coverage here.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News

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