The man behind "Tips for Jesus," rumored to be former PayPal Vice-President Jack Selby, spoke to a magazine for the first time, sharing how and why he began the "movement," and also stated that he's not doing it for Jesus.
The anonymous man, described as uncommonly well dressed and who's given away about $130,000 in exceptionally large tips at restaurants and bars in more than a dozen cities in the United States and Mexico over the last six months, didn't allow San Francisco Magazine to reveal his name though.
Tips given by him have the words "God bless!" scrawled across the receipt and the handle @tipsforjesus stamped next to the signature. But it's not Christian generosity, he said. "The movement we have started is intended to be agnostic," he was quoted as saying. The magazine, however, doesn't explain what he meant by the word "agnostic."
It all started last September at a bar in Ann Arbor, Mich., after a college football game, the tipper, who was sipping his $1.90 coffee at the time of the interview, told the magazine. He said he and his friends had long been tipping generously, but they decided that afternoon to leave a $3,000 tip on an $87.98 check and to post a photo of the receipt to Instagram.
In just two months, he and his friends had given away $50,000, and the news had spread on the Internet. The Tips for Jesus Instagram account has more than 71,000 followers.
The tipper said he wants to emphasize the concept of "direct giving to ordinary people." It was started to promote a sort of ad hoc charity culture for those who might not like traditional philanthropy, although he himself has engaged with the latter.
"It's just about helping people out," he said. "It's not hard to give back," to tip a little extra, pay for someone else's drink, engage in small acts of kindness, even if it's at a level somewhere below tens of thousands of dollars. "When justified by great service, magnanimous gratuities are achievable by everyone, no excuses."
The idea was to challenge others to do the same. "And we wanted to harness social media to do that."
The tipper wanted to encourage people who do not give to start doing so. "It's not taking a piece of the pie. It's making the pie bigger." He said his friends who wouldn't do any charity in a traditional way have now taken to Tips for Jesus.
"It's pretty simple," he said. "It is getting expensive, though."
The interviewer apparently hinted at the tipper's identity, saying "a multitude of media outlets posited theories some of which, I can now confirm, are accurate about the identity of the Tips for Jesus ringleader."
Many media outlets have identified the tipper as Selby, a San Francisco-based financier and one of the original PayPal executives who made a fortune when the online payments company was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. Since leaving PayPal, he has dabbled in film production and other capital ventures.