‘Blew me away’: Struggling Appalachian State college student gets a $1,300 tip on first day as a waitress

A college student at Appalachian State moonlighting to pay the bills gets an incredible surprise
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:31 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A young college student at Appalachian State moonlighting to pay the bills got an incredible surprise.

On her first day as a waitress, she was given a tip of $1,300 dollars, money she was struggling to come up with for school.

“I was like – there is no way,” server Leilani Smith said.

Leilani Smith, a college student at Appalachian State, also works as a server at Carolina Smoke and counts on her faith to help pay the bills.

“At the beginning of every shift I pray and say OK, Lord, you know what we need to make today,” Smith said.

At Caroline Smoke BBQ in Morganton, they pride themselves on the product they deliver.

When it comes to the art of serving hungry customers, speed and personality are the keys.

Tips are not only appreciated but are a staple in the industry for many employees.

“Some of us that’s what we live on, some of us that’s our only income,” Higgins said.

That’s why what happened at Carolina Smoke, blew a lot of people away.

“Ah, jaw-dropping,” said restaurant manager Danielle Villella.

On her first day on the job, she was assigned a table. Several men in from New York.

“No special treatment, just how I treated every other table,” Smith said.

But when it was time to settle the tab, Smith was astonished by what she saw.

“All I saw was the 300, and that blew me away,” Smith said.

But it was about to get a whole lot better.

“And then I saw the one before it, and it was 1300 and I was like no way,” Smith told WBTV’s Ron Lee.

A $1,300 tip was just what the young college student struggling to pay the bills needed.

“She teared up quite a bit and she said you have no idea how much I needed this,” Villella said.

The gift was so big, the credit card reader wouldn’t take it.

“The computer wasn’t accepting the tip, they thought it was a fraudulent error on our half,” Smith said.

Word spread online bringing in new customers that wanted to hear the tale.

“I thought that was pretty cool that somebody would do something like that for somebody that’s working,” a customer said.

The money is earmarked for a geology boot camp for school, something that may not have happened if it weren’t for the kindness of strangers.

“This was the one block that we didn’t know how we were going to get over, and this helps us so much,” Smith said with emotion.

And maybe that spirit of giving really can linger on even after the holidays.

“To ease her burden of school payments and stuff and books it’s, I’m happy for her, I’m proud of her, for sure.” Villella said.

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