May 17, 2013 at 3:09 PM ET
Sometimes it pays to be nice. In the case of CeCe Bruce, a server at a Steak 'n Shake in Indianapolis, it paid $446 – on a bill of $5.97.
On Wednesday, Bruce, who has been working at the chain restaurant for two years, received a surprise when one of her regular customers left her a $446 tip.
“I was amazed,’’ Bruce told TODAY.com. “She always tips me 50 percent of her bill, but her bill is usually only $5 and she leaves a $5 tip. She’s a very nice lady.’’
The regular customer, whom the staff only knows as “Miss Jo,’’ left right after paying. Bruce tried to track her down in the parking lot, saying she couldn’t accept such a huge tip. The customer was adamant that Bruce keep the money.
“I was in shock,’’ Steak 'n Shake manager Greer Gooley told TODAY.com. “I was in the back on a food order, and Miss Jo wrote out the bill and then she ran out the door really quick. (Bruce) ran into the parking lot to thank her, and she just told her to take it and then spun off.”
Bruce, who is a full-time student at Martin University in Indianapolis, said she is putting the money toward bills.
“It helps tremendously,’’ she said. “It restores your faith in humanity, makes you trust people, and shows you can never judge a book by its cover. You’ve got to treat everybody the same. I try to be friendly to everyone.”
Gooley said that in the six years he has worked at the Steak 'n Shake, he had never seen anything more exorbitant than a $100 tip. “(Bruce) is extremely deserving of that money,’’ he told TODAY.com. “She works hard, and she will come in whenever you need her. She has more regulars than any of our other servers.”
Since her story became public, good vibes have continued to come Bruce’s way. She had a $14 tip on a small bill on Friday, and said a couple from California who saw her story reached out to contact her because they want to help her out with some money for school.
“Good things have been happening,’’ Bruce said.