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Teen shamed for paying his tab with coins raises money to pay for people's meals

"I like paying for people's meals even if I have to scrape together my last quarters to do so," he said.
by Katie Jackson / / Source: TODAY

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Anyone who has worked as a waiter or waitress knows that getting paid in coins is often just part of the job. Money is money after all, right?

Well, this week a teenager with a part-time job in a restaurant treated his buddies to a meal at another restaurant and was shamed on Facebook for using coins to pay part of the tab. Not one to get down on a very public shaming, he's turning the experience into something super positive.

Unless he's able to find an ATM that dispenses coins, Cohen Naulty is going to making a lot of trips to the bank. The 17-year-old from Lynchburg, Virginia made headlines earlier this week when a local restaurant named Beer 88 Beer & Burger Society called him out for paying part of his $45 tab (and a $10 tip) with change.

Naulty, who has worked as a waiter at another Lynchburg restaurant, Country Cookin', for about a year and a half, used a bag of tip money in coins (along with a $20 bill) to treat his friends, James and Noah, to a meal. However, the money didn't make it straight into the cash register.

First, an employee at Beer 88 Beer & Burger Society took a photo for Facebook. Then the restaurant posted the photo and wrote, "We’ll just caption this ... How not to pay at a restaurant. Cause that’s the nicest thing we can think to say about this ridiculousness."

Beer88, Quarter Boy
Cohen Naulty

After Beer 88's post (now deleted) went viral, Naulty decided to respond to the situation on Facebook. While some people may have snapped back at the restaurant's remarks, instead he decided to start raising money to help others. He launched "The Quarter Boy" fundraiser with an important mission: "Turning a bad day around, one meal at a time!"

"I like paying for people's meals even if I have to scrape together my last quarters to do so," he wrote. "Even though I got blasted for it, it only served to make me realize how much I love doing this. Paying for someone's meal can change a really bad day around in just one moment of kindness. I would like to keep this going and make it fun. I am sure there are places out there that wouldn't mind being paid in quarters and perhaps you can help me out by donating a little to help me pay for their meals! We will use 100 percent of the donations to pay for others meals and post videos of their reactions! If you would like to be part of my mission donate here!"

Cohen Naulty with piles of quarters
Cohen Naulty is turning lemons into lemonade.Cohen Naulty

So far, Naulty has raised nearly $4,000 of his $5,000 goal. He plans to use all of the donations to treat unsuspecting diners to their meals. And yes, he plans to pay with change. However this time, he's only patronizing restaurants that don't look down on U.S. currency in coin form.

"I love picking up the tab for others and seeing what it does for them," Naulty wrote on The Quarter Boy's Facebook page on July 16. "If you are a restaurant that wouldn’t mind a register filled with quarters at the end of the night and a special treat for one of your patrons now and then please post so I know who I won’t offend by coming by."

In the short period of time since posting that, he's received no shortage of invites. "I even got invited to Scotland," Naulty told TODAY Food. But for now, he's keeping it local.

Cohen Naulty paying for a couple's meal at Bootleggers in Lynchburg, Virginia
Cohen Naulty paid for a couple's meal at Bootleggers in Lynchburg, Virginia.Cohen Naulty

"We plan on going to a few restaurants that we were invited to each week in the Lynchburg area, for now, and treating one of their patrons as a surprise," he explained. "We did this already at two local restaurants and an ice cream shop. We were able to buy an ice cream for a mom and her son, a meal for a medical student and his wife, and a meal for a U.S. Veteran. All of the meals were paid in quarters as well as a good tip for the waitstaff!"

Beer 88, who has since taken down its Facebook page, and has not responded to TODAY Food's request for an interview, claimed the post was a joke. A follow-up post on its Facebook page read: “It was posted as a light-hearted way of saying that something like this can be annoying to people that work in the restaurant/retail industry. In no way did we publicly shame ANYONE for paying OR tipping. We try to keep our page funny and relatable. And had no idea that this would be offensive to anyone.”

17-year-old Cohen Naulty working at Country Cookin' in Lynchburg, VA
Cohen Naulty works as a waiter at Country Cookin' in Lynchburg, VA.Kim Naulty

Naulty, who sometimes works the cash register at Country Cookin', told TODAY Food that he has yet to receive an apology from Beer 88. But that doesn't seem to be bothering him too much. He's too busy embracing his new philanthropic role and feeding people as "The Quarter Boy." He's also fast to give credit to those who are helping him since he's still working his usual Country Cookin' shifts despite all the media attention.

"My mom and my friend Mason Dudley and his mom, Angela Dudley, have been helping with all the social media and photos and videos," explained Naulty who also said that his parents and his siblings are just as generous with their time and money.

His mom, Kim Naulty, can't take too much offense to the restaurant's use of the hashtag, "#nohometraining" in its original post. She's proud of all of her children. "They are really just really great kids with huge hearts and kind spirits," she told TODAY Food. "Cohen is an example of how blessed we are as parents."

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