(LOS ANGELES) — Service industry workers have been economically devastated as bars and restaurant close, and people practice social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
In response, some have gotten creative in providing continued sources of income for service workers, including the use of virtual tip jars.
Sam Schutte, an entrepreneur and the CEO of Unstoppable Software, said he had originally created a virtual tip jar for himself so he could pay the people whose restaurants and bars he frequented.
He said his virtual tip jar is a low-tech solution, using Google Forms and Google Sheets. It is basically online spreadsheets, containing service workers’ names and where they were employed along with their PayPal or Venmo information so you can directly pay them.
“It just breaks my heart to see all these hardworking people that we depend on to take care of us and provide quality service and now they’re facing this apocalypse,” Schutte told ABC News. “If people want to still support them and thank them for the service they’ve provided it’s a way to connect the dots – otherwise how can you find someone else’s Venmo information? Venmo and PayPal are also pretty secure.”
In fact, creating a virtual tip jar is so easy to copy that someone with no tech background did it independently. Emily Gibson, a server at a bar in Los Angeles, had a friend who was posting virtual tip jars for different areas. She was surprised there wasn’t one for L.A.
“I thought, ‘I can figure this out,'” she told ABC News. She taught herself Google Sheets and Google Forms and then became more creative.
“I tried to get the word out — a virtual happy hour idea — so, you can hang out with your friends at Zoom, virtually visit a city you’ve never been to, pick a person and a bar and then tip the server at that establishment,” Gibson explained. “A lot of us can’t file for unemployment and our income has been shut down.”
Other people in the service industry have pivoted to ways to keep money coming in for their employees. Alex Eusebio, a former contestant on Top Chef, owns two restaurants in Toluca Lake, California. One is a Mexican restaurant, Cascabel, and the other is a neighborhood restaurant, Sweetsalt.
He turned Sweetsalt into a marketplace and shuttered Cascabel.
“This reminds me of 9/11,” the New York native said, adding that while it has the same apocalyptic feeling, it also has a silver lining, adding, “Everyone is coming together in the past few days.”
“We offer food, toilet paper — and have donated it — alcohol, raw and cooked products, honestly anything,” Eusebio said.
People can call in, place their order, they put it in a box, and it can be picked up and taken home.
“The whole point is you don’t have to stay in line at a grocery store — it’s like a combination of Amazon and your local supermarket — instead of delivery, you come and pick it up,” he said. “You pay by phone. I have the resources that others don’t have. I’m just passing along what I have. We are not up-charging.”
When he closed Cascabel, he had to let go of 30 employees.
“I didn’t have a choice, I wish I did. It’s paycheck-to-paycheck,” he said. “A lot of people are struggling with that, including me.”
He bought his out-of-work employees 3 pounds of rice, beans and meat and told them to call him when they run out.
H has held onto 17 employees. His baker just had a baby last week and “is freaking out.” He has friends who call him crying, saying they have lost their jobs.
His response, “Hey, I have food for you.”
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.