Area waitress receives 8,700% tip

News Photo by Julie Riddle Waitress Danielle Franzoni holds a receipt showing the $2,020 tip she was given by a customer at Thunder Bay River Restaurant in Alpena on Sunday.

ALPENA — “Things like this don’t happen to people like me,” the waitress said, shaking her head.

Sunday started out as a tough day for Danielle Franzoni. Her neighbor’s house on Mud Lake burned down. It was her last day in her old home, the cusp of a scary move into her first house, complete with new bills and new challenges.

When she got to work at Thunder Bay River Restaurant in Alpena, she couldn’t help but cry. That, and do her best to take care of her customers.

The day brightened considerably when she saw the tip left on the credit card receipt of one of her customers.

“Happy New Year,” a firm hand had scrawled on the receipt, along with the words, “2020 Tip Challenge.”

Below, on the Tip line, the hand had written, $2,020.

“I asked my manager, was this real?” Franzoni said, face still registering shock a day later.

The tip was real, he assured her.

“They don’t know nothing about my story, they don’t know where I’ve come from, they don’t know how hard it’s been,” Franzoni marvelled. “They’re really just doing this out of the kindness of their heart.”

A recovering addict, Franzoni moved to Alpena to start over. A year ago, she said, she was staying in the homeless shelter.

Today, it’s different.

“I’ve been able to root myself in Alpena,” Franzoni said. In addition to a job she loves, a network of people has helped the waitress and single mom to stick to her resolutions to change her life. From Catholic Human Services to a recovery team to her employer, she has support in her corner, she said, that makes hope possible.

“It was the best thing for my recovery to move up here,” Franzoni said. “It was the only thing that was going to keep me clean.”

Franzoni hopes to use some of the gift money to get her driver’s license back, removing a last barrier to the new life she’s creating. The rest she wants to save for a rainy day.

“I might finish my girls’ bedrooms,” she added. “I’ve never been able to do that. I can’t wait.”

A part of a huge, supportive recovery community, Franzoni dreams of someday opening a women and children’s sobriety house, maybe even inspiring others to do the same.

Later Sunday night, after she learned about the gift, she went out to eat and tipped the waiter $20.20.

“That was my pay it forward,” she said, smiling. “I couldn’t do the other one.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the receipt said “Happy New Year,” not “Merry Christmas.”


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