WINCHESTER — Workers who receive tips in the Winchester area are seeing some relief thanks to a new website set up in recent weeks that allows residents to send cash straight to their bank accounts.
ServiceIndustry.tips is the new site, and, according to its website, is a “simple and totally free” way to allow those in the service industry to collect “tips” and “see a sign that someone cares” during the coronavirus outbreak.
Victoria Kidd, who owns Hideaway Cafe in Winchester, is heading up the local effort, which has grown to include 131 workers from over 40 different area restaurants. The program has even includes hairdressers and other personal service employees.
Kidd said she got involved after reading a Winchester Star article detailing how some service industry workers were dealing with COVID-19.
“We kind of all know each other down here, so when I saw that article that there has to be something in place that we can set up to help all these folks who are out of work and struggling,” Kidd said. “I’m a person who does not feel it necessary to re-invent the wheel, so I did some hunting and searching and came across this system that has just been put in place.”
She reached out to the site’s administrators about how to become involved and eventually took the role of Volunteer City Administrator for the Winchester area.
By following the link https://serviceindustry.tips/en/va/winchester/ residents will randomly be “assigned” a service industry worker to support. Each time you follow the link, a different worker will be “assigned.” You can then follow the link further to tip the worker, which sends a message to the worker to let them know they’ve been tipped and the money is immediately deposited to that worker.
Kidd’s role is three-fold, she said.
First, she’s had to reach out to as many service professionals in the area to let them know about the site and to get workers signed up. Next, she’s tasked with spreading the word through the community via local news, social media and word of mouth. Finally, she does background work on workers who sign up to ensure they work for the company they claim to work for and that they’re eligible for help.
All while still running her own restaurant, which is still offering curb-side orders and shipping merchandise.
“I’m a glutton for punishment,” she joked. “But I feel a true connection with people in the service industry. I like to say these people are my kin. We’re all in the business of hospitality and serving people, and I’m very sad to see what’s happened to this industry. Even if businesses are able to provide their employees with a small paycheck, tips are such a huge part of what these folks take home to feed their family. Without that, a lot of folks are going to struggle.”
Kidd said feedback from both the service industry as well as the public have been positive.
“We started with a handful of people in the first few days but we’ve signed up over 100 now, and everyday it keeps growing. Now, we’re seeing some outside the service industry because the site is for anyone who is a tipped worker,” she said. “The concept that tips go to just people who are in the restaurant is flawed. People who are hairdressers, nail technicians, and a lot of others, they’re signing up.”
Kidd said the public response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“People are stuck at home and want to help. There are a lot of people whose natural inclination during a disaster is to immediately help. Setting up this virtually way to put cash immediately into someone else’s pocket without having to go through someone else, they’ve really responded quite well to that,” she said. “Winchester is one of the few sites that have more tips by number than people who have signed up for tips. That means some people are getting tipped more than once, which is phenomenal and a true representation of the generosity that we have in this area.”
Kidd said sharing true stories about how the site has helped others has been a joy. For example, one worker was able to make enough money that they were able to buy a small order of groceries for their family.
That, she said, makes it all worth it.
“When you think about it in those terms, it makes a big difference for those who are unemployed,” she said. “This is really designed to be a stop-gap measure to help these people survive until other help can get there.”
Kidd said other cities or towns in any state can sign up to get the program started in their area. For more information, visit https://serviceindustry.tips/en/about/.