COEUR d'ALENE - Rhonda Poole faced a stack of bills that left her wondering if her electricity would stay on next month.
The waitress at the Coeur d'Alene IHOP was given a $500 tip Monday afternoon.
"It's shocking ... and perfect timing for me and my family," said the 45-year-old Coeur d'Alene woman, fighting back tears. "I want to thank them. I wish I knew who they were. It was a complete act of kindness."
The tip was left by a senior couple who had lunch with what appeared to be their daughter and granddaughter.
"I've never seen them in here before," Poole said. "They were complete strangers to me. That's what is so amazing."
The patrons' bill was $46.43. When IHOP manager Ryan Jewell saw the $500 tip written on the bill that was paid for with a credit card, he paused and made sure that the couple indeed meant to write that amount and not another figure.
After the couple confirmed, they asked Jewell to not inform Poole about her tip until after they cleared the parking lot.
"I gave them a couple minutes," he said. "They were adamant (about that being the amount they intended to write on the bill)."
After Poole saw the stunning amount, her first reaction was to give it back.
"I went outside, but they were already gone," she said.
While many restaurant patrons leave 15 to 20 percent of their bill as a tip, this one was 1,076 percent.
Poole said her experience of serving the generous customers wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
"We just chit-chatted, and I treated them like every other customer," she said, adding that her bill situation never came up. "They seemed like average, ordinary people."
Poole said she plans to pay her bills and perhaps buy some Christmas gifts for her grandkids with the money.
Poole, who has been a waitress for 30 years - at the Coeur d'Alene IHOP for the past 18 - said she believes her previous largest tip was around $50 or $75. Jewell said $60 is the most he can recall at the restaurant.
Since waitresses rely heavily on tips for their income, Poole said her tip was beyond timely.
"I really didn't know what I was going to do," she said, referring to her bills. "That's the nicest thing that's ever been done to me."