updated 8/31/2006 11:15:02 AM ET 2006-08-31T15:15:02

Two weeks ago, one of Cindy Kienow's regular customers left her a $100 tip on a tab that wasn't even half that. This week, he added a couple of zeros.

Kienow, a bartender at Applebee's, got a $10,000 tip from the man — for a $26 meal — on Sunday.

"I couldn't move," Kienow said. "I didn't know what to say. He said, `This will buy you something kind of nice, huh?' And I said, `Yeah, it will.'"

Kienow said the man, whom company officials have declined to name, comes in several times a month and eats at the end of the bar. He has always tipped well, she said, usually leaving $15 on a $30 tab.

Then came the $100 tip, followed by the real shocker.

"He usually signs his ticket and flips it upside down," said Kienow, 35, who has worked at the restaurant for eight years. "But this time, he had it right-side up and said `I want you to know this is not a joke.'"

It's not, company officials agreed.

"This is a great deal for us and a great deal for Cindy," said Rhodri McNee, vice president of operations for JS Enterprises, the owner of the Hutchinson Applebee's. "We did have a guest leave this tip on a credit card, and we're doing everything to make sure it's a valid charge."

Great employee
The company is in the final stages of verifying the tip, McNee said, while also working to maintain the customer's privacy and make sure the money goes through the proper channels to get to Kienow.

"Nothing would make us happier than to present her with that check," McNee said. "She's been with us for eight years, and she's a great employee who does a great job."

Kienow said that while she always talks with the man when he comes in — usually about current events or the weather — she can't think of anything that would have prompted the huge tip.

"I've been waiting on him for about three years," Kienow said. "We'd just talk across the bar he's a really nice guy. I hope he comes back in so I can tell him thank you, because the other day I was kind of dumbfounded."

Kienow, whose father will have to take some time off work for surgery on both of his knees, said she hasn't decided what to do with the money.

"I'd like to take care of my parents, since they always took care of me," she said. "But I feel like he wanted me to buy something for myself, and there's a Jeep that I've had my eye on for a while."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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