A waitress in St. Louis was fired by Applebee's for posting an image of a receipt on which a customer wrote, "I Give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?" The waitress then wrote an op-ed for the Guardian to tell her story and the franchise posted a lengthy response on Facebook.
Article updated February 4, 2013
The customer, pastor Alois Bell appears to have been part of a larger group, and Applebee’s requires an 18% tip for the entire bill for such large groups, even if each member of the party pays their own bill. This mandatory tip was apparently a point of contention for the customer.
Waitress Chelsea Welch was not the server for the customer who left the receipt, but she snapped the photo of it and posted it on Reddit.com.
Where the “light-hearted joke” went awry is when Welch didn’t crop out the patron’s signature on the image, “assuming it was illegible.” Eventually the customer found out that the image had been posted online and contacted Applebee’s, which resulted in Ms. Welch’s firing. She claims that she broke no rules, but was fired simply because she “embarrassed this person.”
It should be pointed out that embarrassing a customer doesn’t usually sit well with management, even if the customer is rude or wrong. Applebee’s, in their response, pointed out that the person’s name was made public, resulting in a breach of privacy and confidentiality. (One Facebook commenter pointed out that Applebee’s has posted positive comments left by customers, which would presumably also breach their rules of privacy and confidentiality.)
Welch continued to opine about the necessity of tips when working for sub-minimum wages, as allowed in tipping-based jobs.
Bell, for her part, apologized in an interview with The Smoking Gun, in which she characterized the note as, a “lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.”
The story has sparked debate across a variety of topics, such as tipping in modern America and if it has become an obligation to tip because the establishments don’t pay proper wages in the first place. And was it fair for the customer to compare tithing to tipping?
Based on comments from the Guardian article and the Applebee’s Facebook response, the reaction appears to be somewhat in favor of the waitress, which is bad PR for the franchise.
What do you think?
Was the waitress wrong to post the photo of the receipt, or was Applebee’s wrong to fire her?