Feb. 1, 2013 at 4:56 PM ET
Reaction is growing to the story of an Applebee’s waitress fired this week for posting a customer’s receipt online. It’s raised the issue of customer privacy, corporate policy and how to treat the people who serve us and count on tips as part of their income.
As we reported on Thursday, a waitress at an Applebee’s franchise in the St. Louis area waited on a table, and as is customary for parties larger than eight, the bill came with an automatic 18 percent tip added. That didn’t sit well with the person paying the bill, Pastor Alois Bell of the World Deliverance Ministries Church in Granite City, Ill.
Pastor Bell crossed out the automatic tip and wrote “0” on the receipt, along with this message: “I give God 10% why do you get 18?”
Applebee’s says another waitress, one who did not wait on that table, took a photo of the bill and uploaded it to Reddit, where it soon went viral.
The pastor complained to the restaurant manager, and Chelsea Welch, the waitress who posted the receipt (which included the pastor’s signature), was fired.
“I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical,” Welch told TheConsumerist. “I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”
Pastor Bell has apologized for her action. She told The Smoking Gun that she did leave a $6.29 cash tip (that’s 18 percent) on the table.
“My heart is really broken,” she told them. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and my ministry.”
NBC News shared this story with the Emily Post Institute, the experts on social and business etiquette.
“The customer was absolutely out of line,” said Anna Post. “In my opinion, what the pastor did was not only rude, but the message was just snarky. What she did was wrong. I appreciate that there are people who are frustrated with how tipping works in America; this is not the answer.”
In other words, for the servers at a restaurant, that tip is part of his/her salary.
“That’s why it’s so egregious not to leave an appropriate tip,” Post said. She pointed out that tithing is different than tipping.
“When you go into a restaurant in the U.S., you are essentially entering into a social contract that you will tip – usually a minimum of 15 percent – for the service rendered. Frankly, in most places now it’s 20 percent these days. So, an 18 percent tip might have been a little on the low side.”
And what about what the waitress did?
Post told me she understands why Welch might want to share something like this, but she warned that whenever you put something online that relates to your job, there can be negative consequences.
Many of you have shared your thoughts on my Facebook page. Here are just a few of the comments I’ve received so far.
Today, Applebee’s posted detailed information on its Facebook page about the action taken by its franchisee and noted that the company has a clear policy in the employee handbook about social media:
“Employees must honor the privacy rights of Applebee's and its employees by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal Applebee's happenings that might be considered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality. This shall include, but not be limited to, posting of photographs, video, or audio of Applebee's employees or its customers, suppliers, agents or competitors, without first obtaining written approval from the Vice President of Operations. The company said employees are told that if they violate this policy, they will be subject to “disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”