Before making the career jump to journalism, I worked in the service industry for several years as a server - or waitress, depending on what generation you’re from. While I loved my job most of the time (great guests and cheap food whenever I wanted it), I quickly realized that some people didn’t quite understand the difference between server and servant.
Like every server, I had my fair share of horror stories: a 25-cent tip on a $19 bill, men who felt it was socially appropriate to pinch me as I walked past and, of course, the customer who was never wrong (even if they sent their steak back more than twice). So while I adhered to the idea that the customer was always right, that didn’t give the customer free rein to act like a jerk.
It appears that not everyone shares my opinion, though. After dining at an Applebee’s in St. Louis, Missouri, one customer not only left no tip, but also wrote a snarky comment on her bill.
Chelsea Welch, another server in the restaurant, snapped a picture of the receipt and posted it to the social media-sharing website Reddit. The Consumerist later picked up the story, if only for Welch’s equally snarky picture title, “My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”
The picture shows a $34.93 receipt with an 18% gratuity added to it, which doesn’t seem out of the realm of (sane) reason. In the service industry, adding 18% gratuity to parties larger than six or eight is a common procedure - also known as an "autograt" - to ensure the server is paid his or her fair share. (And despite what you might think, we really do live off your tips.)
Except instead of giving the server the 18% tip, the customer crossed off the tip, wrote “0” in its place, and then had the chutzpah to write on it “I give God 10% why do you get 18[?]”
This sounds odd, until you see that the signature at the bottom is signed by none other than a pastor - later identified as 37-year-old pastor Alois Bell of Word Deliverance Ministries. Unsurprisingly, Bell didn’t find the post as funny as Reddit’s users did; she complained to the Applebee’s manager who ultimately fired Welch.
The Consumerist followed up with the newly-unemployed Welch, who although posted the picture as a joke, expressed her frustration about the incident.
“If this person wrote the note, obviously they wanted it seen by someone,” Welch told The Consumerist. “It’s strange to me that now that the audience is wider than just the server, the person is now ashamed.”
In an email sent to The Huffington Post, though, Applebee's spokesperson Dan Smith said that guests’ personal information is private, and employees do not have the right to share that information publicly.
“We value our Guests’ trust above all else,” Smith said. “Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.”
Pastor Bell later responded via The Smoking Gun, saying "My heart is really broken...I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”
Bell also claimed that although she crossed off the 18% gratuity, she not only left a $6 cash tip at the table, she was also still charged the 18% gratuity. But I have to wonder - if the 18% gratuity tip (which worked out to $6.29) was too much, why did the pastor leave $6 (28 cents less than the 18%) on the table?
A petition is now circulating on the Internet for Applebee’s to rehire the server. So would you sign it? And if not, why not? Tell us in the comments below.
Applebee's has posted a note and timeline of the incident on their Facebook page that reads in part:
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