Applebee’s fires waitress who outed stingy customer on Reddit

An Applebee’s waitress gets stiffed by a customer who’s a pastor, and who leaves a handwritten note, on the check, along with zero tip. It was a party of 20, so the tip of 18% was automatically included in the bill.

Another waitress, who thought the note was funny (and rude), snaps a photo of it and posts it to Reddit, a large online community.  And subsequently loses her job.  UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has spoken with the pastor.

Here’s what she posted:

Applebee's receipt god

The customer was an idiot not to leave a tip, and then to mention that he gives 10% to God.  She means ten percent of his annual salary, which is something Mormons, among others, do.  The restaurant bill, however, was not asking for 18% of the pastor’s annual salary.  It was asking for 18% of that meal.  Which is a lot less than 10% of her annual salary.  Unless the pastor plans to give her server a percentage of her entire annual salary, then her point about the percentage is moot.  Let me walk you through this.  The pastor gives God 10% of her annual salary.  Now let’s pretend that the pastor makes $50,000 a year.  The tip was $6.29.  $6.29 is 0.012% of the pastor’s annual salary, which is a lot less than the 10% she gives God.  So in addition to being stingy, the pastor is also an idiot.

According to the Consumerist, the waitress was fired by Applebee’s for posting online about the experience.

In all fairness to Applebee’s, I’m not sure how you let slide any server who posts a copy of a customer’s bill, that contains a personal note from the customer along with their name, on the Web.  The copy of the check above no longer contains the pastor’s name – the original did.

Now granted, the customer is an ass.  But still.  I worked as a waiter.  Hardest job of my life.  And lots of customers were idiots.  But I can’t imagine “outing” one of the idiots on the Web, by name, as tempting as that might be.

You are simply not permitted to talk back to the customers, unless they’re sexually harassing you or something of that caliber.  Short of that, if the customer needs a talking to, you get your boss.  And regardless, you most certainly don’t publish the customer’s name, along with his nasty note, on the Web, exposing him to public derision, which reflects poorly on Applebee’s itself – and that’s the problem here.

From any employer’s perspective, you can’t permit servers to take out personal vendettas against customers, regardless of how big a jerk the customer.  I’d be curious to hear from folks who think this behavoir was acceptable, and not a firing offense.

It’s not entirely clear how Applebee’s found out about this. It appears that the server posted only a portion of the bill, so it didn’t include Applebee’s name.  It did, however, include the full name of the pastor.  That was her mistake, I think.  The pastor found out, somehow (I suspect Reddits found him), and called Applebee’s, demanding she be fired.   Had the server not published the name of the pastor, it’s not clear how Applebee’s would have ever known – her initial post on Reddit does not indicate which restaurant chain this happened at.

In talking to Consumerist, here’s what the server had to say:

According to Chelsea, until the receipt story got out there, her time at Applebee’s had been without incident.

“I had been well-liked and respected,” she explains. “My sales were high, my managers had no problems with me, and I was even hoping to move up to management sometime this year.

“When I posted this, I didn’t represent Applebee’s in a bad light,” she continues. “In fact, I didn’t represent them at all. I did my best to protect the identity of all parties involved. I didn’t break any specific guidelines in the company handbook — I checked.

“But because this person got embarrassed that their selfishness was made public, Applebee’s has made it clear that they would rather lose a dedicated employee than lose an angry customer. That’s a policy I can’t understand.”

This server sounds out to lunch to me. Not posting the names of customers who tick you off to Reddit is “a policy I can’t understand.”  Well, I do.  The waitress wasn’t working alone, she wasn’t a freelancer. She was working for Applebee’s.  Whatever she does reflects on her boss, and her boss is ultimately responsible for her.  So when she posted the customer’s name online, she did it on behalf of Applebee’s.  And no employer can tolerate that.  It’s not her job, and it’s not her choice, to out rude customers to the world.  When she runs her own restaurant, more power to her.

So while I agree that the pastor is truly an idiot, and I agree that the check is funny as hell as something to post online, the server overstepped her bounds.  When you’re working for someone else, you don’t have the right to expose customers to public humiliation on behalf of your boss, even if the customers deserve it.  So while I’m sorry she got fired, I’m not sure Applebee’s had any choice.

What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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