An Applebee's waitress earlier in the week posted to Reddit a photo of a receipt from a pastor who avoided leaving the 18% tip suggested on the receipt with a saucy quip: “I give God 10%, why should you get 18.”
The photo went viral and now the backlash: Applebee's has fired the waitress who posted the receipt.
The Huffington Post reports that Redditor GateFlan posted the photo of the receipt showing the pastor's scribbled response to Reddit on Wednesday with the caption: "My mistake sir, I'm sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries."
The Consumerist is reporting that Applebee's has fired the waitress, who has been identified by The Smoking Gun as Chelsea Welch. She told The Consumerist that she posted the photo to the atheist section of Reddit only to make a “lighthearted joke.” She said: “I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical. I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”
The photo (see below) shows the receipt for $34.93 that included a $6.29 charge for tip based on the assessment for a dinner party of about eight people. But the pastor erased the $6.29 tip, wrote an “0," and included a cheeky note wondering why a waitress should demand an automatic gratuity of 18% when God demands only 10%.
The customer's signature on the receipt indicated she was a pastor.
I give God 10%
The Smoking Gun reports that the waitress who collected the receipt from the table showed it to her co-worker Chelsea. Chelsea snapped a photo of the receipt and posted it to the "Atheism" forum on Reddit. The photo went viral immediately with over 4,000 comments.
The fact that Chelsea's photo showed the signature of the customer was largely the cause of the controversy that followed. Chelsea explained that she did not remove the signature because she thought it was illegible, but she guessed wrong because online sleuths who saw the partially legible signature immediately began using the evidence to uncover the pastor's identity .
Chelsea told The Consumerist: "I had already started receiving messages containing Facebook profile links and blogs and websites, asking me to confirm the identity of the customer. I refused to confirm any of them, and all of them were incorrect. I worked with the website moderators to remove any personal information. I wanted to protect the identity of both my fellow server and the customer. I had no intention of starting a witch hunt or hurting anyone — I just wanted to share a picture I found interesting."
The Consumerist reports that after the receipt went viral, the pastor called Applebee's and demanded that all staff involved in the incident be fired. But it it was only Chelsea who lost her job.
According to The Huffington Post, in an email, Applebee's spokesperson Dan Smith, wrote: "Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. 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."
Chelsea, protesting the decision to fire her, said that before the incident, she had served her employers without any fault. She said: "I had been well-liked and respected. 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. 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."
She added that she was “utterly baffled” that a pastor would link her tithing at church to tipping a restaurant waitress. She said: "I've been stiffed on tips before, but this is the first time I've seen the Big Man has been used as reasoning. If this person wrote the note, obviously they wanted it seen by someone... It’s strange to me that now that the audience is wider than just the server, the person is now ashamed."
The pastor involved has been identified as Alois Bell. She told The Smoking Gun that she deeply regretted the incident. She reportedly said: "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."
She admitted that her written comment came from a bad judgement, saying she was heartbroken. The pastor claimed that she left six dollars cash as a tip on the table, in addition to the 18% charged to the check. But Chelsea is not impressed with Pastor Alois Bell's explanation. She said: "Whether or not she left a tip, the note was still offensive."