PR Fail: Applebee’s Fires Server Who Shared Obnoxious Tip-Free Receipt

Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant should be able to relate to this viral story: Last week a pastor at a St. Louis-area church took her congregation to dinner at Applebee’s after the service. Apparently unaware that 18% gratuities are standard practice for parties of six or more at every restaurant ever, the pastor refused to pay the total.

Even worse, she scrawled a note on the receipt explaining her decision. It read: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18”. The understandably pissed server took a picture and a second waitress shared it on Reddit under the headline “My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries”.

Then things got a little crazy.

A friend called the pastor to let her know that the story had spread to Yahoo, and she filed a complaint with Applebee’s management. (Despite the brand’s willingness to poke fun at itself, its regional managers do not appear to be familiar with the concept of humor.) While the restaurant refused to grant her request for a new server the next time she visited, they did fire the woman who posted the picture.

The Internet got mad and the company responded, posting:

“We wish this situation hadn’t happened. 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.”

After learning of the firing, the pastor apologized, saying “My heart is really broken” over what she called “a lapse in my character and judgment.”

Our question: if it were a lapse in judgment, then why did you complain about it? If you’re heartbroken over the server being fired, then why did you insist upon the very same? Another point: we’d think that a woman who writes that she was “pregnant and homeless” before she decided to devote her life to God would appreciate the struggles of the working classes, no?

Obviously the waitress shouldn’t have posted the receipt with the customer’s name clearly visible, but it’s clear where the public’s sympathies lie.

We take two lessons from this story:

  • Don’t want to have your reputation ruined? Don’t be a sanctimonious jerk.
  • Customer service always takes precedence over employee relations–unless said customer is an indefensibly sanctimonious jerk.

Also: this is why we think everyone should be legally required to work in a service-industry job (preferably at a bar or restaurant) for at least six months to better appreciate the other side of the equation.