Applebees Fires Waitress For Exposing Tip-Skipper, Then Tries To Silence Public on Social Media

Applebees raises social media ire after firing waitress.

If you haven’t yet heard about the saga of the Applebees waitress and the tip-skipping pastor, you’re in for a real treat. In a nutshell, waitress Chelsea Welch was fired from Applebees for snapping a picture of a customer’s receipt with a note that read “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” The automatic 18% gratuity Applebees adds to parties of 6 more had been scratched out. On the additional gratuity line, there was a big fat zero. It was clear this was one customer who really didn’t want to leave a tip.

It was Welch’s co-worker that actually received the note, but Welch is the one who snapped the photo and posted it to Reddit. The internet then promptly exploded to a degree unseen since Steven Slater made his hasty exit down an airplane escape hatch.

When the paster, Alois Bell, found out her nasty tome had gone viral, she called Applebees and demanded everyone who works there be fired immediately. Perhaps Applebees thought that suggestion just slightly excessive, but they threw the pastor a bone by firing Welch, fanning the flames of the already blazing inferno of social media admonishment.

Most folks are on the side of Welch, and have taken to Applebees Facebook page and Twitter to express their well-placed outrage. In fact, Applebees has almost 20,000 comments (most calling for a boycott of the restaurant) under their excuse, which reads:

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. 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.

The problem is, Applebees themselves posted a receipt with a customer’s signature visible  on Facebook just a little while ago, so it seems it’s just fine to post a customer’s name when it’s in Applebee’s best interest. And, in the case of Chelsea Welch, the note was addressed directly to a server. Would that not make the note the server’s to do with as she pleases?

Furthermore, servers rely on tips to make a living, and when we dine in a restaurant, we’re forming an implied contract with the restaurant and the server. According to wisegeek.com:

Sometimes… a term or the entire contract itself is implied. For example, when a customer orders food at a restaurant, he or she enters into an implied, oral contract. The customer and the server do not explicitly state the offer and acceptance for the meal and its prices, taxes and other conditions, but that agreement is implied.

Businessdictionary.com explains it this way:

…a contract is implied when a party knowingly accepts a benefit from another party in circumstances where the benefit cannot be considered a gift. Therefore, the party accepting the benefit is under a legal obligation to give fair value for the benefit received.

The “other conditions” in the wisegeek.com definition could imply the socially set custom of tipping the server if there was no problem with the service, while the “fair value for the benefit received” in the businessdictionary.com should certainly include the tip.

Furthermore, servers are obligated to the IRS to pay a baseline amount on tips received, whether or not the server actually received them. So, it would be possible for a server to lose money at their profession if everyone acted like Alois Bell. Since Applebees pays servers as low as $2 per hour, well under minimum wage, it is incumbent upon the customer to pay fair value for the service received under the terms of the implied contract we have with the restaurant and the server when we sit down. As waitress Chelsea Welch points out in her article in the UK paper The Guardian, "tips are not optional. They are how waiters get paid in America."

It is baffling why Applebee’s would side with one angry, stingy pastor rather than listen to the voice of the community as a whole. In fact, not only are they not listening, they actually appear to have removed the ability for people to make comments directly to their Facebook page entirely when previously that ability was available. Since I first wrote this article, the thread with the 19,000 + negative comments has also disappeared. Luckily, folks are not that easy to censor. Every time Applebees tries to explain themselves, thousands more negative comments pour in. A new "Boycott Applebees" Facebook page has also been set up.

Unfortunately for them, the internet cannot and will not be silenced. I refer the corporate suits at Applebees to the case of Chik Fil A. According to the Examiner:

Market analysts foresee a decline in revenue when reports come out later this year, due to the summer mayhem caused by the controversy. With protests, loss of revenue and counter-protests, the company ultimately saw more of a benefit in attempting to restore a more positive image of Chick-Fil-A restaurants.

This statement comes after a similarly widespread brouhaha online after Chik Fil A founder S. Truett Cathy made some unsavory comments about gay marriage. You see, sometimes the internet is a democracy, and as a democrary, the people vote with their voices and their wallets.

If Applebees thinks they’re “too big to fail,” they’re most likely sorely mistaken. It would behoove them to re-hire Chelsea Welch and issue an apology for their socially unacceptable behavior, or they may find themselves facing a lot of lost revenue at the end of the year. After all, isn’t the bottom line what matters most? It surely isn’t their employees, it seems, so they should listen to the money instead, and the money (aka 20,000 + outraged customers) is telling them to right this wrong.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Valiante February 08, 2013 at 12:52 PM
It depends, you're right. Mostly, hostesses make a percentage of the severs sales, so they aren't relying in tips. Sometimes the bartender takes the order, and they obviously don't rely on take out tips for income. I typically tip a few bucks when i order takeout, but that's mostly due to having spent so long in the industry and having a soft spot for tipping. Unlike stiffing a waiter, it's not usually frowned upon if you don't tip on take out. Anything you leave is considered a bonus by the person taking the order.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Ignoring the audacity of your first statement (remember, you could have remained silent and thought the fool rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt), allow me to point out that, in essence, the government has made tipping mandatory. Okay, it's rhetoric but the point is actually valid. Just like the government has now made health care insurance mandatory via a tax if you refuse to obtain such insurance, so the sever who delivers your food is paid some substandard wage by his or her employer, a wage that the government has sanctioned, but our government, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that that server will pay taxes on some higher rate of pay that is based upon your tip. Essentially, our government has made tipping an obligation rather than leaving it in the realm of the voluntary. The difference between mandatory health insurance and mandatory tipping is only in who pays the penalty or tax. In the case of health insurance, the consumer who refuses to buy health insurance pays the penalty in the form of a tax. In the case of the consumer who refuses to pay the "mandatory" tip, the server gets double dinged and pays the penalty in the form of a tax on wages that he or she never received. I actually agree with your point but felt obligated to respond based on your tone.
Lisa Nuzzo February 08, 2013 at 01:31 PM
If restaurants had to pay their servers regular wages then your cost of eating out would increase to include the service you receive...
James DeLizzio February 08, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Sorry David, If I get bad service from a server they do not get tipped and I advise their boss. I am not talking about poorly cooked food, I mean genuinely rude behavior from the server themselves. I am happy to say that in 43 years it's only happened a couple times. but I feel no remorse in not rewarding bad behavior.
Porterincollingswood February 08, 2013 at 01:42 PM
And if US agriculture didn't employ illegal immigrants your side salad would cost $12. But no one seems to have an issue with wanting to "fix" that "problem". But we all know that's about getting votes and branding, not actual policy.
Porterincollingswood February 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Paul, that's great point. Does that suggest we should be upping the standard tip%? I think it might.
David Valiante February 08, 2013 at 02:05 PM
If you've got a problem with government mandated serving wages, take it up with someone who won't be affected by your problem. I agree in principle that the government, and by extension the restaurants who pay their employees $2/hr, created a problematic system that mandates tipping. Taking a stand and not tipping doesn't do a damn thing to the government or restaurant, only to the server who you're forcing to work for free. I take a tone because i worked in the service industry for four years and have been affected by customers on a pedestal who impact my livelihood. And to James, if a server is downright rude to you, you're certainly in the right to withhold a tip. I should have clarified. Oftentimes, a situation arises that affects service but is out of the servers hands. A kitchen mistake, or some other confusion. I've seen customers withhold a tip for those reasons, and i think that is wrong. One time, my girlfriend and i went out to eat at a nice restaurant on a whim. We were young and dressed down; our server virtually ignored us all night, while fawning over surrounding tables. A mistake, as we both worked in the industry and tip 20-25%. The bus boy paid more attention to us than our server. In that situation, we left our server the tip he was apparently expecting (5%) and gave the rest of the tip to the bus boy. Situations like that, in my experience, are an rare. Typically, servers do a fine job and should be rewarded thusly.
Paul J. DiBartolo February 08, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Restaurants, at times, will make an 18% tip mandatory if a dining party is larger than a given amount of people. It's not really mandatory because in this case the customer crossed out the mandatory tip.BTW, the server did not impose this tip, the restaurant did it. Moving on... Somebody, who thought she was speaking for God, made a ridiculous statement and chose not to pay that portion of her bill. There were two things wrong with what she did. The customer's first mistake was that she acted as if the server had made the 18% tip demand. The customer did not appreciate the mandatory 18% charge and so elected to penalize the server and get mean about it, as well. Again, there is no mention that the service was deficient in any way, rather it seemed to come down to the customer not wanting to pay an 18% tip. The second mistake the customer made was to conflate the 10% tithe on one's income as seen in the Bible with a server's tip on a meal that the customer had purchased which is actually a business or service charge not a tithe on income. Using her logic she should refuse to pay for anything that is more costly than 10% of her income. If she earns $100,000/yr she should refuse to pay $30,000 for a new Honda because she only gives God 10% ($10,000) so why should she give the Honda dealer 30%. Given this woman's lack of ability to reason correctly I can only imagine the mess she makes when delivering a sermon. My advice to her, "Give it a rest, lady."
John February 08, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Why is she stupid? Because she made a poor decision? Geeez, must be nice to be perfect, even when you were 20 (or however old she is). Get over yourself. I agree with you, the business had to make a decision, and people can't be posting reciepts/names and stuff on the website, but seriously, relax....she made a mistake, and she didn't take up the fight....the media and public did.. None of this adds up to her being stupid.
Kelly Frap February 08, 2013 at 07:44 PM
You read my mind as I was reading through all these posts! Good words! Jesus says to give what you have. Whether it be 5%, 10% or 90% He knows our hearts. Her lack of paying a lousy $6 tip really shows her heart.
Kelly Frap February 08, 2013 at 07:57 PM
@Paul, Well said!
LORA FANTER February 09, 2013 at 03:03 AM
You could not possibly be implying that the customers at Chik fil a are classier than Applebees...that is ridiculous! I don't eat at chik fil a because it is overpriced fried chicken. It is crappy fast food. Neither offer high quality food nor at the cheapest prices for what you get. I am not the biggest fan of Applebees so no loss there either but I don't think one implies a better class of clientele after having been to both. If I want fast food I would rather go to Culver's or Wendy's anyway!
Richard Weisgrau February 09, 2013 at 05:04 AM
I can understand the employee's outrage. It was not just over the amount of the tip, it was about the message. A smaller than normal tip hurts the wait person. A message that amounts to saying 'your not god' is really insulting. The tithe of 10% is meant to direct people to contribute 10% of their incomes. A tip on the other hand is a reward for services performed. Tithes and tips are just not equatable. I employed people during my career. I can understand that no employer will tolerate an employee doing something that embarrasses even a bad customer. However, Applebees employed a double standard. It published customer information when it was good PR. It fired someone when it was bad PR. Its rules prohibit the practice altogether. It breaks its own rules – it's OK. An employee breaks its rules – it is not OK. Business owners have to set an example. Applebees did when it broke its own rules. Good for the goose is god for the gander. Applebees was wrong to fire the person.
kevin burke February 09, 2013 at 09:10 AM
I am so sick of idiots. These servers are taxed on their sales and they have to tip out the bus boys, bartenders, and hosts @ 5.5 percent plus pay taxes on the total of the check. So on a 100 dollar check they are already paying 8 dollars. If you do not tip them that's 8 dollars they have to pay out of their own pockets!
Joe February 09, 2013 at 10:05 AM
The "Pastor" was taking advantage of the situation and probably does everywhere she goes. Well guess what why not "do unto others". Lets stop beating around the bush, Applebee's would rather fire the girl that to have Al Sharpton protesting out front. Nuff said.
John Q. Public February 09, 2013 at 12:07 PM
No, Clayton, you would not have. If you did, the NAACP would be all over you. Some restaurants - like Denny's - have done what you suggested, for the exact same reason, and paid a heavy price. Some groups do not like to tip, and there's nothing you can do about it. The waitress, who they basically stole from, now knows that. I've worked in restaurants, where certain groups would find reasons not to pay for the meal itself, and stiff the wait staff. It's pretty common in some areas.
John Q. Public February 09, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Some Denny's restaurants tried to moderate their customer's behavior, and the NAACP got involved. Applebees had not choice but to fire the waitress. This is a very sensitive subject, but certain groups do often stiff the wait staff, and manufacture reasons not to pay their food bill. As the waitress learned, there's nothing you can do about it, without losing your job. Next time, she will be more careful.
Ike February 09, 2013 at 12:38 PM
What the heck did the NAACP DO? And if f rev al the racist came in to one of my places i would kick his fat ass out .HO AINT NOTHING BUT A TROULBLE MAKER WHO ONLY WAY HE WORKS IS TO WHITES RACISTS ,WHEN HE THE B IGGEST ONE OUT THERE. DID APPLEBEES HIRE THIS GIRL BACK YET?
John S February 09, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Both my teenage kids work at a local chain restaurant, go to diverse schools with all races, have friends from all races, work with people from many races, and the one common comment I hear them make is black people don't tip well. Obviously not all, but enough to make them stand out. They also state that they are rude, demanding. and will try to swap food items on the menu that the server is not allowed to do. Again, not all, but enough to stand out.. This so-called pastor is a small example of a bigger picture. For those folks that don't understand, here's what's expected when dining out: This is the menu, these are the prices, if you recieve good food and service you tip a minimum 15%. If Bad food or service was the result, request a managers assistance and work it out. If you can't afford that, then stay home and cook a meal. Rudeness or demeaning comments should never have to be tolerated, and no this isn't a racially biased comment, it's FACTS related from my kids. Blacks represent the largest race group in most US jails, another FACT. Political correctness needs to take a back seat to common sense. If any group is offended by facts , they need to consider changing there habits, even rude cheapskates.
LORA FANTER February 09, 2013 at 10:37 PM
WaitingonU...was this your very first time out as an adult with a large party? Because it is standard to have tip added on with large parties. It is usually stated on the menu...so that means you missed it twice. And it was not a very expensive place if 8 people ate for 300 bucks...you must have all gotten waters and no alcoholic beverages for the bill to be so low. Which tips get split with bartenders as well as bus persons.
michael mirra February 10, 2013 at 03:28 AM
I already boycott Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Red Lobster, &The Olive Garden. I just added AppleBees to the Dung list.
michael mirra February 10, 2013 at 03:31 AM
Also boycott whatever church the Cheap Preachor is at. If you go to that church, don't give them any money.
LORA FANTER February 10, 2013 at 06:00 AM
Not the same location. The incident happened at the Saint Louis City location on Chippewa. The picture of the good comment receipt was posted by the Saint Louis County South County Mall location on Lindbergh. I live in South Saint Louis County.
LORA FANTER February 10, 2013 at 06:01 AM
Walt...just to clarify the waitress who was fired for posting the receipt was not the waitress who waited on the pastor.
edufan February 10, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Mark, perhaps you need to spend time waiting on people in a restaurant! How dare you be so arrogant! I have never worked in a restaurant myself, but I can assure you that I truly appreciate someone asking me for my choice of meal, bringing to me, and cleaning up after me!!! I always leave a generous tip because I APPRECIATE the hard work by the waitstaff. Shame on you, Mark.
Joe February 11, 2013 at 01:08 PM
My kids say the same thing. We must be sharing a brain.
Lisa Nuzzo February 11, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Maybe since you probably don't tip, servers don't want to waist their time on you....I'm a great waitress and I work my butt off for my tables. Try it some time, it's not easy especially when it's ignorant people like you!
Lisa Nuzzo February 11, 2013 at 01:50 PM
No we are not! Thank God not everyone is like you!
Lisa Nuzzo February 11, 2013 at 01:55 PM
On a positive note....Yesterday, I was "cut" at 2:30 after the lunch rush and I wanted to stay on longer, but everyone was a "double" so I couldn't. Anyway, my table heard one of the servers telling me I was "cut" and handed me a $20 bill and said "Here, put this in your pocket, I've been in the restaurant business for years and I know what it's like when you want to stay and you're cut"...
Mike Shortall Sr February 14, 2013 at 02:10 PM
"Chik Fil lost revenue and it no longer supports "traditional marriage" groups according to many news sources." Quite the contrary, Rebecca, on the revenue issue: http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/08/02/chick-fil-a-touts-record-profits.html http://www.abpnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/8182-chick-fil-a-flap-didn%E2%80%99t-hurt-profits We go to Chik-FIl-A occasionally because the food is good, even if a bit pricey, and the service - for a fast food operation - is excellent. Whenever I have been to their Warrington location the business - both inside and out - is brisk. And I would add, that Chick-Fil-A ALWAYS seems to have a community fund-raiser of some sorts going on there on weekday nights.


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