Applebee’s fired a waitress who posted a photo of a customer’s check that contained a religious-based complaint about a gratuity. The customer added the title “Pastor” before her signature.
Just last week here at Patrick’s Place, I asked the question, “What if it’s the pastor who’s behaving badly?” This week, we have a new example, and with an unfortunate outcome in all directions.
The story, reported by multiple sources, goes like this: the person had dinner in a group of five adults and five children at Applebee’s. Applebee’s, like most restaurants on the planet, adds an automatic gratuity to the bill for larger parties. Said diner crossed out the automatically-triggered 18% gratuity on her check, wrote a zero in the line below it that allows for additional tips, and then wrote, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?”
The diner’s waitress showed it to one of her colleagues, who then posted a photo of it on Reddit, claiming she found the note “insulting, but also comical,” and thought other users would find it “entertaining.” The photo, predictably, went viral. People were able to figure out the name in the signature and, thereby, the customer’s identity. She actually is a pastor.
When the pastor found out about it, she complained to restaurant’s management, who then fired the waitress. In a statement to The Huffington Post, an Applebee’s spokesman explained the company’s action:
“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.”
The pastor told The Smoking Gun that she is heartbroken because she “brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.” She further claimed her actions represented a “lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.”
But most disturbing in that article is the additional fact that the pastor says that after crossing out the billed 18% tip on her bill and scribbling the complaint, she then left a $6 tip in cash. Do the math: 18% of a $35 bill is $6.30. So after dragging God into a complaint about an 18% gratuity, she then left a tip just a few dimes short of one, anyway.
Nowhere in the article does the pastor claim she asked Applebee’s to not fire the waitress who posted the photo; nowhere is she quoted as saying that she asked them to rehire her, either. Maybe she said it and it wasn’t reported, although I’d think that would be such a nice addition to the story that it’d surely be mentioned. In fact, if I were writing the story, that might be the lede.
Was it wrong for the server to have posted the receipt? Was it really a “violation of privacy?” Maybe. But there’s that old saying reminding us “It takes two to tango,” and in this case, the pastor’s feet were the first ones to hit the dance floor.
She set out to send a message and signed her name. By adding “Pastor,” one can only wonder if she was attempting to beef up her argument on religious grounds. If her faith is that important to her, should she really have a problem standing her ground publicly? And why, after complaining about the amount of the tip, did she leave nearly that amount, anyway?
The biggest question, however, is this: If she can explain her actions as a “lapse in judgment,” how can she not understand that the employee’s action may well have simply been another one? If poor judgment is the explanation for her actions, why couldn’t she see poor judgment as the equally-valid excuse for the waitress’s actions?
If I were a pastor in this internet day and age, in which it’s common knowledge that restaurants automatically add a tip to large parties, and I wrote such a message on a receipt and then made it a point to add “Pastor” before my name, I’d not only expect to see it online, I’d expect someone in my congregation to call me on it. And I’d deserve to be called on it, “privacy” or not.
I’ve heard servers talk about the Sunday afternoon post-church shift. A lot of them hate it, because, sadly, it’s the church crowd who, after just leaving a worship service, can be not only the “most demanding” but the “least grateful” of diners. Surely we Christians can do better than that.
As Christians, we shouldn’t be expected to be perfect: we all make mistakes. Becoming a Christian — whether you become a pastor or not — does not magically make one perfect. Never has, never will. But a Christian is supposed to be better able to handle those mistakes, learn from them, and extend grace to others when they make mistakes. Especially when it’s our stumble that causes someone else to stumble as well.