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‘God’ Receipt Posting Gets Waitress Fired

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.

17 Comments

  1. I thought she got fired for simply including G*d in something she posted, but instead she foolishly disparaged a customer and indirectly her employer – NOT a fire-able offense IMO at all, but not a smart move either. THIS is where our ability to speak out INSTANTLY can bite us right back…

  2. Poor judgement for the Pastor.. I agree. But something like that shouldn’t be posted online. I can understand the restaurant for firing the employee. With social media, people have to learn boundaries, and I think when you are posting a signature of someone… or something that might have private information (credit card info .. even if just the last 4 digits) .. there have to be hard boundaries set.

    1. OrganizerSandy Had I been that employee, I’d have been careful to black out any credit card numbers (even if it were only the last four digits) and I’d have cropped out the signature. I may well have left on the “pastor” part of it, however, because that’s clearly a part of the story since she referenced tithing.

  3. It’s really been a kind of a quiet week scandal-wise, so this will have to do.
    You make some good points about this unfortunate situation.
    I doubt this girl is going to stay unemployed for long. Her comments, ones I’ve read anyhow, are pretty articulate; I know editors try to make sense of incoherent interviewees, but the fact that she even thought to post the pic on Reddit suggests to me that she can do more than just put a sentence together. Idiots don’t use Reddit, by and large, even if some people on Reddit act like idiots. There are people there already putting the word out. She’ll find something.
    Anyway, Applebee’s naturally replied with a http://www.webpronews.com/applebees-waitress-fired-over-receipt-on-reddit-2013-02after the unsavory criticism turned toward them and not just the “pastor”. I especially like the part where they refer to their social media clause, while no one seems to have batted an eye when an Applebee’s manager posted the back of a http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/19100_136476209851670_2070951401_n.jpg – of course he probably didn’t call the store and threaten them with a lawsuit. Doublestandardcats are GO!
    Moving on, I have a couple of questions. Mostly rhetorical, but partially not.
    1) What are the requirements for becoming a pastor?
    2) If you give God a percentage of something, shouldn’t it be a percentage of your effort, your daily thoughts, your love, something to that effect? And if so, shouldn’t that number be higher, even for a less-focused Christian, much less a self-described pastor? God doesn’t need 10% of anyone’s paycheck. I don’t know. I understand that she meant that she gives that much to her church (I assume to rent the space for its 15 members), but somehow the giving “10% to God” felt like, well, only ten percent? Maybe I’d feel less weird about it if she had said “church” and not God, but I’m splitting hairs, and I’m not even a real Christian.

    1. By the way, my question about the requirements for becoming a pastor wasn’t meant to be flippant; it’s just that lately so many so-called pastors seem to have behaved in a way that makes me question whether the only requirement is a GOP membership. (Okay, that was flippant.) Just makes me wonder where the Christian values really are with these pastors.

      1. msalakka No, I didn’t read your comments as being flippant. I think it depends on the church and its governing body as to what actually qualifies one to be a pastor. A church more on the non-denominational side may not have the same formal requirements that others might have. Still, even the best-educated people can still make mistakes.

        1. patricksplace msalakka   I agree with you Patrick but in this case I think it went beyond just making a mistake.  The pastor in question only apologized after being called out for her bad behavior.  I waited tables for years before I graduated from college.  Sadly the worst customers were church groups.  Most waiters hate working on Sunday mornings because of folks like Alois Bell.  That said, the best tip I ever received was from a Baptist minister.

    2. msalakka Thanks for posting the follow-up. As I pointed out there, even with Applebee’s social media policy, it still states that punishment for violation would be “disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” “Up to and including” need not mean termination. Suspension should have been enough.
      The tithing situation is viewed more from the standpoint that our wealth on earth is provided by God, so in a sense, it’s “God’s money.” There’s naturally a lot of disagreement on this, but even when the “wealth” only referred to the harvest, it was understood that 10% of our blessings should be given back to honor our Provider. God certainly doesn’t need the money, but it’s more a case of building a sense of gratefulness to God for what we have as opposed to bitterness over what we don’t, a lesson this particular pastor arguably hasn’t quite mastered.

  4. I felt it was a terrible thing for a pastor to do.  Where is the forgiveness?  She would have set a much better example if she had shown forgiveness and perhaps even asked Applebee’s not to fire the waitress.

  5. “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?”
    10% is the minimum God asks us to give back to him. I believe Christians should (if they have the means) make it a goal of doing MORE than 10%. As a pastor, shouldn’t she be leading in her congregation in giving more than 10%. Wouldn’t given 18% to God be a great goal for her and her congregation?
    “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?”
    The pastor didn’t fire the waitress, Applebees did. I doubt the pastor in question wanted the waitress fired or even thought her actions would get the waitress fired (I could be wrong of course). Even if the pastor asked Applebees not to fire the waitress (unknown), there’s nothing to say Applebees would have listened. They might have fired her anyway.
    Seems everyone in involved (pastor, waitress, Applebees) could use a little grace.

    1. TedtheThird  Actually it is known.  The pastor called and asked not only the waitress be fired, but everyone working that night.  She is a pathetic excuse for a Christian.  So many so called Christians are just hateful people.  Especially when it comes to gay rights.  This is why I no longer associate myself with Christianity.

      1. ChichoBlanco The problem is, it’s NOT that way with ALL Christians. If you’re going to define a group of people based on the bad behavior of some within their midst, then how is that solving the problem?
        I’m a Christian, and I’m the one who pointed out what’s wrong with this picture, so obviously I see it as a problem. Therefore, not ALL Christians would behave this way.
        Maybe “no longer associating yourself with Christianity” was an overreaction as well?

        1. patricksplace ChichoBlanco  This incident isn’t THE reason I don’t associate myself Christianity.  It just reenforces the myriad number of reason why.

    2. TedtheThird I did read in one account that the pastor demanded that the employee be fired, but as I couldn’t confirm that part to my satisfaction, I didn’t include it in the piece out of uncertainty. I have also been unable to confirm that the pastor has done ANYTHING to ask the restaurant to rehire the employee. If one makes a lapse in judgment, it’s only reasonable that they should be able to understand how someone else might make a similar lapse in judgment in response.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.