The Applebee's waitress who posted a customer's check on Reddit because of a note explaining why there was no tip has been fired, and the company has posted a lengthy explanation of the story and their decision on Facebook.
The waitress, identified as Chelsea, says she thought it was funny when she found the guest check on the table with the note, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?" and the tip line scratched out. The guest, as it so happens, is a pastor, and the incident has caused an uproar online as both Chelsea and the pastor, identified as a Ms. Bell, receive attention, support, and negative feedback.
“I originally posted the note as a lighthearted joke,” says Chelsea. “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.”
Bell--and Applebee's--didn't find it entertaining at all, and terminated Chelsea for exposing a customer's check since her signature is clearly visible at the bottom. But she insists it wasn't done out of ill will, and that after the photo went viral, she did everything she could to keep Bell from being exposed.
“All throughout the comment thread on the Reddit post, I withheld any identifying information,” Chelsea said. “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.”
As for Applebee's, this was their response to the situation, via Facebook:
We appreciate the chance to explain our franchisee’s action in this unfortunate situation.
Please let us assure you that Applebee’s and every one of our franchisees values our hard working team members and the amazing job they do serving our guests. We recognize the extraordinary effort required and the tremendous contribution they make, and appreciate your recognition and support of our colleagues.
At the same time, as we know you will agree, the guests who visit Applebee’s -- people like you -- expect and deserve to be treated with professionalism and care in everything we do. That is a universal standard in the hospitality business. That includes respecting and protecting the privacy of every guest, which is why our franchisees who own and operate Applebee’s have strict policies to protect personal information -- even guest’s names.
With that in mind, here is what happened in St. Louis:
- A guest questioned the tip automatically attached to her large party’s bill by writing: "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?" on the check.
- A different server, who did not even wait on the group, photographed the receipt, posted the photo online and commented about the incident.
- The guest subsequently heard from friends who identified her from the posting, where her name is clearly visible, and the restaurant was notified. There was no further communication with the guest.
- The team member was asked about posting the receipt and admitted she was responsible.
- When she was hired, the team member was provided the franchisee’s employee hand book which includes their social media policy and states:
“Employees must honor the privacy rights of APPLEBEE’s and its employees by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal APPLEBEE’S happenings that might be
considered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality. This shall include, but not be limited to, posting of photographs, video, or audio of APPLEBEE’S employees or its customers,
suppliers, agents or competitors, without first obtaining written approval from the Vice President of Operations. The policy goes on to specify: Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
- As a result of her admission to violating a clear company policy intended to safeguard guests, the team member is no longer employed by the franchisee.
Our franchisees are committed to acting in the best interests of guests and team members. This is a regrettable situation and we wish it had never happened. However, the disregard for an important policy left the franchisee no choice but to take the action they did.
We hope this provides you with some additional insight. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to explain the facts involved.