Waitress fired over pastor's Applebee's receipt

The company is critical of both sides after an employee posts a photo of a customer's message regarding a tip: 'I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?'

By Jason Notte Feb 1, 2013 3:22PM
What would Jesus do at Applebee's? Call it a hunch, but we're guessing the same guy who turned scraps of bread and bait into a full-on feast and got a party going by turning water into wine wouldn't stiff the waitress.

A server at an Applebee's near St. Louis has been fired, according to Consumerist, after posting a receipt on Reddit from another waitress's customer who crossed out an 18% gratuity and wrote in "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?" while identifying herself as a pastor. The amount of the disputed tip was $6.29.

DineEquity (DINE)-owned Applebees, meanwhile, issued a statement on Facebook that both justified the firing while condemning the customer's message. As Applebee's spokesman Dan Smith explained to Huffington Post after the company fired the employee -- identified as Chelsea Welch in news reports -- exposing guests' personal information all over the Internet is a big no-no and grounds for immediate dismissal.

Fair, especially given that a little photo editing would have kept that info private. But the note left by the customer, identified by The Smoking Gun as St. Louis pastor Alois Bell, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of both tipping policy and the Christian act of tithing.Image: Credit card (Tetra Images/Tetra Images/Corbis/Corbis)

According to company policy stated right at the bottom of the menu, a gratuity of 18% is automatically added for parties of eight or more. Bell's check was part of a party of nearly 20, according to the employee.

Bell, a pastor at the Truth in the Word Deliverance Ministries church in St. Louis, says her interpretation of the gratuity was a "lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion" and claims she left a $6 cash tip on top of what was originally charged. However, her spur-of-the-moment logic completely left out that the tithe that members of a church take out of their income goes not "to God" but to charitable organizations, the church organization itself and, often enough, the pastor to cover the living expenses of a meager existence required by their faith.

This isn't Chelsea's get-out-of-jail-free card for putting Bell's information and signature in Reddit's Atheist subcategory because "I thought other users would find it entertaining," but it doesn't make Bell's ministry look too great as a result either. She seems to know that all too well.

"My heart is really broken," she told The Smoking Gun. "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."

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Mar 7, 2013 8:26PM
I am wondering why the tip percentage continues to increase along with the cost increase of the food, my pay doesn't, but I'm expected to fund someone else's living? And let's be clear on this - it's an expectation, not an obligation. It used to be 10% tip, now it's increased to 18%. My food isn't any cheaper, so the wait staff is getting an increase based on the food costs. If restaurants want to start mandating a percentage from the get-go, let them do it and then we patrons can decide if we want to eat there or not. This whole tip thing is getting blown out of proportion. You don't like the pay, get a different job. I certainly don't get a tip for being extra nice to my clients.
Feb 15, 2013 5:02PM
Let's just state the facts here:
1. The pastor instigated this situation by leaving a rude comment...FACT...we all agree that it was rude and unwarranted.  
2. A server unrelated to this incident took the receipt with this person's name and signature and posted in social media networks...FACT.
3. Despite who started the debacle and who was morally and ethically right in this situation...the server broke privacy laws established by the restaurant...she was rightfully fired...FACT.

Was the pastor rude, insensitive, and deserved the embarrassment...YES. But the server who she stiffed should have been the one to tell her to her face, not some other unrelated individual posting her private business (i.e. name and signature) on the web. 

All of the talk about the hard work servers put in is irrelevant...no is forced to do any job, we choose it.  I get complaints and people get on my nerves at my job all day...I'm sure we all have stories to tell.  It's the nature of working with other people.  The fact that servers make less than minimum wage and rely mostly upon their tips is not a deciding factor in who's wrong or right here.  What you are showing is compassion, which is what the pastor lacked that day.  If we want to be mad...be mad at the government for allowing people to work below the min. wage and have to rely upon tips to get by...I'm sure service would go up then because restaurants would stop trying to herd people in like cattle, and rush them out the door to get to the next paying party.  We're pretty much the only country on this globe where tipping a person for doing their job isn't considered an insult.

The pastor was rude....we get it.  Humiliation was the best payback. But the other server's job was to respect people's privacy...she didn't.  They both took the fall, and people need to accept it. So there you have it...even exchange, no robberies.  Let's stop talking about it. 
Feb 14, 2013 4:32PM
She should have used paint to paint out the woman's personal info. If she had that wouldn't have happened. Other than that I say go ex-waitress, go! People that use God as an excuse to be nasty give the whole religion a bad name. Christ-like? YEAH RIGHT.
Feb 6, 2013 11:09PM

Many lessons to learn in the Applebee's PR disaster. First, the pastor needs to be forgiven, needs minor disciplinary action for her lapse in judgement in her role as pastor and she also needs training on the basic tennets of Christianity, including kindness, forgiveness & humility. Second, the employee needs to recieve minor disciplinary action and needs training on how to respond when a customer behaves inappropriately. Third, Applebee's needs to learn how to discipline an employee appropriately. If bankers can bring the USA to the brink of financial collapse and not even receive a slap on the hand, then it seems Applebee's response to the pastor fiasco is excessive. Taking away a persons' livelihood, (if you can call $3.50 an hr that), by firing the worker for outing a customers bad behavior on social media is beyond and it once again highlights how screwed up corporate america really is. Fourth, Appleee's own enforcement of social medial policy is lacking and their use of social media is also a nightmare, so they need to improve their PR skills. That being said,one issue that has received little attention, but is most deserving of being highlighted, is the fact that people & companies clearly do not have appropriate training on the use of social media. People seem to lack the filters needed to discern when and what is appropiate to post on-line. Righ now, all involved in this fiasco are experiencing loss, but wih a litle forgiveness and a lot of training & learning, it could turn into someting really positive. 

Feb 5, 2013 2:02PM
interesting - she scribbled out the 18% tip, but paid the total due - I believe the total due already includes that 18%, and that it is only called out separately so you know how much went toward the tip - If so, the pastor gave her 18% and elected to complain about it in the slip (dumb), crossed it out although that did not remove it, and chose not to leave more. 

All of the silly posts and headlines saying that she stiffed the waitress are presumably wrong.

To assume that God is part of the equation is a silly as thinking it was a race issue because the waitress is white - and I am sure some are claiming exactly that, unfortunately.

Issues - 

to expect more than 18% by default is simply silly. 18% is already well within expectations for good (but not exceptional) service regardless of bill amount, chain restaurant type, etc.

Applebee's has a clear policy, and the waitress violated it whether knowingly or not. If they make an exception for her, they face significant liability in their other past and future decisions. It stinks, but employees would do well by reading their employment contracts. I feel for the waitress, and wish it did not happen to her, but Applebee's acted properly. I have to be honest, if I were the waiter I probably would have done something similar myself. What is not clear is how much additional commentary the waitress provided or provoked by posting the pic.

The pastor was an idiot. Who cares how much she chooses to contribute to her Church ? It is simply inflammatory and unnecessary.  It has nothing to do with the restaurant bill. If it did, lets do the math. Pretend she nets 50K/yr. She tithes at 5K presumably. The tip in question comprises 0.013% of her net income. So apply her logic that she should not pay the waitress more than she pays God. Well, it is apples and oranges since God bases his expectations on INCOME, not the food bill. By her own logic, she should have tipped the waitress more like $5,000.00. Please ....
Feb 4, 2013 4:56PM
I'm with you...stop eating at  Applebee's until they rehire the waitress. This a very un-christian like thing to do to begin with.
Feb 4, 2013 10:31AM

It's often said that "It's not what you do, but the way that you do it" which seems most

applicable here.  If tips are a gratuity, then the amount of the tip should be determined

by the giver.  It does help to know that the standard tip ( in olden times) was ten percent,

then 15% and now being discussed at 20%; yet as it's understood to be discretionary, it

should be practiced as discretionary.  There was a time when young women were also

chaste, when married women did not work, when divorce was a disgrace ....  


As a child we tipped the mail carrier, the newspaper boy, folks who rendered services

to us during the year, but always at no specific percentage, but rather as we felt

sufficient and could afford. And to tip someone a cent was more soul satisfying than to

tip them nothing.


So let's grasp 'socialism', socialism, totalitarianism and communism.  Gratuities are

given in thanks and considered payment beyond the cost of purchasing the services.

Do we tip retail clerks at the cash register? Or the cashier at the gas station? No.


In a communist regime, we know there are no tips or gratuities. (Though that

expired in the Sixties in real practice.) In a totalitarian government, we are coerced to

deliver additional payment.  That often masquerades as 'graft'.  Graft is frowned upon

in America, but were we to strictly follow protocol, half the imports we receive and

70% of the exports we make would never occur.  In a socialistic regime, we are

advised to add the gratuity no matter what; in fact we might be forced to accept a

forced withholding, or value-added tax. In a capitalistic regime (America is still

Capitalistic, especially before the Market opens at 6:30AM in CA), we judge for

ourselves what is adequate, appropriate and affordable.


We are losing track of the meaning of standard definitions to an accelerated rate. 

This is most disturbing to me. Take for instance the word marriage: no matter who

you are, if you are an American citizen, marriage was understood to be between a

man and a woman until recently. The country did not endorse homosexuality.

It simply was the actual usage everyone accepted -- until recently.  When a language

loses its relevancy, the culture it fosters loses its ability to measure adequately. 

When we can't measure, we can't judge. When we have no currency to judge, we

are no longer free citizens, and much worse, civilization is doomed.  Doomed. Doomed.   

Feb 2, 2013 1:19PM
A few questions:

Only 10% to God?? Why are your stiffing Him too??
I thought you guys were all into charity. But NOT for people busting their humps day in day out?

While I agree the waitress showed very poor judgement in showing the patron's name, good for her for going public with the rest of the ticket. I always tip my server at least 20%, unless they've worked real hard at proving they deserve less. It's hard work and they deserve every penny of it.

For what it's worth, you won't catch me eating at an Applebee's again.

Feb 2, 2013 12:24PM
The 10% tithe is specifically pre-Christian. Jesus' principle was 100%. It's in the Book.
Feb 2, 2013 5:48AM



Feb 2, 2013 3:31AM
The girl was wrong for violating the customers privacy and Ms. Bell embarrassed the church. As far as living off meager salaries that is debatable 
Feb 2, 2013 2:54AM
My daughter works at an Applebee's, and I know first hand that she works her butt off trying to please everyone she waits on. I could understand if the service was not up to par.. but when a person is working hard to make your meal pleasurable, with everything you need, then I think the persons being served should take that into consideration when tipping. I have worked in the public and sometimes it is no picnic..yet the servers still smile and wait on you to assure you of a most pleasurable meal. They are worth far more than 18% in my book.. and that server that was fired should have her job reinstated since the pastor said she too had made a mistake.

Feb 2, 2013 12:50AM
Ok, my question is, if Ms. Bell is soooo sorry, what has she done to make it Right??? If she knows her Bible, so well,then she would know that it is her responsibility to make it right. #stayingtunedpastor!!! Your move.
Feb 1, 2013 8:09PM
because it glorifies God to be generous with your servants,just as he is generous with us  when others obey him.
Feb 1, 2013 8:04PM
With regards to the pastor, I got a question.. If God gets 10% of the take in church, who's pocketing the other 90%? Even our casinos here in Las Vegas can't make THAT much profit! 
Feb 1, 2013 6:53PM

I think the owner of the Applebee’s was the only person in the right here.  The pastor was definitely in the wrong with her behavior towards the waitress.  If she truly felt that strongly about leaving a tip, she could have just not added one.  There was no need to make a huge skeptical about it which was sure to end badly.  (However, I am just as taken aback by some of the comments on here about her.  If you disagree with her actions that is one thing, but to disparage her because of her size, which has no relation to the issue whatsoever, is just as petty and sad.)  

That being said, the waitress in question should not have retaliated by posting the customers personal information on the internet where anyone could have access to it.  I choose to believe it was an honest mistake, that she was simply sharing a ludicrous message that was left on the receipt of a colleague, but she should have edited out his information first.  In the end two wrongs didn’t make a right.

Feb 1, 2013 6:27PM
I wont' eat at Applebees until they re-hire that waitress, who's with me??
Feb 1, 2013 6:20PM
Here's my answer, "Because God didn't run his behind off for you and your guests tonight making sure you have a nice time here at the Bee's"   Really Pastor...how many of your sheep, I mean followers are in the hospitality industry working for tips?  Shame on you.  If the meal and service were adequate, NOTHING below 15% and if the meal was good and service better than average, then 18-20%.  In reality Pastor, God doesnn't need your tithing, YOU need tithing to keep your salary, overhead and building costs met.  That's a fact. 
Feb 1, 2013 6:13PM
Should have fired the cheapskate pastor !!!
Feb 1, 2013 6:08PM
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