Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tipping for Jeezus

Imagine you're a server at a national restaurant chain, working your ass off, making around $2 an hour, depending on tips for the bulk of your income.  Then you get a receipt like this one:

The 18% tip is crossed off, with the note, "I give God 10% Why do you get 18" (sic).  On top of her signature she's added the title "Pastor." 

The server who received this receipt showed it to another server, who took a picture of it and posted it on the web, with the snarky line, "I'm sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries."  While I appreciate the pro-active shaming of this obnoxious customer, I have to admit it is a gross violation of privacy, especially since posting someone's signature online can lead to identity theft.

The picture went viral.  

The Pastor complained to the restaurant-- Applebee's-- and the server who posted the receipt (who was not the one who was stiffed) got fired for violating their customer privacy policy, which set off a brand-new shit storm.

Suddenly the story shifted from a rude customer not tipping to a PR nightmare for Applebee's.  The intarwebz, where everyone loves to get angry and judgy, jumped down Applebee's throat.  When the restaurant chain tried to respond, it only made things worse and fanned the flames. 


This fascinating story touches on so many different issues: tipping etiquette, rude customers, religion, privacy, social media, PR nightmares...

Here's a good summary of the story, along with a discussion on privacy issues in the Web 2.0:

Big Op-Ed: When Private Comments Go Very Public

I've been obsessed with this story for several days now.  All issues of privacy and PR aside, I wanted to get more into this Pastor's head and see what she was possibly thinking to write such an ignorant thing on a receipt.

I find the whole God thing ridiculously offensive.  You don't give "God" your 10% (AKA tithing), you give it to your church.  (And if you're a pastor, and the church pays your salary, then aren't you sort of just giving that money back to yourself?  How Jesus-like is that?)  God doesn't give a damn about your money, and I'm sure if there is a loving benevolent God, he would much prefer you honor him by paying the people who serve you.

But the really obnoxious thing is that she felt the need to add "Pastor" to her signature. Is that supposed to impress, or show how she's entitled to stiff the waitress, or what?
This pastor's local TV station gave her a chance to explain herself in a 9-minute interview here:

The interview is a huge disappointment and the interviewer does a terrible job. She's sympathetic to Ms. Bell, which is fine, but she goes so far that she doesn't ask any questions that will make her look more sympathetic to the general public. It ends up making her look worse. When Bell explains that she did, indeed, tip the waitress 18%-- TWICE, in fact-- the interviewer reacts with a tone that says, "Well, that's that! Why would everyone yell at you for that?" I was confused by her assertion that she did tip. You tipped twice? Why? How? Clearly it's crossed-off on the receipt. If you paid cash, then why write the nasty note?

Ms. Bell repeats throughout the interview that is was a "lapse in judgment" and that her biggest regret is that her actions reflected poorly on God. She mentions how she's received hateful emails of people calling her a hypocrite.  There are lots of questions I'd like to ask her, but one of them is: does she understand WHY people are reacting this way?  Can she explain what specifically was so repugnant about the comment on her receipt?  Because after nine minutes of explaining herself, it's still not clear to me that she understands. 

The only question the interviewer asks that I really wanted to know is, "What have you learned from this experience?"  Her only answer is that she'll never write on a receipt again.  That's totally not the point. (It reminds me of the episode of South Park where all the Catholic bishops decry the "problem" of all these molested kids coming forward.  Um, one priest points out, the problem is not that these kids are coming forward, the problem is that they are being molested.) 

You'd think that after such an ordeal, the Pastor would at the very least have answered the rhetorical question she so snottily wrote on the receipt.  Why does the server get 18%?  Does she understand the economics of how servers are paid?  Does she think that people deserve to be paid for their work? 

In the end, getting a glimpse into Pastor Bell's mind was unfulfilling.  Sadly, the Pastor just comes across as stupid and immature in the interview.  Which, I suppose, is what you would expect from someone who did something like that in the first place. As an educator, I would at least hope this would have been a learning experience for her.

I'll end with a fun article that discusses the relationship of tithing to tipping:

My Name Is Jehovah, and I’ll Be Taking Care of You Tonight


Dan S said...

What I find even more offensive about this is that the pastor wants sympathy while at the same time she demanded that everyone at that Applebees be fired (the person who posted the note, the other server, the manager, and even the manager who was not on duty). What an a-hole.

Tim said...

Yeah, she seems to sorta kinda have backpeddled on having everyone fired, but it's not entirely clear.

She said that her next sermon was going to be on grace and forgiveness, but it's still not obvious who she thinks needs to be forgiven: herself or everyone else who said mean things to her?

There really hasn't been any follow-up on this story since it blew up last weekend. That's the problem with these kinds of stories: they go viral for a few days and then everyone's attention turns to something else, and you never really get to hear how it ends.