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Jan 31 2013

Jesus Would Get Her Fired

There’s a good chance by now that you’ve heard about the pastor who didn’t like that she was charged an 18% gratuity on her bill at Applebee’s. She crossed out the tip, wrote in $0, and added, “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?”

My first thought on reading that was that the answer is simple. Even a bad server does infinitely more for you than a nonexistent god. Also, because that’s how people working their asses off get paid, and large groups are notoriously bad at basic bill addition, much less tax-and-tip math. An 18% tip is low.

The pastor, however, has managed to make things even worse. From The Smoking Gun:

The St. Louis pastor responsible for the credit card receipt heard ‘round the Internet termed her snide scribblings a “lapse in my character and judgment,” adding that the Applebee’s employee who posted the receipt online was fired yesterday after she lodged a complaint with restaurant managers.

In a TSG interview, Alois Bell said that the online firestorm created by the receipt has left her stunned. “My heart is really broken,” said the 37-year-old Bell. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

Oh, Pastor Bell. Your poor church and ministry! This is devastating. They’re going to have to look for a job in a tight economy.

No, wait, that’s the server you decided should pay for complaining about your “lapse in character and judgment”. You’re the one who decided being a pastor gave you some sort of license to sneer at the people who serve you week after week, but you didn’t want to deal with that irony pushing the story around the internet, or as you put it, being “blown out of proportion.”

Yes, readers, that’s right. Bell’s interview tells us this wasn’t some kind of one-time misunderstanding about how tipping for groups works.

The January 25 meal came after an evening service at the Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries church, said Bell, who added that five adults and five children were in the group that dined at Applebee’s (a traditional post-service destination for church members).

They go there all the time. They know how this works.

Pastor Bell also says she did tip.

Despite scratching out the tip added to the bill, Bell said that she left a $6 tip in cash, adding that she subsequently discovered the 18 percent gratuity had been charged to her credit card.

An 18% tip would have been $6.29. The pastor threw a godly, entitled snit over $0.29, assuming she did leave the $6.

At least the server got an extra $6 out of it, maybe. That should tide her through her job interviewing for all of a cheap meal or so. All because Pastor Alois Bell got embarrassed later rather than sooner. Correction: The server who posted the receipt was not the server who received the tip. However, Pastor Bell reportedly also tried to have that server fired, as well as other staff at the restaurant.

It’s what Jesus would have done, you know.

35 comments

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  1. 1
    Ben Zvan

    The first thing I thought when I read the receipt was “you give your church 10% of your income; 18% of this bill should be close to 0% of your income.”

  2. 2
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    One wonders why these hypocrites can’t parse the meaning of “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” — hmm, does that passage support the idea that a tax exemption for religious groups is anti-scriptural? What a cheating cheap-skate the pastor is, anyway.

  3. 3
    Alverant

    I saw this on RawStory and some of the commenters were talking about their experiences as a waitress. According to them, this isn’t that unusual. Some preachers feel they don’t have to pay period much less tip. They feel entitled to eat and assume someone else will pick up the tab. Now I’m sure some of them do pay, but I’m willing to bet that if you talked with waitresses about who the good and bad tippers are you’d find a few think that holy men are in the “bad tippers” list.

  4. 4
    davidhart

    I’m kind of baffled as to why there isn’t more of a backlash against the whole tipping culture. There are very few fields in which the customer gets to directly, and capriciously, influence how much an employee gets paid (but not how much the boss gets paid). I reckon if enough one restaurant chain could be persuaded to have a ‘pay all its staff a living wage and print prices on the menu that include service in the cost of each item’ policy … and state prominently that they do not expect their customers to tip, and ensure that their staff wages are still pitched above what they would expect to make with tips in comparable places, so that people actually want to work there, then it would become possible for people to put pressure on other chains to start doing the same, by refusing to eat at those places until they do.

    If there’s any practical reason why that couldn’t be done, I can’t think of it. All it would take is one forward-thinking restaurant chain owner.

  5. 5
    smrnda

    I feel very bad that the server was fired, mostly since she’s only exposing that the job as server is a shit job that puts the worker at constant risk of not getting paid whenever they wait on a pompous self-important jackass. Is there a fund for this server? Petition for AppleBees?

    We really do need to end the tipping culture and just pay everybody a living wage, which would be what, three times minimum wage in some areas?

  6. 6
    kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith

    I like Feynman’s take on tipped jobs:

    You shouldn’t have to beg for your wages.

  7. 7
    Randomfactor

    Matthew 5:40.

  8. 8
    freebird

    This pastor thought she were morally in the right when they wrote this note, and she wrote it with the intention that someone was going to see it. Now that the note has a wider audience, that pastor feels ashamed.

  9. 9
    Anthony K

    “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?”

    God supposedly feeds all of his creations. Why do you go to Applebees?

    People in the industry who work Sunday lunches know that it’s not just the pastors who are cheap.

  10. 10
    daved

    It’s a minor point, but the waitress who got fired was not the one who was serving the pastor and received the obnoxious note. The actual server showed the obnoxious note to another waitress, and it’s the latter woman who was fired (she’s the one who posted it on the Internet).

  11. 11
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    There was no legitimate reason to fire the waitress, and this pastor deserves every last bit of bile and vitriol thrown her way. She is, without a doubt, a horrible human being.

    I hope she and her little 15-member cult are run out of town by a mob with torches and pitchforks.

  12. 12
    Jafafa Hots

    Servers are expected to pay taxes on tips.
    Unless something has changed, since 1983 that was determined by a flat tax rate of 8% on all sales (which went up higher after that). All sales across the board, not just ones where you got a tip. This was done to prevent servers from “cheating” by not reporting tips.

    So when you don’t tip your server, you are not only not putting money in their pocket, you are literally taking money OUT of their pocket, because they have to pay Federal income tax on MONEY THEY NEVER EVEN GOT.

  13. 13
    Jafafa Hots

    Incidentally, last year Applebees asked for permission to use some of my photos for murals to decorate some NY locations. For free.
    They troll flickr and look for photos, ask to use them for free and expect people to be thrilled.

    Their parent company, DineEquity had just had very profitable quarter selling their tasteless high-sodium “food,”. I suggested to them that the could actually PAY a professional photographer rather that trying to save a few hundred bucks by trolling flickr for freebies.

  14. 14
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Why does the Christian god need human money anyway? That he’s unable to have his will performed without it goes a long way to supporting the argument he’s either a) not what his followers claim he is (i.e. omnipotent) or b) nonexistent.

  15. 15
    Marie DeMars

    If I remember my Sunday school correctly the 10% of your income you’re supposed to give is actually supposed to go tot he poor and needy, not god. Presumably by giving it to your church it will get to the needy. Reality however….

  16. 16
    Alverant

    @davidhart #4
    Two things, first I’m pretty sure the boss takes his cut of reported tips in many places. Second I have heard of a place that does exactly what you suggested. They pay their employes a living wage and refuse tips. I don’t remember any details about it but it is a viable business model for the time being. But it’s not popular since it doesn’t clear much profit and I don’t know if it’s scalable to the level of a national chain.

    I understand that centuries ago you tipped at the start of the meal to buy good service and not at the end where you judge how much you felt like rewarding for the service you got. As nice as that sounds, I can’t see going back to it because it means paying twice. It’s a messed up system and the only way I can see fixing it is to put an end to it. Do what davidhart suggested and integrate the tipping and the tax into the price so your servers can get paid a living wage. Let’s end this $8.99 BS and just call it $12.00 where the extra $3.01 is the taxes and tipping. Print it on the menu so people don’t have to do the math in their head. Americans are beginning to suck at math anyway. This way you can easily figure out how much you’re spending when you order the meal.

  17. 17
    Martha

    I agree that the pastor was well out of line, but we ought to be tossing a little more vitriol at the restaurant manager who fired that server, too. Stand up for your people when they’re being abused, Applebees!

  18. 18
    Jadehawk

    Stand up for your people when they’re being abused, Applebees!

    i assure you, Applebees management doesn’t think of their staff as “their people”. more like “their wageslaves”, while “customer is king”

  19. 19
    Rieux

    Again, though, the person who was fired was NOT the server who waited on the pastor–a detail Stephanie and multiple commenters have missed. The pink slip went to a different employee, one to whom the original server showed the receipt. The fired employee took a picture of the receipt and then shared that picture online, foolishly neglecting to redact the pastor’s legible signature.

    The pastor is obviously badly in the wrong here, but if I’m running a restaurant I’m not so sure I don’t fire the picture-taking employee myself. The restaurant doesn’t come off looking much better than the pastor does in this incident, does it?

  20. 20
    Shannon

    Yet another reason that I can’t stand Applebee’s …

    That being said I have worked in the food industry for over 20 years (I just realized it had been that long… ). Honestly the hardest day to staff is usually Sunday, for some reason the groups migrating to restaraunts after services are the meanest, loudest, and nastiest bunch out there. My running theory is that they are just plain angry from having to get up and go to church, but I digress. There are a few exceptions to the rule, one church that comes in always has nice friendly people, though only under duress as the pastor of that location ripped his congregation a new one for how they were acting.

    So one, one pastor out of I would say about 25 local churches said something, the rest not a damn thing. Some of the pastors expect a discount as well as do their congregation, not happening.

    Also as someone else pointed out the tithe 10% of income was supposed to go to help the poor and sick and I seem to recall the widowed mothers and children who had no family.

  21. 21
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    When I worked as a waitress back in the last millenium (98) I got 10 German Marks an hour (around 6$), which was an OK wage without tips. Hard production line factory work made 12-14 bucks.
    Tips are considered to be good behaviour in Germany but not part of the server’s wages (they are considered income when taxed), so they are actually something you can choose to give based on how well treated you felt. I usually made 150-200% of my actual wage, which means that as a schoolgirl 15 years ago I earned twice as much as US-American waiters and waitresses get now.

  22. 22
    MissMarnie

    It is worth noting that she had the bill split in hopes of avoiding the auto gratuity, so you are only seeing part of the bill. $6 is most likely not even close to 18% of the bill. The first reports were saying the total bill was $200. Even at 15%, the tip should have been 5 times the amount she claims she left on the table. A $6 tip would be 3% of the bill, if my math is right.

  23. 23
    maidao-horton

    There’s a petition to ask Applebee’s to rehire her.

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/applebee-s-rehire-chelsea-we-ll-eat-at-your-restaura.html

    (I signed it, and am thankful there are no Applebee’s local to where I live :-))

    And yes, the Sunday church crowd is the worst to wait on, and some of the worst tippers.

    And while what this pastor did was bad, what’s worse is how Applebee’s handled it. I highly doubt there’s a rule in the book about privacy of customers. There are, however, usually strict rules about tipping procedures. (I was a trainer for servers for years) My guess is that the restaurant did charge the 18% on the credit card like the pastor claimed, and while it’s the decent thing to do, it’s also illegal to alter a signed credit card slip – so my guess is they fired her to cover that up.

    I used to wait on Catholic priests at a restaurant years ago. Not only did they pick up the tab for all the guests that joined them, they used to run up a huge liquor and wine tab. And they were generous tippers, always tipping me at least 20%. Which is where their tithing actually goes to.

  24. 24
    eric

    @16:

    I understand that centuries ago you tipped at the start of the meal to buy good service and not at the end where you judge how much you felt like rewarding for the service you got.

    That method still works well in Vegas casinos. Tip well on the first drink you get and the waitress comes back a lot more regularly.

  25. 25
    Ben Zvan

    davidhart:

    If there’s any practical reason why that couldn’t be done, I can’t think of it. All it would take is one forward-thinking restaurant chain owner.

    I think you’ve thought of the practical reason.

    Alverant: 8.99? In the US, tip-earning jobs have a minimum wage of 2.13 thanks to the restaurant lobby.

    Jafafa Hots: Connect on Flickr?

  26. 26
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    The firing was for posting a picture of the receipt – WITH SIGNATURE – online. I would not like images of my signature going all over the internet, with or without snarky commentary.

  27. 27
    johnmckay

    I’m not sure what her giving ten percent to God even means. From the sound of it, she is her church, so who is she giving the money to?.

    I also think the press deserves some shaming for calling her statement an apology. She’s heartbroken that she embarrassed herself and her church. She’s heartbroken that other people made a stink over it. I suppose she might be apologizing to her fifteen parishioners. But I don’t know why that should that be worth of press coverage.

  28. 28
    carlie

    The firing was for posting a picture of the receipt – WITH SIGNATURE – online.

    It was NOT posted with the signature. There was just enough of the loops of the name at the top left from the crop that hadn’t been quite cut off that people who knew the pastor and her handwriting recognized it (with the cues of knowing what city/state it was in and that she was a pastor) and started asking if it was her. It was a little much left, but the person who posted it did try to cut off the signature. That said, as has been mentioned before, that pastor wrote it INTENDING for the server to see it, so she shouldn’t have been ashamed for other people to see it too. What is that Bible lesson about not doing in secret what you wouldn’t do in public?

    Unless something has changed, since 1983 that was determined by a flat tax rate of 8% on all sales (which went up higher after that). All sales across the board, not just ones where you got a tip. This was done to prevent servers from “cheating” by not reporting tips.

    So when you don’t tip your server, you are not only not putting money in their pocket, you are literally taking money OUT of their pocket, because they have to pay Federal income tax on MONEY THEY NEVER EVEN GOT.

    That’s basically it, but as of a few years ago at least servers had the option of either paying that flat tax OR recording every tip they got for the year and reporting the actual amount to pay taxes on. Besides being awful paperwork, there are some employers who refuse to verify said paperwork and make their servers do the flat tax instead. And yes, the result is a lot less money. I know servers who have come out with effective negative paychecks for the week after a few big tables that leave no tip.

  29. 29
    Ashley

    It was actually posted with the signature initially. The woman who posted it said she didn’t think it was legible, so she didn’t crop it out. It wasn’t until later that the image was cropped to hide it.

    That being said, I don’t think she should have been fired over this at all.

  30. 30
    Sheesh

    I can’t imagine why the signature even matters. Signatures aren’t crypotraphically secure, and identities are stolen all the time without them. If signatures themselves were sensitive we would control access to them, but we don’t. (E.g., I’ve signed my art, pictures exist on the web, oh noes.)

    Your attendance at a resturant at a time and date is not private knowledge. Resturants are places of public accomodation. (In many cases you are even being survielled, at the very least by the proprietor.) So a signature no more places you at a particular resturant at a time and place than any other means available to the public.

    Further, a note on a reciept doesn’t even have the expectation of personal or private communication. It is common knowlege that originals and carbons will change hands, and that’s why sensitive information is not recorded on them in the clear (e.g., a credit card number with cardholder name and expiration). Something written on a reciept will be seen by more than one person, so the note was not a private expression. (If one wanted to make a private complaint about automatic gratuities, a letter to Applebee’s management would have been appropriate. The complaint as described here was not private.)

    Etc.

    Shorter: Signatures aren’t special secret, so who cares? Don’t want to be ashamed when you say something shameful? Keep it private.

  31. 31
    Marcus Ranum

    She probably pays almost no taxes, either, if she’s a typical pastor (residence provided by the parish, vehicle provided, living expenses, etc. Not much income but a pretty nice lifestyle if you can survive the stomach-churning hypocrisy)

  32. 32
    Marcus Ranum

    I wonder how much spit and snot the pastor is going to consume if they continue dining out.

  33. 33
    Stephanie Zvan

    Thanks, daved and Rieux. Reading through a migraine doesn’t always work as intended. I updated the post.

  34. 34
    carlie

    Thanks for correcting me, Ashley. I do think she should have thought to crop it out first.

    But yeah, if you write something snotty on a receipt handed over to a stranger, don’t expect it to stay private.

  35. 35
    carlie

    …and if the threat of public shaming results in people treating waitstaff better, then good. That’s societal manners pressure at work.

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