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Social Media Fail (Applebee’s Edition)

See the whole thing at R. L. Stollar’s blog:  Applebee’s Overnight Social Media Meltdown: A Photo Essay (h/t: Robert Farley).

For those unfamiliar with the context:  Waitress fired after posting pastor’s no tip receipt online.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    No pity for the pastor. If you don’t want to tip, don’t eat out.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  2. @michael reynolds: Agreed. And the note was remarkably snotty and condescending.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  3. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: @Steven L. Taylor: No doubt. On the other hand, one doesn’t expect one’s tipping behavior to be made public, let alone posted to Reddit. Applebee’s was right to discipline the waitress. I’m not sure firing was in order, but it’s certainly not outlandish.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11

  4. @James Joyner: I think that given the lack of identifying info in the photo, that firing was too strong an action, especially given that rather predictable public relations fallout. Had they published names or phone numbers, etc, I would not be sympathetic.

    Also: the linked story notes that the Applebee’s Facebook page had (it has now been deleted) a post of a photo of a receipt with a positive note on it (and that I think had identifying information on it) that was posted without the writer’s permission, which makes the firing doubly problematic in my mind,

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  5. (Indeed, I originally decided again posting on this story because I could see the argument, even if I disagreed with it, for the dismissal. The ineptitude of the social media response detailed in the link above, however, was what prompted the response).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That’s fair enough. The name of the “pastor” did come out pretty quickly, though.

    Honestly, I’m not sure how companies should deal with the new realities. Those under 30 simply expect to be able to post for the entire universe to see anything that happens in their life that strikes them as interesting. Which, apparently, is pretty much every single instant of their gloriously interesting lives. Given that customers have some expectation of privacy, the juxtaposition is jarring.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  7. bernieyeball says:

    Seems to me that way before the internet existed merchants would tape checks that had bounced to their cash registers for all to see.
    I realize this is not the same as not leaving a tip as bouncing checks is pretty much the same as stealing, complaints can be filed and it can be prosecuted.
    On the other hand seems like outing other peoples marginal behavior on the internet is not that far removed than shunning or outright ostracism practiced in some communities.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  8. bernieyeball says:

    @bernieyeball: …removed from shunning…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Just Me says:

    The note left by the pastor was jerkish.

    The pastor said she did leave a cash tip on the table though (people can choose to believer her or not given the message). Also, the waitress that posted the receipt was not the waitress for the table in question (I assume she saw it and decided to post it).

    I don’t think posting costumer receipts is very smart, however I can totally understand a waitress or waiter being pissed at the note.

    I will point out that I almost always leave cash tips (I skip the tip charged to the card because a lot of restaurants will take credit card fees out of the tip rather than the cost of the check).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. anjin-san says:

    one doesn’t expect one’s tipping behavior to be made public, let alone posted to Reddit

    Why not? The world has changed. Someone can capture an image of you being a jerk on their smartphone and have it up on social media for the world to see in seconds.

    One more good reason not to be a jerk.

    As someone who was in the restaurant & nightclub industry for a long time, my sympathy is with the waitresses. As for the Pastor in question, her superiors need to have a long talk with her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  11. john personna says:

    But I already hated Applebee’s … I can’t remember why, other than that I was there once.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. Argon says:

    On a related note: Exactly what does a company like Applebees get from having a Facebook page? Why would I want to go there?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  13. KariQ says:

    When this whole thing started, I assumed the original receipt was a hoax. Obviously, I need to be more trusting the internet in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. PJ says:

    @anjin-san:

    Why not? The world has changed. Someone can capture an image of you being a jerk on their smartphone and have it up on social media for the world to see in seconds.

    Dog Poop Girl.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. sam says:

    @James Joyner:

    Honestly, I’m not sure how companies should deal with the new realities.

    Hmm. One of the arguments against government regulation is that the market will take care of business shenannies. By this is meant, I guess, that folks will tell their friends, and those folks will tell their friends, and…, that Acme Widgets is run by idjits and its products are shit and and don’t do what they’re supposed to do and cause all manner of heartburn and butthurt and cost waaaay to much and scare the kids and the dog, then everyone will stop buying Acme Widgets and the company will end up on the trash heap where it goddamned well belongs. The idjits.

    Or some such.

    Social media, I would think, fulfills the conservative ideal of the invisible (if extremely vocal) hand wiping away the shit-producing Acme Widgets of the world. Unless, of course, you post your complaint on Yelp and you get sued for defamation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  16. Andre Kenji says:

    @Argon:

    On a related note: Exactly what does a company like Applebees get from having a Facebook page? Why would I want to go there?

    Their customers may know that their company cares about them. That´s the problem here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner:

    On the other hand, one doesn’t expect one’s tipping behavior to be made public, let alone posted to Reddit.

    One certainly should, given the number of such posts that show up there.

    Anyone who leaves a note like the pastor did, or (as often happens) leaves something that looks like a $10 bill but is actually a religious tract, should expect it’s going to end up on /r/atheism without much delay. Reddit’s predominant demographic is highly represented among waitstaff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  18. matt says:

    @Just Me: Note too that the Pastor claims she didn’t call and demand that the staff be fired either..

    When I was a manager of a pizza place I dealt with people like her. I’ve seen her type and I have no doubt she didn’t leave a tip. I wouldn’t trust a single thing that woman says. The holy roller types like her think they are above the average person. Unfortunately for her she was caught with physical proof of her arrogance and that arrogance was put on display.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  19. I’m kind of glad this story has gotten so much attention, even with the side effects. It shines a bright light on some of the deficiencies of our culture, perhaps most strikingly, the complete lack of generosity.

    Not just from the pastor, but also from the very nature of the business model. I know when I have to sign the receipt, I hear my Mama’s words echo in my head: “If not me, who?”

    It sure would be nice if America’s chain restaurants (who benefit from economies of scale) had a better answer to that question than “Someone else.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): There’s a lot about “tipping culture” that shows up on Reddit, too. Pretty interesting to see how that differs in other countries.

    I don’t believe Americans completely lack generosity–we give more to charity, both per capita and as a percentage of GDP, than any other nation. But the reliance on tipping to pay waitstaff makes little sense in the 21st century.

    When I lived in Germany, where the gratuity is always included in the bill, I did not notice any difference in the quality of service in restaurants from that here in the U. S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Tyrell says:

    I would hope that receipts and other documents such as this would remain confidential. That’s one reason I don’t use social media. I guess next some angry waitress will post someone’s credit card number.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  22. @Mikey:

    “I don’t believe Americans completely lack generosity–we give more to charity, both per capita and as a percentage of GDP, than any other nation.”

    Good point, but I guess I see that as a symptom of our lack of generosity –almost a compensation for it– than proof that we’re a generous culture. (Hate to say it, but I also think that many charities are borderline scams, exercises in ego-stroking and tax avoidance more than “charity.”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  23. Tony W says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): I think it’s a relic of the “me first” ethos that is so common among about 47% of us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Mikey says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Well, the only other country with which I’m familiar enough to hazard an opinion is Germany, and I don’t recall charitable organizations having nearly the prominence there that they do here. Then again, most people donate to churches via Kirchensteuer (“church tax”) so it’s probably not as important to do active fundraising.

    As far as the two cultures’ relative generosity, I didn’t really notice a whole lot of difference. I wouldn’t expect there to be, though–after all, German culture and immigration has had a huge influence here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. @Tony W: Hmmm…if you mean getting paid for the work you do, that’s not really “me first.” That’s just trade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    … Sanctimonious.

    Adjective

    derogatory. Making a show of being morally superior to other people.

    ——

    Here is a representative of a VERY large business. That business makes its money by selling the superiority of an invisible product.

    And, in doing so, runs its business tax free. It’s employee income, tax free.

    You would think an individual that represents that type of organization would not be such an ass… lest they call in question the AWESOME racket they have going.

    —-

    ps… the thing surprised me about this, is that as a spiritual leader, she would write that she only “gives 10% to god”… You would think that in her role, she would give 100%.

    But… I guess it IS about the money.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, the only other country with which I’m familiar enough to hazard an opinion is Germany, and I don’t recall charitable organizations having nearly the prominence there that they do here.

    A large reason for that is that you don’t need charity as much in Germany — many of the necessities that people have to turn to charity for here are provided for as a matter of course to all Germans via taxes.

    No one in Germany, for example, has to have a bake sale to afford an operation.

    It’s a different social structure: we pay a little in taxes, and then make up the rest via charity and our own pockets. Germans pay more in taxes, but then don’t have to go begging to others for charity so they can get food or an education or medical care etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  28. Andre Kenji says:

    Here in Brazil tips are very rare. I think that they should not be, because there are occasions(Like when people are drinking at the bar until dawn, waiting for the first transit lines to open) where the bar staff should be paid more.

    In fact, most restaurants are complaining that it´s very hard and very expensive to hire workers. In São Paulo, they are getting fair more than 3,50 a hour that this waitress says that she gets. And that´s not considering Purchasing Parity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. superdestroyer says:

    @James Joyner:

    The way companies deal with it is ensure that employees in the service industry do not have their cell phones on them while they are working. Why does a server in a restaurant needs to have their cell phone on them while they are working. It is just a distraction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  30. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    It’s a different social structure: we pay a little in taxes, and then make up the rest via charity and our own pockets. Germans pay more in taxes, but then don’t have to go begging to others for charity so they can get food or an education or medical care etc.

    Americans’ preference leans more strongly toward the voluntary than Germans’ does.

    Here in America the principle is (generally) “if the government doesn’t prohibit X, then X is allowed.” In Germany (and any honest German will tell you this) it’s “if the government doesn’t allow X, then X is prohibited.”

    So, that expresses itself, among other ways, in the contrast of voluntary charity vs. charity funded by mandatory taxation.

    Something I mentioned before that Germany has, that I don’t think would fly here (to say the least), is Kirchensteuer–literally, “church tax.” You state your religious affiliation on the German equivalent of a W-4 form, and a portion of your income is withheld by the state and transferred to the church.

    You don’t “have to” do this, but you’re looked down upon if you don’t, even if you never actually go to church.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. aFloridian says:

    The PR disaster provided on the link is both hilarious and wince-inducing. I almost feel sorry for the poor schlub sitting at his or her computer at 4am thinking this was a good idea or would mitigate the wrath of the internet’s great unwashed.

    At the same time, I don’t feel particularly sorry for the server fired, beyond the very fact that she was working as a server at Applebee’s in the first place. I was in customer service for several years, working up from the bottom-rung to a mid-level supervisory position.

    Even after entering other industries, I have learned that the same basic common sense will go a long way. First, there are always going to be members of the public that treat you like dirt. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the business. I’ve been called every name in the book and told to “f— off” more times than I can count. That didn’t make it right, but that’s the country we live in.

    Second, don’t post ANY details about your job online. You are asking for trouble. I know there is some debate about this today, with arguments of free speech at the center of the controversy. As some of you have pointed out, however, times HAVE changed. While in the past, badmouthing your employer to a few friends was unlikely to cause you any trouble, that’s simply not the case when you take to the internet and let your beef with the boos go viral. Why should an employer keep someone who is making the company look bad like this server?

    Don’t get me wrong. The pastor’s comment (and James, did you write “pastor” because you doubt her validity?) was incredibly arrogant and did indeed reflect badly on her and her church (and this sort of thing hurts Christians overall I think). Even so, the situation should have stayed in the restaurant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  32. Lib Cap says:

    @aFloridian:

    Second, don’t post ANY details about your job online. You are asking for trouble.

    meh.

    1) LinkedIn would disagree, and …

    2) Glassdoor would like to help you NOT make the mistake of taking that sucky job.

    Times HAVE changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. aFloridian says:

    I even keep the details limited on my LinkedIn page. Those have caused people trouble as well. Yes, we both agree that times have changed, but basic rules of the workplace still apply.

    I am doubtless more strict on myself than is necessary. I know many people who put generic positive statements about their job in their bios or status updates without consequence. So, to truly distinguish it becomes (and should be) a problem when you begin bashing your employer online.

    Even when your settings are relatively private, it is just not the same as griping at, say, a poker game. For one, most people at poker games don’t have tape recorders that they can then play for other people. That is essentially the way facebook and other social media are. They leave a paper trail and, in my experience, are never truly, truly private. Heck, Zuckerberg’s people can’t even keep their own stuff private (the picture taken by his sister that leaked recently).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0