Applebees Fires A Waitress Over A Receipt: Were They Wrong?

Chelsea Welch, the waitress that publicly posted a receipt to with rude scribbles concerning automatic gratuity, was fired from Applebees last Wednesday. The receipt for $34.93 (which included the 18% tip) was defaced, reading, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?” After thousands had already seen the picture of the receipt on Reddit, the pastor that signed the receipt called the Applebees to complain about this violation of her privacy.

Okay. I’ve been a waitress before, as well as a barista, and it’s never cool when people snub you on a tip. It’s true that servers, especially ones who work at chain restaurants, don’t make very much money at all for all the grueling work that they do. I’ve also gotten lunch with a co-worker who, when it came down to paying her portion of the split bill, stated, “The waitress didn’t do anything special,” and left the line for the tip blank. I quickly paid a few dollars extra to cover her tip and left, embarrassed. However, in the case of Chelsea Welch versus Alois Bell (the customer), both parties are in the wrong.


After contacting Applebees, Bell claims her reputation has been ruined and that she’s embarrassed. I’m not so sure those feelings would have surfaced if her nasty receipt had not appeared and multiplied like rabbits on the internet. In principle, it’s wrong to degrade someone who is serving you, period. It’s hard work being a server, and on top of crappy minimum wages (in some states, the minimum wage for servers who make tips is $2.13 an hour), no one deserves to be treated like they are beneath you. A part of me is really rooting for Chelsea for exposing the kind of bullsh*t that goes on in the restaurant industry, the kind of subtle mistreatment that goes unattended to by companies because rarely does anyone do anything that is technically wrong.

Unfortunately, Chelsea Welch did break some privacy barriers. She posted a receipt that had the customer’s signature on it, an integral part of one’s identity. I’m pretty sure the actual rule implemented by Applebees is that employees are not allowed to use photographs of the customers, but a signature is pretty familial as far as personal identity goes.

Welch states, “I had no intention of starting a witch hunt or hurting anyone. I just wanted to share a picture I found interesting,” she said. “I come home exhausted, sore, burnt, dirty, and blistered on a good day. And after all that, I can be fired for ’embarrassing’ someone who directly insults their server on religious grounds.”

What do you think? Do you believe it’s unfair that Applebees fired Chelsea?

Featured image via Shuttershock

  • Simona Yonkova

    If the pastor was so concerned over her reputation she shouldn’t have written snide things on a receipt to someone who was serving her, the waitress should not have been fired over it nor should she have been blamed by the pastor over the 18% tip charge. I do disagree with the US culture of tipping though, 18% is a huge portion of your bill and to ask for more on top of it seems ridiculous. In the end it is down to the discretion of the customer and they should not be judged for not tipping “enough”, but the rudeness shouldn’t be tolerated. The restaurant should have protected their worker.

    • Katy Johnson

      As a restaurant manager, I can either charge you two dollars more per plate, so I can pay the waitresses, or I can leave the plate at what it is and let you pay them yourself. In short, by tipping you are paying the waitress to do a service for you. So, not tipping is like getting your house painted and then paying for the paint, but not the labor costs on the bill.

      I really like this system, because my sweet, hard-working waitresses make more than the short-tempered ones. If the short-tempered ones want more money, they learn to become sweet. This way I have an awesome staff that my customers love. It’s great for bringing in business and paying the bills.

      I would definitely fire someone for posting a customer’s information publicly (particularly because it was financial). But, I still find that pastor EXTREMELY rude for writing harsh judgement on a receipt. Everyone knows that 18% gratuity is automatically added on large tables (otherwise it would have had a blank). As a diner, it is her responsibility to either accept this business practice, or to not eat out. She could’ve chosen not to come or to go to Wendy’s. But she CHOSE to go to Applebee’s where she should have been well aware of the gratuity rule. It is utterly rude to behave in such a way and I hope she learned the right lesson from this experience.

  • Carly Vinkavich

    Honestly I think America needs a little shame. Everyone thinks its OK to treat other people however they want. There is a sense of personal responsibility here. The pastor was beyond rude and just plain mean to the server. I do not think it was responsible to put the pastors signature on the internet but I can understand why the server did not even think about it, the chances of that one picture becoming a news story were very slim. Everyone should tip their waitresses well, I understand that it is expensive to give a good tip but waitresses make next to nothing and put up with rude and picky people all day. Pay it forward and be generous!

  • Cheryl Hutchins

    I don’t think the issue is whether the Pastor was in the wrong or not. We can all agree that she handled the situation very badly, and I’m not stung that it came back to bite her.

    For me, the issue with the waitress doesn’t come down to being fired for “embarrassing” someone. I think Applebee’s was justified in firing her for posting a customer’s receipt to the internet. Regardless of the reason she did it, it’s logical that a server should have the discretion not to post a receipt to the internet– even if it was to thank the Pastor for a $200 tip, a nice note, etc. It’s an inappropriate violation of a customer’s private information. Yeah, Applebee’s wouldn’t have had to take action if the customer didn’t complain, but I stand beside them with the belief that they had to take action.

  • Stephanie Woolford

    I find this article both hilarious and infuriating. Firstly, as a server I find it ironic that a PASTOR only gives God 10% when this is a cause she has dedicated her life to. Her God created the world and everything in it and she gives him one tenth. I guess there’s no hope for the girl serving her food and standing behind the coffee pots until she needs something. Working in the industry I see people who lead with the dreaded “verbal tip” and leave the typical “have you met Christ”business card. Religion is great but that won’t pay my bills. I don’t think this girl should have been fired and I think this pastor should have to answer for using her religion as an excuse to be cheap. You can’t tip 20% then eat fast food. We don’t go to your job and tell your bosses to pay you less. Tip according to the service toy receive.

    • Deanna Dever

      @ Stephanie I believe the “10%” is in reference to the 10% church tithe that is the suggested amount for donating to the church–not the percent of time.

      However, when she says “her reputation was ruined”, that’s when I laughed. It’s OK for you to do this in private, but once you’re outed, you’re the victim? Nope, sorry. Now your congregation knows you’re a jerk in real life.

      • Christina Konze


      • Moejj O’Raisin

        AAAMEN!! 😀

  • Hillary Amann

    It seems so deeply ingrained in our culture that people in the service industry are dumping grounds for whatever frustrations customers might have on any given day. Lots of people take it for granted that if they’re asked to tip someone, that gives them the right to treat that person like garbage. Yes, servers get paid to be polite, but I really don’t believe they should have to take it all lying down and then be expected not to complain about it later (which might be in bad taste but considering the jog, understandable). If the waitress in question had been overheard complaining in the back about this customer would the same thing have happened? Possibly. The waitress showed bad judgement, but what about a warning and a formal apology? Staff shouldn’t feel that they’re disposable and one wrong move will have them unemployed, even if that’s how employers see them.

    I feel like the comment on the receipt was more about the customer and her own feelings of herself/her religion being slighted, which might have nothing to do with the waitress whatsoever. After all, the customer could have just given her less than the suggested tip and been done with it. People should have to sign in on facebook before writing comments in real life.

  • Gina DeBacker

    In my opinion, all Chelsea the waitress had to do to protect herself from such an unfortunate outcome was blur out the signature and any additional identifying elements in her photo before posting it on the internet. Be cautious before sharing your lives with the world, guys. It’s really that simple.

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Definitely. The internet is a scary place.

  • Maddie Rose

    “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” its a saying for a reason. Don’t write mean things on a receipt, and if you do, don’t be offended by the consequences. Although, I do believe tipping should be left completely to the bill payers personal preference, but I do understand that some people are naive and so would often ‘under-tip’. However she should definitely not have been fired, its not her fault the picture went so public, the internet is so unpredictable and I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt the customer.

  • Carrie Doty

    I say they were right in that the customers name was leaked. However, that being said, the Pastor; though I hardly think she deserves the title, deserves the public chastising she has received as a result of the leak. If you want to be cheap, (i.e. leaving no tip, just a catty remark) have a get together at your house or a rec room at the church where you don’t have to pay someone to wait on you. If you are supposed to be instilling morality into people, the last thing you should be doing is behaving like a jackass. A restaurant waiter/waitress makes so little money, that treating them like a slave unworthy or a tip is just disgusting, particularly coming from clergy.

  • Mary Lynn

    I do think it’s real dumb to post someone’s name when you’re supposed to be a professional and respect your customer’s privacy and I’m all for exposing morons too. That said, by all means, post the heck out of the receipt and lets judge them because they suck but use the cropping tool if you’re employed at the business. Just use proper judgment when you make fun of someone because it’s so dang hard to get a job right now. It still doesn’t change the fact that that pastor sucks and she should be ashamed of herself and no one should take her seriously when she discusses religion because she is the type of Christian who hides behind her religion and excuses her own bad attitude for something godly.

  • Allie Berry

    i think she shouldn’t have been fired. yes, scolded maybe because she shouldn’t have shared the picture online. but fired? it’s a bit harsh. i don’t even get what that guy’s problem is though. he didn’t have to make a dumb comment like that. pretty sure god wants everyone to treat each other with respect…

  • Amy St.Clair

    As a Christian, I found it really embarrassing that the pastor wrote this. God has blessed us with wealth so that we could be generous with it and share it. At my church we were always taught to tip beyond what is required. It has nothing to do with what the Bible says we’re supposed to tithe. Also, in regards to that, we should be tithing sacrificially, not 10%. The pastor seems like she was being too legalistic. Sigh.

    However, I also think that was not cool of the waitress to post that photo online. I understand how frustrating that must have been for her but to publicly shame another person is worse in my book.

    I agree, they were both in the wrong. A lesson to cool off before you say/do anything you’ll regret.

    • Crystal Lynn Kamm

      I totally agree with you. It’s not like you sit there and siphon off 10%, you’re supposed to give the best of yourself and what you have. If the best of yourself doesn’t include giving a little grace to a member of the wait staff serving you, then you need to reprioritize.

      Even if she chose not to give the extra 8%, she would have been giving more kindness by keeping her hurtful remarks to herself.

  • Jaimie Murphy

    Servers have gotten fired over way less.

  • Leah Fairchild

    I hope she gets a better job that appreciates her honesty, ethics and integrity. Her wonderful vices should be put at a much more fitting and appealing job. Someone will love these qualities and she’ll be better off for it!

  • Crystal Lynn Kamm

    I think this about sums it up…”After contacting Applebees, Bell claims her reputation has been ruined and that she’s embarrassed. I’m not so sure those feelings would have surfaced if her nasty receipt had not appeared and multiplied like rabbits on the internet.” So many people are so comfortable being rude jerks, until they get called out for it. The embarrassment shouldn’t come from her entire congregation knowing she’s rude, but from BEING RUDE in the first place.

    • Crystal Lynn Kamm

      I should also note that professionals should not expose identities. The waitress could have handled it better too.

      • Gina Vaynshteyn

        Amen to that!

        • Gina Vaynshteyn

          play on words not intended!

  • Vicky MacKenzie

    Both are definitely in the wrong. Bell is embarrassed because she’s been exposed as being kind of a douche. She probably wouldn’t have given her comments a second thought had this picture not happened and would have continued to be unpleasant to people serving her in future. Hopefully this will make her think twice about making unnecessary rude comments in future. On the other hand, Wench should definitely not have posted the signature. She could have easily cropped that out and had the satisfaction of ranting about what jerks people can be without actually singling out the perpetrator by name. It was unprofessional, but I don’t know whether I agree with her being fired over it.

  • Jacqueline Spiegelman

    As someone who has worked in several public service positions, I say good for her! Not for getting fired (that’s really unfortunate), but people can be SO awful. I can’t even count the number of times people have acted like they’re above me or a coworker and I’ve just wanted to rub their smugness right back in their faces. I think this lady SHOULD be embarrassed by her behavior and be accountable to her congregation.

  • Karen Taylor

    This is a win/no-win situation. Its a win that the “pastor” got exposed for her hypocritical actions. But its a no-win for the waitress. I’m really feel bad, but I think the restaurant was entirely right in firing her. If she had made a serious attempt to crop the picture before posting it she might have gotten by with it. But with the store number and the signature plainly visible she doesn’t have a case.

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Agreed! Who knows if this would have escalated so much if there wasn’t a signature though?

  • Leah Greenslade

    As a Christian, I find it embarrassing that someone would put something like that on a receipt. Christians teach service and Christ-like behavior. This is neither. We are called to serve, and therefore should be nothing but appreciative to those who serve us in any way. As a former server, I can empathize with how frustrating customers can be in general, but to tell someone that they don’t deserve the money that they’re working for is just disgusting and ugly. I’ve thought about posting receipts in the past, but always decided against it based on the information that the receipt shows. Unfortunately, she didn’t crop the receipt out enough. I’m sure Wench’s managers didn’t want to fire her and were most likely on her side, but with a chain restaurant, policies are policies, especially in such a public eye.

  • Kelsie Baher

    One of the biggest mistakes that customers make in restaurants is to taking out their frustration on corporate-instituted policies (like auto-gratuities) on the lowly service staff. This waitress didn’t write the auto-gratuity on the receipt; she was just doing her job when this “pastor” decided to make it a point to not only stiff her on a tip, but also manage to make her day worse than it probably already was with her snarky message.
    I worked as a waitress to support myself through college, and I know how grueling the job is. Waitresses may appear to be insanely cheerful people who have nothing better to do than bring you your oriental chicken salad with dressing on the side and no crispy sticks, but believe me, this job is not usually a preferred “choice.” While you’re enjoying your meal, your waitress can be off doing a multitude of things that you would never suspect to be in her job description–from deep cleaning bathrooms to carrying armfuls of disgusting dishes back to the kitchen. All for minimum wage plus tips (if they’re lucky) just to ensure that you have a fantastic entrance-to-exit experience at the fine corporate establishment.
    I think that the “policies” used to justify firing Chelsea Wench are ridiculous (as many Applebee’s customer identities have been “revealed” on their own Facebook pages and never questioned), and this pastor deserves all of the criticism coming her way. I hope this story is a lesson well learned for all of the rude cheapskates out there who think they can get away with unacceptable behavior. Practice what you preach (in this case, literally).

  • Lauren Booza

    Even though she got fired, she’s better off. This girl actually helped inspire me to quit my own restaurant job and expose the truth about the illegal behavior of my corporate fatcat GM. I wrote a clever article with picture accompaniment here:

    This morning, after reading my article, I was informed that the dude showed up an hour late for work STILL DRUNK, leaving employees to wait outside for an hour in the cold, and then left work an hour early.

    We can’t save everyone from their awful restaurant jobs so let’s all agree to at least treat our servers with kindness, knowing everything they have to deal with!

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Your former GM sounds totally awful! Some people should really not be put into authoritative positions.

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