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

  • Mariajose Gudiel Zaugg

    I know that people will probably hate my response, BUT I honestly don’t see why she should get 18%. I know that the waitress works hard but I work hard too and so do many other people all across america, and most people don’t get tips. I honestly don’t even agree with giving a tip unless I feel that someone genuinely deserves it. When someone does an excellent job I even want to go out of my way to give them a good tip but when I am obligated to give someone a tip they don’t even deserve that’s just plain annoying. On the other hand I do think that people in that business should get paid more than minimum wage, they put up with a lot of crap and they don’t get paid enough for that. I think she was very wrong for posting that but as a religious person I think the customer was wrong for taking it out on the waitress…. she didn’t make up the tip it was automatic.

    • Laura LaCara

      What does a server need to do to “genuinely deserve” a tip? Servers make a very small hourly wage (I believe the federal minimum for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour). Tips are considered part of our income and the wage we make from the restaurant often only covers our taxes. You are paying your waitress for her service. When you don’t tip your servers you are basically expecting them to work for you for free. If you would like restaurants to pay their servers more you better expect the cost of your food and drinks to significantly increase, probably costing you more than the minimum 18% you should be tipping your server.

      • Mariajose Gudiel Zaugg

        I completely understand what you mean but the waitress doesn’t work for me, she works for Applebee’s, I think that they are the ones who need to pay her better…. I know for a fact that they can afford to pay their servers better they just choose not to based on this hole tip thing…. plus like I said I tip all the time and I am very generous…I just don’t agree with the entire idea of doing it. Plus if they don’t like the way they are paid I would definitely find another job that pays better!

        • Christina Konze

          Usually menus will state at the bottom the rate of gratuity, so that before a person even orders they are aware. And it’s not the server’s fault if the corporation is passing on the cost of serving many people to the consumer. Applebee’s doesn’t want to pay her more, so they attach a gratuity to large groups to try to make up for it. Also, Applebee’s has terrible food and just generally sucks.

  • Nicole Jeanette Ford

    That is ridiculous. As a waitress, I’m regularly disturbed by how rude people can be but that comment is over the line even by my standards. Being a server is hard work, we usually get minimum wage, and a lot of us our paying our way through University or College. Plus the fact that the tip is automatic in this case. Not the waitresses fault at all. If I was the manager for that restaurant I would have given her a raise as compensation for being treated like dirt. As for privacy, I’m tempted to say the woman that left that note deserves all of the consequences she gets for being so rude.

    • Christina Konze

      Agreed. I have also worked in the food industry, and you do get treated like crap, and 99% of the time it’s for something that is beyond your control anyway. This “pastor” is a jerk, and if her attitude is as terrible as that picture and subsequent actions would suggest, then she should be vilified. She signed “Pastor” with her name, like it was important, rather than just her regular signature. She used her religious standing to degrade someone else, which is completely hypocritical.

      You go, Chelsea, expose to the world how much it sucks to be a server. I would have done the same thing, but perhaps with the signature blurred out. I wouldn’t even care if I got fired, because people are people and should be treated kindly regardless of what job they have.

  • Jessica Carrier

    Firstly, the original post by the waitress did not show the woman’s signature, only the part where she signed “Pastor _____” When the picture went viral, the waitress asked the forum to please remove all the posts of people claiming they knew who the Pastor in question was, and where her congregation was, her name, etc. Once the Pastor called Applebees and demanded that the ENTIRE staff from that night be fired, and she lost her job, THEN the waitress let the forums do whatever they want, and allowed the full original photo to be released.
    The reason she got 18% automatically is because the pastor brought a large group. Most restaurants automatically add an 18% gratuity for groups over 6, so that after a lot of work they stand 0 chance of getting stiffed for their hard work and leaving with only $3 an hour.
    I can honestly say I don’t agree that it was ever a good idea to post that receipt. But when the Pastor claimed it was “A momentary lapse of judgement and poor deciscion on my part” and then also demanded everyone be fired, I lost all sympathy. Obviously she does not feel she did anything wrong. That 18% is on the bill because you are required to pay it. You don’t get to just not pay for things you are billed for. Thats called theft. Oh and did I mention, the server in question was told by this pastor after she was served that she had done a great job, and everything was great? But a tip? Hell no, I won’t pay it.
    Servers work hard in a flawed system. Yes, they should be paid a fair living wage instead of relying on tips. If we were paid a normal wage, then your statements about “not deserving the extra” would make sense. Like in Europe, if a server does very well, you might leave an extra euro or 2. But you expect that they are already being fairly paid for their time. Not so in the USA. When you don’t tip, the only person you hurt is the server.

    • Marion Delgado

      You seriously rule, and I hope FB shows this reply :)

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Interesting. I didn’t know about the signature part, the story I researched shows that she initially posted the receipt with the signature, but then censored it after it went viral. I also have seen that not only was the pastor automatically charged 18%, but she left an additional tip. That allegedly came from the pastor herself, so who knows if that’s actually true..Not sure why she would even leave that snarky comment on the receipt then. Trying to be clever?
      Bottom line, is that it is very doubtful that the pastor actually feels any remorse (probably just humiliation), she shouldn’t have written that because it is just disrespectful and unnecessary, and if the waitress wanted to post the receipt, I personally would have censored where it was from and who signed it. Who knows if THAT even would have protected her; corporate companies are pretty ruthless about their policies..even if the policies are not officially on paper.

      • Moejj O’Raisin

        A Pastor is *SUPPOSED* to answer to a higher authority. She shouldn’t have left a snarky comment on the receipt to begin with. THEN when she’s called out online, she had the cahoneys to demand the staff be fired?!! What no forgiveness, only revenge? HMMMM….

        The Church should fire her for not representing the ideals and morals of a Christian leader. I think the Pastor needs to buy larger sized panties, because obviously the ones she wears are too small and are wedged up her backside.

  • Erica Lane

    I work for Applebee’s, and upon hearing this story I immediately became frustrated. The waitress that posted it SHOULD have thought twice and made sure no personal information could be detected or exposed. This CAN ruin a persons career and interfere personally with their lives. Second, each of the Applebees part of of the AAG chain were distributed an update policy on Credit Card procedures a week prior to this happening. If the management team would have distributed these procedures on time (like they should have,) this issue might be prevented because it does specifically state information about not posting receipts online.

  • Priscilla Torrance

    I can understand both sides. The pastor wasn’t being “Godly” and the waitress “violated privacy”. And I agree that both parties were in the wrong.

  • Taylor Spotswood

    I am also a waitress and it is really frustrating when people do not tip properly. I once had a super needy table who was quite rude to me throughout the meal not only leave me no tip but also signed the credit card receipt ‘Your Mom’. While posting a photo of the receipt on the internet did not occur to me (thankfully), I sure as hell told my coworkers and friends about it (excluding the actual name of course). This world NEEDS to learn to respect people who are doing them a service.

  • Denah McCormick Raybuck

    This pastor should be ashamed of herself. I worked at Applebee’s for nearly 5 years and was treated horribly by some tables no matter how hard I worked for them. Nobody deserves to be treated like this, especially by a someone who should be setting an example for others. What she did was worse than the waitress posting the receipt. If the pastor was embarrassed then she shouldn’t have done it in the first place. Obviously she knows she was in the wrong if she was worried about it ruining her reputation.

  • Stephanie Bullard

    Her name is “Chelsea Welch.” I would think “Wench” was a joke, but you called her “Welch” in the last paragraph. The pastor’s argument regarding not tipping 18% is facetious. Applebee’s was not asking for 18% of her income, and one’s religious convictions have nothing to do with paying for meals out unless you want to run with the Christian theme. In that case, she should follow the Golden Rule or consider what she does for the least of these brothers and sisters of Christ what she does for Him. Not use her religion as a means to be cheap. Chelsea, on the other hand, showed piss poor judgment. Just because she is not working in some obviously professional capacity (attorney, physician, etc.) does not mean she should not conduct herself well. And just because we now have the ability to easily post things like that for the world to see does not mean it is a good idea. Everyone (especially those of us who work with the public) has things happen at work that really tick them off, sometimes repeatedly. Sometimes the same thing. Every day. For years. But part of working is conducting yourself with some sort of decorum. People are assholes sometimes. Or even often. Part of growing up is sucking it up and going on, unless it is something egregious. This person wasn’t her supervisor, wasn’t a coworker. It wasn’t someone she had to deal with every day. It wasn’t even her customer. Take a deep breath and get on with it.

    • Gina Vaynshteyn

      Ha, oops! That’s embarrassing! I’ll have to fix that typo.

      • Stephanie Bullard

        Well, as typos go, it was sort of fitting. LOL.

        • Gina Vaynshteyn

          Haha, that’s true

  • Moejj O’Raisin

    justa’ humble liddle ‘ol me doesn’t think that Chelsea should’ve been fired, a warning, but not fired. Not that dingaling Bell deserved any kind of apology for being a (cough) wench, perhaps an apology, just to be on the right side of things. So, Alois Bell thinks her reputation was harmed? I think it was righteous she was called out. Her rep wouldn’t have been slammed in any way shape or form if she didn’t act out like a jackass writing a snotty note like she did in the first place. She should be ashamed of herself. I love the hypocracy of people when they invoke the name of God, even when they get the urge to be nothing more than a snot.

  • Laura Cole

    I figure a good rule is that if something you do has the potential to be embarrassing or reputation-ruining if news of it gets out, don’t do it. Be a good person (especially because you’re a freakin’ pastor. Shouldn’t you be trying to set an example of how a good Christian behaves?) and things will go a lot better for you. This pastor deserves all the humiliation she received.

  • Philip Marinakos

    Chelsea went after a laugh, Bell went after
    A juggler, and they both lost a pound
    Of flesh.
    But Bell, a poor excuse for a pastor (donating
    A mere 10% to God), could have avoided her
    Stingy $.02 cent pompos comment and left
    No comment at all. And who prefaces their
    Name with “Pastor” anyway? You’re not a doctor.
    So the bad, and cheap, pastor felt the need
    To leave a little explanation and even be
    Audacious enough to blame it on God.
    Clue: when you’re not a tipper, you don’t need
    To put in any other reason but that you’re
    Shame on Bell.

  • Jill Mayo

    When I worked for a large chain of restaurants, we were not given a “privacy policy” notice. No one told us that our customers’ choices were private. Perhaps this girl didn’t know she was violating some “privacy policy” everyone is speaking of. I think it is a First Amendment right to call someone out when they have acted inappropriately. This “Christian” acted inappropriately. She was not serving Christ when she was rude and then had someone fired. I don’t think Jesus would have had her fired. In a nutshell: my opinion is that if you are ballsy enough to be rude in writing where the rudeness can be seen and proven, then you should be called out on it.

  • Janna King

    No, the waitress shouldn’t have posted a photo of the receipt.. WITH the signature. However, I think if she had done it without the signature or any other identifying information, it would have been fine. And that “pastor” deserved it!!

  • Cally Sarnowski

    In the original article the woman who stiffed the waitress said that she felt bad and apologized and etc, but then goes and demands the woman be fired. It seems to me if this pastor was so remorseful for what she did, she wouldn’t have pursued the firing of the waitress. What I find is the worst of it all is the pastor is suppose to be a person to be looked up to by their religious community and to show people how to follow in god’s path by being an example. Clearly turning the other check was not in this pastor’s mind and she just wanted revenge.

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