Applebee's Receipt Goes Public

Unhappy with not receiving a tip, an Applebee's server posted the signed check online-and got fired. The customer, Pastor Alois Bell, crossed out the 18% tip automatically added for large parties and wrote "0%" with the note, "I give God 10% why do you get 18?" The server, Chelsea, posted the receipt to the Atheism forum on Reddit.

Bell apparently left a $6 cash tip, but the server, Chelsea, was still offended by the note. When Bell learned that the receipt was posted online, she returned to Applebee's and demanded that everyone be fired. Later, she regreted her actions, calling them a lapse in judgement: "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."

As expected, social media reactions are mixed, with many comments criticizing Applebee's decision to fire Chelsea. The company posted this response to its Facebook page

"We wish this situation hadn't happened. Our Guests' personal information-including their meal check-is private, and neither Applebee's nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests' trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest's right to privacy."

In addition, the CEO posted a statement on Applebee's website, including the excerpt from the policy:

"Employees must honor the privacy rights of APPLEBEE's and its employees by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal APPLEBEE'S happenings that might be considered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality. This shall include, but not be limited to, posting of photographs, video, or audio of APPLEBEE'S employees or its customers, suppliers, agents or competitors, without first obtaining written approval from the Vice President of Operations. . . . Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment."

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your reaction to Chelsea's posting the receipt online? Was it her right, or did she misstep?
  • Did Applebee's do the right thing by firing Chelsea? Why or why not? How do you assess the company's rationale-that posting the receipt was a violation of the guest's privacy?
  • Read the CEO's statement. What do you consider his strongest and weakest arguments for terminating Chelsea?