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Should Applebee’s Have Fired A Waitress For Posting A Receipt Online?

Submitted by on February 1, 2013 – 1:18 pm2 Comments

A St. Louis-area Applebee’s waitress became an internet celebrity this week for posting a receipt  from a customer who refused to tip- and then getting fired for “violating the privacy” of the customer. Though a campaign has started to get the server rehired, even some of her supporters think Applebee’s was justified in letting her go.

Yahoo! News reports that Chelsea Welch saw the receipt last week after it was left for a co-worker. The customer had crossed out the 18% gratuity, which was added automatically because of the large size of the party. Instead, the customer, who identified herself as a pastor, wrote, “I give God 10% why do you get 18 [sic].”

Thinking the note was “insulting, but also comical,” Welch took a photograph and posted it to the popular social news site Reddit, where it landed on the heavily-trafficked front page. It was eventually picked up by news outlets.

Welch claims that she carefully checked the employee handbook for any relevant rules; she also claims she thought the signature was illegible.

But viewers used the signature and the store’s ID number (also visible) to determine the identity of the customer, who is in fact a pastor.

When the pastor’s name was released, she too became an internet sensation- but as a subject of scorn. Reportedly, the woman complained to Welch’s manager, who fired the waitress for violation of privacy.

The pastor has also publicly called her note “a lapse in [her] character and judgement.”

Online critics have started a “Hire Back Chelsea” campaign. They even noted that Applebee’s national Facebook page posted a photograph of a note written on a receipt, with the customer’s signature clearly visible- a receipt that was posted by the very same store that fired Welch.

But others, even if they resent with the pastor’s sentiment, concede that the restaurant chain was legal permitted and perhaps even compelled to release the server. If this case ever goes to court, the lawyers will bring out their beloved “reasonable expectations”- saying that the customer has a “reasonable expectation” that a receipt will not end up viewed by millions of people, and that Applebee’s was then forced to protect itself from liability. (Although writing a note on a receipt might eliminate the “reasonable expectation” that it will not be disseminated.)

In any event, hopefully a seemingly thorough and articulate worker like Welch can get another job- one that isn’t so dependent on tips and self-righteous customers.

What do you think?

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