Last week a news story zoomed across the Internet regarding an Applebee's waitress who was fired for posting a photo to the popular social news website reddit.com. The story was covered brilliantly by Daily Kos member eXtina with this diary - Applebee's Fires Waitress for Posting 'No Tip' Receipt That Said "I Give God 10%" You Get Nothing.
As a brief recap, the waitress involved in the story - Chelsea Welch - posted a photo to reddit.com that showed a customer receipt received by a fellow co-worker. Instead of receiving a tip, the co-worker got the receipt back with the extremely insulting statement "I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?" from the customer. That customer was identified as a female pastor named Alois Bell. Bell saw the story go viral on the Internet, contacted Applebee's, and as a result Chelsea was fired for posting a photo of her co-worker's receipt online.
Obviously, this outraged the Daily Kos community (as well as any reasoned person, knowing that service workers make terrible wages in the U.S. compared to other nations). How could someone, particularly a pastor, be 1) so much of a dick regarding tipping for service workers, and 2) feel it appropriate to get the worker fired even when you were in the wrong in the first place.
The Guardian newspaper has posted a response from Chelsea on their Tumblr account - and it's a superb dose of reality and a much-needed shining light on how conditions really are for service workers in the United States.
Chelsea begins her commentary at The Guardian by saying she didn't intend to hurt anyone and worked diligently to remove any personal information that could be gathered from her picture. Regarding this, Chelsea writes:
"It seems I was fired not because Applebee’s was represented poorly, not because I did anything illegal or against company policy, but because I embarrassed this person."The next bit of Chelsea's response is entirely on point and should be required reading for everyone in America (and especially Republicans). Bolding my emphasis:
In light of the situation, I would like to make a statement on behalf of wait staff everywhere: We make $3.50 an hour. Most of my paychecks are less than pocket change because I have to pay taxes on the tips I make.Honestly, I could emphasize Chelsea's entire response here, but I picked out a few glowing highlights.
After sharing my tips with hosts, bussers, and bartenders, I make less than $9 an hour on average, before taxes. I am expected to skip bathroom breaks if we are busy. I go hungry all day if I have several busy tables to work. I am expected to work until 1:30am and then come in again at 10:30am to open the restaurant.
I have worked 12-hour double shifts without a chance to even sit down. I am expected to portray a canned personality that has been found to be least offensive to the greatest amount of people. And I am expected to do all of this, every day, and receive change, or even nothing, in return. After all that, I can be fired for “embarrassing” someone, who directly insults his or her server on religious grounds.
In this economy, $3.50 an hour doesn’t cut it. I can’t pay half my bills. Like many, I would love to see a reasonable, non-tip-dependent wage system for service workers like they have in other countries. But the system being flawed is not an excuse for not paying for services rendered.
We in the progressive community have long known about how terrible service workers are treated. It's gotten even worse during the last 6 years of economic collapse and slow recovery, and has most notably received attention from all the super insanely wealthy CEOs.
Like John Schattner of Papa Johns, who entered into major league asshole status by saying he'd have to raise the cost of pizzas by a mere dime if the company were to cover costs for ACA provisions. And as he stated to students at a college in Florida, he'd rather raise the price of pizza rather than dip into the company's solid profits because "That's what you do, is you pass on costs."
I can only post one more line from Chelsea's comment, lest I want to get in trouble for posting more than Fair Use allows, but I will leave you with this. Emphasis is mine once again:
I am trying to stand up for all of us who work for just a few dollars an hour at places like Applebee’s. Whether a chain steakhouse or a black-tie establishment, tipping is not optional. It is how we get paid.Please read Chelsea's entire statement to The Guardian and make this go viral.
Here is the link to Chelsea's response again in case it's difficult to find above:
Update: Some extra commentary from me - This story is personal for me because I know how damn hard service workers work for middling wages, all while having to deal with rude customers and oftentimes pushy at best, mean and unethical at worst owners. My mom worked as a waitress for over a decade as a 2nd job to earn extra income to help my brother and I attend college (twins and college is tough, two tuition bills at the same time). I've also worked in restaurants for two summers in between my undergrad years, and by the end of the summer I was super thrilled to head back to school - and I had it pretty good, with actual fair wages, and mostly having the job for spending money throughout the future semesters rather than having to work to pay my entire tuition, fees, books, etc.
It's why I always tip 20% (or more sometimes), why I don't complain regarding food/service unless it's truly abhorrent (pretty much only once or twice ever), and when I did I was polite and comforting rather than being a total asshole. Without the extra income from my mom's waitressing job, I would have had a less time for studies in college, so I do my little bit to pay it forward.