Applebees Goes on the Defensive Over Fired Server/Lousy Tipping Pastor

The terminated Applebee’s server / lousy pastor tipper saga continues today as Applebee’s president Mike Archer released this statement on the company’s corporate website and posted links to it on social media approximately one hour ago:

Statement from Applebee’s President Mike Archer 

I appreciate the chance to explain our franchisee’s action in this unfortunate situation.

Please let me assure you that Applebee’s and every one of our franchisees values our hard working team members and the amazing job they do serving our guests. We recognize the extraordinary effort required and the tremendous contribution they make, and appreciate your recognition and support of our colleagues. 

At the same time, as I know you will agree, the guests who visit Applebee’s — people like you — expect and deserve to be treated with professionalism and care in everything we do. That is a universal standard in the hospitality business. That includes respecting and protecting the privacy of every guest, which is why our franchisees who own and operate Applebee’s have strict policies to protect personal information — even guest’s names.  

With that in mind, here is what happened in St. Louis:

  • A guest questioned the tip automatically attached to her large party’s bill by writing: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” on the check.
  • A different server, who did not even wait on the group, photographed the receipt, posted the photo online and commented about the incident.
  • The guest subsequently heard from friends who identified her from the posting, where her name is clearly visible, and the restaurant was notified. There was no further communication with the guest.
  • The team member was asked about posting the receipt and admitted she was responsible.
  • When she was hired, the team member was provided the franchisee’s employee hand book which includes their social media policy and states:
“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 beconsidered 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.” The policy goes on to specify “Employees who violate this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”
  • As a result of her admission to violating a clear company policy intended to safeguard guests, the team member is no longer employed by the franchisee. 
Our franchisees are committed to acting in the best interests of guests and team members. This is a regrettable situation and we wish it had never happened. However, the disregard for an important policy left the franchisee no choice but to take the action they did. 
I recognize that you may still disagree with the decision, but I hope this may have provided some additional insight.
It seems that someone at Applebee’s corporate finally got the memo that they’re hemorrhaging money over this new PR fiasco (the latest in a string of bad moves for them including their Obamacare fiasco). Notice the phrase I highlighted above in red. It begs the question – knowing that the situation was already public, and that the public’s opinion would definitely side with the server against that awful woman who used her religion as an excuse to deprive a service industry worker the gratuity she had rightly earned – why did they go for the jugular?

The president of the company even admitted that the pastor has had no further communication with Applebee’s (after she called in and demanded that everyone connected to the recent – managers included – be fired). If customer followup wasn’t the motivating force behind the termination, what was?
I mentioned on Facebook today that going straight to the end game – terminating the employee – was akin to throwing gas on an already steady fire. So many other potential disciplinary alternatives existed that would have mitigated their company’s losses and prevented the constant, brutal attacks the company is suffering on Twitter and Facebook. Why do the one thing you know will spark even more outrage when other alternatives exist? More importantly, why terminate the employee at the height of the outrage (rather than putting her on leave or taking her off the floor and making her do side work or cleaning temporarily until the outrage subsided). 
Pastor Alois Bell
Pastor Alois Bell
This entire situation – including the typical “we only did what we thought was right – it’s right there in our procedures!” response from the president – highlights what is wrong with corporate America. Say what you will about the server – she clearly wasn’t completely in the right. Then again, the outrage over this (as well as the public shaming of the customer) is justified in my opinion. Having worked as a server – particularly on busy Sundays where I made next to nothing in tips from similarly-minded individuals – I think it’s high time people like Paster Alois Bell are made to answer for their childish and petty behavior. 
Like most real-life scenarios, this isn’t a black and white, open and shut case where one person is completely right and the other completely wrong. The pastor wanted to stiff a server based on her religion, and that was wrong. And while the cathartic nature of calling her out on a national scale feels great for every man and woman who has ever served an Alois Bell, it doesn’t justify the invasion of privacy the woman has (and will continue) to endure. Similarly, the original server did not deserve to have to deal with this woman, nor should her coworker have automatically lost her job over being outraged at the treatment of one of her peers. Based on the sheer number of people supporting her, I’d say she’s not totally in the wrong for feeling outrage over how her coworker was treated. Was Applebee’s within their right to fire her? Of course. Was it the right thing to do both for the server and for their bottom line? Definitely not.
Ultimately, Welch (the terminated server) will find work elsewhere. Pastor Bell will go back to treating those who serve her as if they should be paying *her* for the right to serve food rather than accepting a tip. Applebee’s though? They seem to never learn that treating everyone with human decency – including those you employ – is paramount. And when failing to treat anyone with a modicum of human decency, the internet (and the public at large) now have the collective power to take notice and do something about it.
For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. Over the years he’s dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging – he’s been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In addition to writing Tim has frequently worked and volunteered as a civil rights advocate including on campus LGBT advocacy as well as interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.