Fired Waitress Speaks Out

This receipt went viral earlier this week after Applebee’s waitress Chelsea Welch posted it to Reddit. The customer who wrote the note on the receipt called the Applebee’s location and demanded that people get fired—which is what happened to Welch. Welch has an editorial in the Guardian today explaining her predicament:

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.

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.

If the U.S. were to move to a “non-tip-dependent wage system for service workers like they have in other countries,” I’d be all for that. If that means higher menu prices, fine—I’d rather have that so it’s guaranteed that service workers are paid fairly than leave it up to individuals who each have their own definition of what “fair” is.

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50 Comments / Post A Comment

WaityKatie (#1,696)

Moving to a non-tip dependent wage system = Exactly! Why does the consumer have to be responsible for making up for the fact that an employer is getting away with not paying minimum wage? (let me mention that I always tip, a lot, but honestly, the purpose of a tip should not be to raise a sub-minimum wage salary up to minimum wage, it should be an EXTRA bonus for excellent service). I just think our current system is outrageous.

@WaityKatie I completely agree! Tipping should be a reward for exceptional service. I don’t want to feel guilty for not tipping if i get horrible service because i’m depriving the server of minimum wage. Also this way, there might be more incentive to not split tips and let good tips go to exceptional workers.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Alex Shepard@facebook I agree with both of you all around. I would love to still tip for super service, but it’s gross thinking you control your server’s wage.

EM (#1,012)

@WaityKatie I think that she points out that unfortunately, we do have a bad system, and the scarcity of jobs means that a lot of people work in the service industry. Refusing to tip on principle is screwing the people at the bottom who don’t have a choice. Tipping is part of the system when we dine out, even if we don’t like it, and it’s unethical to participate in the part of the system you like (getting your food in a restaurant) and skipping the part you don’t (tipping).

If you hate the system- which is understandable- opt out by not dining out, not by refusing to tip for bad service.

lizard (#2,615)

@WaityKatie i think a lot of people take waiting jobs as a mean to get easy cash.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Michelle I said that I always tip, and I do. Usually 20 percent. The system is still bad.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@WaityKatie Let me add that I usually tip 20 percent because I am bad at math, rather than due to my overwhelming generosity, haha.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@WaityKatie “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.”

Really easy cash, that.

jfruh (#161)

One thing I’m vaguely curious about w/this bill is that the 18% tip was auto-populated on the check. Is this a new thing at Applebee’s? I know a lot of places will add gratuity in if you have a very large party, but at $34.93 that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Also, count me in for “pay servers a living wage and just raise food prices by 20%.” Though I’ve heard servers actually opposed to this. I think there is something of a lottery mentality — every once in a while you do get someone who leaves an enormous tip and ppl don’t want to miss out on that, even though probably they’d get paid less in the long run.

msworst (#2,640)

@jfruh In the original story I read, they said that it was a large party (more than 8) and that they explicitly tried to avoid paying the large party gratuity by splitting the check up.

@jfruh Also, *some* servers out there would usually only report enough tips to get up to a reasonable $9-10 an hour level and only pay taxes on those. I’m pretty sure most people who get cash tips take a large portion as untaxed income, especially if they make enough to put them significantly over minimum wage (i.e. not Applebee’s).

NeenerNeener (#156)

@jfruh I think it really depends where you work. I’m no longer a waitress, but it is something I’ve thought of going to back to through the years because I made much better money waiting tables than working retail when I was younger.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@NeenerNeener Yes I made way more money when I worked for tips, so I think a lot of servers worry that if they get lumped into the $9 an hour, they will lose money. Of course it depends on the place you work.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@josefinastrummer If given the choice between guaranteed minimum wage, with a possibility of making much more, or a guarantee of $9/hr, I’m picking the first option.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@NeenerNeener I know in California, and maybe a few other states, servers are paid the state minimum wage and they still get tipped, so right on. Anyone in California or one of those other lovely states want to chime in?

@josefinastrummer In Canada (or at least BC) servers get paid at least minimum wage, and sometimes more, and people definitely still tip. It’s generally closer to 15% than 20%, but it still makes serving a pretty sought-after job in the hospitality industry.

Nat (#3,101)

@MilesofMountains And I think minimum wage in Canada is a lot higher to begin with, unless I’m wrong.

kitten_witawip (#1,309)

@stuffisthings The gov is onto that and taxes waiters on a percentage of their sales whether they make that percentage or not.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@MilesofMountains in Ontario, there is a server wage (lower than minimum, but higher than in lots of places in the US), and are expected to “make up the difference.” I think in higher end places it might work that people make more money – but enough money to make up for a very hard job – like, not only are you standing a lot, but you have to be friendly a lot.

@Nat Yeah in BC the minimum wage right now is $10.25/$9 if you serve liquor (so if you don’t serve at a licensed restaurant or if you’re a hostess you get $10.25). @MilesofMountains was right that we still generally tip around 15%

Frankie'sGirl (#3,165)

I am really angered both by the pastor who felt the need to be so rude to a server, and the restaurant that felt that firing her was a good idea. I’ve been a waitress, and it is not an easy job. If this server did a good job, then she deserved the 18% minimum on the tip that is automatically charged – and they should have tipped much more. Larger tables are always more difficult to work with… and if it hadn’t been an automatic add-on, I’d bet money that the cheap jerk of a pastor probably would have stiffed her completely on the tip – you know, cause the pastor is soooo special, being a pastor and all.

I also agree that moving away from tipping, and paying servers a decent wage is a much better idea. I have no problems paying more for a meal that would have the increase built in. I’m not sure why this hasn’t caught on in America, but it really should.

I think we should move to a tipping-based system of compensation for CEOs. Like, whenever I pay my phone bill, or go to the bank, I can write in how much money I think the CEO should get for his brilliant leadership.

NoReally (#45)

This guy got the 18% tip added to his bill, presumably because it was a big table, and crossed it out, and stiffed her entirely? Tip was $0?

An image of his (or her, I guess) receipt went out on the net but not with any way to identify him, and it worth going back to complain? Worth someone’s livelihood?

Applebee’s, man. It’s legal to fire the employee (next wait person stiffed with a mean message, I guess should post a facsimile of the document). But god Applebee’s, you suck donkey. Seriously. You are almost as awful as the customer you pander to.

Wait, it was a pastor? Jeez.

OllyOlly (#669)

This seems an appropriate place to mention that I had a professor once who refused to tip since he thought servers should be paid a high hourly wage and that there should be no tipping. He thought that by angering the servers they would be more likely to take collective action to demand a better hourly wage.

jfruh (#161)

@OllyOlly “Look, if you ask me to sign something that says the government shouldn’t do that, I’ll sign it, put it to a vote, I’ll vote for it, but what I won’t do is play ball.”

Megano! (#124)

$3.50 an hour!? OK, I think they need to just out and out ban tip-based wages, because that is entirely out of hand. That should be illegal.

faceifer (#3,162)

@Megano! in Massachusetts it’s $2.68/hour. And, that $2.68 goes toward taxes before they put it on your paycheck. If you don’t earn enough hourly to cover your taxes, your paycheck is often literally for $0.

Megano! (#124)

@faceifer That is fucking criminal

NeenerNeener (#156)

Also, I’m pretty sure the employer actually has to make up the difference if the server’s pay plus tips come out to less than minimum wage.

Slutface (#53)

@NeenerNeener Where are you getting this idea from? I’ve worked in a number of restaurants and my employer couldn’t have cared less what I made at the end of the day.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@Slutface
Well, the Department of Labor says so.

@Slutface This is true. I tended bar at a country club and I had to work the Sunday morning shift so golfers could get juice and water, but in my county we couldn’t sell alcohol at that time, so I usually had to have my base wage adjusted up to minimum wage. (God that shift sucked.)

Confused (#2,501)

@NeenerNeener I worked at a restaurant for three years where the owner told me not to declare my cash tips because then they’d be taxed and she “just wanted me to be able to keep all my money.” When I was informed of this law, about a month before I finally quit (in large part because there would be months at a time where I was making $4/hr after tips), she told me that I couldn’t take any action to bring my pay up to minimum wage because she had no way of knowing how many cash tips I was actually taking home and I was probably just lying to get more money out of her.

So, yeah, that law don’t mean shit when you’re trying to pay back student loans.

Confused (#2,501)

@Confused And also rent and gas.

NeenerNeener (#156)

@Confused
I understand what you’re saying, but isn’t that kind of the case with all laws? A law doesn’t just get passed and everyone automatically follows it – for the most part, laws need to be enforced. I’m trying to say that you could have further pursued remedy to that, but I’m also realistic and know that’s not always so easy (OSHA says you should so many breaks for so many hours of work, but is that enforced everywhere?). You were also in a little bit of a situation like a drug dealer not being able to call the cops when he’s robbed.
But anyway, the owner was sketchy and pretty much full of crap.

The lesson to be learned here is that tithing is nothing more than a tip to god!

E$ (#1,636)

@forget it i quit “I’m only worth 10 percent?!” –THE LORD

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@E$ It’s weird to me that God works for tips. I figured He’d be on salary.

laluchita (#2,195)

I waitressed for over 10 years at a range of restaurants, and I never got a paycheck that was more than $50. Often it was less than $10. My tips were all I earned and if someone stiffed me (usually based on things outside of my control, like slow service from the kitchen or not liking their meal) that was my rent or grocery money gone. If you’re as outraged about this as I am, you should look into supporting ROC United, who are organizing for paid sick leave and raising the tipped minimum wage nationally! http://rocunited.org/

KimO (#2,021)

Given that the waitress’s original post of the receipt included the pastor’s full signature, I think Applebee’s was right to fire her. Welch did not just “embarrass” the pastor–she violated her privacy.

I know the waitress thought it was just an innocuous post on reddit. But it seems pretty clear that posting the receipt with the signature had real-world consequences. That waitress should take responsibility for it. In fact, I think she owes the pastor an apology.

I mean, listen, I think that pastor is seriously an asshole. But that’s the thing: We all think she’s an asshole! She has been tried before the kangaroo court that is the Internet, and we’ve decided she’s awful based on what really amounts to a snapshot in time–an (admittedly, super condescending, stupid and sanctimonious) phrase she scrawled on a receipt, probably on a whim. And some accounts I’ve read said she actually left a tip in cash. But with a viral story, no one’s looking for those details; they’re looking to vilify. And I’m guessing that vilification will have long-term consequences in that pastor’s day-to-day life.

Imagine if your entire reputation depended on what happened one time at Applebee’s! Chilling.

E$ (#1,636)

@KimO “Imagine if your entire reputation depended on what happened one time at Applebee’s!”

That’s why I try not to be a douchebag at Applebee’s, or anywhere in public. Because to anyone who sees me, that’s all they will know about me. And maybe that pastor should have thought about how she would look to the world when she did that.

JanieS (#1,826)

@KimO The waitress at Applebee’s isn’t this woman’s priest, physician, or attorney. She had no right to expect privacy from her.

If you think this is the first time this “pastor*” has done something like this to someone who relies on tips for their living, you think a lot better of people than I do.

* “Verily I say unto you – give away all your riches, but not to tipped waitstaff, because fuck those guys.” – Jesus In No Way Ever

EM (#1,012)

The “right to privacy” doesn’t mean “the right to never have your name published on the internet.” She could have left an anonymous shitty note, but no, she wrote it on a piece of paper that had her signature on it. She left a signed shitty note!

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

No arguing that the customer and Applebee’s are ridiculous in this situation, but also, what good comes of posting anything critcal about anything related to your workplace online? I worry that Ms. Welch has shot herself in the foot for future employment. I always Google potential new hires, and if I saw this I’d think “Oh, you share details about the crappy parts of your job online? That’s just who I don’t want working for me!”

chic noir (#713)

There is nothing like a tipping post to get the folks worked up

*raises megaphone*
*takes deep breath*
“ladies and gentleman… Lets get ready to rrrruuuuummmmmbbbblllle”

*logan smashes symbols*

MalPal (#1,200)

That waitress was abusing the auto-gratuity option in the computer system – usually you save that for bills over a $100. My guess is she started doing that on the sly for all of her customers so that she would make more money.

kitten_witawip (#1,309)

@MalPal The party of 8 was trying to beat the auto gratuity by splitting up their group check into individual checks. When that did not work the pastor claimed that she was not liable for the pre-agreed upon (as printed on the menu) gratuity. Her individual bill was $35. Multiply that by 8 people = $280. So the party of 8 stiffed the waitress on an approx. $280 check. In god’s name.

And if 8 people hogged a table and had a check of $35 and stiffed the waitress on top of that they should be tarred and feathered. In god’s name.

Confused (#2,501)

@MalPal Read the article first next time.

AlliNYC (#1,725)

@MalPal It seems that you have never worked in a restaurant before. That’s fine – a lot of people haven’t – but there are so many misconceptions about tipping/auto-grat policies!

The auto-gratuity option is 95% of the time a manager-only option, where the server has to speak to the manager, point out the table in question, and the manager swipes his/her card into the POS system and pushes his/her manager-only buttons that add on the 18-20% auto-grat to the check. Just info that I hope everyone can find useful.

MalPal (#1,200)

@kitten_witawip Guys, I was a waitress for years. It was my first job. At many restaurants, as well. Old people in particular really care about all having separate checks. I do not assume that these people just wanted to avoid the auto gratuity, and you shouldn’t either. The bottom line is that waitress should have bit the bullet and given the service to the customers that they asked for. She might still have a job. Now you lucky taxpayers will probably have to foot the bill when she applies for welfare because she wouldn’t play by the rules. Waitressing is a tough job and no one guarantees that you get your fair share. It’s the nature of the beast.

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