Applebee’s Employee and Posted Receipts


By now, you probably all heard about the Applebee’s waitress who received the interesting tip above, posted the offending receipt on Reddit (in the atheism area) and was subsequently fired from her job.

It began Jan. 25 when a customer who described herself on the receipt as a pastor shared appetizers with eight or nine friends at an Applebee’s in south St. Louis. Applebee’s spokesman Dan Smith said Friday that the group was large enough that an automatic 18 percent tip was added to the bill.

The full cost for the table was $34.93, including the tip, which Smith said the customer paid despite the comment.

If the waitress for the table was bothered, she didn’t show it. But another waitress took a picture of the receipt and posted it Tuesday on Reddit, adding her own response: “I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”

Needles to say, this caused quite a stir among the internets. So much so, Applebee’s took action and fired the waitress for violation of the customer’s privacy.

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. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.

The Pastor has since apologized for the comment, although it is being alleged that she wanted the entire staff fired. The waitress said it was all lighthearted and didn’t mean anything by posting it.

In other words, it’s all fun and games until someone loses their job.

Normally, I would say that the employee violated company policy by posting the receipt online, if the policy had been made known. But of course it can’t be that simple. Via Gawker:

Speaking with Consumerist yesterday, Welch said she checked the employee handbook to make sure she “didn’t break any specific guidelines.”

But in its statement, Applebee’s disputes this, saying Welch violated the company’s social media policy, which 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 be considered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality.”

The policy does not specifically refer to receipts, only to “photographs, video, or audio” of employees, customers, suppliers, agents, or competitors. Additionally, “permission” is defined as “written approval from the Vice President of Operations.”

The punishment for violating this policy is “disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”

Now that’s pretty clear, but what’s notable is that other employees have posted receipts and other customer information in the past without being terminated. Employee policies need to be enforced equally. A failure to do so can render the policy null and void. Or at least create a PR (and perhaps an HR) nightmare.

HIRE BACK Chelsea, a Facebook group with 4,000 likes and climbing, takes serious issue with Applebee’s’ claim that “disregard for an important policy” got Welch fired, pointing out at least two instances where an Applebee’s in St. Louis reportedly owned by the same franchisee posted customer receipts on its own Facebook page…[below]


It is also worth noting that at least one of these two receipts has since been mysteriously scrubbed from the restaurant’s Facebook.

Now the argument can be made that in each situation, the guest gave at least implicit permission to post his/her respective personal information (including Conan O’Brien), but its not made clear that permission has been given or that the Vice President of Operations actually gave his/her approval as defined in the policy.

I’m not taking sides here – I have no horse in the race. Last I checked, Missouri was an at-will state, meaning that the Company and/or employee can sever the employment relationship at any time for any reason, so long as it doesn’t violate protected rights. However, the company could have saved themselves a great deal of grief if they had investigated the how fairly the application of the policy was enforced.

And while they were at it, perhaps they should have also investigated the “religion” aspect of the situation (Pastor vs. Atheism) before jumping to the employee’s immediate dismissal.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. I’ll keep updating as more comes in.