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I realize the story of Chelsea Welch posting the Applebee's receipt from Pastor Alois Bell on Reddit and then being fired by Applebee’s for violating the privacy ‘rights’ of a customer is several weeks old, with no ongoing developments, but the story offends my sense of justice, so I am writing about it tonight.

Here is the statement Applebee's released upon Chelsea Welch's firing:

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.
(I got it from here, but Applebee's posted it on Facebook, and it has been published in many places online.)

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Here are my thoughts. First I found it interesting to view the receipt itself. The “Pastor” signed her name to the receipt, after the rather vicious message, and then, had to be as an afterthought, added Pastor above her name, to add impact, one must imagine, to the note. Why did this pastor write that note? It seems clear that the intention was to HIT the employee for an 18% gratuity that the employee had nothing to do with establishing as policy. Charging an 18% gratuity on parties of six or more was corporate policy, not the employee’s. (Gratuities, in my opinion, should be factored into EVERY bill, in every restaurant, so the waiters and waitresses can come closer to making a living wage for their hard work.)

So, this person HIT the employee, first of all, for a policy the employee had no role in making. Then the person made a big deal out of her supposed piety and service to her Lord by including her title in her vicious note.

The episode was published, went viral, then in embarrassment (this reflects much worse on the pastor than the original note did, in my book), she had the employee fired.

There are so many problems with this, it’s hard to know where to begin. The pastor only became ‘embarrassed’ once the Reddit posting went viral. Why? Does she believe God only finds out about things by perusing Reddit or Facebook? She clearly had no embarrassment about her behavior before God, only before human beings, some of whom she holds in deep contempt. That deep contempt does not embarrass her, either. Her abject failure to appreciate the Golden Rule and to do unto others as she would wish to be done unto was palpable. Does she believe her God cannot see this?

The most egregious thing she did, in my book, was getting Chelsea fired. (From the Consumerist article she wanted all the servers fired, and the site manager, and who knows who else.) The episode would have never happened had she not tried to HIT Chelsea for something she did not do (ie. formulate the 18% gratuity policy for parties of six or more).

Applebee’s, which IS responsible for the policy for which Chelsea was ‘hit,‘ DID formulate the policy. Then, because the customer at fault complained that her unconscionable actions had consequences (and NOT consequences involving her God!), they fired Chelsea, using betrayal of customer’s trust as justification for that action. They created the policy for which their employee was ‘hit,’ then prioritized the customer’s poor, sad, offended sensibilities as justification for that firing. But, the individual before whom the individual would supposedly care MOST about trust, God, could (in her worldview) already ‘see’ the embarrassing behavior. Without consulting Reddit. So the publication had nothing to do with what should have mattered most in that customer’s worldview (should have mattered exclusively, really), as the act was ‘published’ the moment it happened, the moment it was ‘conceived,’ really, in malice. The malice involved in getting Chelsea fired was worse, still.

Okay, Chelsea published the receipt which ‘outted’ the pastor. How did Applebee’s not shine a far more powerful light on the pastor’s viciousness by being complicit in that viciousness in firing Chelsea? How has Applebee’s RESPECTED the customer’s trust by taking an action that reflected worse on the customer’s behavior than the original Reddit publication ever could? Applebee’s has done EXACTLY what they say Chelsea did in violating the customer’s trust by taking very public actions that focus attention and shining a light on the WORST of the customer’s behavior. The customer looks far worse because of what Applebee’s revealed than she did because of what Chelsea did. How does Applebee’s justify THAT betrayal of the customer’s trust? Will Applebee’s fire itself for its inexcusable breach of privacy?

A much more recent interview with Chelsea was published at In These Times. It is a fine interview, and gives insight into the character of this good woman. It is thoughtful, considerate and astonishingly balanced. There is no victimhood in her words whatsoever, which is what I like best. Most forward-thinking! Well done, Chelsea!

The article itself is great, a reflection on the quality questions asked by Melinda Tuhus, the In These Times interviewer.

A sample of Chelsea’s words from that In These Times interview (linked above):

Asked if a union would have helped her keep her job?

I think a union could solve a lot of problems. The problem with restaurant workers unionizing is that they are easily replaced. A good restaurant worker—someone who can work hard, is dependable, is punctual, is friendly, really gives excellent, excellent service—is almost impossible to replace, but you can always find someone that you can train to fill water, bring food, say, “Have a nice day.” It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you work in the restaurant industry because you know that if you’re fired, someone is going to replace you in 24 hours, and even if they don’t do your job as well as you do, they’ll still be able to do it. It kind of perpetuates bad service, especially in corporate places that [are quick to] fire and hire.
Another question and response worth reading:
Interviewer: You forwarded a story about a man who walked into an Applebee’s, ordered a water and left a $10 tip along with a nasty note referencing your firing. And you’ve heard about others who have done the same. You’ve also said there have been several moves on the web to promote a boycott of Applebee’s. What do you think of these ideas?

Chelsea: I am really in favor of what that guy did, because a straight boycott of Applebee’s is going to punish completely innocent employees who work very hard at their job, and they’re not working there because they researched the company’s political standings and are in favor of them. A lot of people are working there because it’s the best they can do right now and they need to make rent. But something that both sends the message to Applebee’s that they probably took things a little too far—you know there are far more disciplinary actions than termination—and there should be a few questions asked before decisions like that are made.

Isn’t that amazing?! She doesn’t want remaining workers innocent of involvement in this case hurt to make a point in her favor. Special person.

You know, the poor treatment of servers is legendary. None of them escapes it completely. They’re accustomed to being inadequately paid, they are accustomed to being inadequately tipped, to being criticized, denigrated and made fun of. But this person went WAY out of her way to hit Chelsea Welch and her fellow servers for an Applebee’s corporate policy.  Declining to ‘take it,’ the pastor revealed a much more vicious side, demanding Chelsea’s firing (and that of a number of others Applebee’s did not fire). But, as bad as being a cheapskate and a petty, skapegoating customer (making the server a skapegoat for an Applebee’s policy) may be, having someone fired for one’s own failings is far, far worse. And we would have never known about that had APPLEBEE’S not published the information. We know about it because Applebee’s violated the customer’s privacy in publishing the worst truth of all about their customer - that she’d rather have someone fired than face any truth about her own shortcomings and misdeeds. How is what Applebee’s did worse than what Chelsea did?

There is a video at this petition page which includes footage of the pastor AND Chelsea (in separate interviews). The pastor comes off as a nice enough person (sympathetic, even, in my view) who feels badly about leaving the note on the receipt, but she shows no remorse at effecting the Chelsea’s firing. I am not saying the pastor is a bad person, and probably she isn’t nearly as bad as this episode might otherwise suggest. But though she says she accepts responsibility for her actions, there is no reason to believe that she has contacted Applebee’s to insist that Chelsea be reinstated, or that Applebee’s has apologized for THEIR actions, which revealed the worst truth about the pastor.

Chelsea herself comes off quite well, by contrast. I’m not surprised.

Notes to the pastor.

1. Being a cheapskate isn’t a great thing, of course.
2. Maliciously choosing to ‘hit’ a waitress because of a tipping policy is much worse.
3. Failing to understand that the waitress had no role in establishing the tipping policy isn’t good, either.
4. Using God to ‘hit’ the person not responsible for the tipping policy is much worse.
Refusing to accept public responsibility for your behavior is not good.
5. Insisting that someone be fired for the consequences of YOUR behavior is MUCH worse.
6. Being so concerned about public reaction to your actions (when you didn’t have to act that way to begin with) isn’t good.
7. Ignoring the fact that your beliefs say your God was aware of your actions, and that that SHOULD be all that matters to you is much worse.
Notes to Applebee’s.
1.Your customer went way out of her way to ‘hit’ your waitress.
2. Your customer ‘hit’ your waitress for a policy she had no role in establishing.
3. Your customer ‘hit’ your waitress because she could not find an easy way to hit YOU, you being exclusively responsible for the policy to which your customer took such exception.
4. You have done NOTHING to protect your employees from people who object to your tipping policy. In fact, you have published that you will NEVER stand behind your employees, no matter what customers do to them. Why would anyone choose to work for Applebee’s? You don’t think this will impact loyalty of ALL of your remaining employees?!
5. The customer in question is a pastor, which status the customer viciously used as leverage to make the ‘hit’ she made on your employee have greater impact on your employee.
6. The customer was ‘embarrassed’ at facing public consequences for her terrible behavior, where all that should have mattered to her was what her God thinks of her behavior, and her God did not need to see the episode posted on Reddit to obtain the information. In her belief system, there IS no privacy before God. Yet that did not deter her in her determination to hit your employee and have her fired.
6. The customer’s desire to have your employee fired because she did not meekly accept the hideous behavior reflects worse on her than anything else she did.
7. Finally, we know of the customer’s desire to avenge herself on your employee by having her fired because APPLEBEE’S published it!!! How is what Applebee’s has CHOSEN to do in politicizing the affair, and in punishing your employee in such a public manner less culpable than what Applebee’s says the employee did? The customer looks far worse for what Applebee’s has revealed about the customer’s hatefulness, vindictiveness and refusal to accept responsibility for her miserable actions than she does for what the employee revealed, for being a malicious cheapskate. Will Applebee’s fire itself for this truly inexcusable transgression?!!

Your employee should be reinstated with corporate apology and back pay, and Applebee’s should issue a statement that customers CHOOSING to attack Applebee’s employees for Applebee’s corporate tipping policy will not be tolerated. Nor will Applebee’s be a party to vengeful attitudes toward Applebee’s employees. The customer is NOT always right, and every company providing any public service knows it very well.

Notes to Chelsea.
1. Keep your chin up.
2. Pick a much better place to work than Applebee’s next time, where your intelligence and your integrity are appreciated and valued.
3. You have a podium of sorts, young woman. Continue to speak out for people underemployed and undersupported in the service industry. It’s important. And you have the perspective and the insights. Make them count.
4. Come to Daily Kos and diary your thoughts.
5. Tell them this! (From Laura Clawson's fine War on Workers diary today.)
Restaurant Opportunities Centers co-founder Saru Jayaraman, appearing this weekend on Bill Moyers:
“If consumers asked, every time they ate out, or said to the management, ‘Love the food, love the service, I would love to see you provide paid sick days, as a consumer that’s important to me,’ or ‘I would love to see you do better on your wages, not pay $2.13,’ just before leaving, we feel like that could make a tremendous difference in moving the industry.”
Finally, a note to restaurant owners and public service businesses all across the country: know this well - sometimes the customer ISN'T always right. (And sometimes YOU aren't, either!)

On to tonight's comments!

From Dave in Northridge:
In Chrislove's latest diary about homophobic bigotry,  commonmass provides a succinct summary of the difference between Christianity as preached and Christianity as lived.
From Ed Tracey:
In the diary by Rosalie907 expressing disappointment that MSNBC did not show
re-runs of its evening news shows, but instead more re-runs of  Lock-up
- a somewhat amused Russron points out that one of their advertisers - The
Scooter Store
- was raided by the FBI today, suspecting Medicare fraud.
From BeninSC:
Alexandra Lynch wrote a comment (in SwedishJewfish's fine diary on the culture of rape) about a terrible incident from her past which she used to inform her high quality parenting. Courageous and deeply insightful! SwedishJewfish replied with some fine graphics which would have fit very nicely in the body of the diary, about placing responsibility for rape where it belongs. Finally, in this rich thread, mamamedusa relayed some advice from a wise person.
Flagged by JoanMar, this fine comment about Republicans and their ... evolution, from crystal eyes.
Flagged by cuphalffull, this ironic comment from Gooserock on how easy 'democracy' becomes when enough financing is employed to make it happen.
Flagged by kat68, this comment from aarrgghh focused on clips about the protests against Obama, and their failures.
Flagged by jayden, this comment by welso on an Arbor Day experience brought a smile to my face.
Tonight's Top Mojo, courtesy of mik!
  1) Count me in on pissed off by According to Fish — 113
  2) Article K, Section K, Subsection K by ht dave — 106
  3) I remember the British sailor on TV by MsLibrarian — 97
  4) maybe political will is NOT the solution? by Visceral — 92
  5) it's such a simple and basic concept by Laurence Lewis — 88
  6) LOVE IT!!! by CajunBoyLgb — 82
  7) I like that lady. n/t by Bush Bites — 82
  8) Hollywood did the same thing... by AuroraDawn — 77
  9) If they're thrashing around screaming about by Black Max — 77
10) Well We've Seen Haters Assassinate Both by Gooserock — 76
11) She's lovely, by AnnetteK — 70
12) My favorites are the articles that by aggressiveprogressive — 68
13) There's a huge reason why Americans want by jeff in nyc — 66
14) it's also lame on another level by Laurence Lewis — 66
15) Wow, selling by AnnetteK — 64
16) I copied the link to #2, by JamieG from Md — 63
17) That woman showed great restraint by coquiero — 62
18) there doesn't seem to be a whole lot by terrypinder — 62
19) Hi tricia! by gchaucer2 — 59
20) this makes me happy- by thankgodforairamerica — 58
21) Okay ! I had to log in by Dvalkure — 57
22) she is GREAT! by jplanner — 56
23) I ususally . . . by LeftOfYou — 54
24) Wow, the Straight Talk Express crashed and by Floyd Blue — 53
25) they will mock her and say her behavior by jplanner — 52
26) Trying to get these Pharasitical zealots by commonmass — 51
27) Friday: Dark Ale Odds & Ends by Ed Tracey — 51
28) why is "negligence" called "an accident"...? by luckydog — 50
29) It's really unexpected fun by tmservo433 — 49
30) A talk show host IN DRAG!!! by CwV — 49
Top Comments with Pictures, courtesy of jotter!

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