ST. LOUIS - An Applebee's waitress who posted on the Internet a receipt with a note from a pastor complaining about the automatic 18 percent gratuity added to the bill has been fired after the pastor complained.
Chelsea Welch, the waitress, wrote in an email to Yahoo News that the pastor, identified as Alois Bell, told Welch's manager at the St. Louis-area Applebee's that her reputation was "ruined" after the receipt went viral.
"I give God 10%," Bell wrote on the receipt, scratching out the automatic tip and scribbling in an emphatic "0" where the additional tip would be. "Why do you get 18?"
Bell had more than eight people in her party at the St. Louis Applebee's, triggering the automatic 18 percent tip, according to Yahoo.com.
Welch took a photo of the bill from a fellow server and uploaded it to Reddit.com's atheism page -- and it sparked a firestorm of debate.
Welch defended going public with the receipt.
"I thought the note was insulting, but also comical," she told Consumerist.com. "And I thought other users would find it entertaining.”
Bell, a pastor at Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church, called Welch's manager to complain.
Bell told the Smoking Gun the snide note was "a lapse in my character and judgment." The minister said she didn't know her receipt was being reviled across the Internet until a friend called and said she was "All over Yahoo. You went viral!”
"My heart is really broken," Bell said. "I've brought embarrassment to my church and ministry."
A spokesman for Applebee's told Yahoo the chain had apologized to Bell for violating her "right to privacy" and confirmed that Welch "is no longer employed by the franchise." Ironically, Applebee's had posted another customer's comments, with their name, on the back of a receipt earlier on their Facebook account, but removed it when this controversy arose (see second photo).
Welch said, until the receipt dispute, she'd had a successful career at Applebee's and was hoping to soon move up to management.
"When I posted this, I didn't represent Applebee's in a bad light," she told Consumerist.com. "In fact, I didn't represent them at all…I didn't break any specific guidelines in the company handbook."
"I had no intention of starting a witch hunt or hurting anyone. I just wanted to share a picture I found interesting," the waitress said. “I come home exhausted, sore, burnt, dirty and blistered on a good day. And after all that, I can be fired for 'embarrassing' someone who directly insults their server on religious grounds.”
Welch questioned Bell's claim of embarrassment.
"If this person wrote the note, obviously they wanted it seen by someone," she said. "I’ve been stiffed on tips before, but this is the first time I’ve seen the Big Man used as reasoning."