Have you read the story about the Applebees waitress who was fired for posting a copy of a receipt on Reddit from one of the guests at the restaurant? The waitress who posted it, Chelsea, was not the person who waited on the guests, but she posted a fellow server’s receipt because of the outrageous comment a pastor left on it. The restaurant added an automatic 18% gratuity, and the pastor wrote, “I give God 10% why do you get 18.” She then proceeded to write “0″ in the tip spot.
According to Huffington Post, when Pastor Bell found out that what she wrote was all over the Internet she “called the Applebee’s where Chelsea works to demand that she and all management involved be fired.”
I don’t really want to get into whether Chelsea was right or wrong to post this to Reditt. It’s totally a separate issue from what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is Pastor Bell, and all other Christians who make it clear they are a Christian and then screw over their servers.
I am a Christian. I graduated from Philadelphia College of Bible (now Cairn University) with a BS in Bible, and I waited tables throughout college to pay for my tuition. I can tell you that what Pastor Bell did does not surprise me. For a couple of years, there were a few of us from the college who waited tables at the local Friendly’s. When some large groups of staff (various deans, professors and others) would come in those of us from the college would cringe. They were horrible tippers. We would try to run back to their table after they left and add money from our own pockets to the tip left on the table before their server saw it if we were able to.
These adults from the college were not anonymous. Everyone knew that they were from the Bible college. Everyone knew they were Christians. When the servers got bad tips from them, they would come running to those of us from the college that worked there. It was embarrassing. It was wrong. And it did nothing to make the servers who were getting screwed have any warm fuzzy feeling about God or Christianity. In fact, it made them unhappy with Christianity in general.
I’ve waited tables in half a dozen restaurants, and in each one, I, too was screwed out of tips by Christians – usually ones that left tracts instead of tips. There were the religious tracts that looked like a folded over bill, but when you opened it, you were asked if you were sure you weren’t going to hell. I’m pretty sure that not one waiter or waitress, including me, ever read that tract. In fact, they probably said something to themselves like, “I don’t know if I’m going to hell, but I wish you would.”
Then there were the tracts that didn’t try to disguise themselves as money, but tried to come off as much more important than money. The tracts themselves were supposed to the best tip a waiter or waitress could ever get because it would lead them to God. Those ended up straight in the trash. I often thought of chasing those tract tippers out into the parking lot and saying, “Hey, you know, I’m good. I’m saved. I even study the Bible. I know when I die I’m going to heaven. So you can give me a cash tip with a good conscience. You’d be helping put me through Bible college! I’ll wait here while you dig it out of your pocket.”
If you are going to make it clear that you are a Christian when you go to a restaurant, and that you’d like your server to care about God, Jesus, their salvation, or whatever it is that you think is more important than the fact they are trying to earn college tuition, money to pay their rent, or cash to put food in their kids’ mouths, then you better be a good tipper, an amazing tipper. If you’re not, you will send the opposite message of what you’re intending.
Now, let’s deal with what Pastor Bell wrote. “I give God 10% why do you get 18.” Pastor Bell, if you really think that one has something to do with the other, you don’t understand giving. God doesn’t need your money. The point of giving financially, giving of your time, giving of your talents, has everything to do with your heart and becoming who you’re supposed to be and nothing to do with God’s bank account.
The waitress on the other hand needs your 18%. It’s how she makes a living. It’s how she pays the bills. It has everything to do with her bank account. She earned that money and a pastor, who identified herself as a pastor, a servant of God, tried to make her feel as if she didn’t deserve it. That kills me. It’s so wrong. It’s so anti-love, and anti-giving cheerfully, and anti-taking care of others, and so anti-the whole Christian message.
Pastor Bell, and all Christians who have a problem with tipping, please remember what Paul says in Romans, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
I’m sure a discussion could ensue in the comments about how diners don’t “owe” anyone tips. The restaurants should be paying a decent wage. It shouldn’t be the diner’s responsibility to pay the wages of the waiters and waitresses. It would be great if that’s how it was, but that’s not how it is, and everyone who goes to dine at a restaurant knows that. They go knowing exactly how the system works, and if they aren’t willing to tip, they should go through the drive-thru at a fast food joint instead of asking someone to wait on them.
So here’s the deal. If you still don’t agree with me, and you’re going to be cheap and not tip or tip poorly, go ahead. Just keep your religious affiliation quiet when you’re out dining. If you’re going to be cheap, don’t use God or your concern for someone’s eternal salvation as an excuse. Use the only excuse you have. You’re cheap.
Image: Nick Rau
(The caption to this photo on Flickr is “I tip more than I should sometimes =]” Notice the bill. Notice the tip. This guy could have left a tract that might have gotten read and appreciated.)