Pastor pits God vs. common courtesy at Applebee’s

For some, common courtesy means having manners, being polite, respectful, considerate. For others, it can also mean being helpful or generous, thinking of others first, practicing socially held norms of etiquette.  

We all hold similar definitions of common courtesy – that’s why it’s called “common.”

Like tipping a waiter or waitress at a restaurant – it’s just something we do. Or, to put it more bluntly, it is something we should do.

Common courtesy also means that we do our collective best to bring attention to glaring inconsistencies, contradictions and inappropriate behavior, especially when our role models do not live up to our shared expectations of them.

To me, common courtesy means that we hold each other collectively accountable for our actions.

Which is why it was so shocking when a local pastor left the following message on a receipt at a St. Louis, Mo., Applebee’s restaurant: “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18%?” She put “$0” in the blank space on the receipt designated for tips.

The pastor, Alois Bell, preaches at Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries. An 18 percent gratuity was automatically charged to her credit card, following a common restaurant practice for groups of six or more. Bell had shared a dinner with four other adults and five children.

To her credit, Bell told reporters she did leave a $6 cash tip following the January 25th dinner, which cost $34.93.

While the minimum wage in Missouri is $7.35, tipped employees such as restaurant waiters can be paid as little as $3.67, half the minimum wage.
It is unknown how much the unidentified Applebee’s server is being paid.  
Applebee’s employee Chelsea Welch, who did not serve Bell, found the receipt “insulting.”

Welch told reporters, “You can’t really argue with what’s plainly written, and what was written was insulting.”

She published the receipt on Reddit, a user generated online news website. The receipt went viral and outraged Reddit users, some of whom actually offered to pay the modest tip for the unidentified server.

Bell, who should have immediately apologized for her inappropriate behavior, eventually caught wind of the online posting of the receipt and called the Applebee’s manager demanding that the server be disciplined.

While Bell admits that she had a “lapse in my character and judgment,” she also claims the situation has “been blown out of proportion.”

Applebee’s eventually fired Welch, who does not believe she broke any employee guidelines justifying her termination by publishing the receipt.

While unwilling to confirm if Welch’s termination was due to the incident , Applebee’s posted the following comment on its Facebook page: “Our guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchises have a right to share this information publicly.”

“Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy.”

An online petition demanding that Applebee’s rehire Welch has garnered almost 9,000 signatures in the past week.

And Applebee’s has since received over 36,000 comments on its Facebook page, overwhelmingly supporting Welch.

Welch said, “Because this person [Bell] got embarrassed that their selfishness was made public, Applebee’s made it clear that they would rather lose a dedicated employee than lose an angry customer. That is a policy I can’t understand.”

Bell claims the online frenzy has “brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

In reality though, Bell has embarrassed herself.

Religious leaders are justifiably held to a high standard. They are supposed to be our moral compass. They help us decide what is right and wrong. Many of the things we consider common courtesy come from scripture, and are supposed to be embodied in action by those who claim to represent the teachings of God.

As a role model, Bell should publicly apologize. As a person of faith, she should re-think what it means to act in accordance with God’s wishes.
She would do well to remember the Biblical saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”


Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.