I really, really didn’t want to revisit the tale about the cheap pastor, the self-righteous waitress, and Applebee’s. The comments on the original post here were illuminating, not in a good way, and were profoundly discouraging. The fact that so many people are incapable of getting past their biases against any business that has to enforce basic common sense policies on their employees is depressing; the fact that they embrace wholeheartedly the idea that a minor instance of poor judgment and conduct warrants permanent vilification on the web is alarming; and the widespread rejection of the principles of the Golden Rule is scary.
Unfortunately, Chelsea Welch, the fired waitress whom I once had some sympathy for despite the fact that her firing was 100% justified, has apparently seen fit to publish a letter, although there is no way to tell that it is really hers—the way this whole scenario has gone, it probably was written by the pastor who started the whole mess to make Chelsea look bad. If that was the objective, the pastor was wrong again, for a ridiculous percentage of the commenters think the letter is perfectly reasonable, meaning, of course, that they have the ethical sensibilities of 5th graders. The cruel reader who brought this to my attention actually read the comments on one site and tallied them: 1538 supporting Chelsea, only 20 that didn’t.
Nonetheless, Chelsea Welch reveals herself as an A-1 prime ethics dunce, the kind of person who will blunder along through life behaving unethically, causing little and large harms and discomforts to those she encounters, always thinking she is in the right, because she doesn’t have the foggiest notion of how one goes about determining what right is.
Her letter is a classic of rationalization. Some highlights (the entire letter is at the end)…
- “I posted the letter as a light-hearted joke.” Whatever her motivation, her actions unequivocally violated her employer’s specific prohibition against carrying workplace incidents onto the web without permission, and behaving in a manner detrimental to Applebee’s and its customers. The rest of the letter, however, belies her claim. She was angry, not amused, at the pastor, and her conduct was at least partially, if not primarily, fueled by that non-“light-hearted” emotion.
- “This didn’t even happen at my table.” Indeed…making it even less of Chelsea’s business than it already was. Presumably the original server, Chelsea’s tip-less colleague, has been disciplined for allowing her to copy a company document that wasn’t his or hers to publish. He should have been.
- She details her efforts to protect the identity of the customer. Too little, too late. You know how to protect the identity of the customer, Chelsea, as well as your employer? Don’t post their proprietary documents on the internet, in part or in whole. Follow the policies in your employment manual.
- “It seems I was fired not because Applebee’s was represented poorly, not because I did anything illegal or against company policy, but because I embarrassed this person.” Embarrassing a customer in the restaurant is legitimate cause for firing; embarrassing a customer across the World Wide Web is obviously much worse, no matter how “light-heartedly” it was undertaken. Chelsea also enumerates legitimate reasons in addition to this that fully support Applebee’s actions: Applebee’s was represented poorly by her, and what she did was against company policy. (It was arguably illegal as well.) The bottom line is that she thoroughly deserved to be fired, and the fact that the pastor’s over-zealous complaint was the catalyst for Chelsea getting her just desserts doesn’t mean that she wasn’t going to be fired anyway, or should not have been.
- Whereupon Chelsea details for us the hard life of a waitress. This is absolutely, without question or argument, irrelevant to the issue under discussion. If she wants to make the case that the system of compensating servers at Applebee’s and other similar establishments is unfair, exploitive and in need of reform, she will get no argument from me. However, her conduct was unreasonable and irresponsible; the fact that she agreed to work under less than optimal conditions doesn’t relieve her of the duty to abide by her end of the agreement; and what she did would have gotten her fired or seriously disciplined in any workplace, business or industry I can imagine. Her argument boils down to this: waitresses work under unfair conditions; I am a waitress; therefore I have a right to violate my employment conditions and take vengeance on a patron who did nothing to me at all with no consequences. A.) What??? B.) Ridiculous. Lashing out at a restaurant’s customers is, to Chelsea, a reasonable and fair way to strike back for the poor working conditions of servers everywhere! As for the pastor, little did she suspect that an obnoxious comment scrawled on a receipt made her the symbolic representative of every diner who ever stiffed a waitress. Nor should she have, since to make her that is completely disproportionate, cruel and unfair.
- “After all that, I can be fired for embarrassing someone, who directly insults his or her server on religious grounds.” Wow! Here we have four, equally but differently flawed contentions, in one sentence:
- “After all that,…” “All that” had nothing to do with your firing, Chelsea. It didn’t justify what you did, and it didn’t, and shouldn’t be a factor in determining the punishment for your actions. Indeed, all those sympathetic commenters think it does because a mind-numbing proportion of the public determine the ethics of scenarios like this by siding with the individual they most identify with (that is to say, the one whom their biases support). Nobody wants to identify with the mean pastor, and few will. As for Applebee’s, the culture is engaged in the self-destructive process of vilifying businesses for acting like businesses—trying to make a profit, serving customers, wanting to pay less in taxes, not hiring employees it doesn’t need and will have to pay increased benefits to—so few will acknowledge the rights and needs of a corporate employer. That leaves blue collar,”ordinary person” Chelsea, so she is the hero/victim/ martyr of the story by default. She is the one who acted like so many others would like to act—stick it to the customers who don’t appreciate them—so she’s “good” (just like them!) which means what she did was also “good.” It was not, however.
- “…I can be fired for embarrassing someone…” Not just someone, Chelsea. A customer. A customer that you didn’t wait on, and who did nothing to you. A customer who represents your employer’s livelihood, and a member of a group without which it has no business and you have no job. Yes, you can and should be fired for embarrassing a customer, no matter how many working class hero justifications you invoke, and no matter how many verses of “16 Tons” you sing.
- “…who directly insults his or her server…” The pastor’s comment, stupid and annoying as it was, did not insult anyone. “I give 10% to God, why do you get 18?” It is self-aggrandizing, to be sure. It posits the absurd theory that all service charges must be less than what this pastor chooses to “give” to God, but that is hardly an insult; it’s just idiotic and cheap. Where’s the “direct” insult? She doesn’t call the sever by name, or even designate the server as the target of her remarks. Applebee’s, after all, is the party that printed the mandatory “18%” on the bill. I assumed that the note was to Applebee’s, the owner of the slip, the party she was paying the money to through her credit card. I really don’t know who the comments are directed at, but they were neither “direct,” nor were they an “insult.”
- “…on religious grounds.” The religious grounds are incidental to the waitress’s complaint. Is she suggesting that she wouldn’t have been justified in what she did if the customer wasn’t a pastor? Yes, the comment is particularly un-Christian in tone, but so what? The religious feature is just one more bias, held by Chelsea ( and her supporters) and used to justify mistreatment of a customer. (“Ooooh, she’s religious! You know how sanctimonious those kind are…she really deserves to be humiliated on the internet! Go Chelsea!” )The religion of the customer didn’t alter the substance of her offense to her server at all—she stiffed him seven lousy bucks, and an atheist who did the same would be just as cheap, just as unjustified, just as unfair…and just as undeserving of being exposed online by an uninvolved, vigilante waitress.
- Then Chelsea again makes a statement “for all of us” who work for tips: it is completely irrelevant to her firing. Nobody disputes that she deserves tips, or that the pastor was a jerk for suggesting otherwise. She didn’t post the note for revenge, of course, or to shame the pastor—it was light-hearted!— but her justification oddly keeps returning to why she feels the pastor had her humiliation coming.
- “I can’t understand why I was fired over this.” As long as this is true, Chelsea should stay fired, and out of a job. Nobody should want to hire, or choose to trust, an employee who unilaterally violates multiple company policies, takes it upon herself to punish a customer or client of her employer (That is solely the employer’s choice, no one else’s), and insists she didn’t do anything wrong. Then, to compound her offense, she goes to great lengths to paint her employer as a villain, and to use her misconduct to cause Applebee’s a public relations crisis. Any employer who hires such an individual has a death wish. Good luck with your future endeavors, Chelsea; you’ll need it.
- “Obviously the person who wrote this note wanted it seen by someone. It’s strange that now that the audience is wider than just the server, the person is ashamed.” There it is, the apotheosis of Chelsea-ethics. If you say something to Chelsea that you regret later, you’re out of luck: she’ll put it on the internet, because obviously anything we say to one person is intended for the world. If you send her a rude e-mail, it’s going viral, baby. If you have an angry argument with her over the phone, expect to see the tape on TMZ. Nobody has or deserves privacy, and everyone’s worst moment, rudest statement, most ill-considered words, should live forever on the internet, because Chelsea thinks it’s “strange” that you would want the opportunity to regret your mistakes, learn from them, move on, and not have them follow you forever.
- Finally, Chelsea says that she’s only demeaning herself by waitressing because she wants to get an education to qualify for a job “that doesn’t force me to sell my personality for pocket change.” Thus she demeans others in her profession, while strongly suggesting, as does the rest of her letter, that her personality is only worth pocket change.
Here’s the whole thing:
Pointer: Phil Kraemer (Thanks!)
Source and Graphic: Imgur