Ethics Dunce: Chelsea Welch (The Applebee’s Train Wreck, Part Deux)

Chelsea Welch 2

Chelsea Welch: Hire at your own risk. You have been warned. By Chelsea, in fact…

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:
  1. “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.
  2. “…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.
  3. “…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.”
  4. “…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.

If that.

Here’s the whole thing:

Chelsea Letter


Pointer: Phil Kraemer (Thanks!)

Source and Graphic: Imgur

53 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Chelsea Welch (The Applebee’s Train Wreck, Part Deux)

  1. I think that, here, you’ve crossed the line of presenting yourself as a grumpy old hag. This letter is may not get the waitress into an ivy league school, but it seems reasonably thoughtful. Certainly not worthy of a roast.
    Perhaps every so often you should think of something nice to say.

    • The letter is ethically unconscionable, and illustrates important fallacies that everyone uses at one time or another to justify bad conduct. The cricism has nothing to do with her style or elocution. do you comprehend the mission here? What the topic is? Apparently not.

      • Sure, the letter could have been more properly thought through. The girl’s a waitress. What did you expect from her? A freshly written bill of rights?
        What’s even more ludicrous is this. I challenge you, and you question my level of comprehension. Take it like a man.
        Another thing that I think is interesting, is that you seem to love these inflammatory comments. You’re bored with anything polite, and sit waiting to pounce on these types of comments.
        Perhaps you just like to bitch. More and more, I’m getting that vibe.

        • Your comment is incoherent, and I repeat: do you know what the topic here is? The letter was a poor and rationalization-filled excuse for unethical conduct. Unlike the pastor, she DID intend it as a web-wide statement, and not only that, framed it as a manifesto. It was a bad one. The principles she articulates are toxic; she promotes a distortion of the obligations between employer and employee. I have an obligation to point that out here, because people read such garbage and start thinking its fair and reasonable.

          I expect a waitress and anyone else who publishes an opinion on the webs to have sound reasoning and ethical values. You expect less? Who’s the bigot here?

          You didn’t challenge me at all; you called me a “grumpy old hag” without provocation, or a logical criticism. Your defense of the letter consists of “she’s just a waitress.”

          • Isn’t our country plagued enough by individuals who frame their terribly flawed views in manifestos associated with unilaterally unethical behavior. Behavior and actions taken outside of any constituted authority?

            Vigilantism and disregard for rule of law and at least disregard for rule of reason on the rise everywhere.

        • dinkerson, you’re playing with fire here.

          As a former restaurant employee myself (about six different houses in the States and in Europe) I personally completely agree with Jack’s assessment of the improper actions taken by this gal, however provoked, and the responsibility of Applebee’s to discharge her as a result. Chelsea behaved unethically (as did the pastor who started this contretemps). Unlike their actions, Applebee’s actions were completely ethical. And this blog is about ethics.

          Jack is not critiquing the girl’s writing style. He IS, and IMO deservedly so, skewering the flawed ethical concepts on which her argument is based. And that’s what this blog is about.

            • I really don’t think Arthur was threatening you with immolation.

              My only point was that in both comments you implied that my critique was based on her level or education and writing skills: “Sure, the letter could have been more properly thought through. The girl’s a waitress. What did you expect from her? A freshly written bill of rights?” and “This letter is may not get the waitress into an ivy league school, but it seems reasonably thoughtful.” “Reasonably thoughtful” is not a defense if the conclusions are dead wrong and illogical and unethical, as here. Your next tactic was that I should accept a description of “grumpy old hag” “like a man,” which is weird on its face.

          • Actually, I’ll have to disagree. While Applebee’s was in the right by firing her, there were several related actions which were… ethically debatable, at least. I haven’t brought them up in commentary simply because they’ve been entirely incidental to the discussion I’ve seen here so far (although, again to be fair, I haven’t exactly been looking hard — I don’t care about this incident enough to follow the commentary in detail).

            There’s a photo essay at which documents several aspects of this. Note the equivocating on matters of policy, the way they’ve taken several actions which contradict attempts to stand on principle… etc.

            So… no, I wouldn’t say that they’ve been _completely_ ethical in their conduct.

            But… that doesn’t change that they handled _their actions towards Ms. Welch_ ethically, or that they did indeed need to fire her.

            • Yes, I’d agree with you on that analysis, Alexander. The company has vacillated and not been as consistent or clear as it needed to be, either. I’d love to know if the original server got any discipline.

        • I, personally, expected nothing more than we got. I had HOPED for some inkling that she understood how she had acted wrongly, and perhaps a hint of remorse.

          Instead, we got exactly what we probably should have expected – anger and self-aggrandizing BS meant to show us how she was justified in acting against a customer she never even interacted with herself.

          If I was her boss, I would have (and Jack suggested) fired her the second I learned of what she did and, if I had the authority, banned the Pastor for life.

            • I didn’t even have THAT. Soon as I heard about it I thought “wow, dick move, lady, I would have fired you too…”

              Then again, without prior permission to the server, I would have fired the guy that refused to wait a couple’s table for their behavior. If he hadn’t asked my permission first and done that, I would have said “Oh, so now it is YOUR job to decide for whom you do your job? Don’t think so…”

      • I think 1538 people had it right and you are one of the 20 dunces who didn’t.

        Insulting behavior like the pastors does not stand up to scrutiny. Each and every one of us should behave as if our behavior will be published online. If the pastor is ashamed of what she wrote then she should have behaved with manners. If the pastor wants to be seen as Christian, she needs to behave at all times as a Christian!

        Servers are taxed on tips and the tips form their living wage; they are not optional. As a Christian, that pastor needs to think about how she is stealing money from servers trying to feed a family or save for college. I think it is high time servers started uniting and posting online so that the general public will understand WHO is being shafted (not the restaurant). If the restaurant wants a special code of conduct regarding the LIVING WAGE of its servers, then it needs to GUARANTEE 18% whether or not the lowlife customer pays it. They need to make good on any such offensive receipt which clearly has nothing to do with the service of the server and yet is stealing her living wage.

        I think it is high time that LOWLIFE’s like that pastor are exposed in public. And restaurants that make their workers dependent on tips for a LIVING WAGE but do not GUARANTEE that LIVING WAGE fire their workers for trying to defend their LIVING WAGE and are also shown for the lowlife’s THEY are.

        I intend to boycott Applebee’s — no hardship, their food isn’t very good.

        • I love this post! It contains almost every logical and ethical fallacy infecting the other misbegotten comments on this issue. If it had arrived earlier, it might have saved everyone time.

          “Insulting behavior like the pastors does not stand up to scrutiny. Each and every one of us should behave as if our behavior will be published online.

          Gross Ethics Mistake . Saying we ought to behave as if what we do will be publicized—this is the so-called “newspaper test” is obviously (or it should be obvious) not the same as saying it is fair to broadcast everything anybody does. We all have a right to privacy, and we all have a duty to mitigate harm, not magnify it.

          “If the pastor is ashamed of what she wrote then she should have behaved with manners. If the pastor wants to be seen as Christian, she needs to behave at all times as a Christian!”

          Non-responsive to the issue. We agree that the pastor’s conduct was wrong. That doesn’t mean that it warrants widespread web-shaming, or that an employee at the restaurant she ate isn’t out of line for taking it upon herself to be an avenger.

          “Servers are taxed on tips and the tips form their living wage; they are not optional.”
          Rank ignorance: They ARE optional. You are just flat out wrong. Check the law. I have.

          “As a Christian, that pastor needs to think about how she is stealing money from servers trying to feed a family or save for college.”
          “I think it is high time servers started uniting and posting online so that the general public will understand WHO is being shafted (not the restaurant). If the restaurant wants a special code of conduct regarding the LIVING WAGE of its servers, then it needs to GUARANTEE 18% whether or not the lowlife customer pays it. They need to make good on any such offensive receipt which clearly has nothing to do with the service of the server and yet is stealing her living wage.”

          Convoluted, illogical gibberish. The restaurant’s policies are not at issue here either. You want to organize a union, do it. Your remedy is idiotic. The restaurant needs to pay a fair wage, and tips need to be for exemplary service, and given as what they are called, “gratuities.” None of which has anything to do with a waitress violating the terms of her employment. If a restaurant tells me I have to pay 18% even if my waiter is a surly slug, then I don’t eat there, and everyone suffers.

          “I think it is high time that LOWLIFE’s like that pastor are exposed in public.”
          Insanity. The Pastor stiffed a waiter $7, and wrote a snotty comment to no one in particular, and you want to make a federal case out of it. Learns some proportion. Every mistake doesn’t have to be used to alienate the universe. Would you really want to be held to that standard? You just like the internet’s power to harm.

          “And restaurants that make their workers dependent on tips for a LIVING WAGE but do not GUARANTEE that LIVING WAGE fire their workers for trying to defend their LIVING WAGE and are also shown for the lowlife’s THEY are.”

          Incoherent and illogical The waitress got fired for violating the terms of her employment, which she agreed to. Nobody’s at fault but her for what happened to her. Learn basic contract principles and common sense, or the same will happen to you. Service professional who embarrass customers deserve to lose that wage, living or otherwise.

      • Jack, it’s a running gag on the Internet. Comic Sans is a universal punching bag and wherever it appears it becomes the first topic of discussion.

        Which, I happily agree, is a damaging distraction from the issues of this case.

  2. This will be an interesting case to follow in the long run. She says she has aspirations of going to college and getting a better career. The problem she’s going to face is that google is going to have a permanent record of her name and picture. There is no doubt that any future employer who chooses to google her name is going to find this letter. They’d be crazy to hire her with that letter out there.

    I wonder if we’re going to see another letter from her 5 to 10 years in the future refuting what she said? Will she recant all of this when she figures out she is unemployable?

  3. Calls to mind the Scientific American article about how younger people are showing far less empathy than in the past. There’s a hatred (demonstrated by Chelsea and a lot of her supporters) of the stereotypical, sanctimonious religious type, but it turns out that post-Christian culture can be every bit as self-righteous, and with a wholly new level of vindictiveness and not an inkling of the concepts of grace or discretion.

    I’m sure the waitress doesn’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon, but it would have helped to read some of it. (“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” “In your anger do not sin.”

  4. The real message is simple, people hate self righteous, egotistical pastors more then careless waitresses. The pastor in question should suffer the ridicule all the public has to offer, after, no doubt, spending the better part of her life professing the benefits of love, charity selflessness and the golden rule only to prove it doesn’t really mean anything in her own life deserves the full force of public opinion. Funny how she wrote “she gives god 10%”. In reality she takes her 100% from the congregations 10% so is she really giving anything to god or just taking less from him?

    • Your first statement is correct (although “careless” is a scrubbed description for Ms. Welch—ethically clueless is closer). Why should the pastor suffer all that ridicule for one ill-considered comment and an act of rudeness worth 7 dollars, which is, even to a waiter, pretty de minimus? Ethics does not include hate and bias. Your suggestion that the Golden Rule shouldn’t be applied to those who are faulty in executing it themselves eliminates the Golden Rule. Nice job.

      • Your comment regarding the value of the act of rudness shows one of the fundemental problems with society, that acts of public rudness or poor behaviour are OK or at least excusable as long as they have no real monetary value involved. That may tell us more about your value system then anything you write on this site. The waitress could easily apply this argument herself, “it was only one small photo”.

        I believe that a person in a position of trust and control, which a pastor has over their congragation, should be held to a higher standard. Her actions, though “de minimus” in value hurts all the people of that congragation and shines a negative light on everyone in that position in some way. You also cannot avoid for consideration that if she acts this poorly in public with a party of peers, what is her true character like or if we want to stay with a christian slant, what is her heart like? In the church, this means everything.

        Just to be clear, I didn’t say that the golden rule shouldn’t apply to those who are faulty in executing it themselves, I was saying that I don’t think anyone who makes a living preaching the values of the golden rule and then clearly breaks it deserves to have this rule applied to them. You could argue that the waitress showed poor judgement but the pastor showed she is a fraud.

        From another perspective. A waitress’s is only responsible for taking your order and getting your food to you in a timely fashion, more or less. As “clueless” as it was, and I agree it was clueless. Her actions in no way reflect her ability to do her job.

        The pastor is responsible for teaching good values, to demonstrate how man should treat their fellow man. Her conduct unarguably puts her ability to do this in question. Irregardless of company policy, who really should lose their job. Ultimately that is for the congregation to decide. Maybe they will take the golden rule more seriously then she did.

        One final comment, I must respectfully disagree with your comment “Ethics does not include hate or bias”. Ethics is the philosophy of good and bad, morals and conduct. Hate and bias most definelty fall under that umbrella.

        On an entirely different note. I am new to this page and must say I like it a lot. Gives you something to think about other then who is wearing what or sleeping with whom. Keep it up.

        • UGH. I apologize in advance for a tone of pique that is based on the fact that you are the last in a long line of such comments. I did not say the Pastor wasn’t rude. I wrote that the pastor’s conduct was outrageous. I did not say that “that acts of public rudeness or poor behaviour are OK or at least excusable as long as they have no real monetary value involved.” READ THE POST! I did say that one written act of rudeness and a minimal financial slight does NOT deserve international shaming, exposure and embarrassment by a vigilante waitress, and if you can’t comprehend that, I don’t know what to say to you.

          Stop telling me how bad the pastor is. We don’t really know how bad she is—she made one snarky mistake, and was reasonably angry about having her receipt broadcast to the world. But no matter how bad she is, the waitress wasn’t the one to punish her. She could not. She had a higher obligation to her employer, and a contractual agreement, which she violated.
          And as for this:
          “I don’t think anyone who makes a living preaching the values of the golden rule and then clearly breaks it deserves to have this rule applied to them:--it proves you misunderstand what the Golden Rule says. You never disqualify yourself to be treated according to the Golden Rule. And this: “You could argue that the waitress showed poor judgement but the pastor showed she is a fraud.” shows you are polluting your ethics with rationalizations. Person A’s bad ethics does not change the standards for person B.

          Ethics is the STUDY of how one determines right and wrong, and hate and bias are impediments to that process.

          • Wow. Somebody writes a post and compliments you on your website, and you go on and insult him/her in your reply. Way to attract and keep new readers. Good job.

            • There was nothing insulting in my reply, Jen. It was critical. Critical is not insulting. It was tough, but then, someone who doesn’t read the post carefully and offers criticism deserves tough criticism.

              You just said you weren’t coming back, and wrote a second comment one minute later. That’s fine, but odd.

  5. I guess I was brought up differently than most, I was told if you aren’t willing to say something to someones face, you don’t say it. To me, this sounds like “ethics”. The Pastor said something, in a note, that she should be willing to back up. If her backing it up means she needs to say “I said this in a time of poor decision making, and I was wrong” that’s fine. Demanding that an entire staff be terminated because it went public, however, is what I would call “Un-Ethical”. Now, what precisely was the pastor objecting to? That someone found out she ate there? I don’t think so. That someone knew she paid for food from there? Nope, don’t think that was the case either. Was it, maybe, the actual note itself? Well, DING DING DING, we have a winner. She said something, and then she wished she hadn’t. Oh well, here is a little lesson for you, think before you speak, I think that should be presented somewhere too, shouldn’t it? People get fired for things I disagree with all the time, however, when someone gets fired for shining a light on a cockroach, that tends to bother me more than the other actions. Here we are trying to teach our children to not bully, and to stop bullying when they see it, since it causes so much harm. Yet in a situation like this, where the light is shined clearly on the bully, and the employers reaction is to join in and punish the person who made the act public, we can answer rather easily why we are where we are as a society.

    • 1.No letters and phone calls in your family?
      2. Your point just reinforces my guess that the pastor wasn’t addressing the waiter at all.
      3. “Demanding that an entire staff be terminated because it went public, however, is what I would call “Un-Ethical”” In what way? Excessive, perhaps–it isn’t the whole staff’s fault. Ungenerous, perhaps. It was still misconduct for the staff and therefore Applebee’s is accountable.
      4. The rest of your argument—thoroughly discussed, read the thread. It was not the waitress’s place to do the punishing.
      5. There was no bullying in this scenario.

      • She did not do the “punishing” she did the “exposing”. As aptly quoted in a recent episode of “house of cards” “Remember, when you’re talking today, you’re not talking to one person, you’re talking to 1,000” If you don’t want it repeated, and you don’t want people to attach your name to it, don’t say it, or note it. This isn’t the 2nd grade, where a “for your eyes only” will make it secret forever. It’s the information age, and attitudes need to adjust, if you don’t want it heard, then don’t say it.

        • First sentence: Rhetorical quibbling of the week, and worse. The rest: Your formula essentially says that we can’t ever trust anyone to keep a conversation between two people between two people, and moreover, they shouldn’t be able to. That is utter, utter, unethical, culturally destructive garbage. The fact that people misuse technology in abusive and unfair ways doesn’t become ethical by default. It is unethical, and also a sacrifice to the God of Political Correctness. Outrageous and indefensible.

          • Did you just somehow slip into an alternate reality? 1- if you call your waitress a dirty bitch, and tell her to screw herself, and she then goes home and complains to her friend about it, who then posts it to the internet, how offended should you then be if your quote ends up on social media? I realize in your tower of “ethics” being able to abuse someone in a private setting might be seen as a right, but when the light shines down on the behavior, suddenly it’s the fault of the guy with the flashlight. Just as bad as the “It’s only a crime if you get caught” crowd. For someone who is discussing “ethics” it seems being held to one’s statements ranks quite low on the priority list. When did “honesty” and “ethics” become divorced?

            • Additionally, I’d like to return to the topic of why “exposing” someone’s written communication is the same in your world, as you put it “Rhetorical quibbling” as punishing. Seriously? You’re equating putting something someone said out in public with then how the public reacts? So, every reporter to ever write a story exposing something, is “punishing” the people who might be found out? So, are journalists evil? Punishing with truth?

              • This is typical of your analogy abilities. A reporter has the job of reporting newsworthy events. A reporter who chose who to report in order to embarrass or “expose” them would be an unethical reporter by all journalistic ethics codes. Exposure via webs shaming is punishment. Obviously. Just as publicizing good behavior is a reward. But no one should publicize a private conversation or a personal one as a reward without permission, either.

                • Internet shaming is a fancy word for having the light of the sun shine on your ass when you’re busy showing it to what you thought was only one person. People show who they truly are when they believe no one is looking, and no one will find out. The world is changing, and public opinion drives dollars. Like it or not, people are going to be held accountable for their actions a lot more as more and more technology has a camera or a mic on us 24×7. You’ll notice I post everything with my first and last name. Every internet account I have is setup that way. I don’t say things I can’t defend, and I have no problem attaching my name to a statement.

            • I’m in the realm of ethics, and watch your attitude. I’m not obligated to put up with an insulting tone from guests, especially when they don’t know what they’re talking about. 1) Nobody made a personal attack even slightly similar to “dirty bitch,” but no, every persoanl insult should not be the cause for webshaming. 2) Don’t put quotes around “ethics” when you are clueless, don’t refer to my “tower” when I’m writing about what good behavior should be, not what common behavior is, and read the Constitution: insults ARE a right, unless they amount to “fighting words.” 3.) the rest of your comment is logically and definitionally incoherent. Not exposing every comment of behavior you don’t like to the scrutiny of the world has nothing to do with honesty.

                • That’s ridiculous. An insult intended for one person does not convey inherent permission to publish. Golden Rule stuff—insults are no different in this respect than any other communication privately intended. You’re just making up unethical rules that neither exist nor work.

  6. And just so we’re clear, I have tipped zero before. I’ve done it when a server was rude, and I have no problem admitting it. I would not personally use God as an excuse for it, but if I chose to, I’d stand behind that as well. I don’t believe a mandatory tip should show up on every bill, personally, but I’d cite those reasons were I to leave a note about it. Tipping is just that, tipping. The problem here is someone chose NOT to tip (even though it had already been deducted) then decided to pour a little salt in the wound by asking why the server was worth it. And after all that, and HERE is where I have the problem, becomes outraged when the news goes public. If you can’t defend your action, don’t take the action.

  7. What did you expect her to do, out of curiosity? It’s difficult to stand on either foot, because I believe that if I were fired for something even remotely similar, I would feel compelled to defend myself, too. If the pastor can defend herself in the media, why can’t Chelsea? I don’t see an ethical violation in that. I suppose to me it feels as though Chelsea’s letter was more honest than anything Pastor Bell said in any of her statements, and that I respect more. (I, of course, could be wrong in that assumption.)

    • What do I expect her to do? I expect her to acknowledge that she was dead wrong, violated her working agreement (which she cannot deny), harmed her employer, took gratuitous action against a customer that was excessive, unwarranted and a Golden Rule foul, and say “I’m sorry.” Her conduct and the ethics of it is not determined by what the PASTOR does. This is a basic, bed rock ethics concept that you and other defenders apparently have yet to learn.

  8. I stumbled upon your post as I was was randomly wondering if there had been any update on the Applebees situation (I hadn’t checked for awhile). I’m amazed at so many of your replies to comments. You’re so big on The Golden Rule, and yet, you come off as a complete jerk to many of those who disagree with you. “READ THE POST!” “Typical of your analogy abilities.” “Your comment is incoherent.” (Directed at posts that were perfectly understandable to me). Maybe you should learn to use the Golden Rule yourself. You don’t have to respond. I will never return to a website run by somebody so rude and disrespectful.

    • “Read the post” is a fair and reasonable response to someone whose response is not relevant to the post, the ethical issues, or the facts. This is not a site for typical web commenters who don’t care to think, analyze, or pay attention, and who don’t want their randomly, carelessly offered opinions criticized. I expect mine to be criticized, and I expect them to be criticized according to rigorous standards. That IS the Golden Rule.

      Incoherent means ethical analysis incoherence. If those comments made sense to you, that’s unfortunate.

  9. A little late to the party, but I was initially caught up in the fervor of the tyrannical pastor and the waitress taking a stand. After reading Applebee’s fairly-recent PR blunder on the matter, and the overarching consequences on -all- parties involved, I think this serves as a huge what not-to-do cautionary tale on both sides of web-shaming (it will most assuredly compromise Chelsea’s future employment opportunities), and dealing with the fallout.

    However, before I get roasted for being off-topic, I will say that, professionally, her actions were indefensible. This seems like a classic case of feeling the need to side with one or the other (which does no one any good, really). With the low/middle class struggle and the trendy stigma attached to the holier-than-thou, your average joe has a natural slant toward the waitress simply because she’s more relatable and lives out the guilty revenge-fantasy so many low income workers have, at least at one point, harbored. I appreciate your emphasis that the ethics of this situation don’t magically shift based upon the actions of your counterpart; that’s far too common this day and age. As much distaste as I have for the plight of the wages of tip-based servers, that doesn’t make it ethically relevant to the outcome of this event.

  10. Jack, since you are a lawyer and I am not, I will ask a legal question.

    Based on the facts available, acknowledging that a professional opinion would require additional investigation, could she be considered to have engaged in contract interference?

    Applebee’s is at the end of a chain of contracts coming down from the Visa and Mastercard operators that require all parties to safeguard credit card information and receipts. If a merchant leaks credit card information, even without meaning to, various bad things can happen to them.

    In contrast to her interference with the relationship between her employer and her employer’s customer, in this case her employer had written contractual obligations which she prevented them from honoring.


    Larger issue: is there a reasonable expectation of privacy for business communications that aren’t under NDA or accompanied by a request for confidentiality? Let’s focus on the larger issue by imagining a hypothetical case where a message wasn’t written on a third party’s business records but had been sent directly to the recipient.

    Possible sample case: Mike Royko got a threatening letter from Frank Sinatra. He wrote about it in his column, then sold the letter to someone who collects celebrity correspondence (guaranteeing it would live forever) and donated the sales proceeds to charity.

    Better example case, since it involves business communications: more than one website that’s received an abusive cease and desist letter has posted a copy of it on the website. Those letters come from law firms, who know the old rule that a letter becomes the property of the recipient, to be used in any lawful way the recipient chooses. Do they have a reasonable expectation of privacy even though they are aware they don’t?

    Another non-business case: a woman recorded incidents where she’d been sexually harassed on the street and posted them. That involved communications made in public, though not intended to go across the world on the Internet and be preserved for decades. (Also there were more than communications, they were acts).

    Then there’s cases where there’s an implicit need for confidentiality, as when a friend emails you about an embarrassing medical problem or about a relationship difficulty. In those the ethical conclusion is clear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.