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A Tipping Snub Turns Into An Employment Fiasco.

Posted by Peter Post  February 5, 2013 07:00 AM

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Imagine you are a waitperson at a restaurant and at the end of a customer’s meal, you receive a note along with a tip: “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” NBC News reported that this happened recently to a waitress at Applebee’s in the St. Louis area.

Two things happened: Another waitress—a friend of the employee who received this note —took a picture of it and posted it on Reddit where it went viral. Lots of people were appalled by the crass way the waitress was treated. However, the waitress who posted the note received a surprise: She was fired by Applebee’s for posting the note.

Here’s my take. The person who left the note blew it. When that person entered the restaurant, she accepted that part of the cost of the meal was the tip that will help, among other things, to compensate the staff for the less than minimum wages they are paid. For years the typical restaurant tip was 15%. But that has changed over the past decade and most people now tip 20%. (Why, you may ask? Because it is easier to figure out.) Bottom line: if you’re not willing to buy into the tipping culture in America, then don’t go to a restaurant and short the staff. Also, be careful: While restaurants usually add a gratuity for groups of six or more people, recently, I’ve been in restaurants and had the gratuity automatically added to the bill for a party of two. So check the bill carefully.

As egregious an error as the patron made, the waitress’s friend also made a critical mistake: She brought her job into her personal social media world. She reprinted an image of the note. The image included the name of the customer. And, apparently, that’s what got her fired. Applebee’s explained, “Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.”

It’s too easy to think of your social media presence as a private one, a personal one, a place to share whatever you experience in a day, a place to get up on your own soapbox. Unfortunately, it’s there for everyone, including your employer, to see. Keep your work life and your personal life online separate. Be very careful that what you post doesn’t have anything to do with your work life because once it’s out there, you can’t retract it. Even if you think you are in the right to post it, if your employer has a problem with it, then you have a problem, too.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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