PSA: Stop Sharing Photos of Receipts With Crazy Tips and Messages
Two thousand thirteen will go down in history as the year of sharing restaurant receipts via social media.
Photo by vxla Enough with the photos of receipts, people! Go photograph a sunset.
First it was the Applebee's employee who shared a a photo of a check left by a pastor who included no tip, for religious reasons.Then there was the pushback and subsequent Instagram account by Tips for Jesus, a group (or individual) leaving enormous tips because it's the Christian thing to do. Next came racial slurs printed on receipts, complaints about needy kids, anti-gay rants and people saying that it was President Obama's fault that they did not have enough money to pay for a meal.
It's entirely possible that this sort of thing has been happening for years. It's likely, in fact, that a server has been stiffed for being gay in the past, and it's definitely true that every now and then a stranger leaves a huge tip for a server for no apparent reason. (That was sort of the plot of a 1994 Nicholas Cage movie, It Could Happen to You.)
But in 2013, these little slips of paper stating what people ate and the the total cost of their meals were plastered all over the Internet in an attempt to gain pissed off, confused or newly wealthy servers 15 minutes of fame.
And I'm so over it.
Just last week, a waitress at a Cracker Barrel in Nebraska was given a tip of $6,000 by patrons who want to help her go back to school. According to the report on the Huffington Post, "Over the course of the meal, the teen recounted to the two patrons the tale of her youth in foster homes, right up until the happy ending when she and her siblings were taken in by a wonderful family." And now she's saving up to go to Trinity Bible College. One of the patrons happened to be an alum of said school, and wanted to help her realize her dream. It's heartwarming, really. Touching. But it doesn't restore my faith in humanity any more than this Buzzfeed post does.
It's not the gesture to which I object. It's the social media-ing of it all.
I think it's great that a down-on-her-luck server got to experience the best of humanity thanks to a generous stranger. And I think it's awful when diners use a server's personal life to make a statement about their beliefs. But if I don't know you personally, I probably don't need to hear about it. And I definitely don't need to see a photo of your receipt with a Kelvin Instagram filter. It's still a just a piece of paper.
Of course, the sharing of said paper--when it contains a nasty note--generally accomplishes two things. One, the asshole and the saintly server each get 15 minutes of fame, for better or for worse. And two, someone gives the server more money than he or she had coming because the world now feels sorry about the injustice.
Take Applebee's (I swear, half of these receipt-gate scandals happen at Applebee's) server Chelsea Welch, who received an unfortunate message on a receipt while working at a franchise in St. Louis. In lieu of a tip, the patron, pastor Alois Bell, left a note that read, "I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?" This was in response to the automatic 18 percent gratuity included for her large party at the restaurant, a common practice that the IRS recently did away with.
Photo courtesy Reddit Yeah, it was a dick move, but the world doesn't need to know about it.
Long story short, Welch posted a photo of the receipt on Reddit, where intrepid Internet investigators soon tracked down Bell and started sending her nasty messages. Bell called Applebee's, Welch was fired, Bell and Applebee's were raked through the mud on the Internet, and Welch ended up with dozens of job offers and monetary help, which she says she declined. And did the world learn anything from the very public debate?
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