The American restaurant chain Applebee's is taking a public relations beating after it fired one of its waitresses for posting a picture of a receipt featuring a customer's remark on the image sharing website Reddit last week.
Many of those aware of the controversy have taken to Applebee's Facebook page to express their dismay at the franchise food chain, or have signed online petitions urging the restaurant to rehire its former waitress.
The issue began last week, when Chelsea Welch, a server at an Applebee's restaurant in St. Louis, Mo., posted an image of a receipt from a customer on Reddit.
The receipt proved controversial because it did not provide the waitress, a co-worker of Welch, with a tip, and included the notation "I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?" referencing the customary tithe offering accepted in many churches.
The receipt was signed by Alois Bell, the head of a small St. Louis-based church who indicated in writing on the receipt that she was a pastor.
One Facebook page, titled "HIRE BACK Chelsea," has already garnered 14,000 likes since the story hit the Internet on Jan. 29.
Other Facebook pages are calling for Americans to boycott Applebee's restaurants, calling the company's decision to fire Welch a "ridiculous knee-jerk reaction."
One online petition, sponsored by The Huffington Post and titled "Applebee's: Rehire Chelsea & We'll Eat At Your Restaurant At Least Once In 2013" on GoPetition.com, has acquired over 8,000 signatures.
"[W]e believe Applebee's wants to do the right thing. We don't fault them for erring on the side of an angry customer, but a closer look at the matter reveals that this particular angry customer was in the wrong. Applebee's should correct the error and show that it stands up for its employees who are doing their jobs," the petition reads.
In response to the public outcry, Applebee's took to its Facebook page multiple times to issue an explanation as to why Welch was fired, saying, "We simply cannot accept behavior that compromises the safety and privacy our Guests have every right to expect and deserve."
While some are taking a serious approach to the Welch firing issue through activist groups and petitions, others are trying levity to subside the controversy.
One Applebee's receipt posted on the website Christian Nightmares shows a spoof of Bell's original receipt, reading "I give God 0%, so you get 28%" and leaving a generous tip with the bill.
Bell, who reportedly called the restaurant to complain after she found her receipt being broadcast on the Internet, has apologized for her behavior, telling The Smoking Gun that her comment was a "a lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion," but many aren't letting her off the hook easily.
Others, however, have taken a more accepting approach to the issue, with one commenter, Faith M. Coppola, saying of Bell on the HIRE BACK Chelsea Facebook page:
"I really hope she made a mistake. All humans make mistakes … I just hope she can see that and will move on."