Stingy Tipping Is of the Devil; Blaming God for Stinginess Is an Abomination

I recently read this Consumerist article about a pastor named Alois Bell who decided to be a total jerk to her Applebee’s server. I confess that my sympathies generally lie with servers because I used to earn my living by counting on tips; I know what it’s like to get stiffed for prompt service. It happens, and if this were just a tale of a pastor stiffing a server, I would shrug it off. But Bell took it to a whole new level by leaving this nice little note on the receipt: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?”

The server showed the receipt to her co-worker Chelsea Welch, who, being rightly miffed about it, posted a picture of the receipt on Reddit as a joke. I imagine it was a sort of “See what I put up with at work!” kind of post. Only, this was so bad that it went viral and Bell found out about it. According to Welch, Bell then called the Applebee’s restaurant and demanded that everyone there be fired. Applebee’s complied in part and fired Welch.

A situation like this is belittling because it essentially says “You aren’t worth the service you rendered.” It’s frustrating because it makes Christians look like jerks for the sake of a few dollars. Finally, it’s foolish because this kind of conduct throws away future effective ministry service for a snide remark.

You’re going to do things that require others to serve you, whether you’re at a restaurant, a car wash, or Walmart. In each of these cases, you have a chance to be kind to someone and encourage them, or you can be a jerk. If you get caught being a jerk, then please own it. Don’t call up and demand that someone gets fired. Rather, stand up and say, “Yes, I was a total dipstick. I’m embarrassed, and I kind of deserve all this hate e-mail I’m getting. I was so, so stupid, and I’m sorry about that.”

Is that so hard to do?

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.

  • http://quixoticiconoclast.blogspot.com Chris Todd

    It is hard for Alois Bell to apologize, apparently. In her injured pride she committed yet another wrong by having a server fired. I’m sure that Chelsea Welch wasn’t waiting tables because it was her life’s ambition to have a tiring, frustrating, menial job. She needed the money for groceries and rent. What do you think Jesus will have to say to “Pastor” Alois Bell about an injustice that causes the poor to suffer?

  • Stephany

    I’m sorry, I agree with what the pastor did. I do not think a tip should automatically be added to the check. A tip is (gratuity), a voluntary additional payment made for services rendered…voluntary and additional…if you render good services then you should get a good tip, but if you don’t then you shouldn’t. If someone automatically gives me 18% (which is more than what is typically asked for in church), why would I do a good job. When I go out, a family of 7, my bill is roughly $100 or more, that is $18 for an hour worth of service plus your pay and that is more than most of us make an hour. Even at 10% which is what I normally tip unless I get a good waiter or waitress and I will tip more, you are still getting $10 plus pay roughly $3, which as a head start teacher with an AAS degree, is more than I was making per hour. So do your job…then you will get your tip…I’m sure this pastor is just as fed up with all this 18% automatically tipping for a job that is not done good enough to render such a tip.

  • Jon

    Stephany: Would you change the receipt to give *absolutely no tip* and leave a sanctimonious message about how God “only” gets 10% (because we can’t possibly give God more than 10%! has to be exactly 10!)?
    If not, then you should still disagree with what the pastor did.
    If you truly don’t believe the service was worth more than 10% (and I’ve been taught that 10% is the “you did a rather poor job, but not terrible” level, while 15% is “okay” and 20% is “pretty good to great”), then you should be saying the pastor should have altered the tip amount.
    Not encouraging Christians to give an absolutely terrible, awful, horrible, terrible witness by stiffing someone of part of their not-that-great paycheck.

    As for the statement that 18% is “too much”, I don’t think it is, especially if it’s an automatic amount with large groups. I’ve come to determine that servers in restaurants are Overworked, Underpaid, and Under-appreciated. So I try to do my best to bless them by almost always giving 20% or more (some of this stems from me trying to make my tip amount such that the check total is an even dollar or half-dollar amount). If you can afford to pay 100 dollars for your family’s check, another 18 shouldn’t be breaking the bank, and it’s a way to be generous and loving to your neighbor. And if that means they make more than me in an hour, well, I can figure they’re probably getting stiffed by a bunch of other jerks and working themselves tired and sore to the bone. So, hey, not big skin off my back.

  • Jeff Cavanaugh

    Stephany, I disagree.

    The Bible is pretty clear that workers deserve the pay to which they’re entitled. See, e.g., Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:14-15, Deuteronomy 25:4, Matthew 10:10, 1 Corinthians 9:9-14, etc.

    One implication of that is that those of us who hire workers are obligated to pay them, and it’s a sin to stiff or short them unjustly. That has to be applied and lived out in our cultural context, and in our culture restaurant tipping isn’t really gratuity at all. Gratuity is by definition gratuitous, superfluous, extra, above and beyond what’s required. For that to be true of restaurant tipping, servers would have to be paid a decent wage, or at least minimum wage. But they aren’t; most servers make just two or three bucks an hour and most of their pay comes from tips. In modern America, the standard for basic, acceptable service is 15-20%; and I’d argue Christians have a strong obligation to pay that most of the time because it’s what the server (the worker we’ve hired) deserves. We need to account for it when we budget for eating out.

    Now, some people, including Christians, think the whole system is wrong and restaurant owners ought to pay their employees a living wage apart from considering tips. I happen to agree with that, but it doesn’t let us off the hook or justify tipping stingily. Faced with an unjust or immoral practice like this, we have two options: Do what we can to alleviate those hurt by it and tip well, or don’t participate in the unjust system and avoid eating at restaurants that pay this way.

    Finally, the only other thing I’d say is that Christians are supposed to be marked by a spirit of generosity. In Christ, we have been given far more than we ever could deserve; we should likewise be willing to give to others above and beyond the bare minimum they’ve earned. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6 that the rich in this life (which includes anyone who can afford to eat in a restaurant) are given their wealth from God to enjoy it, but also “to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

  • Jen

    Stephany, What you forgot to factor in to your hourly calculation is that the person who is the server for that table doesn’t get all the money. It is split between that person and any other that worked on that table…like the bus person. Some restaurants take all tips and split them by their own % schedule between all the serving employees. And if the person with the AAS degree thinks that waiting tables will earn them more money then they are welcome to do just that if more $ is their goal.
    That being said, we as Christians cannot forget that we are representing the LORD. Whenever we interact with other by words or actions we leave an impression behind. Are we making sure that we are honoring Him with all we do?

  • Steven

    Stephany, I share your frustration about the 18% automatic tip policy at restaurants, but I have to disagree strongly with you on this event because of the following reason:

    1) if the service doesn’t worth the 18%, take it up with the restaurant manager when the bill come. Don’t just refused to pay the surcharge. The restaurant ended up automatically charging it anyway.
    2) if you don’t like the restaurant’s 18% large party tip policy, talk it over with the manager before eating there, or just DON’T eat there. Don’t patron the restaurant, and then stiff the service staff.
    3) Finally, the online furor over this event isn’t just the stiffing of the tip, but the pastor’s use of God to justify her refusal to pay tip. (As a side note, I don’t believe the pastor when she said she left a cash tip anyway. She was quoted that she left a $6 cash tip. So she objected to a $6.29 automatic surcharge, implied that she should only pay 10% instead of 18%, and still left cash tip of 17.2%????)

  • http://opus.fm/ Jason Morehead
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