St Louis waitress sacked for exposing a penny-pinching pastor

RATHER than leave a tip after a meal in a St Louis restaurant – Applebee’s – pastor Alois Bell, who runs the Truth in the Word Deliverance Ministries church, scrawled on the bill:

I give God 10% why do you get 18

Then she scratched out the tip, wrote a zero against the “additional tip” section and added the word “pastor” above her signature.

Bill and Bell (inset)

Bill and Bell (inset)

All went pear-shaped for Bell when waitress Chelsea Welch photographed the document and shared it online, where it immediately went viral.

According to The Consumerist, Welch wasn’t the waitress who served Bell and her post-church service party.

In a statement, Applebee’s spokesperson Dan Smith reported that “our franchisee has apologized to the Guest” for violating the patron’s “right to privacy.” The individual responsible for the leak “is no longer employed by the franchise,” Smith added.

Bell, 37, said that the online firestorm created by the receipt has left her stunned.

My heart is really broken. I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.

Bell said her notation on the receipt was a:

Lapse in judgment that has been blown out of proportion.

Despite scratching out the tip added to the bill, Bell claimed that she left a $6 tip in cash, adding that she subsequently discovered the 18 percent gratuity had been charged to her credit card.

Bell said she learned that a copy of the receipt was online when a friend called to say she was:

All over Yahoo. You went viral!

In response, she called Applebee’s to complain about that her receipt had been made public, and this was made worse as it included her easy-to-read signature.

A mother of three, Bell heads the 15-member storefront church, She said she has a separate full-time job – which she declined to describe  – and tithes 10 percent of her earnings to the church.

In addition to her fledgling ministry, Bell has authored three slim books – covering topics like fasting, prayer, and religious teaching – that are available for purchase through an online vanity press. One 28-page volume examines spiritual nourishment, complete with references to candy and junk food. The $10 paperback is titled Watch the Hand that Feeds You.

According to her biography, Bell:

Gave her life to Christ in 1997 while she was pregnant and homeless with her youngest son.

Living at the time in a Catholic homeless shelter, Bell recalled that she was laying in her bed one afternoon when:

The Lord touched her heart and she invited him in.

Hat tip: FarStars & Pete H

17 responses to “St Louis waitress sacked for exposing a penny-pinching pastor”

  1. Buffy says:

    “I give God 10% why do you get 18”
    Maybe because the waitress actually exists, works for her money, and has bills to pay. Gah! I’m sick to death of sanctimonious twats using their religion as an excuse to screw others over.

    “A mother of three, Bell heads the 15-member storefront church,”

    If I call myself a pastor and get together with a handful of friends once a week can I get a tax-free clubhouse and write my house off as a parsonage?

  2. DCBrighton says:

    But, as the pastor, surely she receives the 10% from her congregation. She doesn’t give a dime, a cent, or a penny to god!

  3. Sally says:

    DC Brighton, did you read the story? She also has another job, and gives 10% from that job back to HER own church, which must make for an interesting tax return.
    Anyway, I’m trying to figure out why Applebee’s took an 18% tip for a $34 bill anyway. And if the ‘pastor’ really was with six other people, how could the bill only be $34. Lots of questions here. I waitressed right out of college, and usually it’s the men who are cheap. I always tip at least 20% when I go out for lunch, and if I am in control of the bill when I’m with my husband. He thin ks 15% is fine. I’ll leave extra cash.

  4. barriejohn says:

    I’d have fired Welch over her actions as well!

  5. Barry Duke says:

    As I understand it Sally, the bill was split between the diners. The $34 was her share of the total.

  6. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    I don’t condone this ladies actions but this storm has raised the point that far too many establishments in the US underpay their staff (even to the extent that they don’t receive the minimum wage) and expect them to make up the shortfall in tips.

    Any tip should be voluntary and should not be forced onto the client. It is supposed to be for good service, if it is mandatory then what incentive is there for good service and how is the client meant to show that they appreciate the service that was given?

  7. AgentCormac says:

    If Bell was too tight fisted to leave a tip, fine. That’s her prerogative. But to annotate the bill the way she did seems to me as mean spirited as it was, well… plain mean. Not to mention conceited.

  8. JohnMWhite says:

    @Graham Martin-Royle: Agreed. I hate to be stingy, and those waiting tables really are getting a rough deal so it’s pretty rare I’d not want to throw in something extra, but it should not be mandatory and the only reason it is essentially necessary is that these poor people might be making 3-4 bucks an hour. That they are exempt from minimum wage laws in the US is criminal, and every single business that takes advantage of their workers this way should be considered a criminal enterprise.

    No surprises that a pastor would not only find an excuse to not leave a tip, but feel it necessary to write a smarmy reason for doing so, just to make a bad day that much worse for somebody struggling. This is really where religion seems to shine – making things crappier than necessary.

    Though Bell has a small point: why 18%? When I was growing up it was always 10, and I’m not particularly old. When did everybody hold a meeting to decide to bump up gratuities so much higher? I don’t begrudge wait staff a penny of it, they clearly need it, but it does seem quite a hefty lump to add to the bill. This is partly why I rarely eat out – since when is it my job to cover for crooks who won’t pay their workers a fair wage? It’s not like I’m getting a fair wage either.

  9. jay says:

    There was a case a few months back where a group refused to pay the mandatory ‘tip’ and the staff actually locked them in the restaurant. Police were called who eventually determined that the diners could not be forced to pay a tip.

    I oppose these automatic tips (why is a table of 6 any different from 6 other customers). I’m not sure I oppose the tip system however, as it is one of the areas where a less skilled but hardworking person could actually make a decent takehome. If the restaurants payed the whole salary, it would probably be not much above minimum wage.

  10. Pete H says:

    This brings to mind Mr Pink from Reservoir Dogs, and his thoughts on tipping.

  11. Marky Mark says:

    (Living at the time in a Catholic homeless shelter)
    …Don’t think for a minute that our religious politicians don’t consider this with their budget cuts…any help besides begging the church for food and shelter is out of the question.
    “Want some food to live and survive? …join our cult!”

    (and usually it’s the men who are cheap)
    …That is a generalization as I’m male and ALWAYS leave a good tip.

    (since when is it my job to cover for crooks who won’t pay their workers a fair wage?)
    …exactly! These multimillion-dollar restaurant chains lobby our congress to keep wages extremely low for their workers, as the CEO’s make millions

  12. Angela_K says:

    “The Lord touched her heart and she invited him in”. Puke!
    Putting a copy of the receipt on the Internet: not a good idea. Crossing out the 18% and adding Pastor: arrogant and conceited – and letting everyone know you are a religious nutter.

  13. Matt Westwood says:

    There are so many things wrong in this story it is necessary to invent a whole new word to define the wrongness category in which it lives. The fact that the entire bonelessly trivial incident has been blown up into a global scandal is probably the biggest puddle of puke in the whole porridge-bowl.

  14. Trevor Blake says:

    God loves tips!

    “At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.” – Joshua 5:2-3

  15. John A says:

    As they say: Life isn’t like a bowl of cherries or peaches, it’s more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your arse tomorrow.

  16. democommie says:

    Unless the policies been changed, I think much of europe has “mandatory tipping” only it’s called a service charge–and rightly so, you’re being served.

    If restaurant employees were paid a living wage that $10 Applebee’s entree would probably be at least $15. Nothing’s free, ever.