The comments section of the TikTok video was divided with many arguing that servers depended on tips to survive.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 23, 2021, and has since been updated. The original article mentioned that the server had posted the image but we have now verified that it was the customer who posted the image. The error is regretted.
A customer at an Applebee's restaurant posted an image of the bill explaining why they were giving a low tip, sparking a fierce debate. The holidays are a tough time for workers who are often overwhelmed by the rush and a majority of them are paid starvation wages. On the back of the financial crisis on account of the pandemic, everyone's having a tough time and one customer said they could only afford a smaller tip as the holidays had been rough. The customer posted the image of the bill containing a scrawled note reading: "You [were] great. Holidays are just rough right now," reported Comicsands.
Apple-Metro CEO and chairman Zane Tankel also backed the employee. “It’s a joke that they’re playing on — not us at Applebee’s — but this poor girl Dana who’s been with us for some period of time,” said Tankel. “She’s not a kid. She has two children. She’s a mother — a hard-working mother — and she remembers the guest well. She did not take umbrage or offense at that comment on the check.”
The video was shared by @kingj023241 on TikTok where it was viewed more than 700k times. The receipt in question was from an Applebee's in Staten Island, New York, totaling $73.45. The customer left a $6.33 tip, which is below the accepted 10% minimum and less than double for a standard 18% gratuity, which would have been $13. The customer said they were having a rough holiday season. The server in question, Dana G., a middle-aged, working mother of two, confirmed that she did not post the image of the bill, and added that she didn't give the bill or the scribbled note a second thought. She added that she was being unfairly targeted as a result. “I’m scared to go to work. I turned the check in at the end of the night and went home. Two days later I went food shopping with my children and my manager called and said, ‘You know anything about a receipt? It’s on TikTok and it has a lot of views and people are thinking it’s you.’” she recalled, reported Silive.
The comments section was sharply divided with many arguing that customers who couldn't afford tips should also be able to eat outside without being shamed for it. "Maybe it was someone in the family's birthday dinner.. and instead of gifts, they go out for dinner. we don't know others' stories to judge," wrote one user. "They still tipped! A lot of people wouldn't have even done that. They were very obviously sorry they didn't have more to give," wrote another. Another section of users argued workers needed the tips to compensate for the poor wages paid by employers to make ends meet. "If money is tight, don't eat out. The server needs the tip money to support her family most likely too," one person wrote.
This comes at a time when workers are quitting their jobs en masse due to poor pay and working conditions. Businesses' refusal to pay a decent living wage has resulted in a worker shortage across industries. Service industry workers are forced to rely on tips to survive in America. The tipping culture prevalent in America shifts the burden of compensating workers with a decent wage to customers. Not to mention that many minimum wage workers across different industries are forced to rely on food stamps, apart from their wages.
Some users argued that tipping should be in addition to their wages and not as a means to make ends meet. It sparked a discussion on the tipping culture in America as well. "If restaurants paid a decent wage it wouldn't be the responsibility of the customer to solely compensate with tips. Once again corporate America wins," wrote one person. This was highlighted earlier this year when a restaurant basically admitted they weren't paying a proper wage and put the onus on the customers to foot the bill of the workers. As we reported earlier, a restaurant in Florida pasted a poster trying to guilt customers into tipping more to compensate for the poor wages on offer. "Please remember to tip your server. Servers make state minimum wage, which is only $5.65/hr, most of which is taken away in taxes! They rely on your tips to make a living! When you don't leave a tip, they would have served you for the duration of your meal for nothing," read the poster.