Idiots Hate Applebee’s (and They’ll Hate You Too)

I was super busy all week with two productions and just got to this.

Now that the dust has settled and the real facts are available, I wanted to quickly weigh in on the giant “Applebees Unjustly Fires Poor Waitress” fiasco.

I’d like to get your thoughts on it too.

Here are the facts before I get started:


1) An Applebee’s waitress received this stupid note from Pastor Alois Bell on the signed credit card receipt.

It says “I Give God 10% Why do you Get 18”

2) Chelsea Welch, a different waitress (not the one who served the customer), took a picture of that credit card signature receipt with her phone and posted it on along with the caption:

My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.

3) Customer found out about it and complained

4) Chelsea admitted to doing it and Applebee’s fired her

5) Hell broke loose on the internet.

The media ran to the server’s rescue.  Competitor’s ears perked up, fan pages popped up, and 20,000+ fans commented on Applebee’s first Facebook post about the situation:

“We wish this situation hadn’t happened. Our Guests’ personal information—including their meal check—is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy.”

6) Applebee’s social media team tried to engage upset people.

People called them names and accused Applebee’s of hypocrisy for breaching their own privacy policy by sharing a customer’s “receipt”  earlier in the year.

(looks like an informal positive comment card to me)

6) Applebee’s posts a larger update and temporarily hides the old post.

Enraged Facebook fans claim that Applebee’s deleted their comments.

7) Applebee’s unhides the original post and denies manually deleting any negative posts.

8) 20,000+ more comments go onto their Facebook page.

Thousands of people now “hate” Applebee’s


You know what this is?


We’re witnessing an old-fashioned online lynching.

What we’ve got here is a company protecting their customer’s privacy (I don’t want my signature online) and being dragged through the mud by idiots looking to lynch Applebee’s.

The idiotic pastor’s note was truly stupid.  Great servers deserve great tips.

However, it would take another true idiot to think it’s okay to post a customer’s signature (customer is the key word) online while mocking them, even if what they were mocking was indeed stupid.

No, I don’t think Applebee’s had the perfect response on Facebook.
No, I don’t think there is such a thing.
Yes, I’m calling a lot of names here.

Here’s why:

  • It’s not okay to hurt a business because you don’t understand how to run one.
  • It’s wrong to post nasty stuff about companies or people when you don’t have the facts.
  • It’s easy to play armchair quarterback when it’s not your business.
  • The local owners, people that work at Applebee’s, and their family members are real people who get affected by idiotic boycotts, 40,000+ nasty comments, and all the distractions this has caused.

But this isn’t just about Applebee’s.  It’s about you and me.

I had something like this happen on our Attention Era Media Facebook page last year when we posted this video and asked if people liked their idea:

A large feminist group began saying we supported misogyny and tying women up for commercial purposes.  It wasted a ton of time and hurt our new brand.

For what?

For entertainment.

People like to hear themselves talk on social media, especially if there’s an ignorant mob that agrees with them.

I know people that work for Applebee’s.  This is not amusing.

This is not entertainment.  Don’t kid yourself. Idiots hate Applebee’s and they’ll hate you too.

That’s why we need to stick together.

Have a great night,

Aaron @Biebert

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Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

51 comments on “Idiots Hate Applebee’s (and They’ll Hate You Too)”

    1. For real, Dino. I’ve actually been in a similar situation when I used to work at UPS. Bottom line is, big corps don’t like when you say anything but rainbows and butterflies about them on the internet.

      The UPS thing did get pretty cluster-fuckish…I posted a youtube video (this was about 4 years ago) of a crushing amount of packages that I just couldn’t sort through (I’m talking about a football field’s worth)…and corporate flew in because I had apparently breached “proprietary information. As if FedEx didn’t know we shipped in rectangular boxes too.

      In the end, I couldn’t get fired because I was in the union. They asked me to take a “leave” and I had all of december and january off…and when I came back they had to pay me for that time…

      because of the union.


  1. What a shame. Some really good marketing opportunities were missed with this one- turning some mistakes (the Pastor’s and the waitress’) around with some humor. Gotta redirest the anger and te haters.
    But what do I know? LOL!

    1. I think some redirection would have been good.
      I would have considered making a personal video asking for feedback and encouraging comments.  I would then follow it up with a series about how important it is that people tip their hard working waitstaff.However, it’s very easy to sit back and analyze in hind sight.

      Regardless, hating a brand because of stuff like this is odd.  I don’t think firing a worker for harassing customers is wrong.

      1. “Harassing” is a bit exaggerated.  In what way was the so called pastor harassed by the waitress?

        This is little more than a situation of inconsistent management and outdated policies.  Termination was far too harsh a penalty considering the company has posted customers’ signatures on social media in the past.  You can’t have one set of rules for when the message is positive and one set of rules when the message is negative — can’t have your cake and eat it too.

        It’s not that big of a deal at the end of the day, though.  People enjoy being outraged about stuff…it takes attention away from their own problems.  The majority will forget in a couple months and those who don’t probably wouldn’t have been eating at Applebee’s to begin with.

        1. Jonathan, I’m pretty sure if I posted that about you on Reddit, you’d feel harassed.

          Regardless, the situation has been blown out of proportion.  Applebees should be able to fire/hire whoever they want and people should be able to eat wherever they want.

          No malice needed.

          1. No, I genuinely believe harassment doesn’t describe the actions of the waitress in the least.  Certainly not in a legal sense.  She made no contact with the pastor and she made what seems to be ample efforts to communicate with Reddit admins to have personal information posted by other Reddit users removed from the thread.

            Applebee’s can hire/fire whoever they like, and they can also deal with the fallout when they make a decision consumers believe is wrong.  Such is the nature of PR and marketing — nothing about this scenario is new, except that it’s happening through a fairly new medium compared to past similar situations.

            At the end of the day, all of this could have been prevented with consistent management and clear policies.  That’s on Applebee’s for failing to adapt to the reality of the world businesses now operate in.  Unfortunately, they’re learning the hard way…

            While I sympathize with their social media team, Applebee’s did a whole lot of nothing right throughout this whole disaster.

          2. I suppose in a legal definition  you’re correct.  However, I’m not a lawyer or judge, so you’ll have to excuse me.

            Besides definitions, I don’t have much of a difference of opinion from yours.  I just think people need to stop rubber-necking and get on with their business.

            No need for hate.  No need for armchair quarterbacking of Applebee’s.  

            It’s not their problem.

          3. I respect your opinion, though I don’t agree with it on all points.  I agree a lot of people grabbed their pitchforks without checking the facts, and those people might rightfully be called idiots.  I think they were a minority though from what I observed on the Facebook page.

            Where I disagree is on the point that this isn’t “their” (other consumers) problem.  I think it is to some extent.  There is a bigger picture involved, a consideration of basic human dignity that some may perceive was threatened when Applebee’s sided with a customer over an employee.

            What we have is a selfish, rude person who rightfully got called out by society, then called the establishment demanding heads roll because she was embarrassed for being exposed as an asshole.  It’s just completely backwards, to be honest, to say the waitress was on the bad end of the ethical spectrum here (I know you’re not saying that, but a lot of people have been).

            It would be nice to be able to play hypothetical scenarios out.  It’s something I’ve been pondering on and off since the incident.  What would have really happened if Applebee’s backed their employee and told an obviously crap customer to hit the road?  I think the entire situation could have been reasonably avoided.  I don’t think employees would have suddenly started neglecting all policies and rules either.  Actually, I think it would boost the staff’s morale and loyalty to know their employer actually cares about them as more than servers who can be tossed to the curb on a whim.

            Over the long run, I think it would have been a better business (and ethical) decision to “fire” the customer and back the employee.  Perhaps a small bit of disciplinary action would have been in order and definitely a look at the policies/management decisions would/still is needed.

            But…hypothetical scenario :P  Doesn’t hold much weight in reality.

          4. You clearly don’t understand this. You keep trying to apply logic to the situation. The story makes people rage.  That’s all there is to it.     Ever see “Pretty Woman”, or any other movie at all?  You know, when the saleswoman treats  Julia Roberts like a jerk, it’s not the audience’s problem.  There’s no logical reason to care. but they still love to see Julia Roberts put the horrible woman in her place. 

            Some people are going too far, and you’re  right to point that out, but you dismiss this kind of universal emotional response at your peril. 

  2. Democracy and free markets aren’t always pretty. Actually, they can be quite messy and polemic. Social media has done much to bring democracy and market forces to bear upon business, culture and beyond. If you’ve seen the movie, Idiocracy, that dystopia is not a far-fetched or unlikely consequence of empowering public opinion as the internets [sic] is doing.

    Most of the time, I want to ignore those unhappy potentials and focus on the positive – the ones that unite us in a common good and our highest hopes. Maybe, you too.

    Companies need to be smarter. Faster. Reputations will rise and fall on a dime at the speed of online conversations and opinion. The larger your company, the more urgent reputation management is needed. 

    This is an important subject. Thanks for starting this conversation, Aaron.

    1. Hey Stan!  Thanks for the great thoughts.  This is not pretty for sure.

      Normally, I don’t mind some messiness.  However, reading through some of their comments it struck me by how blind and how stupid the movement was.  People didn’t care at all about facts.

      I agree that companies need to get better.  Hopefully this is a reminder for all of us.

      Thanks so much for adding the great thoughts!

      1. applebees customers would come to their defense if they were good.  a lot of christians rushed to chick-fil-a’s defense.  applebees is a prime example of a poor company screwing up and paying the price in a capitalist environment.   

  3. It’s a mess full of self-rightous people running their businesses from their armchairs…  BUT I don’t think it’s the same as what you experienced with your video.

  4. I agree that the customers signature should not have been posted on Social Media and that people should not hate Applebees for this, though as one commenter said they could have turned it around with a little more thought. I do not agree with your comment “These are the same sort of idiots that Occupy Wall Street instead of looking for a job, training for a job, or creating a job.”, however. I just don’t see the need for that judgement in the context of this post.

  5. As always Aaron you have provided an intellectual inset into a much larger issue than what you have discussed. Proof being that we expect the largest corporations to understand and provide peer examples of how to use ALL top marketing mediums to their fullest extent. What I am seething about is the fact that Applebee’s does not have a professional with common sense handling their brand image.

    Social PR is critical to every brand, professional and basic end user. By allowing the focus to be on an enraged employees action they themselves have opened up an individual to identity theft by allowing for the signature to be shown. He’ll ANYONE blur a portion of an image with the most basic image editing app or program.

    Think people of what your actions are actually doing from the second the enter / submit / post button is hit.

    I for one am so appalled from a professional stand point that I am going to escalate this into an entire post (with linkage ) and urge consumers to boycott companies that act so poorly in regards to the safety of their customers, employes etc identity.

    1. Actually, I know the guys they have running the stuff and they are brilliant people.  A warning to us all that nobody is perfect.

      I don’t believe Applebees had the option of blurring out their server’s photo before she posted it, so I don’t feel that they should be held responsible.  Only if they didn’t fire her.

      Make sure to read through the facts again before posting.  

      Thanks for the thoughts, as always.

  6. I think hating a company for handling a PR issue badly is perfectly justifiable; but no, you can’t really fault them for firing someone who acted against employee policy. I wish nothing but the worst for Pastor Bell though… not much difference between a trolling comment and a trolling note left on a bill. Neither deserve any protection from public disgrace, if you ask me.

  7. Aaron,

    I found a link to this from “picking apples” on facebook and thought it appropriate to offer my opinion here since you asked.  I’m not certain if you and your blog have an affiliation with Applebee’s or not?  I am assuming they deem you credible by your use of the registered trademark at the top of your page.

    Do two wrongs make a right Aaron?  In your quote

    “However, it would take another true idiot to think it’s okay to post a customer’s signature (customer is the key word) online while mocking them, even if what they were mocking was indeed stupid.”

    Are you the “other”?  Come on, really now. Why would you post the very same photo of the signature and receipt?  Has that helped your argument any less or more?  Please explain.

    This is not entertainment.  Don’t kid yourself. Idiots hate Applebee’s and they’ll hate you too.

    Are you correct sir.  This is not entertainment, actually a lot of work going into assembling this physical protest to voice our opinions in a forum where they can not be taken away or silenced.  “Picketing” is an american right.  So, that is what we are doing. My opinion again is there is valid reasons to do so outside of our “armchairs”.  

    I may or may not be an “Idiot” but will assure you one thing.  I do not “Hate” Applebee’s, I “Hate” what they are doing.

    Peaceful in protest.


    1. Hi Mago, you are definitely welcome to comment.  I enjoy and encourage diverse opinions.  I appreciate your comment.

      A couple responses:
      1) No affiliation to Applebees.  They are not a client of my video production firm either.  I took the logo off Google and am using under the Fair Use Copyright laws in the United States since we’re discussing them.  If they ask me to remove it, I probably will.

      2) I am definitely an idiot.  Just ask my kids.  :-)

      All one has to do in order to see that signature is to Google it. I am saving my subscribers time by adding it as a visual piece to the blog post.  I doubt it’s doing any damage at this point.

      3) I realize that there is a lot of hard work going into these protests.  My big question is why?  Why do you care so much about this?  Is it because you hate the pastor?  Is it because your server at Applebee’s was rude one time?  Cold food?

      Why is there so much anger?  She deserved to be fired.  I would have fired her myself.  She was making fun of a customer, albeit a stupid one.

      Companies can’t do business, create jobs, pay dividends to 401k’s if their employees drive off all the customers.  

      It’s good business. Why all the hate?  Please respond if you have time.  I appreciate it.

      (I only edited the formatting of this comment because I can’t stand blocks of text and it wasn’t registering my paragraphs)

      1. Thank you Aaron for your appropriate reply. I wish to be clear and state that my mother taught me not to “hate” … it is a very strong word, and one I feel does not need to be part of this conversation at all.Applebee’s says its social media policy is simple: to be as open and accessible as possible.“Transparency matters to us,” said spokesman Smith. “We want to hear from our guests regardless of the subject matter.”I am part of the boycott and became very vocal about it when Applebee’s blocked and removed my comments along with 100,000’s of others.  After that statement was made.   Most of comments were fair, and mine came along with some pointed questions that I am still waiting for answers on? What amazes me most throughout this Aaron, is how people respond to this “Boycott Applebee’s” discussion. Especially when I am speaking face to face with good friends or family. In personal conversations most reply with “didn’t hear anything about it” that is understandable and so the education can begin. But it is bothersome to me when someone caught a short blurb about it and responds with “you mean crapplebee’s…oh well they suck anyways” or worse “ohhh…Applebee’s shmaplebees …what do you care anyway?”  truth is I do care.  Actually I care a lot.I have heard the name crapplebee’s used several times starting years ago, but I still gave them my money anyways.  And most likely used the parody name to someone after I had just finished eating there. Never, ever again though.  They sincerely lost me and in such a way that it has me passionate about making sure they lose others until real change comes.On a positive note, good things usually come from boycotts.  Real changes get made. Steve Marmel, the producer and creator of “Family Guy” is a friend, he supports “Picking Apples” too. He has contacted Chelsea and with her permission has published her resume for people to offer her a job!  Who knows what she may go on to do, or be.So what else can happen? Better quality assurance of food. Food service wage increases. Increase in family dinners in homes nationwide,  Better corporate to consumer relations, as well as freedoms to speak in any american forum protected!I am okay to agree to disagree with you. I am even okay with your belief that I may be an idiot…My kids think so too ;)Peaceful in protest.MG

        1. I hate to say it, but I think you’re wrong about deleting 100,000 comments.

          1) Applebee’s has left 40,000+ negative comments on their Facebook post.  

          2) That would take a lot of time.  That would take about 140 hours to delete all those at one every 5 seconds.

          3) Facebook hides (not deletes) comments automatically if they contain vularity, ALL CAPS, or are flagged by others.

          That’s probably what happened.

          As for protesting bigger social issues, you have my support.  People need to eat at home more for their health.  

          Wages are set by supply and demand, so have fun with that.  :-)

          Thanks for stopping by.  Doesn’t sound like you’re an idiot.  

          1. When they blocked a person, they in essence deleted all the posts that person had made.  The math adds up, and so do the screen shots.

          2. It is true, not only did they delete all of the comments, but blocked more then 100,000 users.

    2. I see that your comment changed as I was typing mine.  Let me add a couple thoughts about picketing.

      I love a good picket.  It’s fun to be in a group of like-minded people rallying for change.

      But picketing Applebee’s?  Seriously?

      Are you protesting that they fired an employee?  What’s the goal?

      Why not protest something really bad like Monsanto or our poorly operating political system in the US?

  8. This is probably the most rationale post I have read on this whole issue. Thank you for posting what should be common sense. Sadly you will received negative comments. 

      1. Their customers are speaking, they’re not listening. You should look at the big picture and realize that social media has leveled the playing ground for Davids and Goliaths. This is how the world works now. Adapt or get trampled.

  9. It always amazes me that people can over react to something like this and read a blurb and “demand” something or feel entitled because of it and true people in need are ignored. I have been following and supporting Sgt. Terry Achane who had to fight for 2 years to get his daughter back because his then wife (now ex) gave the child up for adoption without his consent and the family that wanted to adopt her fought him for 2 years in court even though the courts said “they were married so he is the Dad”.  This American Hero has over 25k in debt because of this battle. Let’s get fired up over that and work to change the adoption rules.  If everyone one of the 20k comments donated a dollar his fees would be paid. People should get fired up over something that matters.  

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head.  My passion for this post is derived from my lack of understanding how people could care so much about something so stupid.

      Why not put that energy into something that matters?

  10. As someone that owns their own business, I understand how hurtful this is to the Applebee’s brand.

    I still don’t sympathize with them. I sympathize with the “little people” that this hurts, and I hope that they can all find new jobs if need be. However, I stopped eating there long before this whole scandal because I didn’t like the way Applebee’s prepares their food and I didn’t care for the way that they treat their staff.

    If that makes me an idiot, I’m fine with that. And after the way they treated me (banned me for saying exactly that on their page), a person who may one day give them money had they stopped pre-frozen “food” and treat their staff better and taking care of them, I made the decision that I’ll never return. They hurt their brand, not us.

    1. Hey Tara, not preferring to eat processed food does not make you an idiot.  Personally, I don’t either.

      I only think people are idiots if they blindly follow a mob of angry people without checking facts.

      As for being banned for saying what you said, I believe Applebee’s did that.  Facebook does that automatically if enough people flag it or ALL CAPS are used.

      They couldn’t have even done that with their apparent lack of manpower.  20,000 comments would take days.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

      I appreciate it.

  11. Applebees did it to themselves.  And….I hate to say it, but why is it okay for their PR team to post a patron’s full name, but not a server?  Are they held to a different handbook?  It wouldn’t of looked quite so bad if they hadn’t removed the photos with the patron’s full name in view right as all this was going down.  Seems like corporate just wanted a scapegoat in Chelsea, and that’s exactly what they got.

    I don’t blame people for being pissed.  The pastor wrote her comment on a receipt that she wanted to be seen by other people, it only became an issue when it went viral and people were disgusted with her action.

    I could of understood her stiffing the waitress on a huge tab, but 6 bucks and some change?  Where’s the charity in that?  

    I don’t think people are idiots for being pissed.  There’s pissed at the double standard over a person who obviously doesn’t care who she hurts in the name of religion.

  12. Applebees shouldn’t have fired the waitress. She should have been reprimanded. Applebees should have apologized to the customer publicly and noted the reprimand.
    As it happened, a large corporation screwed a low income woman for a mistake. A stupid mistake, yes, but a mistake. They screwed her on behalf of a sanctimonious, right-wing bitch.

    It don’t think Applebees should be given the full Chik-fil-A treatment but they did something that pisses people off and, in a fit of corporate self–serving arrogance deprived a young woman of her livelihood. I have no problem with them paying a price for that.

  13. No, Applebees should tread the line between defending their employees and their customers more justly. They should not be able to fire whoever they want with impunity. When they treat workers unjustly, all decent people should react.

  14. What can i say, I’m never going back to Applebee’s.  Nobody told me to do that.   I read the story and that’s it, and I do hold a grudge.  I still hate Louie Anderson for a joke he told about Rock Hudson’s funeral in 1985, and I can’t forgive Applebee’s for letting that horrible woman get her way. 

    You make a pretty good case that Applebee’s did the right thing.  So I guess I’m never going back there because they did the right thing.  Doing the right thing wasn’t easy for Rosa Parks, why should it be easy for Applebee’s?

  15. Even though I’m never going back to Applebee’s, I’d never attempt to incite others to never go back to Applebee’s.   Organized boycotts seem over the line to me.  This is a personal choice.  For reasons that are entirely my business, I now dislike their brand.

    At the end of the day, i agree with you.  They get to fire who they want, and i get to eat where I want.

  16. The Applebee’s corporation was neither tortured nor killed, you should stay away from the word lynching.

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