The Pastor No-Tipper: Why Everyday Hospitality Matters

This past week, all over the Internets has been a story on a receipt posted by an Applebees waitress that is pictured above. The diner was part of a large party and per restaurant custom the 18% gratuity (halfway between 15% for okay service and 20% for good servi) was automatically added to the party’s bill. The diner identified herself as a Pastor and wrote “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%” and didn’t leave a credit card tip at all.

A co-worker server with the waitress server posted the picture on Reddit and it took off. The server’s error was not hiding the signature, and reddit was able to identify the offending pastor. The pastor got wind of her infamous receipt, called Applebees to complain.

The server was fired.

In response to the receipt (not the firing), the pastor stated (after claiming she had to pay the 18% anyway and also left a $6 cash tip–less than the 18% required):

“My heart is really broken,” said the 37-year-old [pastor]. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry.”

No kidding.

And you know what? My church and ministry as well. We all share the same name, remember?

Process Theology has really helped me realize that every moment I have an opportunity to seek the best possibility that God is placing before me. Holding open a door for the next person, answering that phone call when I’ve already closed the office door, tipping a server, smiling at the clerk even when I’ve had a rough day, saying hi to the gas station attendant…all those are opportunities to offer the best possible moment to the person in front of me. And now that I know it, it’s ever-present in my mind.

Hospitality matters. And now, I have to share my title of Pastor not only with big-time megachurch pastors who make God look like a jerk, but also just one of many Pastors who are inhospitable to those around them.

My friend Katie Dawson suggested on Facebook that any Clergyperson reading this should give a better-than-average tip this week and sign our receipts “Rev.” or “Pastor” or something to offset the failing of one of our own here.

I hope for good things for the server and redemption for the pastor in the future. And hopefully, just hopefully, a better sense of our Christian hospitality to make God not look like a jerkface.


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  1. Brian says

    Having worked in the “Christian” retail industry for a number of years, I was initially amazed and then saddened by the constant poor behavior of some “pastors” in the retail setting. From demanding discounts on top of discounts because “I’m a minister of God and I deserve 20% discount” (actual quote) to generally treating my employees as if they weren’t worth anything, I became very jaded about the whole deal. I had to warn new employees about what to expect. They rarely believed me until they ended up in my office in tears because a “pastor” had been so verbally abusive to them on the phone that they weren’t sure they wanted to work there anymore. The problem is that those jackasses get the publicity and seem to outweight the good people. The ones who listened with care and treated employees with kindness. The ones who said “Please” and “Thank You” and “God Bless You” and actually meant it. Those were the customers who kept me going for as long as I did.

  2. Erin says

    I’ll say it again (as I did to another friend I have who posted this). When I waited tables, no one wanted to work on Sunday afternoon. “Church folk” generally tipped poorly and were extremely demanding and rude. I even had one group with a child wanting to play some game in the entry tell that child to grab a dollar from the table (a small tip for a large group) to play the game. That is just from when I waited tables.

  3. Bruce B. says

    Having gone through a divorce that involved my spouse screwing around with an active minister (while attending seminary), this doesn’t shock me in the least. In fact, I find the premise that somehow clergy are above petty human behavior to be self-delusional and aggrandizing.

    I would expect better from a librarian, curbside refuse waste manager, veterinarian, college student and newspaper copy editor … just about anyone, not just some random pastor on a large dinner date.

  4. Ruth Atterberry says

    One question to ask is which of us will feel a greater impact as a result of this tip. If David and I spend $25 on dinner, and our tip options range from $0, 3.75, 5.00, 6.25 will any if those positive amounts cost us more than it would likely benefit our server? Likely, not. And from time to time would a truly generous tip ($10 or more in this case) lift a server’s spirits? Likely, yes.

  5. Mark says

    As an ordained clergyperson, I believe clergy are held to give greater witness to the lovingkindness and hospitality modeled by Jesus Christ. I also find process theology as the best capture of the meaning of each moment’s opportunity to choose grace and righteousness and mercy and justice, or to turn away. Each moment/choice also creates a ripple going forward, a ripple of grace or a ripple of ungrace. Each has its own consequences.

    If there really is a judgment day, then I would rather have to explain my overextensions of grace (if such a thing is possible), than to defend all the times I withheld grace.

    And to Brian above. I wish you had worked at one of our denomination’s bookstores. Folks like me would have enjoyed working with folks like you. May Christ keep you in his healing grip of grace!

    • Rev. John Baldwin says

      Well said. As United Methodist clergy persons we recognize that the Connexion is not just about appointments and apportionments, but about how we treat others. I believe every action, every word has an effect on the other. Grace builds on grace. Every action, every word builds or tears down the kingdom.

  6. Darcyjo says

    She got the waitress fired. I’m still steaming over this!
    Just another person who makes Christians in general (and women in ministry in particular) look like fools.

  7. Tim says

    I’m going to do my best to not be judgmental in the words that follow. There are several things going on here at the same time. 1) The cultural custom of tipping servers, 2) Whether or not clergy should be held to a higher standard, and 3) How actions done in the name of the Christian God reflect upon all Christians.

    1) The custom of tipping is the least of these problems. I’m of the opinion that a tip (gratuity) is a way of saying thank you for something. No one should ever be under an obligation to say thank you with cash – regardless of the level of service. I’m not saying that you should all stop tipping your servers, I’m merely saying that it’s a choice. In this particular case this group was charged a service charge (gratuity – it’s semantics) as per a policy that I’m certain is in writing on the menu – not to mention that this group frequents this establishment regularly and is aware of this, for all intents and purposes, contract. Since this is the least of these, I’ll stop.
    2) Generally speaking, society holds members of the clergy to a higher standard. To an extent, I think that is fair, in the same way that we hold police officers and elected officials to a higher standard – “you should know better”. That doesn’t however make any of these people less human, and susceptible to temptation. In a world where the word “clergy” is more diluted due to the lower standards some denominations place on what it takes to become clergy, grouping all clergy into the same bucket is unfair. It’s like talking about police officers and including mall security in the same category.
    3) The biggest problem I see in this event is the poor light this shines on all Christians. I certainly caught the irony that this was posted on an atheist board on the reddit site. There are so many people who are on the fence one way or another when it comes to Christianity (or religion period) and I can’t fathom why anyone, let alone a pastor (this is the higher standard thing), would want to give the “other side” any more reason to denounce the faith. This incident certainly isn’t the only one, but more of a symptom of a larger problem within the church. I’m all for free speech, religion, expression – I don’t judge my atheist neighbors’ choices and I would denounce anyone/thing that would attempt to take their rights away. But as a member of a larger community of faith, we have an obligation to model the life that Jesus has asked us to lead. One that is rich in grace, mercy, and above all love.

    • Rose says

      BTW, the service industry makes a very small wage (2.13/hr, some states pay a little more) and are expected to supplement their ‘wage’ with tips, which they are also taxed on. How do you feel knowing that the establishment expects YOU to pay the wage of their servers, whether or not they give good service?

  8. Carolyn Talmadge says

    I’m also an Elder in the UMC and just a few things come up for me in this story. First, no matter the tip a waitperson receives, they are taxed on the income as if they received a tip. Tipping is expected in our society. Even if the non-tipper didn’t like the idea of tipping, that wait staff will have to pay taxes on the money they did not leave. Second, the wait staff from this story is now presumably unemployed. Will she or he be able to pay her/his rent, feed family, pay for heat, etc. In this economy getting someone fired can have truly dire effects… Perhaps rather than being good tippers (which I hope we always are) we could see about the well being of the fired waitperson…

  9. says

    If you’re a Christian, Sunday lunch is the most important meal of the week if you eat out, because everybody knows where you came to their restaraunt from. I try to tell my congregation that every few months or so, and I try to go along the 20% rule when I can (unless the service has been unsatisfactory AND the waitperson’s fault — no reductions because the kitchen screwed up). I agree with the views of the pastor as being in the wrong here as regards the tip and her comment written on the tab.

    But I’m afraid if I ran a restaurant, I’d still have fired the waitress. When her childish act exposed my customer — however welcome or unwelcome — to identity theft and my restaurant to liability in the matter, she charted her own course.

  10. Carl Chamberlain says

    All pastors are ‘painted with the same brush’ when something like this happens. When a person enters ministry, they are NEVER not ‘the pastor’… and their comments and behaviors (good and poor) are going to be watched and rememberd as representative of all clergy.

    I watched the reports knowing this ‘pastor’ would eventualy be identified. Her defensive and unapologetic response to her behavor and note did nothing to address shat she had written earlier. Some comments from the general public have predictably included disparaging remarks about all pastors, all Christians and even God.

    It is up to the rest of those who call themselves Christian to quietly continue doing good works and practicing agape toward others (including adequate or even generous tips). It is only through the regular pratice of our faith that this sort of action and comment might be seen as rare and uncharacteristic experiences.

  11. says

    1. As far as I know, minimum wage for servers is still a lower wage than the regular minimum wage, because they get – should get – tips.
    2. However, those tips are usually shared. It’s the server who tips the busboy, and, in a higher-end restaurant, also gives a cut to the host/maitre-d, and sometimes to the chef.
    3. Restaurants set a tip scale for large parties because in large parties people often assume that someone else is leaving the tip.
    4. People who have never had to work for tips often tip very badly, if at all.
    5. Finally, before words utterly fail me, if one think one’s tithe grants license to be rude, and to hold a sense of superiority and entitlement, it’s down to the foot of the table one must go, to be reacquainted with what Jesus actually said and did. Heaven knows we all need refreshers from time to time.

  12. Patrick says

    Quick fact check: the waitress who **posted** the receipt was fired.

    As far as we know, the waitress who **received** the receipt was not. It’s perfectly appropriate to fire the poster, since it was a violation of customer privacy, and it didn’t have anything to do with the inappropriate comment left by the pastor.

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