Throwing stones at a glass house: The case of Applebee's

The restaurant chain Applebee's, mainly present in the United States, had to realise that hypocrisy is easily detected on the Internet and that desperate, over-night rescue attempts can cause more harm than good.

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  1. After waiting a large party, hosted by pastor Alois Bell, a waitress at Applebee's received a receipt with a snarky comment in regard to the tip, which was crossed out. Her co-worker, Chelsea Welch, took a photo of it and posted it on Reddit's atheist thread, because she thought "other users would find it entertaining."  She also described what measures she took to protect the identity of the guest and that she was sure she did not violate any company guidelines.
  2. Did she violate the guidelines? A good explanation of the different points of views can be found here:
  3. The problem in this case is that we find it more offensive when someone uses religion as that rationale. It triggers within us an avalanche of other negative feelings resulting from popularized examples of similar abuses of religious influence -- examples far more reprehensible and disturbing. How many times has this waitress been stiffed by customers? Probably more times than she can remember -- and for considerably larger tabs. Those customers will never feel the backlash of public rage like Pastor Bell is feeling. In fact they probably read this article and laughed at the idea of how easily people can be cajoled into focusing so much resentment toward someone who at least had the courtesy of leaving her contact information on the receipt.
  4. The Reddit thread gained a lot of interest and publicity on the Internet. Eventually, Alois Bell was informed by friends about the issue and contacted the franchise, demanding that everybody from the staff who was working that evening should be fired. 
  5. Some time on Wednesday, Chelsea says the customer who had left the receipt contacted her Applebee’s location, demanding that everyone be fired, from the servers involved to the managers.
  6. The next day, Applebee's franchise decided to fire Chelsea Welch, under the pretext of having violated the company's privacy policy. Internet users found out that just two weeks ago, the Facebook team of the franchise who had fired Chelsea had posted a photo that contained personal information of a customer, but with positive feedback. After this was pointed out, Applebee's deleted the photo in question. 
    From then on, the social media crisis really started. Although this incident only happenend in a franchise, it impacted on the reputation of the whole company, mainly because of what happened on the official Facebook page. 
  7. 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. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.
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  9. 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.” Smith said the company’s four-member social media team gives a personal response to more than 90 percent of the posts. But until this incident, most of the posts dealt with questions about menu items or store locations, nothing like the venom being expressed in these comments.
  10. Applebee's (franchise) post, which displayed the full name of a guest online. 
  11. Twitter
    Several Twitter users were calling for a boycott of the company. Combination of the name of the company (either as a @ addressation or a # mention) and the hashtag #boycott. Very unfavourable.
  12. Applebee's used copy & paste for answers, both for general complaints and very aggressive messages (so, regardless of the original message). 
  13. Check. What were the reactions? Probably complaints?
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