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That escalated quickly! Sometimes a lighthearted joke can put you in the cross-hairs of social media piranhas. Unfortunately, two years ago, a user of reddit.com who goes by gateflan (Chelsea Welch) posted a copy of another waitress’ receipt she thought was, “comically immature, humorously just silly.” The former Applebee’s waitress did not think much about posting the receipt, nor did she anticipate the ramification this would have on her and the self-proclaimed pastor, Alois Bell.
The Internet lit up when Chelsea posted the receipt, but why? What made this receipt stand out among other receipts that are posted on social media sites? Take a look at the receipt and think about what stands out:
What thoughts come to mind? Are you thinking about how the pastor played the religion card in trying to get out of a tip? Or, are you agreeing with the pastor and think automatic tips are unfair to the guest? Either side you take, this boils the water just enough to get the fish jumping out of the water. There are many comments both for and against the “tip” Pastor Bell left and I can sum up most of the arguments by saying, economy and God do not mix. Let’s take Pastor Bell’s testimony about why she did this and her motivation for writing the comment on the receipt. Fox 2 news, St. Louis, interviewed Pastor Bell and asked her what she was thinking, “Well, you know what, I really feel that I had to go through this, because I was looking on Internet and I do a lot of Internet ministry, um, a lot of our stuff is on Facebook, um, I post a lot of testimony and, um, I travel and preach and a lot of people have been healed….” (Scroll down to second video.) You get the point. She did not understand the question or was just avoiding it all together. She did get a second chance to answer the question. In this one, she said, “It was just dumb, it was dumb of me…” Well, that helped clarify things a little more and at this point, I will take it. However, she did do one thing right in this social media madness; she came forward. She decided to meet the storm head on and give her side of the story. This, I have to say, was a smart move.
What about the waitress, how did she fair from all of this social media madness? Well, let’s backup to where it all started. We know Chelsea Welch was not the actual waitress that served Pastor Bell and she only saw the receipt after another waitress (her friend) had put it away. Now we know Chelsea never even helped or knew Pastor Bell, we can start to see how this all comes into play. I bet with 100% surety Chelsea did not expect this to go viral and in an article by rawstory.com, she states, “I had no intention of starting a witch hunt or hurting anyone — I just wanted to share a picture I found interesting.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what she got when she made the post on her Reddit.com page with the title, “My mistake sir, I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.” Roughly after 30 days of posting the picture and it going viral, “….the customer who had left the receipt contacted her Applebee’s location, demanding that everyone be fired, from the servers involved to the managers.” The good news is Applebee’s did not fire everyone; the bad news is Chelsea lost her job, and to that Chelsea said, “But because this person got embarrassed that their selfishness was made public, Applebee’s has made it clear that they would rather lose a dedicated employee than lose an angry customer. That’s a policy I can’t understand.” Hurt feeling aside, Chelsea had more to rejoice about posting the picture and losing her job. It seems the social media piranhas have deep-pockets and kind hearts. Not long after losing her job, she was approached by strangers who wanted to help her out financially and they even started a petition to get her job back. One thing remains true on the Internet and that is the underdog will always prevail. That being said, Chelsea did do a few bad things in posting the picture. She could have taken a few more precautions and not have assumed the signature of the pastor was illegible. By just assuming posting a picture to the Internet will stay where it is originally posted is a virtual fallacy. If you google search, “I Give God 10% picture” there are over 100 pictures of the receipt, but try to find it on the original picture and you get this:
She did do one thing right as well. She also faced the media and gave her side of the story and helped us get a better understanding of what she was expecting out of all of this. She tried her hardest to get things cleared up after it went viral, but she learned the hard way about how the social piranhas can devour anything within seconds.
This brings me to the power social media has in revealing our personal information. Just from a signature and location, random strangers were able to locate both the pastor and Chelsea and start to message them directly. Not only is this crazy, but they also were able to locate their place of employment, worship, phone numbers, and all of their social media sites, even forcing the pastor to shut-down all of her social media. Even though we might have a macro-level of thinking about the world and we are just one of the 7.3 billion people, the Internet has brought us to a virtual world in which makes our personal life seem open and centric.