(Update: There's a happy ending--well, sort of.)
This is a story about Outback Steakhouse that prompts three questions:
- Do you tip for takeout? Before you answer, what if it's a really big order?
- If you don't tip, do you think it would be okay for the person who waited on you to post on Facebook about how cheap you are?
- And if that person did post on Facebook, and you don't or his or her employer doesn't like it, is that a fireable offense?
The whole thing starts with a volunteer from a Florida megachurch called Christ Fellowship, who went to an Outback Steakhouse to pick up a giant order: 25 steaks, 25 chickens, and 25 potato dishes.
The whole thing came to $735, without tip.
The church volunteer left it that way: without tip.
An order like that takes a long time to put together, according to Tamlynn Yoder, who was the Outback employee (now "ex-employee") who fulfilled the order and brought it out to the volunteer's car.
In fact, Voder told the Palm Beach Post that she'd spent almost her entire shift that day assembling it. That meant less time for waiting tables (her normal job), which in turn meant less money.
In fact, she says she made a total of $18 for the day, mostly from tips left by other customers.
"Tips is how we make our money," Yoder told the Post. "We still make a low wage as servers."
Frustrated and angry, Yoder posted on her personal Facebook page afterward, naming Christ Fellowship but not naming Outback. And from there, things spiraled quickly.
A friend who saw the post advised Yoder to take it down, concerned that it could come back to haunt her.
Then the friend contacted the Christ Fellowship church, and the church called Outback. (They say they wanted to correct things and leave a tip.)
There was still no tip. Instead, Outback refunded the church the entire $735 order.
And the next day, when Yoder showed up for work, they fired her.
A spokesperson for Outback told the newspaper that her company has a policy prohibiting employees from posting on social media about customers.
Which makes sense. But was it a fireable offense?
A lot of that probably turns on whether you think you're supposed to tip for takeout to begin with. It's a contentious topic, and the subject of a lot of debate.
I'm drawn for example to this 2016 analysis, where the hypothetical situation offered was--wait for it--whether you need to tip for takeout at "a large chain restaurant (like an Outback Steakhouse)."
They concluded no, you don't have to. And in this unscientific 2014 Internet poll, only 13 percent of people said they tip for takeout.
But in the wake of this Florida Outback situation, a lot of people don't seem to agree with that.
The Facebook page and Yelp listing for the Christ Fellowship church are both now filled with comments condemning the church for not giving the woman a tip--even though they claim they contacted the restaurant only to try to make things right with Yoder.
She even said the church had contacted her to say they planned "to rectify the whole thing," Yoder said.
All of which leaves a few takeaways (pun intended):
First, don't post negative things on social media about your customers. We've seen a lot of that lately; it never works out.
Next, if you own a business, pay people fairly and treat your employees with respect. I'd have to imagine that whatever Outback saved in the course of this whole fiasco has long been eclipsed by the negative press.
And finally, whether the answer is yes or no, let's try to come to a consensus on whether you should tip for takeout. It'd save a lot of awkwardness at the pickup counter.