Food-Truck Worker Fired After Tip-Shaming Customers on Twitter


Waitstaff publicly complaining about tips, a trend called tip-shaming, has become popular with the advent of social media. Restaurant servers have been fired for tweet-shaming, though.

Now you can add former food-truck worker Brendan O'Connor to the list. According to a post he wrote for the blog The Awl, where he is an intern, O'Connor was fired for tip-shaming Glass Lewis, a so-called proxy advisory service that advises large institutional investors on "good governance" issues with the companies they invest in, including whether executives are overpaid.

In his blog post, O'Connor describes how a dozen Glass Lewis employees raced up to the Milk Truck Grilled Cheese food truck in Manhattan and placed a large order of sandwiches and milk shakes for a total of "just under $170." (According to the Milk Truck menu, sandwiches run about $5.75 to $8.50 and milk shakes are $5.50.) The customers paid with a credit card but left no tip.

I asked some of the group as they were picking up their orders if they had intended to not tip. They hemmed and hawed and walked away.

So, he tweeted out his frustration, directing it to the corporate Twitter account of Glass Lewis.

O'Connor alleged that Glass Lewis -- which manages the pensions for 303,000 working and retired teachers -- did not appreciate being publicly tagged for something that a number of its employees did and called the owner of the Milk Truck. Two days later, O'Connor says that he received a text from the food truck's owner, who asked to speak to him on the phone.

He told me that he'd gotten a call from the company, Glass, Lewis & Co. The company provides shareholder advisory services. Apparently, those employees were mortified that their lunch truck had tip-shamed them -- the home office in San Francisco even got involved.

And it was unfortunate but he was going to have to let me go. The company has a way of doing things and he thought I'd understood that. I had embarrassed him and the company and that was that.

Then the Milk Truck owner went onto Twitter to publicly apologize to Glass Lewis, which replied, "We appreciate it, and look forward to doing business with you again!"

The exchange proceeded to receive a spate of tweeted responses, most of which condemned the actions of both Glass Lewis and Milk Truck in often raw language, although one person did opine that O'Connor deserved to be fired because "[i]n this economy restaurants should be happy to have the business!"

O'Connor, who declined to comment to AOL Jobs, admitted in his blog post for Awl that he could have complained without mentioning the firm. But he says that he named them "because of some misguided notions about having 'the courage of your convictions,' or whatever." O'Connor didn't appear to regret his decision, either. He'd already been thinking of leaving the job, he explained to the site The Daily Dot, adding, "I was only able to speak/tweet my mind because my family is supporting me as I get on my feet as a writer and editor and journalist here in New York. I have a safety net that lots -- most -- people don't."

With the safe assumption that among the famous and well-heeled there are still many poor tippers, that may be the point: Most food workers don't have the option to publicly complain because they can't afford to lose their jobs.

Glass Lewis and Milk Truck didn't respond to requests for interviews. But social media wasn't kind to either company. Here's a summation by Rob Beschizza at Boing Boing:

I understand why he had to be fired, but can you imagine working at the kind of company that would publicly accept a food truck's apology? They wanted their magnanimity known, in the matter of the food truck that was so very wrong about expecting tips.

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