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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Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman

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Erik Sherman has written for the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He's a regular contributor to CBS MoneyWatch and Inc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman.

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23 Comments

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Frank

How big a tip do you need for handing someone something over a counter? Let me think... oh that's right, 0%.

February 08 2014 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
closeupman

Yet, he's working now at an INTERSHIP.....a job where you do work for NO PAY!

lol...the irony!

September 16 2013 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jac52683

Dude works in a food truck. He doesn't walk around to tables serving people. I wouldn't tip him either. Be grateful for the business. Punk.

September 11 2013 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bulletinboardsn

I've worked in the hotel industry where there are many tipping jobs from valets to restaurants, and knowing what they do I always tip at least 20%. HOWEVER I do not see the point of tipping someone in a fast food joint. In the past years I see a tipping jar in nearly every place of business except retail stores and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens one day. I don't see tipping jars at McD's or Burger King, yet the local take outs all have a jar. Why do they get a tip and not the chain ones. The ones at the chains works even harder than the local ones and they get the same pay. I'm still standing in line, I have to self serve myself to things, why do certain places get it and others don't.

September 11 2013 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy

Ok i have adhd so i kinda skimmed through this what happened with the glass milk truck?

September 11 2013 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jshwalker

Good luck finding another job.

September 11 2013 at 4:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mymoneygrowsontrees

cheap creeps... nuff said

September 11 2013 at 12:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jolyjungle

Everywhere you go you see the 'tip cup'. The local bagel place has one and I do not tip a guy for giving me a half dozen bagels. It is their job. Waiters and waitresses do a service and are paid less than minimum wage so tips are necessary. But the bagel guy? Or food truck guy? What next?the cashier at Waldbaums?

August 19 2013 at 11:40 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jolyjungle's comment
Daniel

I tend to agree. Servers make roughly half minimum wage and provide hands on service and have to run around all day and night to earn gratuity. Standing in a food truck hardly provides a worthy tip. The tip cup thing is really getting out of control.

September 11 2013 at 10:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Daniel's comment
Daniel

Is he going to claim his tips like servers are required to?

September 11 2013 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
debs909

Unfortunate doings all around. Most people I know try to tip generously, but on an “off” week- between paychecks, after vacation, after buying back to school supplies etc., some of these folks cannot afford to tip the “extras” such as coffee person, truck vendor, etc. but they will continue to tip the waiter/waitress, or hair stylist etc. Just a thought that even working people with decent jobs find themselves broke from time to time.

August 08 2013 at 4:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rheath8718

Its not like he was a waiter bringing out the food, clearing the dishes, cleaning the table, etc., not even like he was delivering the food to them inside the building, all he did was hand them food the same as at a drive through window at any fast food restaurant. The concept that everyone everywhere who does ANYTHING should get a tip for it is absurd. Do the people that complain about bad corporate behavior tip the cashier at a Walmart, Macy's, Target, etc?
What happened to people doing a job for pay and expecting what they were promised instead of expecting someone OWES something else?

August 07 2013 at 11:39 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

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