The Last Supper…at Applebee’s
One of the most interesting stories to provoke outrage last week was the tale of a credit card slip for a restaurant bill that was posted on the internet. There was nothing unusual about the slip itself; just a bill for a little over $30 with a handwritten note to the server: “I give God 10%, why do you get 18?” Since the slip — originally posted for the general entertainment of the internet audience at large went viral - the note writer’s complaint to restaurant management prompted the firing of the server. That’s when the internet audience at large rose up and the whole situation got ugly.
The incident happened on January 25th when Pastor Alois Bell was part of a party of five adults and five children who dined at a St. Louis area Applebee’s after an evening service at the pastor’s storefront ministry. The bill came with an 18% gratuity automatically added due to the size of the party and, according to The Smoking Gun website, the pastor scribbled out the pre-printed gratuity amount and wrote the message heard round the ‘net.
The server was shocked at first, then showed it to a co-worker, who took a photo of the slip and posted it on the web. Several days later, the pastor learned that her note had gone viral and she contacted Applebee’s demanding that everyone involved be fired. The chain apologized to their offended patron, but stopped short of a wholesale firing of staff and management. The server was terminated and then the story, in the pastor’s words “got blown all out of proportion”. The pastor has since apologized for writing the note, expressed embarrassment at the incident, and acknowledged that it was a lapse in her judgment.
Lapse of judgment? Really? Ya think?
At the very least, the note fed the perception — fair or not - that many who profess to be Christians actually display arrogance in their daily lives, when they think they are living a righteous life. The note is a prime example of conduct that I can only label as un-Christian-like. The pastor deserves to suffer every bit of embarrassment that she is feeling.
Still, I can imagine that many Christians, if confronted with this situation, would have turned their gaze heavenward and asked for divine guidance with the traditional hypothetical query, “What would Jesus do?” Indeed, let’s analyze what could have happened if Jesus and his disciples held the Last Supper at Applebee’s. Would the incident have played out like the current scandal?
Well, first of all, I will stick my neck out and daresay that since Jesus was a rabbi, he would probably pass on ordering the Applebee’s Riblets Basket. Ditto for the shrimp toppings currently offered on the chain's steak entrees. Once again the party would have been given a check with a pre-printed tip (as determined by company policy regarding automatic gratuities for parties larger than eight customers). Again, I’m guessing that Christ and company would have taken the high road of humility, erred on the side of caution, and PAID THE TIP without all the drama! Either that, or the disciples would have excused themselves one-by-one to go to the restroom, and sneak out of the restaurant, leaving the Messiah stuck for the whole bill…but I digress.
As a historian, I have to wonder about the Last Supper. Not my Last Supper scenario, but the first Last Supper (First Last Supper? That may not make sense, but I’m going with it!). This whole Applebee’s incident has left a lot of unanswered questions about this historical event.
Think about this: we know who attended the Last Supper, and only a snippet or two about the discussion at the table as they broke bread. Yes, there was some talk about someone betraying their leader, but that could not have been the entire evening’s agenda. For example, we know plenty of what happened the rest of that weekend: the torture and trial of Jesus, the authoritarian figure washing his hands (Why was this news? Didn’t Pontius Pilate engage in hygiene on a daily basis?); the subsequent crucifixion, Christ’s burial, the journey of his mother Mary to his tomb three days later only to find an empty grave, with an angel telling her that Christ had risen and, typical of a mother-son relationship, didn’t leave a forwarding address; and then everyone in the world getting mad at the Jews forever after for being complicit in the whole affair.
We know all this; it is drilled into our heads every year at Easter, but details about the Last Supper? Nada!
So my list of unanswered questions about the Last Supper could include what else did they discuss? “Hey, John, any plans for the weekend? Mark, are you going to finish the rest of your dinner? Peter, why are you sitting over there? You’re acting like you don’t know us! Come on, stop acting so snobbish! And, hey, Judas, you’re awful quiet tonight! What’s bugging you?”
What about the meal itself? What would they have eaten? Matzo and gefilte fish, or did they chuck tradition out the window and order the nachos supreme? And what did they drink? Did the venue have a liquor license or was it BYOB? Or did the disciples impose on Jesus to re-enact his first miracle on a pitcher of ice water?
Then when it was all over, did they request separate checks? How did they determine the tip? I doubt that 18% was the going rate in the Holy Land at that time. And didn’t they become suspicious when Judas offered to pay the evening’s entire meal in cash…with silver coins? And did their server really bear a striking resemblance to comedian Mel Brooks (see Brooks’ take on the Last Supper in History of the World, Part One)?
These questions will most likely never be answered, but it’s fun asking, “What if…?” The answers aren’t all that important as long as we learn the valuable lesson that the recent events at Applebee’s have taught us. Namely, sign your name to your receipt, and keep your opinions about tip policy to yourself. You never know where it will show up!
(Thank you for reading! Don’t sweat the tip, readers. It’s on me!)