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Food truck employee fired for rage tweeting about a $0 tip

After a large food truck order resulted in a $0 tip, the worker took to the internet to call out the company that failed to tip and has been fired as a result. You can learn from the worker, employer, and customer and protect your brand from this type of mishap.



Anatomy of a social media disaster

Social media is both a great amplifier and equalizer. Business communication may have been forever changed because of the use of social media and we seem to see weekly examples in the national media of the growing pains individuals and companies face in acclimatizing to their new voices and exposure.

While there seems to be a constantly growing roster of teachers getting fired for posting something online their students shouldn’t see and an open list of shame to which some companies appear to be attracted like moths to flames, few social media snafus highlight the complete array of communication failures like this week’s firing of a food truck employee in New York because of his Twitter shaming of the company (Glass Lewis & Co.) whose employees failed to tip on a large order.

The employee failed, the offended company foolishly damaged their own reputation, and the employer who fired the food-truck worker could have done better as well. Let’s examine each of their behavior briefly:

  • The Employer (The Milk Truck): The owner of the food truck was the middle-man in this exchange, but probably holds the greatest responsibility. In the employee’s blog-column about the incident after being fired, he mentions the owner told him he “thought he understood” the company’s way of doing business. Why any company would fail to have a code of conduct baffles me in this day and age. This business, in particular, encouraged engagement with social media, so some rules should have been very clearly set for the employees. The employee later said that he knew there was a chance of getting fired for his tweet – he should have known exactly what the expectations were for his use of social media and his dealing with customers who don’t tip.
  • The Employee (Brendan O’Connor): This guy should grow up. But he also states that he knew that he might get fired prior to following through on his actions and being unsatisfied with the job, did not care much if he got fired. Still, he could have done a better job representing his company and his own character had he handled it more maturely. He addressed some of the non-tippers verbally and got no response. He could have stated the impact of their actions more clearly, or he could have talked with his boss about the possibility of adding automatic tips to large orders the way many restaurants do.
  • The Customer (Glass Lewis & Co): Beyond the jerky behavior of not tipping on a large order, this company’s reaction is the only reason we all know about this incident. I might have heard of the company prior to this, but didn’t know what they did and had no feelings toward them one way or another. Their actions, though, provided them more mentions in social media in a couple days than they likely had received in the past couple years – and it was all negative. Offended by the tweet mentioning their non-tipping employees, they called the owner of the truck and complained. Knowing that might get the employee fired, what did they think the employee would do next? This employee happened to have a regular column on a New York online publication which only magnified the ineptitude of their mistake. The employee had a relatively small number of followers – none of whom were likely customers of this company that handles proxy voting for corporations. Had they done nothing, that one, little tweet would have been the end of the story.

As you consider your own company’s use of social media, take a lesson from each of the above. Set clear rules for your employees and more often than not, they will follow them. Don’t react like Brendan to annoying customers – nothing positive was accomplished for Brendan or his company by his actions. And don’t be Glass Lewis & Co. and hurt your own company by acting in a manner which has a likelihood of magnifying a small incident.

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Written By

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. doodlebug2222

    August 4, 2013 at 2:41 am

    First, an employee should never openly complain about a customer or client and anything to do with any business transaction. It is unprofessional and reflects badly upon their business methods and brand.

    Second, a company has the right to tip or to not tip and should not ever have to respond when asked “why” in a forceful way. Not tipping simply indicates they did not feel the service deserved a tip. To press them on this, is incorrect. It is important to remember the business relationship here – one provides goods and services and one purchases same.

    This is not about hurt feelings, this is about companies being able to make their own decisions w/o pressure by the ones providing services and goods to them > to interact … better with them.. tip more, and not get angry when someone they do not tip takes their complaints public.

    Here is the thing – if you cannot accept the fact you are not going to get tipped the way you expect upon each and every delivery > do not take the position. If you are going to lose your temper, post negative things about companies that are clients of your empoyers > do not take the position.

    In the end, the customer is important.. and the company can select to keep their employees in check and under control – or they can lose the customers.. and if they lose the customers.. there is no real need for.. employees.

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