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The tip-shaming tweet got a food truck worker fired

Brendan O’Connor is a summer intern at The Awl. Until Wednesday, he also had a part-time gig at New York’s Milk Truck.


Fernando Alfonso III


You work part-time at a Brooklyn food truck, baking grilled cheese in the middle of summer. You get a $170 order that holds up the whole line—and then the customers stiff you on the tip. 

What do you do? You could tweet about it, but you might lose your job.

Brendan O’Connor is a summer intern at The Awl. Until Wednesday, he also had a part-time gig at New York’s Milk Truck. He was fired two days after he posted the following:

Shout out to the good people of Glass, Lewis & Co. for placing a $170 order and not leaving a tip. @glasslewis

— Brendan O’Connor (@OConnorB_) July 22, 2013

A rep for the company spotted O’Connor’s message and called his boss at Milk Truck to complain.

“Apparently, those employees were mortified that their lunch truck had tip-shamed them—the home office in San Francisco even got involved,” O’Connor wrote in an account on The Awl titled “Millennial Fired for Tweet.”

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.

O’Connor had assumed he’d get in trouble. The customer is always right, of course. He was glad Milk Truck didn’t make him delete his tweet.

I guess I had hoped that the owner would have my back if they complained, but that was a miscalculation. And the stakes weren’t too high, or I wouldn’t have done it: I’d been thinking about quitting and focussing on freelancing, so I had a luxury of speaking, and then tweeting, my mind.

What did I get out of this? Hmm. A “story,” maybe. A lesson about employers—at least in the food service industry—and what they think of workers advocating for themselves.

Since sharing his story, O’Connor hasn’t heard from Milk Truck or Glass Lewis. Milk Truck, on the other hand, has received some blowback on Twitter over the firing—at a rate of 10 tweets per second, reports Gothamist: 

Milk Truck then apologized to Glass Lewis over Twitter, and the company accepted that apology. And now that O’Connor has written up the story, both Milk Truck and Glass Lewis are getting embarrassed plenty more by the masses, who are publicly shaming them all over Twitter, and calling for boycotts of the grilled cheese truck—there are about 10 Tweets coming in per second!

Tweets like this:

@milktrucknyc, I am disgusted by your firing of an employee at the behest of the cheap bastards at @glasslewis. You should both be ashamed.

— Chris Stu Stuart (@pomodrunkard) July 30, 2013

These guys are dicks. RT @GlassLewis @milktrucknyc We appreciate it, and look forward to doing business w/ you again!

— Dan Solomon (@dansolomon) July 30, 2013

they don’t condone it. They LOVE paying low wages & are thrilled when banksters are greedy fucks who don’t tip. @milktrucknyc @glasslewis

— Cinnamaldehyde (@cinnamaldehyde) July 30, 2013

In an email, O’Connor admitted to the Daily Dot that’s he’s a bit uncomfortable with all the attention his firing has received. He says he’s collected 48 new Twitter followers.

I know this is such a moronic thing to say after writing a story about myself, but I am pretty surprised and more than a little uncomfortable with being at the center of this much attention—not that anyone is going to remember after today. It was just fascinating to experience something so absurd first-hand.

Would he do it again? It’s a bit complicated: 

I am not sure. Yes—if I wasn’t privileged enough to be able to afford getting fired. That’s really the crux of the issue, for me. 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.

Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did and be able to shrug it off so easily. And that’s the real story, I think.”

H/T The Awl | Photo by anneh632/Flickr

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