New Yorker Brendan O’Connor lost his job last week.
Normally, this would not make for a particularly newsworthy story, but O’Connor’s tale is different, in part because it all started with a tweet of his, shown below.
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
Thing is, the @GlassLewis in question above is the San Francisco-based shareholder advisory firm of Glass Lewis & Co., which didn’t take too kindly to the public tip-shaming. The company called O’Connor’s boss at Milk Truck, a food truck business specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches, to complain about the accusatory tweet. Two days later, O’Connor’s brief career in food service was over. Milk Truck publicly apologized and the episode was put to rest.
@milktrucknyc We appreciate it, and look forward to doing business with you again!— Glass Lewis & Co. (@GlassLewis) July 24, 2013
Except that it wasn’t.
Turns out, O’Connor moonlights as a reporter for the New York City culture blog The Awl, and he wrote a lengthy article on the firing, including lurid details about Glass Lewis’s tip-snubbing employees, that ran it on Tuesday. It read, in part:
"This group placed a huge order: three of this sandwich, four of another, three of the one that takes forever on the grill, two of the one that takes forever to assemble. Five or six milkshakes. The order came to just under $170.
"I was making sandwiches, another worker took the order and a third made the milkshakes and watched the grills. A line grew while we worked, and we had to tell other customers that their lunch orders would take longer than usual. They paid; I asked my co-worker who was dealing with the money how much of a tip they’d left. They had left actually no tip at all. (They had paid with a card so we checked the cash tips to see if there’d been a bump. There hadn’t.)
"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."
The reaction was swift and impassioned. Readers swarmed social media to berate Milk Truck and Glass Lewis over the incident with expletive-riddled rants, in an effort that at times seemed to suggest Americans had found a new reason to distrust the financial services industry. O'Connor quickly became a folk hero among service workers.
And all this for a proxy advisory firm that, until this week, was not well known to the general public. O’Connor has since pulled back from his story, telling Yahoo! Finance that he does not want to “fan the flames” and is hoping that the whole thing dies down soon. The Awl on Tuesday asked its readers to take it easy, at least on Milk Truck.
Please don't troll, harass, threaten or otherwise be mean to The Milk Truck.— The Awl (@Awl) July 30, 201
Both Glass Lewis and Milk Truck declined to comment for this story.
Social media minefield
Adria Richards was fired from her job at a software development company in March after Tweeting complaints about an off-color joke she overheads at a tech conference. A Taco Bell employee was fired in June after a photo surfaced on Facebook showing him licking a stack of taco shells in the kitchen of a Taco Bell restaurant, and Burger King famously canned several employees in 2010 after a video of a man bathing in an industrial sink at the restaurant was posted to MySpace. Aurora, Colo., area high school teacher Carly McKinney was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired in early 2013 after a local news station uncovered lewd comments and photos of McKinney smoking marijuana in her personal Twitter feed.
Even members of the traditional media can fall victim, such as Shea Allen with Huntsville, Ala. ABC affiliate WAAY, who lost her job this week over questionable posts on her personal blog that suggested, among other things, that she had stolen mail and taken naps while on assignment.
What do you think? Did the employee overstep here by complaining about work in a public forum, or did his boss overreact by firing him?