Receipt Shaming; A shameful PR practice?

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By now, you have probably heard about Philadelphia’s PYT Burger and its recent feud with Philadelphia Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy. The gist of the story is LeSean and friends dined at the burger establishment yielding an over $60 bill. The bill was paid, but when it came time to tip, LeSean’s and his posse left a measly 20 cents.

(view receipt here)

090814-Mccoy-tip

PYT Burger’s manager then did something that has prompted online debate – he posted a picture of the receipt on social media.
Once the receipt went viral, everyone from Charlie Sheen to other famous athletes were weighing in on the 20-cent-tip-heard-‘round-the-world. While McCoy is saying the tip was a reflection of poor service, Management is saying the tipping (or lack thereof) was done out of sheer classlessness.
Either way, there is a name for the waves caused by the receipt photo shared on social media: “receipt shaming.” Over the past few years, it’s become common practice for servers, patrons, bartenders and restaurant managers to share receipts online as a way to bring to light the behaviors of the dining public. Very popular restaurants like Applebee’s have made it into the spotlight (mostly negatively) due to receipt shaming.

It’s no secret that receipt photos with an accompanying interesting story have gone viral- and it appears to me that restaurants are now purposely using this tactic as a cheap PR tool.

In PYT Burger’s case, they’ve clearly come out as a PR winner due to the endless tweets, news coverage and celebrity buzz surrounding this story. Sure, receipt shaming is an easy way to attract attention but not the most thoughtful way to grab press attention.
The only sure way to guarantee effective PR attention is to have a strategy, make sure your company is thoughtfully positioned in the media, and demand social media managers are adequately posting on your behalf.

Our advice to companies thinking about receipt shaming: don’t do it. Yes, you might get attention and press, yes you might increase your foot traffic due to curious customers making their way in to your establishment looking for the stiffed server. But in the end, it’s bad PR.
Receipt shaming is no way to get your brand recognition; in fact it has an adverse effect and usually makes the brand look cheap and desperate. It’s much better to plan PR efforts and earn media placements through a great reputation and an interesting story.
PR tips aside, what do you think about LeSean McCoy’s tip debacle? Tell us @ebben_zall

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