LeSean McCoy got a lesson in tipping etiquette yesterday. And a Philadelphia restaurant got a lesson in shaming its customers. For how 2014 is going, this was almost a feel-good story. At the very least, it was hilarious.
The brouhaha over McCoy’s tip came after PYT, a “stunt-burger” and alcoholic milkshake joint in Philadelphia, posted the receipt of one of their afternoon guests on its Facebook page: Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. He had tipped 20 cents.
The server, Rob Knelly, told the Philadelphia Daily News McCoy’s party was rude at their lunch. “What is this shit?” one of Shady’s party of four said when the food arrived, Knelly said. “They were not easy customers,” PYT owner Tommy Up told Philadelphia magazine.
“It’s bullshit, man,” McCoy told Daily News Eagles beat reporter Les Bowen before his Monday night radio show at Chickie’s and Pete’s (a restaurant that paid $8.26 million after being sued for stiffing its employees on tips with “Pete’s tax”). “On McCoy receipt thing: my understanding is, he was really ticked about service,” Bowen tweeted. “But org wishes he’d handled it differently. He understands.” Knelly told Philadelphia's NBC 10 he missed serving McCoy’s and his friends’ appetizers.
Not really a big scandal. McCoy is free to tip whatever he wants, even if a 20-cent tip is generally considered poor form — especially for a professional athlete with nearly $21 million guaranteed in a deal signed in 2012. It’s not a huge story, unless Chip Kelly flips over McCoy’s waffle fries order.
What makes this story incredibly amusing is how people reacted to PYT’s posting of the receipt in the comments on the restaurant’s own Facebook page. First commenters didn’t seem to believe it: Several posted a link to the same exact photo of the receipt, but with Sean Connery’s name instead of McCoy’s. Many in the Facebook comments and on Twitter used this image to call the receipt fake, even though it was pretty clear the photo was simply a Photoshopped version of the original PYT photo. (Did PYT have a tripod to photograph each receipt in the same exact spot? While receipts are easy to fake, would a restaurant itself post a fake one and leave it liable for backlash, public and legal?)
Others told tales of McCoy's stellar tipping. “He’s left me $200 on a $100 dollar check at the bar I worked at. Something is off here,” one wrote. “He also donates turkeys every year in Harrisburg,” wrote another. Yet more people posted about PYT’s policy of automatic gratuity, though PYT discontinued that practice in 2011. “We may have been drunk when we came up with the autograt,” owner Up wrote on Facebook that year. (There is at least one review from this year claiming an automatic gratuity of 20 percent—the restaurant says it only does it for parties of six or more.)
But most people were just peeved at PYT’s posting of the receipt in general. “Bad form PYT,” the top comment on PYT's page currently reads. “Posting this is disturbing and unprofessional.” Another comment wondered about tipping etiquette: “Is there a minimum we should tip to avoid you posting receipts online?” (Presumably, more than 20 cents.) One man even took the opportunity to advertise for Steak Em Up, a South Philly joint with Budweiser “Wassup!” parody spots during Philly sports broadcasts. Even Eagles offensive guard/prankster Evan Mathis took time out from rehabbing his MCL tear to post on PYT’s Facebook page: “So, don’t sit in Rob’s section.”
And an actual Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model announced her intention to boycott PYT. “Not a good look for the burger place either,” Chrissy Teigen tweeted. “Didn’t care about the guy, but will definitely not eat at this shitfest.”
How’d this get so out of control? A little backstory: PYT sits in the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties section. Formerly the Schmidt’s brewery site, the Piazza was designed as a series of mixed-used building surrounding a piazza for public events. While many praise the site’s design, the clientele that visits has a reputation for getting out of control. “My entire house was peed on, people were having sex two feet in front of my children and everyone was drunk that day,” a neighbor told Philadelphia's NBC 10 after a concert earlier this year.
And PYT’s reputation is not stellar, either. Bros say PYT is full of obnoxious trust-fund hipsters. Hipsters say PYT is full of bros. Its owner, Tommy Up, was lambasted for doing a Kickstarter for his new Tiki bar earlier this year. In 2012, a man was shot to death outside the restaurant after an argument that started at PYT. It has wildly divergent reviews on Yelp, with many attacking the service. Its waitstaff has a reputation of being holier-than-thou. “PYT acts like it’s doing you a favor by letting you eat there,” a friend told me once (apropos of nothing, so much does she loathe the joint).
This is a common complaint in the comments, too. “Having experienced the service there, I wouldn't exactly blame him,” one person wrote. “It must have been extra bad because the .20 is more spiteful than none at all,” wrote another. “Tactless and tasteless with rotten service to boot (sounds like your next burger creation!).” Reputation seems to play a role. When a bartender at McGlinchey’s — possibly the exact opposite of PYT, but another bar with complaints about service — talked to Philadelphia magazine about a 40-cent tip left by Penn students, she was bashed in the comments as well. (Some Penn people get touchy about their reputation among Philadelphia waitstaffs.)
So what’s the takeaway here: That it’s sad McCoy’s 20-cent tip is getting more attention than the time he told his Twitter followers to harass the mother of his child, or the lawsuit that says he and his bodyguard threw a woman off a bus? That you should tip well if you’re famous, lest the restaurant post a receipt to Twitter? That, while it must be cathartic, restaurants would be better served not posting low-tip receipts to their Facebook pages? That it’s actually a 0.3% tip and not a 0.03% tip like PYT wrote? Sure. All of these. Valuable lessons.