It's been a bit of a hit-or-miss summer for the interns out there, and Brendan O'Connor, an intern over at The Awl, is no exception. O'Connor, it seems, was until recently employed by Milk Truck, an "artisanal food brand" serving up grilled cheese and milkshakes from a truck in various locations of New York City. Then, after a labor-intensive $170 order yielded no tip, O'Connor fired off the tweet that prematurely ended his culinary career:
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
In his account on The Awl, O'Connor shares what happened two days later, when he spoke to his boss on the phone:
He told me that he’d gotten a call from the company, Glass, Lewis & Co. The company provides shareholder advisory services. Apparently, those employees were mortified that their lunch truck had tip-shamed them—the home office in San Francisco even got involved.
And 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.
Milk Truck, meanwhile, apologized to the "corporate governance and proxy adviser," who excitedly announced plans to patronize the truck once again, presumably again without tipping:
@milktrucknyc We appreciate it, and look forward to doing business with you again!— Glass Lewis & Co. (@GlassLewis) July 24, 2013
But it's okay! O'Connor didn't really want to keep working for the truck anyway, he tells us:
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.
Food workers getting fired for tip-shaming customers online is nothing new. But O'Connor teaches us a new lesson, apparently because he is a millennial, as The Awl's headline needlessly reminds us: if you get fired for embarrassing your employer, consider it license to embarrass your employer way, way more.
Not that O'Connor could have anticipated the amount of attention his story is getting. Milk Truck and Glass Lewis & Co (neither of whom have responded to requests for comment) have each been blasted with derisive tweets from readers:
...while others wonder whether or not to take it as an open call to boycott the popular food vendor:
...and still others more think O'Connor is the one who should be embarrassed. (The Wire's own Connor Simpson shares this views: "You don't confront customers about their tip!" he writes. "He did that in person and then later on the Internet.")
But O'Connor says he isn't the point of the story. "I know this is a story about myself, but I'm really not griping about getting fired," he wrote in an email to The Atlantic Wire. "This story was interesting to me because of what it reveals about The Way We Live Now with social media—as individuals, as workers, as consumers, and as employers and business owners."
Okay, maybe it's not about the character, but then there is the topic of O'Connor's formal intern introduction on The Awl from only three weeks ago. "Great with children and grandmothers, he enjoys cocktail parties and stirring up trouble," it reads. "He knows the drunk tweeting is a problem and promises to work on it."
With or without children or grandmothers, you don't need to be drunk to stir up trouble while tweeting.