This Instagram account holds Austin restaurants accountable for bad behavior

Illustration for article titled This Instagram account holds Austin restaurants accountable for bad behavior
Photo: Mohamad Itani (Getty Images)

Service industry jobs are notoriously difficult, and employees often find themselves without good options when it comes to reporting (and dealing with) discrimination, wage theft, and a multitude of other violations. Now, the Instagram account Welp_512 is airing anonymous complaints from service industry workers in Austin, Texas in an effort to publicly shame businesses that are allegedly engaging in some pretty gnarly behavior.

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The account, which first went live less than a week ago, has already gained over 15,000 followers and has received so many responses that the person or people anonymously managing the account have announced that they are not currently accepting additional stories. The improprieties posted on the account range from unreported COVID-19 infections to sexual harassment to open racism to poor hygiene and subpar sanitation.

The account is noteworthy both because of its enthusiastic reception and the way it has positioned itself as a hub for these types of allegations and their aftermath. Using Instagram Stories, the account recently began reposting public responses from businesses that have been shamed via Welp_512, allowing viewers to vote either “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” presumably as a way of indicating whether they believe/accept each business’s statement. The account is also posting additional comments from Instagram users who confirm or support the allegations that have been posted so far. And Welp_512 appears to be insulating itself from criticism by providing a disclaimer that reads:

-Stories are 100% anonymous, we believe workers.

-Information is sensitive and we will only post/edit with permission from the individual.

-Stories are not fact checked, they are based on trust.

The Welp_512 account also appears to be spawning spin-offs in other cities such as Houston (Welp_713), El Paso (Welp_915), and New York (Welp_518). While it’s unclear if these accounts are officially connected, they all share the same logo, use a similar style, and are followed by the original Welp_512 account.

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Given the anonymous nature of the complaints it’s impossible to say for sure whether the events and working conditions detailed by the account are fair or accurate. What can be said, though, is that the account is being enthusiastically embraced by the people reading it, and it’s undeniable that service workers are often forced to endure working conditions that are brutal and dehumanizing. One can only hope that news of the account reaches Austin’s city government and that someone in a position of power will reach out so that those reporting inhospitable working conditions can get an actual, meaningful response from the systems that are supposed to protect them.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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DISCUSSION

Welp looks pretty good.

Yelp still sucks.