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Prioleau Alexander: The Pizza Man Cometh

And he could use a few extra bucks …

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Last night, my wife and I ordered some Domino’s pizza. After about 45 minutes, I called to check in … it is fast-food pizza after all, right? The young lady said they were about to put it in the oven — they had a huge order roll in just before mine, and she was sorry for the delay. It eventually showed up, two full hours after we’d ordered it.

I tipped the driver $10, on a $30 order.

Why? It hearkens back to 2008, when my first book was published. It followed my adventures when I took a year to work minimum wage jobs. Not just “hang around for a couple days,” but work long enough that an employee in that position would read it, and say, “Damn. That’s accurate. He really did work this job.”

The first job was as a pizza man. My wife and I had just returned from a year of doing evangelical stuff, and our checkbook was emptier than Nancy Pelosi’s wine bottle at 5:45 p.m. I’d heard that dude Dave Ramsey talk non-stop about delivering pizzas, and figured, “hell, those dudes must be banking $40 an-hour.” So I signed on.

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Because I had twenty years white-collar business experience under my belt, I understood the concept of net v. gross. As a result, it took me three shifts to figure out why Dominoes is an $18 billion dollar company: That would be largely because they get the pizzas delivered for free.

Here’s the rub: A Domino’s driver delivers pizza, so he can get tips, so he can pay for gas, so he can deliver more pizzas, so he can get tips, so he can pay for gas, so he can deliver more pizzas. There’s never a moment in the cycle that includes putting anything in a piggybank.

Oh, you wouldn’t fall for that? That’s because you’re an educated white-collar person. You won’t find a lot of your peers “under the bubble,” running stop signs, losing hubcaps, and plowing through gaggles of over-confident geese crossing Highway 17. The drivers are high school educated kids, mostly. This bait-and-switch doesn’t register, because there’s cashplus a $5-an-hour salary. And when you’re a kid, cash feels like profit.  

I didn’t, however, quit when I realized I was making zero net. The whole franchise empire was too fascinating to observe, and dig into. Getting to read the freaking how-to manuals alone made the experience worth a month of my time. The more I read, the more I was convinced that no one in the Domino’s corporate headquarters had ever even been one of their stores, much less worked a shift.

Here are a few of my favorite nuggets …

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APPROACHING SUSPICIOUS ADDRESSES …

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This comedic tome goes on for two pages, but I’ll sum it up for you: “If you arrive at a suspicious address, remember your safety (not our potential liability) is our top concern. We are so concerned about your safety, that we’ve included it in this safety manual, which your employment contract states you must read and agree to these policies for your own safety.

Plus, safety.   

Down on the mean streets? Where drivers are dropping pies for a few bucks? Arriving at a suspicious address meant drawing your Glock .40, and having it six inches from the homeowner’s face when he opens the door.

By the time he calls the cops, you’re gone, and no one will believe him … because everyone loves the pizza man.

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CALLS FROM NO-DELIVERY ZONES …

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More comedy gold. Written in a he-said-she-said style, the manual tells this 17-year-old order-taker to say the following, after the caller cusses at him: “I share your frustration, but our first priority is the safety of our drivers.  Our management team is monitoring the situation closely, and will be happy to notify you if circumstances change.”

The closer is the kicker.

“We do offer carry-out. Would you like to pick up your pizza? It’ll be hot and ready in 15 minutes.”

I heard one 17-year-old actually deal with this situation, and here’s what he said: “Sorry. We don’t deliver there. Why? Because it’s a freaking war zone! Do you realize how dangerous an area has to be for this money-grubbing corporation not to deliver there? We deliver in Gaza, for god’s sake. Ain’t nobody here gettin’ dead for a $2 tip.”

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COMMUNICATING WITH DRIVERS …

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This little gem was written for the “inside workers.” First, corporate asks these poor souls to remind each departing driver to “buckle up.” Then they ask for their inside team to “watch for unsafe driving practices when the driver leaves and returns.” Even though a full-bore Tokyo drift is the norm when returning from a run, there’s not a lot of reporting … because the inside guys have their heads down the entire shift, taking orders or making pizza.

If the Puzzle Palace wanted to really help, they’d write, “although you may never see them, the company employs people known as drivers. If you see someone behind the counter you don’t recognize, don’t panic and give them all the money in the till; chances are, they are a driver.


Circling back to the beginning of this article, let’s discuss “tipping the pizza man.”

The last time you went out with another couple for a white-tablecloth dinner and ordered food, drinks and a bottle of wine, odds are you were handed a check for $400—and you tipped $80 if the food was as you expected, and the service was “pretty good.”

What did that waitress do, exactly? Said hello, brought you water, told you the specials, took your order, delivered the order to your table, and made sure your ridiculously-overpriced booze never ran dry.

Now … what if you showed up for the dinner before your friends, and ordered the agreed-upon $400 Surf and Turf for four. Then, oops, your friends call and say they can’t make it.

After you’ve gotten the news, your waitress rolls up, says she overheard the situation, explains she’s getting off in a few minutes, and would be happy to wrap up the other couples half and put it in a warmer, after which she will drive 20-minutes out of her way to your friends’ house, hand them the meal, and ensure they have enough drawn butter and hollandaise sauce. 

What’s her tip now? I ask only because I once went into a gated community, and got a $3 tip on a $30 order. 

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Where should you invest your political capital? Our Palmetto Political Stock Index has got you covered!

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Who else deserves a decent tip? The dudes who deliver your new refrigerator or mattress? The HVAC guy who saved your very life in August? The tow truck driver who got you off the shoulder of the Interstate? Consider the Zippy mart people who work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Independence Day, Labor Day, et al. — do they want to be working that day? Hell no, they need the overtime. Tip them $20 when you buy those two bags of ice and thank them for working the holiday; they’ll be telling people about your gesture for a week.

Too many people live paycheck to paycheck. If you don’t, and have life pretty damn good, so throw some of that dough around to people who don’t expect tips. You’ll feel good, and they’ll feel appreciated.

Want to know more about working minimum wage jobs as a 50-year-old? My book on it is entitled You Want Fries With That? A White-collar Burnout Experiences Life at Minimum Wage. You can check out the reviews and buy it on Amazon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Prioleau Alexander is a freelance writer, focusing mostly on politics and non-fiction humor. He is the author of four books: ‘You Want Fries With That?,’ ‘Dispatches Along the Way,’ ‘Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?‘ and ‘They Don’t Call It The Submission Process For Nothing.’ 

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