The Ghost of Pizza Past, ReduxDecember 23, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Posted in Fiction | 5 Comments
Tags: customer service, customers, domino's pizza, flash fiction, holidays, weather
Chuck had a flash fiction challenge this week for something Christmas-themed, and he wanted it in less than 48 hours. Time to cheat. I took an old blog entry I had written and gave it some much-needed editing. I feel certain that anything I can say in 1600 words I can say better in a thousand.
You have to pick that thousand carefully.
Anyway, what he wanted was something about Christmas in an unusual setting. Nothing is more unusual to me than a pizza place.
To see more catch a one-horse open sleigh and slide on over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Christmas in a Strange Place
Christmas Eve and of course I am working. My son is too. It kind of helped, because if I was going to be there late, they would start without me at home, but if it more than me—like my son, then they would have to wait for us. Christmas is a family time. And Domino’s—well, Domino’s cared about family. But not employees. Where is the supervisor? At home with family. Where is the franchise owner? Three states away with his family.Where is the director of operations? Probably at a strip club.
In our area there was a local joint which closed about 4 pm. Pizza Hut and Papa John’s both closed at 6 pm. Up and down the main drag, as snow was falling, stores were closing, and the streets slowly emptying of traffic, as lights of businesses shut off and people went home. It was serene and calm outside. Blissful. A Christmas choir sang.
Inside my store was chaos. EVERYBODY else was closing, leaving only us to serve the masses. We start getting busy as everyone realizes this is there last chance for pizza. People also call just to ask how late we are going to stay open. I quickly realize these are the ones who want to wait until the last minute. We are supposed to stay open until ten, but if they asked we told them nine.
As predicted, the last hour is the busiest hour. We no longer had the 30 minute guarantee, but we still tried to deliver timely service. With the snow and the business volume, however, it got to be too much, and we were telling people 45 minutes to an hour, with emphasis on the hour. Hopefully the fuckers were at least tipping well.
My son, Mike, comes back from a run about 9:50. I send him with a three-stop that was already getting old. The last run leaves a little after ten, and then I am counting the money and directing the cleaning, trying to get everyone to help and get them out the door. We were still getting phone calls, and telling them we were closed, and it tapered off. At ten after someone calls and wants to speak to the manager.
“Domino’s Pizza, I’m sorry we’re closed.”
“Yeah, I ordered a pizza over an hour ago, and it’s not here yet.”
“I’m sorry. What’s the address?”
“Number one Happy Street.”
“Let me just look that up for you. Okay, sir, the driver is on his way even as we speak. It does look like it has been only 40 minutes, though. And we did tell everyone an hour or more.” Customers cannot tell time.
“This is ridiculous. Why is taking so long? I am a valued customer!” All customers think they are valued.
“Well sir, we are a little busy because of the holiday and the snow. But the driver should be there any minute.”
“Just cancel my order. Call him up, or whatever, and tell him I don’t want it. I’ll call somewhere else.” And all customers think they are smart. This was 1994; I could count on one hand the number of cell phones in a ten-mile radius.
“Sir, I have no way of getting in touch with him; feel free to tell him when he gets there.” Yes, please tell my son you don’t want the pizza. My son is six-foot-eight and three hundred pounds.
“Fine! This is bullshit!” He hung up.
I didn’t get the chance to tell him that—or tell him that no one else was open. I would have tried–I wanted to help. Because I care.
About 9:30 my son returned, and he had the pizzas. The dickhead actually refused them. I guess Mike arrived at the asshole’s door right after I talked to him.
Being pissed off dragged us down, but we were well on our way to getting the place cleaned up. Generally we close with three people, but we had more people that night because of business, and we were able to share the wealth and get it done more quickly.
In all the rush, I forget to lock the door. About 9:40, and older man, a black man, came in.
I said, “I am sorry, sir, we’re closed.”
He seemed crestfallen. “Oh, are you? I just needed to get some food for my grandkids before I take them home. We got a ways to drive and nothing is open.”
Suddenly, I had a thought and I said, “Hold on a second.” I looked at the pizzas Mike had just brought back from the fucker that refused them, to make sure no one had yet dug their greedy little paws in them.
They were untouched. I said, “Sir, how about a pepperoni-sausage and a ham-bacon?”
He perked up. “Oh, anything, it doesn’t matter.” He started to reach for his wallet and said, “What do I owe you for these?”
I said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. Take ’em, feed your grandkids. Merry Christmas!”
He smiled big and bright, and shook my hand. He said, “Thanks, I will. And Merry Christmas to you!”
Now, I originally thought that this story was about me getting a little revenge on a customer that was a jerk—because I did–or that it was about me brightening up some old man’s Christmas, because I did that, too.
But it is actually about what the old man had done for me. I deal with several hundred customers in a night, and it only takes one, just one, grind me all the way down. Here it was Christmas Eve, and look what he did to me!
But when the old man came in and needed a little help, and I was able to do it for him, it put the wind back in my sails. I truly felt the spirit of Christmas.
And knowing that other guy was fucked for pizza really helped.