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.
Tags: 1980s, clerks, customer service, holidays, weather
Maybe it is over, as far as pizza deliver goes.
For now, anyway.
I left Pizza Hut in March, I think. The anti-climax of all anticlimaxes, I just told them I couldn’t afford to drive to work, and then drive. Not for what gas prices were–and are still, even though they’ve come down a bit, but not nearly enough.
These are trying times indeed.
But maybe that’s a good place to stop the book, if I were writing one. Which I am. At least it’s a good demarcation. If I’m not currently working in pizza, I can concentrate on going back and filling in the holes in my story. Sliding back and forth through time like Donnie Darko rattles the senses. I need to be firmly rooted…in the past.
Speaking of the past, I have a new part time job. I work in a little mom-and-pop liquor store. It doesn’t pay much, but it’s not exceptionally demanding, either. And it reminds me of another job I had oh so long ago.
Wait, let me get my time line right. In 83 I graduated, and went to college in the fall. In 84 I flunked out. In the fall of 84 we moved to St Louis. I think that’s when I got the job.
There was this small chain of convenience stores in the area called “Majik Market.” The company is long gone, but many of the buildings are still around, still being used by Asians as convenience stores. The one I used to work at is actually an insurance office now.
I was fairly new here, going to school, and wanted to have money of my own. My Aunt Gloria (who passed away this last December) was the one that gave me a line on this job. “Majik Market is hiring,” she said. “I talked to the manager up there. You should go apply.”
So I did.
Of course, I didn’t know the reason *why* they were hiring. At the store on Bellefontaine Road just a few weeks ago, the young woman working the register was shot in the face and killed. It turned out that the robbery was supposed to be a setup between her and the robber, but he panicked. Or maybe they were dating.
Either way, suddenly there were openings, and not just there. A few people got cold feet and quit. Enter me: bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and gullible as shit.
I met the supervisor at the store on Bellefontaine for what I thought was going to be an interview. Instead he took me down one of the back aisles near the cooler, and essentially had this conversation:
Him: This job is pretty easy. You check people out, make coffee, and keep the place clean. Think you can handle that?
Me: Sure. I can do that.
Him: Good. Okay. You need to call this number and set up a time to go to this address for a lie detector test. Once that’s taken care of, we’ll call when we’re going to have you start.
I didn’t have an interview. I had a lie detector test. They may or may not have been illegal then, but they definitely are now, as a condition of employment.
The place was somewhere near the Arena, which isn’t there anymore. It was late November, and we had a good snow…like 10 inches. I didn’t let a little thing like that stop me; I made it to my test.
When they do a lie detector test, there is a pre-interview, where they screen some information in order to set up the questions they are going to ask. That’s where I lied my balls off. No, I don’t smoke pot. No, I’ve never been arrested. Yes, I promise not to masturbate in the bathroom on the overnight shift.
So I got the job. I wasn’t going to work at the one on Bellefontaine, but rather the one nearer to my house. The current staff was the manager–some 60-year old woman, and two other guys. The black guy worked mostly 3rds and a few second shifts. Let’s call him Ron.
The other guy was a middle-aged white dude. Ken. He was skinny and nerdy, and had a chip on his shoulder. He had been promoted to “assistant manager.” With four people, I’m not sure what that means. We all worked by ourselves. When I was there at 3am, I might as well have been the fucking manager.
This was my first job that didn’t involve bales of hay or fields of beans. I figured out how to do it–I’m pretty smart–but there was no motivation to work very hard. I usually had several hours in the middle of the night to do nothing whatsoever. Not bad for 2.85 an hour.
After a week or so our manager got transfered to another location, and we got a new manager. Nancy was younger–early 30s–and pretty cute.
We hired another guy after that who was about my age, but he didn’t last very long. He was there long enough to cover for me (kinda) when I was going to a concert. I still had to come in, but I could be an hour or so late. Of course, this was Bruce Springsteen, the Born in the USA tour. We had to leave before the show was over because he plays so goddamn long. I’ve only left one other concert early.
I had this other thing going on that was a minor inconvenience, and I didn’t wonder until much later if it was the cause of other problems. These two dudes I sort of knew would come up there and hang out–just hang out–in the middle of the night. Like after 1 am until about 2 or 3. My friends at the time revolved around my cousins and their friends, and these guys were friends of *those* friends. So it wasn’t even a direct relationship.
They would come up and hang out and try to mooch shit for free off of me. At first I did let them have some shit, but if you give an inch, they want a sixpack. I had to start saying no and being a dick about it. We would get high up there, too. I think they were just helping me smoke *my* weed. What the fuck?
Late at night when no one is around it does get boring and a little lonely. But after a while, I craved to be alone. They were pests.
Of course you have some regulars. I learned the hard way that I actually do need to make fresh coffee before 5am, or I have a bunch of pissed off people. There were also some Section-8 ghetto apartments behind us, so I had people trying to use food stamps for shit you can’t get with food stamps–but they have to try it on the new guy.
My worst times there were the holidays, and I had nightmares about it for a while after that. We didn’t even HAVE gas pumps, but in my dreams we did. Thanksgiving was a taste of what Christmas and New Years’ was going to be like.
Remember, this is the mid-80s, and there were not as many convenience stores around then. And none whatsoever near us. You decide on Thanksgiving morning you need milk and eggs? Yeah, so did 140 other assholes in the last hour.
We–or I–got screwed on the holidays. Thanksgiving was a holiday, but not until 7am that morning. Working from 11pm the night before until then doesn’t count. But don’t worry: everyone has to come in and work about 4 hours so that it’s “fair” and so that everyone gets some home time. I got off at 7am, and then come back and work from 2pm to 6pm. That was time and half, that four hours. If only I could come back again that night–but no, somebody else got the night of the holiday, with the holiday pay.
The same thing happened again for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day. Fucked, I was.
After the holidays things settled down somewhat. I worked some thirds and some seconds. Ron worked all thirds.
Here it was towards the end of February. There was a crisis at the store. Also, there was a pretty rough snow storm. I think all this went down right around my birthday. When I showed up at 3 for second shift, Nancy said that there was a major shortage at the store. Not money, but product. Like ten grand worth. I think maybe they should count again. But I had to go down for another lie detector test–everyone did. Oh, crap.
You know what? I don’t think there was snow the first time. I think that was early November. No snow. But there was snow this time. I remember. This was the big snow.
The next day I drive down, and it had started snowing. It was late morning. I get down there for the lie detector test, and the guy giving the test talks to me, so I have to fess up about something. You know, I’m going to eat in the middle of the night. I told him that occasionally I would eat something, but that I kept a running total of it, and when I got paid I paid it back. I showed him the register tape, where I had about 14 dollars worth of stuff on it. He was totally fine with that, and we did the test.
And then he wanted to make sure–can I get a money order for the amount that I owe, and bring it in?
Uh, sure. Okay. I hadn’t done anything else wrong. This seemed minor, but I was taking care of it. I went back–I actually had to work that night–I got a money order and I went into to work at 3pm.
With the snow, we were a bit slow. Which was good, because every time some asshole came in for a pack of smokes I had to mop the floor behind them.
Long about 1030, I get a call from Ron. I don’t know where he lives, no idea–but he says he can’t make it in. There is 10 inches of snow, and it’s still falling. Okay.
So I make the call I have to make. I guess I called Nancy, but after I told her what happened, Don the supervisor called me, so I could repeat the story for him. About 1130, Don comes in.
When the supervisor has to come in and work, it’s never a good thing. When they have to come in and work a third shift, I imagine they aren’t very happy. But he was the one who was going to relieve me.
He said that Ron no longer worked for us. Don offered to get Ron a cab, and pay for it, to have him come in. I guess Ron refused this generous offer. Okay, then.
So without Ron, I worked third shift. I worked ALL the third shifts. For two weeks straight I worked third shift and did not have a night off. That 14th morning, Nancy came in like always, but she was visibly upset. Why?
Well, she had to fire me. She got the call yesterday and was simply told to not put me on the schedule anymore. Why, she wanted to know. The fact that I took items without paying for them was theft, a violation of company policy, blah blah blah. At least I wasn’t responsible for the grand theft–which was still a mystery–and she was relieved about that because we were getting along in a friendly way. She was cute and I worked harder to try to please her.
So, I violated company policy, and I had to be fired. But that came to light two weeks ago. Why wasn’t I fired then?
Oh, because they had just fired Ron, and didn’t have anyone for third shift. They kept me and strung me along until they could hire my replacement.
Am I bitter? No. I was then. I’m not now. I learned some things. Besides, I’m still here, and I doubt Majik Market would turn up anything on a Google search. Which is the lesson to be learned here, kids. Don’t fuck with me. You’ll go out of business.
Tags: 1980s, cars, customer service, domino's pizza
Maybe if I wait long enough to tell this, the statute of limitations on any alleged crime might have expired.
It was just another typical night in the spring, and I was working. I may have gotten high, too. But it was a nice night, I was having a good night, I was in the groove, and things were clicking for me.
Maybe I like to take a hit or two off the one-hitter during a long Saturday night close. But I also took a couple of mini-thins—caffeine pills—to get me through the night as well. A nice buzz and a loud stereo—now what could be better?
I don’t know. Maybe a mirror. I have a mirror. Maybe I just need to use it once in a while.
I’m on this run…I’m not going to say where. It’s pretty late. It’s past 10 pm. I park on the street. My e-brake is a little weak and there isn’t much of a curb, so I shut the car off. I had parked right in front of another car. It looked like a classic, like an early 60s Rambler or something like that. It wasn’t mint, but it looked pretty good. Okay.
I get up to the door before I see that this is not the house. Fives and sixes look similar in some typefaces. This was actually an eight. At least I didn’t bang on their door and wake someone up like I did last week.
Well I’m not going to get back in the car to go down three houses. I walk. I deliver the pies and walk back to my car.
When you do what I do—take a lot of deliveries in the course of a night—that’s a lot of times in and out of the car. You get into a routine, and much of it is automatic. Of course, sometimes you unknowingly take shortcuts in your routine.
I got in, toss the bag over, and write the tip down on my pad. I had turned the key and stepped on the clutch first, however.
And I had ever so slowly rolled backward.
I heard as well as felt the dull thud. I looked up, and behind my panicked face in the rear view mirror I saw the Rambler, right behind me. Oh, fuck.
Oh, and panic I did. I looked around quickly, I unplugged my cartop from my lighter, I started the car and took off. And I did not turn on the lights until I was two blocks away.
I kept looking behind me. Yeah, I chose that time to start using my mirrors. In it, all I saw was me. Man, did I look guilty.
I never heard anything about it; I never got in trouble for it. I got away clean, except for my conscious. Luckily I have a short attention span and a bad memory.
But it feels good to confess, as long as I don’t have to make up for it.
Tags: 1980s, 30 minutes or less, customer service, domino's pizza, money
I’ve been here at Domino’s about a month now. I really feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it all. I must be doing a good enough job because I’m working more hours. Not quite forty—maybe thirty—but the money is good.
I get cash every night, my tips and mileage. I was so used to just that—
Imagine my surprise when I got a paycheck also. Hell yeah.
And I was now getting to close two nights per week. I come in sometimes at 430 and sometimes at five. You never know when you are going to get off unless you are scheduled to close. It could be two hours, it could be four hours. Whenever we slowed down, people were off.
If I closed, I stayed until we were done. We closed at 1am during the week, and 2 on Friday and Saturday. We want to get out as soon as we can after close. The manager deals with the money and paperwork, and the last two drivers do the cleaning. Usually one does the dishes and one does the front, and they both sweep and mop.
This is my first experience with time management, I guess. In between runs and when we are slow, we try to do what we can without interrupting the flow of business. Maybe this is obvious to all of you, but I’m new to this.
The first couple of times, closing seemed…hard. Now, after a couple of weeks, I’m a real pro. Okay, not a real pro. But I am getting the hang of it. I’ve learned all kinds of important tricks, like what I learned the other night. I learned that you can’t pull the mop bucket along by the mop, because the wheels don’t roll well and you’ll tip the mop bucket over.
And spend an extra fifteen minutes mopping up the water while the manager and the other driver bitch about it.
And after close, one driver follows the manager to the bank while me makes a deposit in the night drop. The first time, Joel just said, “Follow me to the bank, okay, Guy?”
Sure, okay. I follow him, pull up along side of him while he makes the drop, and I just sit there. Now what? I feel silly now, because he had to get out of the car and come over to me and explain that it was procedure, for security, and I’m supposed to hang back in the parking lot to keep an eye out, not stick to close to him, and now that he made the drop, he would just wave me off as he was done and we would go our separate ways.
Ya know, I’m from the country. Security is as alien a concept to me as paved roads. But he only had to tell me once, and I got it.
The same went for most things: the first time, I am out of my element and struggling to understand it while I follow along blindly trying to grasp the situation. After I go through it once and I get it and see the purpose, I have no problem.
For instance, what is the deal with this “borrowing drivers from another store” thing? What gives?
Well, Snidely, I’ll tell you what gives. We have the thirty-minute guarantee, right?
And we want to avoid giving away free shit, because we aren’t a charity. We schedule to anticipate business, but sometimes shit happens, and who ya gonna call?
Not Ghostbusters. But you can call another store in the franchise. I was unclear on this at first, but the company I work for is Domino’s Pizza, yes—but it is not a corporate store. There are no corporate stores in the whole metropolitan area. They are all franchises, and the franchise I work for—A&M Pizza—owns about seven or eight stores, something like that. Who owns the rest? Other franchises.
A&M also owns the stores in the Springfield, Missouri region. Art, the A in A&M, is here in St Louis over these stores, and Marty, the M, is in Springfield. I have yet to meet Art. I don’t understand the hierarchy…I guess there are managers, and then there is a supervisor, Scott Wilson, whom I have seen. And then there is Art. Okay, I guess I do get the hierarchy.
Anywho, what with this being an urban-suburban area, the stores are fairly close, and if one gets busy they can call another one for help that is usually only ten or fifteen minutes away. If you look at the map here, you see our area outlined in marker. To the north is written the phone number to the store that covers that area. To the west and south, the same thing. To the east is the Mississippi River, and generally we don’t deliver there.
So it’s not mandatory…but we are strongly encouraged. I’m always up for some excitement, so I have gone to both Spanish Lake, to the north, and Ferguson, which has a monstrously large area to the west. To the south is Baden (technically the City of St Louis) and that store is owned by another company, so we don’t have to go there. Thank God; Baden is a shithole. North St Louis? You don’t want to be there, brother. Not as a white boy after dark with a brightly lit sign on the roof of your car that says “I have money and food, come and get it.”
There are details and protocol to the whole idea of lending and borrowing drivers. A store gets busy, they assess the situation and realize they need help, even for a brief period of time. They make a call or two. If a store has someone, they’ll send them. Or they will ask: “Want to go to Ferguson and take a few runs?”
Sure. What the hell. I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know there was much of a difference between these neighborhoods. I would clock out here, at my home store, and drive to the other store. I would take some runs, or sometimes one run, and then go back. Then I would clock back in. The stores would communicate—that’s what we have all these five-line phones for—and the borrowing store would pay my labor for the travel time as well.
And the time clock is weird, but it makes it easy to do the math. If you leave your store at 606 and come back at 654, the time clock says 6.1 and 6.9. You were gone for .8 of an hour, and the math is easy. Is this metric time?
There isn’t someone available all the time to make the trek. Sometimes everyone is busy—and sometimes no one wants to go, especially if it’s to a shithole like Normandy. In that case, sometimes the drivers are coerced, bribed, blackmailed, or just forced to go, and take one for the team.
I think I just learned my first adult lesson about working in the corporate world: Being a team player means taking turns getting fucked in the ass. Coming up next—it’s mine turn to bend over.
Tags: aging, customer service, employees, management, pizzarama, sexual harrassment
I haven’t been writing as much about Pizzarama, where I’ve been working lately. Maybe I’m jaded?
Twenty-five years, dozens of stores, hundreds of employees, and thousands upon thousands of deliveries is bound to do that to a person. I remember a time when I was innocent, fresh, and naive…
I don’t think I can relate to that guy anymore.
And I’ll go ahead and say it, because I don’t care anymore: The place I work at is Pizza Hut. When I worked at Domino’s, I named it. When I worked at Scooter’s, I named it. When I worked at Domino’s again, I named it–
Which caused some problems because I was doing things that weren’t exactly Cricket. Thusly burned, I called Jimmy John’s “The Three Jakes.” But Imo’s was Imo’s, and Steak n Shake was Steak n Shake–and they well still be. I thought I might want an alias to protect me on this internet thing. Maybe I shouldn’t be so cavalier, but I’m not doing anything wrong.
How about, “I’m not doing anything illegal, and most of what I do that is morally questionable is not a threat to the job”? Better?
In the meantime, I subconsciously didn’t want to get too attached to anyone here, because Things Always Change. However, I didn’t have much of a choice–some of them drew me in.
Of course, there’s The Dude, an ever-present fixture in my life and the reason I took the job at this particular location. Meet our management team:
Tom is a young guy, quiet and stoic. He seems to be laid back–like a hippie dressed as a businessman. That’s the vibe I get.
Ryan is the other assistant. Slightly older than Tom, but still so young. And yet he has thinning hair. He cares more about the job than Tom does. Frequently they are both shocked at the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth. Then again, that describes most people, I guess.
Rob is the manager. Whoops. Rob was the manager. Rob got fired a couple of weeks ago, a victim of arbitrary grading or his own ineffectiveness, your choice.
I liked Rob–hell, I like all of them–but they way they manage stirs a deep primal desire in me. A heat, a wrath, a bent to knock everyone over and take charge and show them how it’s supposed to be done.
But then my shift ends and I get over it.
So now we have a new manager, an older woman–older than me, even–named Julie. I’ve met her exactly once, when I was coming in early (to make a good impression) and she was leaving early (even though it was a Saturday night and snowing in late March.
“Hi. Who are you?” she says, looking at my chest where my nametag should be.
I put out my hand. “Hi. I’m Bryan. Who are you?” I asked, already knowing the answer. I looked at her chest, too, to let her know I knew what she was doing. Not a sexual thing. Not yet, anyway–but it is a weapon in my arsenal, if need be.
“Do you have a nametag?” Before I could answer, she said, “And tuck your shirt in.”
I’ve been working there since June of last year, and I’ve never tucked my shirt in. The cynical among you or those who have met me might think it’s because my belly prohibits it. But actually, I have a long torso, and the shirts are always too short. Really. I could show you–
While I tucked in my shirt, she made me a new nametag with rainbow colored letters. I guess we are inclusive now. Then she left. I untucked my shirt.
It’s what the store needs, and what these people need. Someone to lead. Rob–again, a nice guy–would rarely tell or ask someone to do something. Jesus, you have to take charge. Don’t be afraid to tell me to do something.
Don’t be afraid to tell the young punks working here to do something, either. Because if you don’t, they won’t do a damn thing. Us older folks–the drivers–we know our jobs and we get on it and we are proactive. The kids need to be directed constantly, at least until they get the idea.
So hopefully Jules will be a good manager for the store and the crew. It’s what they need. Because these guys–
Temelko is our token Old Belgian guy. He works the most hours of any driver. He speaks the broken English very brokenly. I’m starting to be able to make out some words. We had a five minute conversation about a month ago of which I did not understand a single thing he said. I sure hope I didn’t agree to something I’ll regret later.
John is a mid-twenties guy with a ponytail. He’s quiet and good-looking. I mean, good-looking enough to be gay. He’s also an artist; we’ve had a few conversations about his interests, and that’s when he wouldn’t shut up. He does computer animation, something I wish I had the patience for.
Nick is this guy–man, I don’t like him. I mean, he’s okay. He tries to be a smart-ass, but he’s not clever enough. He runs shifts on occasion so he’s technically a member of management, which he uses as an excuse to fuck with people. You know the kind of guy that’s only average in intelligence, but thinks he’s much smarter? That’s him.
Don is the old guy. He’s a carpenter by trade, and in this economy, delivering pizza. He helped me tear the wall out in my kitchen and put a back door in. Recently, he and his wife split up and he moved back in with his dad. Yeah, he’s old. And his dad is quite a bit older, I imagine.
When I say old, I mean he’s in his mid-fifties. What the hell does that make me?
Don, The Dude and I are the Three Amigos, complete with pelvic thrust. Because we are so…hip.
There are some other drivers in and out, part timers that I never quite caught the name of. We also have Sean–Blond Sean from Scooter’s and Angelina’s fame. He is also Rob’s ex-brother-in-law, but they are still friends. (That’s why Rob hired him.) Sean is an odd duck. I thought he was a geeky, nerdy guy. And I think he is. He’s a nerdy guy trying desperately to hide it and be cool. Or maybe he just turned over a new leave after he got divorced, which I can relate to.
Amber is our star pizza maker, and the hardest working person in the store. She is about 20, a tall, gangly, clumsy looking girl. She is just so quiet–until you engage her. Then she won’t shut up. I know way too much about her dysfunctional family. She’s like the Marilyn in The Munsters, if the Munsters were all white-trash co-dependent addicts with poor decision-making skills.
Jarvis is this teenage slick dude. He is cool, cocky, and confident. I’m sure he gets laid way more than a teenage boy should. He comes from money, and it shows–not just in the car he drives. He has a sense of entitlement, and it shows in the way that he things the minimum effort he puts forth is a tremendous inconvenience to him and we should all be more appreciative.
[We’re busy. People hustling everywhere, doing things. The phone is ringing and ringing. Again, we’re all busy. He announces sarcastically to everyone, “Don’t worry about the phone. I’ll get the phone. I got it.” Whatever he had been doing before was not time-critical to the rush. Maybe he was folding a box or something. “I’ll get the phone.” I said, “Thanks for letting us know you’re finally going to do your job.” That jibe cut him a little deep; he didn;t talk to me for about a week after that.]
And we have this other inside boy named Shane. I–
Ugh. I swear, some teen boys should be raised in a pasture with a high fence. Electrified. He’s a punk, through and through. Sense of entitlement? Check. Doesn’t understand dick about anything? Check? Overly preoccupied with trying to look cool? Check? Unable to learn anything because he already knows it? Double-check.
He has this car–I’m sure it’s a parent’s or something like that. I hope, anyway. Any adult who would give this retard a car should be locked up. He’s always bragging about his car and how fast it is and how he can outrace anyone. I don’t want to be that young and stupid again, if I ever was.
I’m leaving on a run about the time he got off work one night. He hops in his car, revs it up, and keeps revving it up. If it’s a stick, he’s using up the clutch. If it’s an automatic, he’s even stupider. I pull out, and I head down the line. He pulls out real fast in front of me, causing me to brake. Then he revs it some more and squeals the tires as he takes off.
I get to the light, and then he appears again. Where did he come from? Where did he go? Who gives a shit? He’s sitting at the light revving the engine. He’s in the left turn lane, and I’m in the lane to go straight. His light goes green, and he revs it and takes off, squealing the tires some more.
I know this is the old man in me, but he’s a fucking dumb ass. Tires costs money. A clutch costs money. Gas costs money. If he was paying for it, he wouldn’t be doing that to “his” car.
Honestly, I don’t even want to get to know him, because I don’t want to feel bad when he rolls his car and wraps it around a pole and dies. He’ll do it all with a dumb expression on his face, the expression people have when they don’t understand the correlation between their actions and the consequences thereof.
We have Kelli, this girl. This 20 year-old (“I’ll be 21 in two months!”) chick who started as a server during the day and then started to drive. She’s short, she’s fat, and she loud and in everybody’s business. She is so concerned that people are talking about her that she inserts herself into every conversation, and eavesdrops on everyone. Christ, she bugs me. Part of it, I can tell, is that if she gets a little attention she craves more. She desperately wants to get laid. I told Don that he’s going to end up fucking her.
“Christ! Say it ain’t so! Do I have to?”
Then, of course, we have my sweetheart, Courtney. Courtney just had a birthday. She just turned…17. Wow. She says I remind her of her dad. So I have a year to turn that daddy complex into something viable.
Juuuuust kidding. She’s a sweet girl, and one of my favorites there. We talk, I gave her a ride home once (perfectly innocent!), and we have fun at work.
So that’s the people I work with. And the people make all the difference. Pizza is pizza. Hell, pizza is as pizza does. Pizza is the same, or different, or both, anywhere you go. But the people are what make it interesting, and determine whether or not you want to go to work each day.
Although something else may be a determining factor as well: Gas prices. I swear to God, lately I feel like I’m losing money going to work. I’m going to need to find another part time job, just because I can’t afford to work at this one.
Maybe the next job will be something not driving.
Tags: 1980s, customer service, domino's pizza
The Great Experiment at Domino’s Pizza was in full swing. I was to learn that it shaped everything, from how we did business to how we arranged our priorities, to how we handled problems–
To how we judged a person’s worthiness.
The infamous 30-minute guarantee.
When others practice warfare with paint guns and rubber bullets, we used live ammo. Joel trained me my first night. He made a time card for me and I clocked in. I gave it a passing glance and didn’t understand it–and that was going to set the stage for my evening.
“Okay, Guy, let’s get you set up with a cartop and a hotbox.” I followed him and he showed me the drill. In the backroom stacked randomly were both pieces of equipment. The cartop was a big heavy plastic box with the logo on the outside and a couple of lightbulbs on the inside. Suction cups on the bottom so it would stick to the roof of your car, and a cord to plug into your cigarette lighter. I was informed that whoever wore the cartops got an extra 15 cents per delivery for advertising for the company. Woo-hoo! This is in addition to the 48 cents we got for “mileage” or “reimbursement,” or whatever they called it. The terms seemed interchangeable.
Plus we got minimum wage–3.35 per hour–and we got tips. I was told that most drivers make up to seven or eight dollars per hour.
Then Joel got me the hotbox. This is a crucial piece of equipment, as I understand it. A big aluminum box, big enough to hold six pizzas, probably, with a perfectly safe asbestos blanket connected to it with a stiff wire. We needed the blanket because first I had to light a small can of Sterno and put it in the box. This all gets strapped into my front seat. I’m ready to go.
But first, I’m going to shadow Joel for most of the night. He drove a little Volkswagen Golf, and his hotbox was in the backseat so I could ride shotgun. “Ready, Guy?” I learned that was his thing–calling everyone “Guy.” Good thing–I thought it was going to be my nickname. I really didn’t want a nickname.
While we were setting up, business started picking up. Phones were ringing, people were coming in at the start of their shift, and Tom was right on it, directing people and events to make things go smoothly. “Here, Guy, here’s your bank. This is fifteen bucks, you use it to make change with.” It was a five, 8 ones, and two bucks in coins. It was always that much. Small plastic containers with the banks made up were tossed to drivers as the clocked in and got set up.
“Joel, you’re up!” Tom yelled out.
Joel went, and I followed. We went over to the heatrack, and Joel was moving fast and explaining as he went; I tried to keep up and pay attention. I caught bits and pieces of the information.
“Okay, we’re going here…and here. We take the yellow off the box–follow me–and we come around back here. I’m number seven, so I clip them here. You need to pick a number that isn’t taken–”
“Taken. Here, take twenty-three.”
“Okay, the streets are Green Acres and Saint Cyr. So we go to the map, here. Here’s the guide, and the grid matches up with the map coordinates. See? But I know where these are. Here. And down here. Got it? Okay.”
We went to the rack, and he put the pizzas–sorry, “pies”–let’s get into the lingo. He put the pies in a hotbag. “Make sure you check for all the items. Right here, in this corner, is going to be a number if there’s more than one. Right here–see this–always check for sodas. This one has two Cokes. Grab them. There. Okay, Guy, we’re set. Time is important here. The big clock up there is the official time. Always call out the times when you leave, and when you come back. Always.”
He looked at the clock, then at the labels on the boxes, and did some quick math. As he heads out the door he says, “Let’s roll. Twelve and fourteen, two Cokes!” He yelled the last part to the store as I followed him at a trot out the door.
As I get in the passenger side, he opens his back door, pulls the pies out of the bag and puts them in the hotbox, throws the hotbag on top of it, and hops in the front. Not wasting any time, he started the car, shifted and gunned it out the parking lot and up the street. He never stopped talking the whole time.
I learned a lot that first night. I was shown a lot that night. Christ, I hope I remember it.
Everything was a blur. When we came back from the first run, Joel yelled, “Seventeen, twenty!” as soon as he opened the door. One of the things that I did catch was that I was supposed to pay attention to how old the pie was when I delivered it and repeat that time when I came back.
But the rest? Something about checks–get some information on them. Yeah. Makes sense. He would show me the address, but I would have only time to look at the coordinates and as I would turn toward the map, he would say, “Let’s go, Guy!”
I technically lived in Florissant, and this was Bellefontaine Neighbors. My girlfriend lived here, and I stayed with her. I had a rudimentary knowledge of the area at best: main roads, the way to the highway, and the way to the store. Everything else was a mystery…
But as we drove around, I could sense some of the mystery unlocking for me. I was making connections, and the roads were beginning to make sense for me. I could *get* this. I could do this.
“I said, ‘I think you’re ready to go solo.’ Do you?”
“Yeah. I’m ready.”
I took six deliveries that first night, and made about ten bucks in tips. And that was just driving for a about an hour and a half. Of course they were all singles; I was the newest of the new. I was a real FNG. But on my own I was able to figure things out on my own terms. It was coming together for me.
And then it was time to go. I brought my shit in and “checked out.” Tom grabbed the keys and unlocked the drop box for me, and I got out my money. After every delivery, I’m supposed to drop my cash. It says right on my nametag “Driver does not leave store with more than $20.” So it must be true.
I straightened out my money standing up while Tom sat in the one chair in the office and filled out the sheet, called the daily. Tom wrote down my name, and added up my slips, then counted them. Forty-eight cents times six in one column, and six times fifteen cents in another. He wrote the totals down, and quickly his stubby fingers ran over the ten-key, then handed me my money. Fourteen bucks. Wow. I can see this working out for quite a while.
Tags: co-workers, customer service, customers, employees, money, people
My one consolation is that he’s lost more on the value of his house than mine is worth. Serves him right.
Whitmore Country Club. Really? Country club? It’s just a high-priced subdivision with an intrusive and poorly designed golf course built in and around it:
“The third tee is a stunning par five with a dogleg across the pool and through the common area, and some of the hazards are the parking lot and the over-privileged teens.”
And don’t get me started about how special they are that there is a gated entrance that you can’t get through because they won’t give you a code. Because of this, you have to drive–and I’m not kidding here–about 4 miles out of your way to go in through the back entrance.
It especially pisses me off when where I need to go is by the front, but I still have to go in through the back, and then go back the same way and come out the back as well, because you can’t even exit the gated area without a code and they won’t give you one, so you can go as much as 6 miles extra, out of the way, for a two dollar tip.
Yeah, two bucks. These assholes in their 658k dollar (and falling) houses will order 40 dollars worth of food and have the trophy wife come to the door with a two dollar tip. Two bucks is five percent, by the way. Tips are the reason I’m good at math, and bad tips are the reason I bought the Anarchist’s Cookbook. And since the economy is so bad, trophy wives aren’t as hot as they used to be.
Twenty years ago, two bucks was a good tip. Twenty years ago, for two bucks I’d fondle your balls. Maybe it’s the same today but the grip is slightly different.
I wrote that piece a while back, intending to go back and finish it. I’m sure it was the start of a rant about some wonderful night I was having, but I don’t remember the specifics now. They all seem to run together. Like Sauce through the hourglass, so goes the slice of our pie…
I did think, though, that as much as I have seen and heard and done and had done to me, I thought I might be more jaded than I am about the people. And not the customers. The marks–the marks are all the same. I’m talking about the people I work with.
Since I’ve been trying to remember the past and write it down to fill in the holes I need to fill for this book, I’m in the state of mind where people from the past come up in my memory. I wasn’t going to get into specifics here–but man, have I worked with a ton of people. I don’t think I’ve fired as many as I thought I had–but I have “encouraged” many to quit. I have hired over a hundred, I’m sure. And I’ve worked with thousands, because there is so much turn over in the food industry, people can come and go before you realize they are gone.
And because I’ve worked with so many, I thought that I would be…I dunno–bored with people, maybe? But there is so much of an infinite variety of personalities, that even if I see something in someone that I may have seen before, it’s interesting to see it play out differently.
The job is the same, always. Take a pizza. Give it to someone, take their money. Come back. Repeat. Clean. Do prep. The last 25 years have been a blur of that entire short list.
But the people make the difference.
Tags: customer service, customers, management, operations, pizzarama, scams
I wrote this about two weeks ago. It’s not as rambling as it seems–in other words, there’s a point to it. I swear to God there is.
This was my night Sunday at Pizzarama.
When the manager is working, the place is a barely contained disaster. When he’s not working–like Sunday night–it’s a clown car with no wheels.
I was scheduled for six instead of five as usual, so when I got there I was thrown right into the middle of the rush. Nick is a driver/shift runner, or a shift runner that drives, or a wanna-be assistant manager–I’m not sure which. He sets me up with a triple.
One of the runs is missing.
It’s not on the rack, and the slip is not on the cut table or the makeline. Did someone take it already? It seems that their system of creating busy work for the manager didn’t stop this one from slipping through the cracks.
You see, the way Pizzarama operates–and I don’t know if it’s a conscious desire to do things in the most inefficient way possible, or merely a stubborn refusal to adapt to new ways of doing things when those new ways are discovered and developed by competitors–but some of the things they do there are just downright stupid.
Say what you will about Domino’s Pizza, but many of their processes are damn efficient.
They even have a name for it that I’m wondering if Pizzarama even understands: operations. Operational excellence. Operational efficiency. Domino’s is one of the best at it, and I improved some of the processes when I managed there. It’s a philosophy–
–that Pizzarama doesn’t buy into.
But what Domino’s has done–what they are the industry leaders in as far as pizza goes–is speed and efficiency in the area of operations. Hell, I’m not even sure Pizzarama uses the word “operations” to describe the day-to-day work and processes that get the food to the customer, from prep to makeline to oven tending to delivery. If they have a word for it at all it might as well be “sheep-herding” for all the good it does them in their thumb-fingered effort to get the pizza out the goddamn door.
Now Domino’s isn’t perfect, of course, and your mileage may vary, but here are some of the key differences between Domino’s Pizza (especially the ones I ran) and Pizzarama):
Pizza makers at Domino’s are trained for speed, first and foremost. Of course they have to be accurate, but that comes with time. At Pizzarama (and Papa John’s was like this as well) they use measuring cups on all the toppings on every pizza. There is a complicated chart and a dozen color-coded cups for use with the toppings and they are used consistently, even during the rush.
Oh, the rush. That’s the big difference. At Pizzarama, it’s the rush. At Domino’s, it is THE RUSH. I’ll get to that.
At Domino’s, we were trained for speed. I’ve talked about this before. How fast can you make a large pie? How fast can you slap out the dough? How fast are the pies rolling out of the oven?
We didn’t weigh every pizza, not by a long shot. And we sure as shit didn’t use a cup on every pizza. Grab the cup, fill it with the topping up to the appropriate line, maybe shake it to level it off. Then look at it. Okay, good. Now take it and dump the topping into your other hand and unevenly spread it around. Drop the cup in the bin so you can use both hands to move the toppings around, because they are lumped up in one spot when you pour them from the measuring cup. No, it does take as long as I am describing it.
At Domino’s, we would weigh toppings on occasion, when we were slow, and match them up with the pictures on the wall. If you weighed a few and had a good idea of what it was supposed to look like, you would then be able to “eye-ball” them, estimate them, and then once in a while (as in every few weeks or months) weigh them to recalibrate your internal scale, as well as feedback from your manager–that would be me.
And proportion and distribution were important as well. “Itemization” is a Domino’s word, which means the toppings are well-distributed across the body of the pie, as well as being the correct amount. And you always made sure you had toppings out to the edge of the sauce-cheese border of the crust.
Because of the emphasis on speed, sometimes things got messy. When you made pizzas on the makeline, you scooted them along the grates, which covered the catch trays. With catch trays, accuracy didn’t matter–although precision still did. Whatever didn’t land on the pizza fell through the grates and went in the catch trays. Cheese especially–
And even our cheese was designed for speed and efficiency. Our cheese was diced–individual pieces were cubes. Perfect cubes. Places like Imo’s used a shred. It was fine, small pieces, but still–a shred is inefficient. It would clump, and you would get more in some areas and less in others. At Pizzarama, they used a dice, but the pieces were elongated. They were rectangular-shaped boxes. That leads to inefficiency and over-lap.
At Domino’s, you would reach into the cheese bin, grab two handfuls of cheese, raise your hands up about a cubit above the pie (what’s a cubit?) and sprinkle the cheese. Maybe “sprinkle” is too delicate of a word. Starting with your palms up, you shake your hands with fingers open, causing the cheese to rain down on the pizza, casually turning your hands over in the process. You get a fairly even distribution of cheese, and what doesn’t go on the pie goes in the pit–the catch tray. You generally get a pretty even spread. To make it more even and to shake off any excess, pick it up and give it a quick spin-and-drop. Excess flies off, into the catch tray.
Too much detail? It’s an artistic technique, similar to making pottery. Except the art we are making here you can eat.
The cheese catch tray is dumped back up into the cheese bin fairly often; it doesn’t sit. All of this is perfectly acceptable and food safe, and passes health department code. You slide the pie down to put the toppings on, so it’s over another catch tray. After the rush, some lucky soul gets to “pick the pit”–piece by piece pull the shit out of it and toss it back in the right bin. Mostly just the meats and large pieces of veggie, unless you work for an anal-retentive manager that wants it all picked clean. But it is done this way so you can make pies fast, and then clean it up later.
At Pizzarama, the makeline is a flat table. No grates, no pits. Of course, there is no flour or dough table, either. The dough is prepped into the pan already, from frozen. It thaws, and is just adjusted to fit the edge and is used. So you take a pan with a dumb ol piece of dough in it, stretch it a little and place it out to the edge, and you’re ready to make a pizza. Sauce it?
First, you grab the right-sized plastic ring (think Frisbee golf) and place it over the pie. This is your “template.” Obviously, idiots, morons, and piemakers can’t sauce a pizza and stay inside an imaginary line without a plastic guide–Yet I’ve been doing it for years, and have personally trained several dozen people to do the same.
Leave that ring on; you’re making the rest of the pizza with it in place. I know there is some system with the cups, but so far I haven’t bothered to learn it. The piemaker takes a cup of cheese and tries to run it through their fingers in a futile effort to spread it evenly. Not only is it not even, but it is definitely not covering the edge where the sauce is. That is a big no-no at Domino’s: cover the red edge.
The toppings are going to be like that as well, and it is completely antithetical to all my previous training. Distribute the toppings evenly, for God’s sake. And get them out to the edge, or the edge of the sauce. Drop and scatter. spread it out. Doesn’t matter if some falls off the edge. Get it made, and get it made *fast*.
Pizzarama has this new pizza now, some gimmicky thing. Amber, our main pizza maker, made one for me a few weeks ago, and I saw what was involved. Christ, it takes like five minutes or more to make this ridiculous thing. They really don’t care about time. And I can tell, too, in their whole attitude about service. At Domino’s Pizza, when we got busy, we worked harder and faster, faster.
At Pizzarama, they simply tell people it will take longer. The other night I happened to look at the ticket while I’m waiting for the customer to open the door. The promise time was 7:09, and I was there before 7. Cool, I’m early. Above that was the order time: 5:39. I can’t believe the customer said, “Sure, no problem. I’ll wait an hour and half for a pizza. I have brain damage.”
At Domino’s I used to say that as a manager I was just a glorified pizza maker. Well, is there any other option? Yes. You can do things the Pizzarama way, which is to create inefficiency that makes busy work for manager.
At Domino’s, when a driver comes back from a run, the first thing he does is make a drop: whatever excess cash you have goes into an individual drop box for safe keeping. Make sure you hang onto enough to make change. Then you go to the rack and see what’s up. If it’s obvious, you assign them on the computer and go. If you have a question, you ask it. The manager is on the line making pizzas, but knows what is going on and can answer a question.
So you take your run, with minimal-to-no manager interaction unless necessary; it doesn’t disrupt the flow.
At Pizzarama, when you come back from a run, the first thing you do is wait for a manager. They may be cashing out a carryout customer or a driver, or they may be on the phone. Hopefully you are no more than fifth or sixth on their list of things to do at the moment. While you’re waiting, you can run any checks through the check verifier.
So the manager is ready for you. After every delivery–every time you come back to the store–you cash in from that run. Instead of waiting until the end of the shift, you do it every time you come back. He checks you in, you deal with the exchange of money and so forth, and then he personally checks you out on your next runs.
There is a bit of logic to this, I admit–but the control is unnecessary and too much. When I was a manager, I would control what the drivers took, especially when we were busy. And the experienced ones could make their case if they didn’t like my routing, and I could change it up. But I didn’t have to physically take them by the hand and punch it up on the touch screen for them.
And cashing out after every delivery is a ridiculous waste of time.
And time is what it’s all about, especially in the pizza business. A good 50 to 60% of any given day’s business is going to come in a 2-hour window–5 to 7 pm. That’s dinner time. That’s THE RUSH. And often, 50 to 60% of a store’s business for the entire week is going to come between 5 and and 7 on Friday and Saturday night. That is THE RUSH.
Your business can pretty much break down into three parts: prepping for the rush, handling the rush, and cleaning up after the rush. Those are the basics of the restaurant business.
The basic premise of prep is this: What can we do to help speed things along? This lays the framework for everything we do. One of the basics is folding boxes, of course. Drivers can do it in between deliveries, phone people can do it between taking orders. During a slow day shift, the driver can get a lot of boxes folded. In a Domino’s you’ll see a corner filled with several stacks from floor to ceiling with boxes. This makes it much easier, and it’s a fairly logical conclusion–fold boxes in advance, so they are ready when the pies come out of the oven.
Unless you’re at a fucking Pizzarama.
It’s a Sunday night, and it’s a busy Sunday. Late November is football season. The Rams won, and with a 5-6 record they stand as much chance of making the playoffs as anyone right now.
I came in at six, the height of the rush. Nick gave me a triple, but the first one is gone. They don’t know where, it’s just gone. He said, “Don’t worry; we’ll find another one and still make it a triple.”
Fine. He sets me up, but the the third one isn’t ready yet. Okay–
Taking it all in, I see that the oven needs tending…
Almost 30 minutes later, I take my runs.
I was stuck there; my sense of duty and realization that things would come to a grinding halt if I left kept me chained to the cut table. Amber and Ryan were on the makeline. It must have been busy for a manager to be there. Tom was the other manager, and he and Jorvice played tag with the phones, the carryouts, and the wings, and Tom was cashing drivers in and out.
I couldn’t go anywhere. I kept pulling pizzas, throwing them on the paddle, cutting them, and then–oh, yeah–
FOLDING A GODDAMN BOX AS I WENT FOR THE FUCKING PIZZAS!
How can you not have boxes folded for a dinner rush? Just–how does that shit happen?
Part of it is the poor design and layout of the store. There is simply no room to put a stack of folded boxes. It’s not normally my problem, but right now it is. However, if I was the manager–
I’d find a goddamn place for folded boxes.
I tried to get Jorvice’s attention a couple of times, because he would have had time to help, but he was busy fucking around in between jobs. I like the kid, but–
Hell, I like most of them but they’re just kids. Including the manager. I mean, he’s in his mid to late 20s…
And I know I was a child then as well.
I know he means well and he tries. I wonder if I was like him when I was a young manager. Part of me wants to be a manager again, to show them how it should be done. Luckily, the larger part of me doesn’t want the hassle at all. Of course, I know if something happens to my day job, I’m very likely to end up there. Again.
The other two assistants, Ryan and Tom, are really young. Ryan is in his 20s, and Tom is 19, I think. Ryan has a sense of responsibility, I think. To Tom, this is just a job, and a shitty one at that. I won’t disagree with him.
It pisses me off though, that as jaded and bitter as I am, they are forcing me to care more about the job than I want to simply because they don’t. Dammit!
The Dude was working that night also. He came back from a run in his usual laid back style. He came over to say hi, and I handed him a stack of boxes. “Can you take these carryouts to the warmer?”
He protested. “Well, man–Dude–my–I have a run up.”
“Dude, I have three runs up. And I can’t get off the oven. Suck it up.”
Finally, my third run of three is up. Actually, it had been up, I had just missed seeing it. Finally, though, Tom checked on it, and then took over the ovens for me.
I took that triple and did okay on it, but I was livid from the time I wasted on the ovens. I felt like I had a clock nipping at my heels, and I was in a hurry after that. I was in so much of a hurry that on my next run–a double–I forgot a pizza on one order.
Well, fuck me. I was at the customer’s door and I had already knocked when I figured it out. I looked at the ticket and the price was kind of high for one pizza. I could tell by the weight that there was just one in the bag. Instead of listing each pie individuall, there was a “2” next to it because they were the same. Shit-crap. I need to suck it up. The guy answered the door.
“How ya doin? Listen, I’m sorry about this. I just realized I had only one pizza here. You ordered two.”
He seemed confused. “One pizza?
“Yeah. I don’t have it. Sorry about that. Let me give you this one, and I’ll be right back with the other one. You aren’t too far away, so it won’t take long at all–”
He finally catches up, as I give him the pie. “Okay. I’ll pay you when you come back.”
On the way back to the store, I call the store and explain what happened. I did that to stall any confusion and keep the pie I need from getting eaten or given to another customer, but I wasn’t hopeful. However, when I got back the pizza I needed–
–was coming out of the oven. That’s a bit odd. There are a variety of reasons that could have happened, but I don’t stop to ponder the beauty and synchronicity of it all. I cut the pie and go.
Back at the guy’s door, I knock and he answers. Again I apologize. “Sorry about that, man. But this pizza is hot and fresh; it just came out of the oven for whatever reason–”
He gives me a “Hm-hmmf,” in an unconvinced tone.
“No, really,” I said, and I open the box to show it to him. I never do that. Never.
Maybe not physically, but metaphorically, his hands were on his hips. He said, “That’s not what I ordered.”
Uh… “Are you sure?” I asked. “I just–”
“–And you forget my red sauce,” he said, as he backed into the house. I was still holding the pizza; he didn’t take it. He said, “You know what? Don’t worry about it.” He closed the door.
It was about then that I realized what was going on. Son of a bitchin fuck. Shit. I walked back to the van, cursing him.
Back at the store, I had to wait for TOm to cash me in. I didn’t say anything, however, until he got to the screen and started to punch it in.
“Wait a minute.” His fingers stopped. “That guy–the one that I forgot the pizza to–he didn’t pay.”
“He didn’t take the second pizza, either. But he kept the first pizza and he didn’t pay. He just refused the second one and closed the door on me.”
Tom just looked at me. “Okay…”
“And I stil have the other pizza, and I’m keeping it.”
I’m keeping it out of spite.
We asked Jorvice if he remembered taking the order, because his name was on it. Yes, he did order two of the same pizzas, which is not what he claimed. And no, he didn’t order any red sauce, either. So he’s a fucking liar, and a thief.
I guess because he had time to think about it, which is never a good thing to do to customers. Him and his buddy sat there, watching the game, and big ol’ fluerescent bulb slowly lights up over his head. “Hey, you know what?”
“We done ate one pizza. Are you full?”
“I reckon so.”
“So am I. I don’t think we need that other pizza. I know how we can get this one we just ate for free–!”
Bastards. You shouldn’t piss of the pizza guy, because he knows where you live…
How upset should I have been about all of that? What is the right level of irritation? Not only did he not pay, but he didn’t even tip me. The thing is, I have a new, higher dose of my ADD medication. One of the side effects is irritibility. But is irritability really a side effect? I think that before, I was just happily oblivious to everything. Now I’m just more aware of how things are. Irritation is a natural reaction to the world around me. What part of how I feel is drug reaction and what part is a natural reaction to the fucked up world around me?
Little things have been bothering me at Pizzarama over the last few weeks as well. Mostly little things, like a lack of leadership and an overall sense of impending disaster that is the signature for most shifts. Most people just fuck around and do what they want, and eventually get around to doing their job at the bare minimum level. That’s why I couldn’t get any help from anyone when I was stuck on the ovens: they were too busy doing as little as possible to avoid working hard.
Except Amber, the piemaker. She is an unassuming, cute but slightly spread in the ass young girl about 19 years old. Mostly she is quiet, but if you ask her a question or talk to her about something, she starts to gush and open up. She’s a nice, sweet girl.
Before I left the other night, I went over to talk to her quietly. I didn’t want anyone else working to hear it, because it certainly wasn’t meant for them. I came up to her and said, “I want to tell you something.”
She looked at me, then turned back to her work, cleaning the makeline. But I had her attention. I said, “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 25 years. I’ve been a manager for a good 16 or more or those.” I put my hand on her shoulder. “You are the hardest working person here.”
She smiled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
I said, “I don’t know what they would do here without you. You keep everything rolling when everyone else is dicking around. Without you, I wouldn’t have deliveries to take. And I appreciate that.”
And I meant it.
Tags: banking, customer service, finances, money
I had been so focused on the actual event–this thing I had to deal with–that I was surprised when this thought crossed my mind: “I am SO going to blog about this.”
I don’t go looking for shit. Shit comes looking for me.
We finally got the money from this insurance policy of my dad’s, three and a half years late. A little bit. My sister and I each received half, but we split the total three ways, with our brother. Still, what was left was a hefty chunk. And after all that time, it had accrued interest.
That part didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was that *we got the interest.* So each of us got almost 2 grand more than we were going to get originally. I believe the correct phrase here is “Boo-yah!”
I’m not sure what my brother is doing with his chunk of money, but I think my sister is going to have herself committed. Here’s hoping. As for Detroit and I, we’ve been planning for a long time to remodel the kitchen. Of course this money, even with the added interest, is not enough to out-right have our kitchen done. Besides that, I had to pay a couple of bills.
And we were hoping to get new computers.
But the plan for the kitchen involves us doing the work ourselves, and we had been shopping around to get an idea of what we wanted and what it would cost. The previous week we found the floor we like. Boom. Done.
We had an idea of what we wanted for the back splash, but we weren’t finding it. We know what we want to do for cabinets–I’m going to make them. Appliances? We’ve been looking, but–
Detroit said that the Maytag warehouse store is having a clearance sale. Okay, let’s go. Actually, we went to a Sears outlet store in the mall first, and came away unimpressed. Off to Maytag.
Well, the bottom line there is that we changed our color choice from black to white, for a couple of reasons. First, our refrigerator is fine, and it’s white. Second, we found a stove that was really damn cheap, and it was white. Essentially, for the price of a stove, we got the stove, the dishwasher, and the OTR microwave/convection oven. That’s a good deal right there, I don’t care who you are.
After making that purchase, we wanted to check out the computers. I had previously seen a sale at Wally World for this weekend, an early Black Friday sale. The laptop I wanted was 398, and the one Detroit wanted 288, on sale from 398.
Now, why didn’t I want the 288 one also? Personal preference, Jack. So back off.
We selected our items, plus picked up an All-In-One printer for 32 dollars. We rounded it off with two laptop cooler/support trays, and a USB mouse for me because I don’t like the mouse pad on the laptop.
Why yes, we would like the service plan for each of the laptops! But no, not on the printer. For 32 bucks, if I have a problem–hell, if I run out of ink–I’ll just buy a new printer. Thank God for US commercialism and waste.
The card was declined.
This was my debit card, attached to the account with all the money in it. It should not have been declined. We ran it as credit first, then tried again as a debit. No go. We surmised that maybe I had a daily spending cap on my card. Okay, we could try again the next day–Sunday.
My idea was that all of this is on the card, not necessarily the account. I could write a check. I told Detroit to go back and gather the stuff again, and I would run out to the van and get my check book from my bag.
Except I didn’t have my checkbook. I then remembered I took it out and put it in a a drawer, because I so rarely needed it that I didn’t want to always be carrying it around. I called Detroit, and told her I would meet her at the door, and we high-tailed it out of there.
Total time, including drive: an hour and half
Sunday, we go out and try again. But first, I got online and tried to find some information. I looked on the back of my debit card for a customer service number, and there isn’t one. THERE ISN’T ONE. Everyone else has a number to call on the back of their card. What the fuck?
I go to the bank’s website to search, and there’s no information. None. Nowhere. There’s a number to call if your card is lost or stolen, but my card was neither lost nor stolen; I had it right there in my hand. Since it was a VISA debit card, I went to VISA’s website and looked.
It took several layers of clicking to get to a page with a phone number. When I called an explained, a very nice woman with an Indian accent said that my bank serviced its card through Wells Fargo. She gave me the number, and then also connected me.
I sat on hold for about 15 minutes before I realized that I wasn’t on hold, I was disconnected. I called the number.
Now I had actual hold music, which is proof that I’m on hold. When I finally talk to someone and explain, she says, “No. No, that is not–No. We don’t do that. We only service Wells Fargo NA. Not this other bank you speak of. Only Wells Fargo NA.” Shit, I had been lied to. So the question remains: Who did service it?
And why was there no phone number on the back of the card?
Total time: half an hour
Second Pass, Third Pass
Undaunted, we drove out again. This time, I have my checkbook with me. As a way of checking, I stopped to buy a couple of sodas–the card did not go through. Dammit. Ever the optimist, I reasoned we were still good because I had the checkbook.
And also ever optimistically, we had all the items rung up again–both laptops, the service plans, the mouse, the printer, and the two laptop coolers. Oh, and a pack of socks.
You’d think there would be no problem writing a check for 963 dollars, but it didn’t go through. They use TeleCheck or something like that, so there is instant verification–or in this case, instant denial.
Stupidly, I thought, “Well, if there is a 24-hour limit, it hasn’t been 24 hours yet from yesterday. Why don’t we go to lunch and come back later?”
Well, it was worth a shot. In the meantime, however, we drove around, we found a tile store that was going out of business, and after we ate we went there. We found our back splash tile. Not exactly our choice, but damn close. And for the price, we were on it. We expected to pay three or four hundred for the tile, and we got it for ninety bucks. We needed a win that day, so go us. Life’s tribulations make the small victories ever so sweet.
Or, in other words, if you set your sights low enough, and you’ll be happy just to be breathing.
Total time just for this: about an hour and half again.
Monday, I am resolved to talk to people here at the bank. What’s this? When I come in there is a message on my desk phone. I never get calls.
So, there is a fraud department, I guess. Not direct employees of the bank, but someone we farm out the service to. They called, left a message with a callback number and a code. I returned the call and went through the process of verifying who I was, but not without a little uncertainty–I mean, who can be sure anymore?
They called, of course, on a Sunday and left a message on my office phone. My office is at a bank, if you recall, and generally not open on Sunday. They didn’t have any other number for me, apparently–I guess that’s my fault. However, again, I repeat and maintain: IF they had a goddamn fucking number on their fucking shit fuck debit fucking card, I could have and fucking would have fucking called them to straighten this fucking bullshit out.
The lady was very nice, and explained that the bank pays them for the service of monitoring for fraud, I’m sure set up according to some computer algorithms, because I doubt that a person is watching the transactions slide by on the screen. So when thousand-dollar purchase shows up at a Maytag store and then an hour later there is not one but two attempts at a Wal-Mart for almost a thousand, alarms go off.
Actually, alarms went off for the first attempt, and that’s why there was a second attempt. And then an attempt that night at a gas station for ten bucks. “Yeah, I was trying to get gas. To get home. I was almost stranded.”
So while their may be a daily spending cap or something like that, all of that was superceded by the fraud alert, which stays on until they verify from me that it is not fraud, or a stolen card. Yeah, it’s me. Yeah, I meant to make that purchase, and yeah, I have the goddamn card in my fucking hand as we speak.
Okay, then. They will authorize the release of the lockdown on my account. That means I can get my money? My money, that belongs to me? I can have it now? Thanks ever so much.
Time spent, about half an hour, for this part and the next.
Polite and Cordial
I still needed to talk to someone at the bank, but I wasn’t sure who. I wrote an angry letter, then a more calm and professional one. I actually talked to Bunny, because I had called her Sunday night a few times. I had hoped that she could loan me the cash to at least get the laptop that was on sale. I called her about 3 times and texted her, all around 7 pm.
She texted me back about midnight. “I’m home if your still up call me.” Terrific. I had been asleep for two hours at that point. But in the morning she called me, and I told her the story. She gave me a line on who I should talk to.
I sent Jordan my highly edited, less angry email. Shortly thereafter, he called. He expressed his concern and condolences, and for the most part made me feel better. He acknowledged that the whole thing about not being able to contact someone was a problem that they would definitely look into. But there should be no problem today. Everything is cleared up. You are good to go. Like a chalupa.
At that point my exasperation began to wane. It was over now, anyway. The weekend was over, I could access my account–it was all good.
The Second Battle of Bull Run
Except I didn’t get that laptop–the one Detroit had picked out–for the sale price. That’s 110 dollars, that’s a lot of cabbage. But I’m not done yet. Before I left work, I looked up the number to the Wal-Mart. I left work early, because I wanted to make sure I had time.
Now, this Wal-Mart is near the Pizzarama that I work at. I headed to Pizzarama, basically, and called Wal-Mart while I was in the car. I know from experience that if you call a Wal-Mart, they don’t want to answer the phone. If they do answer and you ask for a manager, you could conceivably be on hold for days on end.
I was actually on hold for a solid 20 minutes before a manager picked up. I had to check on occasion to make sure I was still connected, because there was no hold music–and you know how a cell phone goes dark after a short time? Was I waiting for nothingness? I pressed the volume button and it lit back up–and showed me I was still on hold.
Kristin finally took my call. I told my sad story, and she sympathized. I asked her if there was any way I get that sale price today, that I had missed over the weekend?
She agreed to allow it, and said she would let the grunts in Electronics know. Of course, by this time, I was pulling into a parking spot. Happily I went in, grabbed a cart, and began to gather my items again.
The clerk remembers me, and knew where to go to retrieve the laptops. Up to the checkout we go, he rings the stuff up, I run my card, and–
Not so fast, there, Bastardi. It’s about 4pm, on a weekday, and the bank is still open. I make a call. Jordan isn’t in but I get connected to…Candy? Candy. After telling my tale so many times, I get pretty good at getting to the point. She puts me on hold to look into it. She comes back on and tells me she needs to talk to someone “downstairs,” in the Retail Department. I hold.
They think they have it cleared up. I run it. Nope. I hold again. She comes back, says, try just the one thing, because that amount is tripping the system. We do just the one laptop. Nope. “You’re kidding.”
No. No, dear, I am not fucking kidding. As much as I am usually filled with laughter and joy, you’ve pretty much managed to suck the mirth right out of me. And not in a good way.
She comes back, says they have it figured out. Give us about ten minutes, then try it. And call us back, let us know how it went. I told the clerk, and he suspended the transaction so that he could move on to bigger and better things. I browsed for a while, watching the clock. After about fifteen minutes, we were ready to try it again.
How pissed, exactly, do you think I am? How embarrassing is it, to continually try to run your card and have it denied? She said, “Hold on.” In a few minutes, she came back, and said, “Try it again, and keep me on, because I want to know what’s going on.”
Yeah, you and me both, sista.
“You’re kidding.” She said it again. No, still not kidding. Still not fucking happy. Still not going through. She started to say, “You know, we need to–”
I interrupted her. “Listen…I need to go to my other job. It’s about a quarter to five. You do what you have to do to make it work. When I get off work, about 8, I’ll come back by and try it, one more time.” I paused. “And if it doesn’t work, tomorrow morning I’m coming in and taking my four grand out of the bank.”
She said, “Well, obviously, you have to do what you feel is necessary–”
“I do. It’s my money, and it’s being held hostage. I want my money. It’s mine.”
From the phone call to Wal-Mart, to when I left? About an hour and a half.
A Musical Interlude
I went into work at Pizzarama with a pissed attitude. As I briefly told my story to Rob the manager, a thought occurred to me. I’m bringing this up with these people tomorrow. “You know, I’ve been in restaurant management for 20 years. I’ve given away several thousand dollars’ worth of free food to customers, to make them happy. What are they going to do for me? What are they going to do for me to keep me as a customer?”
Rob’s reply, and my thought was the same: Nothing. Not a damn thing.
Outside the Box
I called Bunny, and this time she called me back before midnight. As we have occasionally done in the past, I asked her if I could get cash from her tonight and pay her back when they give me access to my money. Sure. I want to at least get the one laptop that is on sale–the one for Detroit. At this point, I’ve already invested so much time and effort and stress into this that it’s almost not worth it anymore, except I don’t want to lose and I don’t want this to be wasted time. I can’t give up now.
We communicate (sort of) about when and where to meet up. She fails to grasp that I am in St Charles, that I am talking about St Charles, and the Wal-Mart in question is here in St Charles as well.
“I don’t even know if the one on West Florissant has it, much less will they give me the sale price. I know the one in St Ann doesn’t have it.”
“Oh.” The gears in her head are spinning, as are mine. Because of her busy schedule doing God knows what, we agree that the best thing is for me to come to her, grab cash that she will take out at the ATM, and then go and do what I have to do, or fuck off, or whatever. I’m going to meet her at her catholic church/school gym where she is a coach for the girl’s volleyball team, between 8 and 930.
Of course I get off at 7, an hour early. I drive back to town, calling Bunny. No answer. I’m early, can I find her early? No. You know, she has kids, you’d think she’d be more responsive to the phone. Damn caller ID.
I drive around, I drive to her house. Dark. I drive to the school–there are cars in the lot, but not hers. I park. I wait. She said 8, but I know how her clock is. Still, by 815, there’s no sign of Bunny. I take off, and drive towards her house. About halfway there, I get a call.
I bet I passed right by her. She’s at the school. Instead of 300, she has 280, which is the max she could take out. Okay. I do the math on the long drive back. the laptop is 288. What’s tax? I find one of the declined receipts, and the info is on the bottom. 7.5% Shit! It just keeps going higher and higher, doesn’t it?
Seven and a half percent on 288. Well, 7.5 times three is…15, plus 7…22 and a half. That’s 310.50 as a total. But–it’s 12 bucks less than that–not quite a buck less in tax. So I need 310.
I can use my card–my other card–if I have to. But I have some cash. Not much from tonight, but it helps. With the other cash from the previous night, I’m good.
It’s about nine when I get there. I’ve been running all over, it feels like. When I get there, the clerk I had been dealing with was gone. Darn it, I wanted to offer him some closure.
Instead, it was this other freak…
Bob. Bob was about 30, and obviously single and probably a virgin. Bob was nice, but Bob shouldn’t talk. I bought the laptop with cash. Done. I have 90 days to get the extended warranty, so give me a couple of days on that.
But I told Candy I was going to try it, so let me try it. I grabbed one item, the mouse, and rang it up.
The fucker went through.
Well, okay then. Let me try to get the other laptop. By itself, with no warranty, it would be under 500, something that they had indicated was a trigger.
It was during this exercise that Bob decided that we had bonded. We talked (he talked) about politics, GW and his father, and their father, Prescott Bush, and JP Morgan, and Rockefeller, and how, adjusted for inflation, some 1st century BC king was the richest man who ever lived. Terrific. I’m interested, really, but he’s spouting these facts with a goofy smile and some spittle, so he’s hard to take seriously.
Meanwhile, the card is denied.
It went through for the 10 dollar item. But not this. Hmmm. Okay, I’m done.
Bob said, “Did you want to try it again?”
“Nope,” I said, grabbing my two items out of the cart.
“I can call a manager and do–”
“Not necessary,” I said, as I made sure I had both receipts.
I said, “Just let it be. I did what I was here to do.” I left.
I Believe the Word You’re Looking For
I said, as I came in the door with Detroit’s laptop, “Is ‘tenacious.'”
She was very happy, and I’d like to think she was impressed as well. I never gave up.
All’s Well That
It’s not over yet, however.
Tuesday, I came in to work, still pissed about the card. I had a couple of points that I wanted to make to someone–anyone:
*I’ve given away a lot of pizza to customers over the years. What are they prepared to do for me? Anything?
*Is it because I’m an employee that I won’t get treated as well as a regular customer? What would they do for a regular customer?
That might be it. I talked to Jordan in person. Candy was busy, interviewing people I guess. And anyway, I needed to talk to this other person whose name I can’t remember that handles employee accounts. Jordan said he would have her call me or come over and talk to me or set up an appointment.
That was about 930 this morning. It’s almost 2, and I’m getting ready to leave. And I haven’t heard from anyone. I feel like I’m getting shit on because I’m an employee.
When I leave, I’m going over there and taking my money out.
I walked over to the main building, and went in the lobby. I snuck a peak around the corner–Jordan was gone, and Candy was in her office talking with someone with the door closed. I guess that’s it then.
I went up to the teller and asked if Jaime was there–she’s the lead teller. I wanted to tell someone…But she’s not in.
But what does it matter? “Can I help you?”
Yes. Yes you can. We made the transaction–I didn’t take out everything, but I took out everything to the nearest hundred dollar. I asked her, “Can you send an email to Jordan for me?”
Tell him what, exactly? “Tell him that I got my money, and no has contacted me, and I’m *still* not very happy.”
I had my cash. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.
Tags: 2010s, customer service, management, pizzarama
That was my thought process the first two days I worked. The fucking people–it doesn’t matter how big their house is or how big their order is–they tip two dollars.
I delivered 60 dollars worth of pizza to a half a million dollar house (And by the way, this is half a mil in the real world, not Califuckinfornia, where 600k gets you a 1200 square feet on an eighth of an acre. Here in the Midwest–aka the real world–600k will get you half an acre and 4000 square feet in a great school district.) and got a two dollar tip from the mature executive with bright teeth in his pricey coif and pressed shorts dressed for leisure/action, and matching Lexi in the driveway.
If I have to refresh your memory, the minimum acceptable on 60 bones is six clams, which is only ten percent. Nine bills would have been fifteen percent. Then round it out to ten to show the world you’re not an asshole, asshole.
But the money is decent overall, even though it’s slow in coming. Rob is the new manager, and he’s a young guy. I would put him about mid-20s. On the last night I worked before I hurt my knee, he remarked that it was a bit slow.
I said, “Look, I sound like an old asshole whenever I say this. But I’ve been doing this for about 24 years. The weeks right around the Fourth of July are historically the slowest of the year. Always. Maybe it’d be different if we were a resort town.”
“Yeah, everybody goes to the Lake.”
“I just wish I knew what the hell Lake ‘they’ are talking about.”
Rob and I had made amends, after I made the mistake of presumption. A few days earlier, I was on a delivery. The customer answers the door, and he’s holding a credit card. That’s going to be a problem. The order said cash.
The family communicates randomly, and I’m there to pick up the pieces. The oldest daughter ordered online, but she didn’t specify a card and she says the order screen didn’t ask. Possible, even likely. No, I don’t have a machine to put the card, slide it (Ca-chink!) and give them a carbon, because this isn’t the 70s, or a third world country.
The family is running around back forth, collectively a group of chickens-sans-cranium, trying to come up with a solution before the buzzer goes off and they lose a turn on this game show. I manage to get someone’s attention.
“Hey, here’s what we can do–”
I had call the store and run the card right then. I said, “As long as you don’t need me to bring back a receipt, we’re good.” They agreed.
I listened to the young lady’s end of the conversation, trying to pick up a hint about what was going on. The card went through, and everything was fine. Well, hey, Lama–How about a little something, you know, for the driver?”
But I’m not going to *ask*. In addition to probably being against some ridiculous company policy (which wouldn’t stop me), I feel that it is just plain rude. I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer. I left empty-handed. Back in the car, I called the store and talked to Rob.
I had to fill him in on what happened–he wasn’t actually a part of it. Oh. I explained, and in a hurt tone, I said, “Why didn’t whoever took the card ask the customer if they wanted to tip the driver, since there was no coming back with a receipt and all?”
Well, the thought never occurred to him. No one had ever ever done it for him, it’s not how things are done here. He may have almost said policy, but I know that rules aren’t that specific, no matter how anal a company is. But he didn’t quite get it. I was mad, then I cooled down when I realized I was fighting a losing battle here. It is only two bucks (if I’m lucky), and I’ll get over it. I’m not going to start a fight about it.
You see–when I was a manager, and this situation occurred (customer at the door with credit card that hasn’t been run for whatever reason), when I take the call at the store, the driver is standing there. He can’t ask for a tip, but as the nameless, faceless person in the store, I can ask for one on his behalf. More often than not, they will say to add a few bucks, or tip in cash. All they need is a reminder.
But it’s not done that way at Pizzarama. The culture there I’ve experienced is that they use the facade of professionalism to cover for the fact that they are rude and a little selfish, and don’t give a shit about people.
Maybe I’m saying wrong, because I don’t think it’s a bad thing. You KNOW how I feel about the customer.
However, in this situation, it bit me in the ass. I had time on the long ride back to the store to think about it, and I apologized to Rob when I came back. He may have almost said he was sorry as well, sort of a generic sorry-for-the-inconvenience-that-your-misinterpretation-caused-you kind of apology. Still, he did say, in future scenarios he would keep that in mind.
We have achieved pizza detente.