The Ghost of Pizza Past, Redux

December 23, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Posted in Fiction | 5 Comments
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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.

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Why I Make the Big Bucks

April 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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November 1986

Jonathan’s wife is hot.  Too hot for him.  He’s a short, chubby, slightly Mexican-looking dude.  She looks like a model.  I’m a tall, chubby, basically Caucasian-looking dude.  What gives?
Ah, well.  I already have a girlfriend.  She’s not young and hot, though.  She’s old but still pretty.  The lesson I’m sure that I need to learn in life is to not always let my dick do the driving.  But there’s still time—I’m young.
I’m finally able to put some names to the faces, and remember the faces.  I thought two of them were the same guy, but it turns out they are brothers, Ricky and…the other one.  Ironically, they have a Latina last name but don’t look it, while Jonathan doesn’t, but does look it.  There’s also Marty and his brother as well–didn’t catch his name.  There are others, like this cocky football player-looking dude, some tall guy I hear people calling “Mabes,” and a random assortment of others.
Oh, and Thomas just rolled onto the scene.  He’s new here but he’s done this before, he said.  After a fashion he kind of latched onto me, so I guess I have a friend.  Thomas is a good guy, a little insecure, and a loud talker.  Don’t tell him I said that.
During one conversation with him, he said that from some source (I wasn’t really paying attention) he learned that the secret to making more money—getting a raise or what-have-you—was to act like you were already earning that money, and worth it.  “If I want to make 3.60 an hour,” he said while we were both sweeping the floor, “I need to work like I’m already making 3.60 an hour.”
Minimum is 3.35 an hour.  I couldn’t see much difference in the effort for 3.35 and 3.60.
Besides, that was a quarter.  Nobody got a quarter raise.  He might get a dime or fifteen cents.  Not a quarter.  I kept quiet; my personal belief was that with delivery, you made your own raise by getting better and more efficient at it, taking more runs and kissing the customers’ ass more.
I had no idea how to do that.  Man, I wish I did.  That jackoff football player-looking dude—Jeff—always made out really good in tips, or at least he claimed to.  If so, he was much nicer to the customers than he was to anyone here in the store.  I had to make up for what I lacked in social skills by driving fast, and running hard.
We all run.  We run to the car.  We run to the door.  We run back to the car.  We run back into the store.  When the phone rings, we run to it.  Two rings, max.  Always.
So I run.  I’m not built for running, so much, but I do it.  Plus I like to get high while I deliver.  I didn’t do that so much at first because I wanted to get used to the job and learn the area.  But after a few months of driving up and down these streets all over the place, I rarely look at the map, except to figure out the right hundred-block.
Getting high kind of slows you down, but I have a solution.  I take some mini-thins.  For those of you not hip to the drug lingo, that’s speed.  Actually, they’re just caffeine pills.  But three minis will get me through a close, and I can still get high.
I was having a pretty good Saturday night—I was closing.  It was just after dinner rush and a few drivers were cut.  It would start to open up for me.  I came back from a run, and Tom grabbed me and said, “Hey, come in here a minute.”  The office.  He closed the door.  Hell, I didn’t even think this broom closet-sized office had a door.
We had a quick meeting.  “Bubba, I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve been doing a really good job, and I’m impressed.  I really didn’t think you were going to make it—“
Which is always nice to hear.  Did I suck that bad when I started?  I guess so.
“—but you’ve proven yourself, and you have integrity.”
“Aw, well, hey—thanks.  I appreciate that—“
“Starting Monday you get a raise.  Three-fifty.”  He raised his furry eyebrow, letting it sink in, because 15 cents is the highest increment raises came in.  I had only been there a few months.
“Awesome!  Thanks, Tom!”
“And Bubba—listen:  don’t tell anyone about it, okay?  Not everyone is getting a raise right now.  Just keep it to yourself.”
I nodded.  But I had a question.  “Why you calling me ‘Bubba’?”
He was taken aback.  “I thought—“  He grabbed a clipboard and flipped back a couple of pages.  “Every time you sign the daily—see there?  You’re signing ‘Bubba.’  I thought it was your nickname.”
“That’s just my initials.  BB.  I didn’t really want a nickname.”
Tom looked down sheepishly.  “Yeah…it might be too late for that.”
Fuck me.  But I got a raise, so what the hell.  We exited the office.  Joel caught my eye.  “Bubba, you’re up.”  That fast?  It happened that fast?  Christ in a—

So I continued to have a good night, and I was happy about my raise.  It wasn’t the money, really.  Fifteen cents over thirty hours, or sixty, on a biweekly paycheck—was going to be…a couple of bucks.  The difference between a couple of decent tips and a couple of good tips.  But it was a marker, like proof that I got a pat on the back.  Recognition for a job well done and all my hard work.
In the course of having a good night I may have celebrated a bit, like taking a few hits from my bat—my one-hitter.  The mistake, of course, was that this was some serious skunk weed, and had an odor to it.  An odor that lingered, and clung to me.  Imagine my surprise when later, about 930, Tom caught me and had me come into his office again.  He had a somber expression on his face.
“What’s up?”
“Bubba, I need to ask you to not get high anymore while you’re working.”
Fuu…
You know pot makes you paranoid, right?  Getting busted doesn’t make it better.  I was shaking on the inside, so I froze, held completely still.  I may have held my breath.  Tom continued.  “We can smell it on you, and a customer called—“
“Oh…”
“Yeah.  So don’t—don’t do that anymore on the clock.  When you’re off I don’t care what you do.  But I don’t want to catch you high on the clock anymore.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  No more.  I promise.”
And I meant it, too.  He would never catch me.

The Last Picture Show

January 17, 2011 at 12:40 AM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Fall 1991

It was a beautiful fall evening in the suburbs, and everything seemed normal and quiet and I surveyed my domain.  I wasn’t sure how much longer this car would last, though–
But for now it was running well; I just had it back on the road after replacing the shifter.  I buzzed around in the little Toyota with the sunroof open–of course–and enjoying the weather that was still warm enough to do so without looking like a crackpot.  It was after 9 pm so the major rush was long over, but for the few drivers left we still had business, and business is good.
I dropped off the first order of my double without anything remarkable happening, and headed off to the other stop.  Once I found the house, I park against the near-nonexistent curb and cut the wheel.  It’s enough of a bump to keep the car from rolling away, since I don’t have a parking brake–this way I don’t have to turn the engine off.
It’s a standard house in the subdivision, but I remember it had cedar shingles.  Close to the end of the dead end part of the street, so there wasn’t any traffic that didn’t have to be there.  I knock on the door and a guy answers, and holds the door wide for me.  “Pizza man!  Alright!  Come on in!”
Yeah, I know we aren’t supposed to.  If I had a nickel for every time I didn’t follow the rules, my tip average would be higher.  I step in.
The dude that answered the door disappeared to find money–I hope.  I was standing in the living room, and there were three people on the couch.  Two dudes, and a chick.
The dudes looked like dudes.  A little older than me, but that’s not saying much.  One had long hair and a 3/4 sleeve concert shirt, so I assume he was a time-traveler from the 70s.  The other guy looked like a truck driver–hat, slight beard, flannel over a greasy t-shirt.  The chick in question–let’s call her Bethany–Bethany was cute in an escaped-from-rehab kinda way.  Plain face, no makeup.  Revealing top that her boobs sprang out of because she needed to accent her best feature, and straight, flat, dirty blonde hair.  They just sat there, watching TV, then they would one by one glance at me, then glance back at the TV.  They did this a couple of times.  I turned towards the TV.
They were watching porn.
Three guys and one chick, watching porn.  Somebody is getting lucky tonight.  And somebody is getting an STD.
The guy came out with the money, and hesitated, as he caught the eye of the long-haired dude, and some unspoken communication passed between them.  The girl glanced my way, and then at the other guy.  Long-hair nudged her, I think.
I hope I’m better at concealing my expressions now than I was then.  My interpretation is that they were maybe hoping to barter a piece of ass for some pizza.  Maybe they didn’t know how to go about this either–I mean, it always looks easy in the porn movies, because they have a script and everything.
But the uncomfortable moment passed, and the guy paid me money, giving me a three-dollar tip.
It’s probably for the best, anyway.  I was married at the time, and as much as I crave to be the center of attention, performing in front of others in that way might be awkward.  *Might be*?  Shit.  Plus, would it all be male on female?  I like surprises, but I don’t want to be mounted from behind.  I guess it’s a fine line.

Hot Or Not?

January 10, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Geez, I got a list here, of stories I need to tell.  Let’s start with this one, because it’s more or less the oldest…

About a month ago, on a Sunday night, I’m delivering.  On the last of a three-stop, I go to this apartment.  The apartment is K, on the third floor.  People who live on the first floor rarely order for delivery, I’ve noticed.
Right after I knock on the door, a guy and girl in their early twenties come out–not for the pizza, but to smoke on the balcony.  Okay.  But they leave the door open, so I see the girl who is going to pay come from around the corner and walk toward me.
Out of my line of sight, I hear another female’s voice.  “Is he hot?”
The girl turns with an exasperated gesture and says, “NO!”
Then she turns and walks towards me, but didn’t seem to make the connection that I did.  Before she gets to me, I said, “No, I’m really not.  Not at all.”
The couple on the balcony laugh quietly, and the girl turns beet red, and stammers some excuse about how it wasn’t what I thought, but she gave up.  The unseen girl in the apartment had heard it all as well, and she yelled out, “You better tip him good!”
I said, “Now, I heard that.”
She’s still flummoxed as she fills out the credit card slip, and gives me a five dollar tip.  Meh, what’s my pride worth, anyway?  Three bucks and the change?
I guess I came out ahead then.

Living The Dream

December 20, 2010 at 10:56 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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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.

Adventures In Babysitting

December 13, 2010 at 10:31 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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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.
Fuck.
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.”
“What?”
“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?”
“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.

Subtleties

September 22, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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I remember it like it was only 19 years ago…
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. There wasn’t much lightning, but it was raining pissbuckets in the early Fall. It got dark early, so by 8:30 pm, I was several hours into a wet, uncomfortable, and hard-to-see night delivering pizza.
I never thought of myself as a moody person. But sometimes, it just really gets me. I’m in the store, and I run out with a pizza bag. I get rained on. Again. I get the bag in the car and get in, and then I tried to read the smudged writing on the ticket by the fading interior car light.
It had started off warm enough, but the sun gave way to clouds in time to blur the line between light and sunset. But still, it was warm enough that running the defroster to keep the windows clear made me sweat a little. My uniform is clinging to me, and I don’t want to think about what is going on with my underwear, which are soaked and stuck to my body like a leech.
I have to run the defroster with the heat and also have the window cracked for the breeze, so I’m getting rained on while I’m in the car. It’s dark, and the all the car lights and streetlights have halos of glare around them, making it hard to see. It’s been like this all night.
As it was earlier in the evening, when it was raining *really* hard. I was standing at a customer’s door. Not under a porch. Not even under an eave. The eave stuck out about 18 inches, just enough for the water overflowing from the gutter to pour directly on me. Why even bother? I’ve been wet before. I’ll be wet again, even more. The night is young.
The customer opens the door, and seems to be surprised. “Wow, it’s really coming down!”
What’s beyond sarcasm? I answered in a deadpan, “I didn’t really notice.” As I opened the insulated pizza bag (designed to keep the pizza safe and hot and fresh!), water poured out of it. I gave them the pizza. They handed me a check, which I knew would be moist now and illegible later. I glanced at the amount. Whaddaya know! The exact amount. Luckily, they closed the door before I could grunt and walk away.
If I’m not doing this for my health, why am I doing it?
After several hours of getting rained on outside and water dripping on me inside and several little aggravations compounding on my soul, my temper started to wear thin and my normally cheery disposition gave way to a grim determination to make it through the night without strangling someone. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and watch TV alone, in the dark, with–for once–no one around. I’m not fun to be around when I’m like this. Hopefully–if I got home late enough–the wife and kids would be asleep, and I could have some alone time to contemplate my fate and really hone my brooding.
****
So here I am in front of this customer’s house, the customer in question. I paused before getting out, waiting for a brief respite from the heavy downpour. If I timed it right, it would lighten up from torrential to merely spiteful. As I did, I took in the view of the house from the streetlight and the occasional flicker of lightning. No porch light.
There was a beat up van on the cracked and uneven driveway. A broken window in the garage door. The foliage–or the remnants thereof–told a tale of lackluster yard care. At least there was a porch. Under it, in the high corners, cobwebs accented the peeling paint and dirty windows. The only thing missing was last year’s Christmas lights–that’s when you know you’ve got a winner. I made my way to the door.
Generally, I never used the doorbell. In this middle-class neighborhood (my neighborhood!) of 30-plus year old homes, I don’t expect doorbells to work. Instead, I knocked. I always knocked.
I stood and looked around, the pizza slowly weighing my arm down. I shifted it to the other hand, and knocked again, louder. Did I hear something inside? I waited for a ten-count (“One, large pepperoni, two, large pepperoni–”) and then knocked again. This time I was sure I heard something. A ruckus.
Could you describe the ruckus?
Well, no, not really. I don’t have a frame of reference for it. A rolling, maybe? Then a thud, and a dragging? What the hell is going on in there?
I was certain from my judgment of the condition of the house that I wasn’t going to get a tip. But here and now, at least I wasn’t getting wet, so we’re tied at one and one. Can I at least get out of here without wasting too much of my precious time? I waited less time–a five count–before knocking again. I punctuated it with a ringing of the doorbell. This time I heard some vague noise, and then a distant voice said, “Just a minute!”
Houston, we have contact. Terrific. Okay, I’ll wait. I shifted the pizza again back to the other arm. Resigned though I was, I grew impatient. I was about to knock again when I heard the voice say, “Be right there!”
What the hell is he doing in there, hiding hookers and drugs?
Geez. As the minutes have ticked past, I felt the weight of the evening on me. The rain. The crappy tips. The aggravation and discomfort. And now the time wasted here, keeping me from making money. How’s about a little sympathy here, huh?
Finally the door opens. I look straight ahead, and immediately I’m forced to look down at the floor. On the floor, looking up at me, is a man. A black man. With no legs. Behind him, a wheelchair. He’s smiling. He looks up with bright, cheery eyes and greets me. “Howya doin this evening, brother?”
Stunned, I force an answer, trying not to stare. “Uhm…just fine. How about yourself?”
“I’m great. Doing wonderful. Happy with what The Lord has blessed me with!”
“Okay–”
“What do I owe ya?”
I told him the price, and he handed me some money. I watched with real intent all the detail that was involved in him handling a normal daily activity, and I studied the look on his face. For him, everything required effort. Everything was a battle of his wits and determination against the world, and he tackled it cheerfully, with no complaints. I gave him the pizza, and he grabbed it awkwardly while he held onto the door frame with his other hand. Then he set it down, and I saw him scoot it across the floor with his body while he walked with his hands. The question to this day still plagues me: why was he out of his chair?
He turned to me and said, “Bless you, brother! You have good evening. Take care.” He closed the door.
I looked at the money he had given me. A buck and the change is my tip. This was the early 90s, so it’s not that bad. But he had given me more than just a tip. As I walked back to my car, I felt a wry expression come over my face, matching my new mood and my personal revelation. I looked up at the sky, squinting as the light rain pelted my face and hit my eyes. I said to God, “You don’t do subtle, do you?” As if to answer me, the rain increased once more. I walked to my car and smiled, no longer worried about the rain or the discomfort I felt. I had just had things placed in proper perspective for me. I was still wet. I’ve been wet before. God willing, I’ll be wet again.

Why I Does What I Does…

September 4, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Posted in Journal, Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Why I deliver pizza part time:
Last night wasn’t typical, of course. But I’ve had some nights just as good. Last night I was scheduled for three-hours, from 5pm to 8pm—prime dinner rush.
It was threatening to rain, and I did get sprinkled on a bit, but nothing big. But we were busy, and I ended up working until 830 basically.
We were busy, but there were lulls, or spaces, where I waiting for a delivery. Also, our area is big and unwieldy, so sometimes it can take a long time to get from one end to the other, especially with suburban rush hour traffic and construction always going on. So even though I worked 3 and a half hours, and in other places I could have taken more deliveries, I took 14. That’s about 4 per hour, which is really not a bad average.
So, 14 deliveries. I get the pies in the car, I drive around, I listen to the radio, I go up to the door, give them the food and take the money, and go back to my car, and drive away. I’m not sure if you can really call it “work.”
I made 65 bucks in cash. Fourteen of that is the dollar per run I get from the company to cover gas. And then I get paid by the hour—minimum wage, which is currently 7.25
Ready for some math?
Sixty five divided by 3.5 is 18.57. Add the minimum wage to that. I made 25.82 per hour last night.
Now, the problem is, I can’t do that for 40 hours a week. First of all, they don’t need me for 40 hours. They are busy for about three hours a day, around dinner, every day. I work about 3 or 4 days per week, anywhere from 10 to 15 hours.
And that money I made is not average or typical; it’s the high of the high-low. What’s low? Several nights I have worked 3 hours and made in the neighborhood of 25 bucks in cash. Now, that still gives me about 14 bucks per hour….but your gas is included in that number.
All in all it’s a good job—if you can take it. If you’re tough enough. What does that mean?
Well, even though it is easy, and often I hesitate to call it work—you have to have a little something on the ball do it.
You have to be able to read directions and follow a map. I’m going to say it right here, right now, to your face: GPS is for pussies. If you can’t read a map you’re goddamn lower primate. And, while I do intend to get a mapbook and put it in my car in case I need it, what I have been doing so far is reading the map on the wall at the store, remembering where I’m going, and then leaving with nothing written down.
Yeah, I’m that good.
In fact, last night one of the runs I took was actually four runs: a four-stop. They routed well, and although I am still somewhat new to this area, two of the streets I had been to before, and all of them were in the same general area.
And this goes to the difference in how people read a map. If you need “directions,” like turn left here, turn right here, go two blocks—“ that’s not reading a map. That’s reading directions. What if you had the four stops I had, and didn’t know the area? You’re going to need a page of written directions. Do you have time for that?
No, you really don’t.
You look at the map, and first you see where the streets are that you need. Then, you look for main roads, and roads that are familiar to you. Then you try to string them together, what you are familiar with and the new stuff. But not with directions. Visualize the map. See the map in your head. All of the these streets you get to from McClay. You know how to get to McClay. Don’t worry about that. Get to McClay. First street on that side, then wind a bit, and there’s a court. Come back out and continue onward. Turn just past the light, and remember a street name—your street is off of that. Find your way out. Go back to the light, and head up. This is more complicated, but you remember what the map looks like in your head. You go in, you come out. Head back. Take that main drag back to the other main street, and turn up it. There’s a court off of it somewhere….there it is. Found it. Now come back.
Instead of countless directions, I remembered what the map looked like, and two street names to look for that I had to turn onto. Much, much simpler. I made the round trip in traffic in about 25 minutes. No wrong turns, no delays.
And this is why I’m better than you at reading a map, and why GPS is for pussies.

The Case For Tipping: A Rebuttal

May 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
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  Because, you see–Tipping is not a city in China.
          BACKGROUND
  I have worked in food service since 1986–24 years.  About half of that time has been in management, and the other half has been as a delivery driver.  Therefore, I have seen this world from all sides, including from the point of view of a customer.
  Now, pizza delivery is a little different from being a waiter, but there is a relation.  As far as the customer is concerned, there is no difference.  All the differences are "inside" and fairly transparent to them:  They both bring you your food.  The rest is details.
  My brethren in pizza delivery will say that driving is just as hard as being a waiter.  However, I have done both, and being a waiter is harder–for a few reasons.
  Waiting (serving) is physically more demanding.  More running back and forth, more time on your feet, and generally more time spent cleaning and prepping.  Also, you have more face time with the customer.  Any time you can minimize that, it is a good thing.  With pizza delivery, if you have to talk to the customer for more than twenty seconds, something is wrong.
  That doesn’t mean driving doesn’t have its own difficulties.  While you do get to ride around in your car and listen to your stereo, driving is treacherous.  Delivering pizza is lumped in with other driving jobs such as truck driving and taxi driving, but it is one of the most dangerous jobs.
  Waiters seldom get robbed at gunpoint at the table they are serving.
  A waiter will not die in a car accident on the way to a table.
  A waiter won’t have to walk a quarter mile in the dark in the snow to bring your food to you.
  A waiter typically knows where you are, and doesn’t have to try to find you.
  I have been robbed.  I have been beaten.  I have had a gun in my chest.  I have also seen everything you can imagine–and things you can’t possibly.  I have drudged through snow and ice and mud. I’ve been attacked by dogs.  Fallen on ice?  You bet.  Soaked to the bone in the rain?  All the time.  I’ve delivered during tornadoes.
  I’ve also been tipped with things other than money.  Further I shall not say on this topic.
  Drivers still have some prep and cleaning to do, but typically servers work in restaurants that are not fast food, so there is more prep, prep of practically everything.  So, while serving is more physically demanding, there are other aspects to delivery that make it difficult.  
  Delivery, like serving, is not for everyone.  To drive, you don’t have to be a genius, but idiots don’t last long.  You have to be able to get around, find your way, improvise, and think on your feet.
  I worked at Domino’s Pizza.  When we had the thirty minute guarantee, you had to do all of that fast.
        BUSINESS
  There are two different ways drivers are paid.  In the big places, like Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut, the drivers are paid by the hour–generally minimum–plus a per-delivery stipend to cover gas usage (it was fifty cents, but with gas prices it’s around a dollar now), and then they are tipped.
  The other method, popular among smaller chains and mom-and-pop operations, is to pay the driver a cash bank at the beginning of the night, usually fifteen to twenty dollars, which they get to keep.  Then they get a higher per-delivery fee (2 or 3 bucks), and also tips.  Essentially these are non-employed, sub-contracted individuals.  
  The second group is more dependent on tips–similar to servers making 2.13 per hour and then making the rest up in tips.  But the first group still needs them; that small fee for gas doesn’t always quite cover the actual gas used, not to mention wear and tear on the vehicle.  Plus–does anyone want to make JUST minimum wage?  So for all of these tipped positions, tips are important.
  For instance, right now, I drive two nights per week, averaging eight hours per shift.  Sometimes it’s busy, and sometimes it’s slow.  On a slow night, I made 30 bucks in cash, including my mileage.  That’s 3.75 per hour; with my hourly it’s 9.25.  Not great, but not bad considering the job.  My worst night recently I made 14 dollars.  Divide that by the five hours I worked, it’s 2.80, or 8.30 with my hourly.  On my best night so far, I made 90 bucks in cash.  That’s 11.25 per hour, with my hourly, 16.75.  Not bad.  More than the job is worth?  What’s it worth to you to not have to put clothes on, start your car, clean it off, warm it up, drive through the ice and snow in the dark…to get a pizza?  What is avoiding a DUI worth by not having to go out when you’re drunk?  What is the convenience worth?
  (And I just had a flash of insight; my own ADD moment:  Whenever I order concert tickets, my 40 dollar tickets always end up costing me 52.75.  Why is that?  Convenience charge?  Doesn’t seem terribly convenient to me.  It’s like they are not giving me a choice and forcing me to tip them.  That’s fascist.)
  But that’s the high end.  Let’s go with the average.  I average 50 bucks in cash.  That’s 6.25, with my hourly, 11.75.  That makes it a decent job in fast food.  Plus, that’s mostly cash, so the equivalent is probably a job making 15 bucks per hour.  Not too shabby.  But this is all dependent on tips.
  Some people have intimated that (because they don’t understand how this part of the economy works–and hey, there’s no shame in that unless you spout off a bunch of ridiculous ideas about it) maybe…. maybe employers should just PAY their employees more, and eliminate tipping.  And then charge more for the food.
  But you are wrong about this, for several reasons, which I will explain in excruciating detail, and I might even include charts and graphs.
  Eliminating tipping is anti-American, anti-Capitalist, and stupid. And socialists.  "Let’s eliminate all competition and pay everyone the same, no matter what."  I think that’s a quote from Stalin.
            MATH
  Let’s examine what would happen if we raise wages.  Let’s take a. . .Let’s take a Steak n Shake, because I worked there also.  This Steak n Shake does 40,000 in sales per week.  It has about 60 hourly employees.  Twenty of them are back kitchen, making roughly 8 bucks an hour.  The other 40 are servers, making 2.13 per hour.  To make things equitable, they are ALL going to make 8 bucks an hour.  How much do you have to raise the prices?
  This where my experience as a manager comes in:  Food and labor are the big numbers.  You want food to be around 25% of costs, and labor to be around 20%.  So 20% of 40k is. . .8 thousand dollars.  That’s with 2/3 of your staff at tipping wage.  So let’s bump that up.  My complicated formula for that is:

(Well, 2/3 of the staff is making 1/4 of what 1/3 of the staff makes, and this is your hourly people)

    40*2*x + 20*8*x=8000
    80x+160x=8000
    240x= 8000
    x= 33 hours average each works.  This lets me calculate the new formula.

So now it’s (40*8*33)+(20*8*33) which equals 15840

That makes more sense than my original calculation.  Originally my number tripled the labor dollars.  That was silly.  This only doubles it.  So–In order to keep the labor percentage the same, what do we have to do in sales?

15840/20%=79200.  That’s almost double.  So–
 
  You know, Steak n Shake is already really expensive.  It’s three dollars for a tiny cheeseburger; four dollars for a double.  Six bucks for a platter, two bucks for a drink.  I can’t afford to eat there much.  But if I did, my fiancé and I would get two platters and two drinks.  6, 12, plus 4–16 bucks?  I seem to recall it being closer to 20.  We’ll go with 16.  I’m going to throw down a twenty-dollar bill, because I’m a good tipper–most people who have worked in food are, while doctors and lawyers and professional people tend to be bad tippers.  There is research and anecdotal evidence to back that up.  But that’s a 25% tip.
  But in the new world where no one tips, prices had to go up to compensate.  This 16- dollar meal now costs 32 bucks.  But I feel better, because I didn’t have to tip, everyone is treated equally, and no one’s feelings are hurt.
  The reality is, if everyone is making more money, then fewer of those "everyone" will have a job.  As owner or manager, if I can cut my staff, I will.  Service will suffer.  You won’t get a refill as often as you like–If ever.  But that’s the reality of business.
  Maybe some of you can pay 32 bucks for a dinner for two at a glorified fast food restaurant masquerading as a crappy diner . . . but the rest of us can’t.  And what will then happen to that business?
          ECONOMY
  So the economy will suffer a bit–Quite a lot, actually.  It will hurt people on the lower end.  These are the people typically working these jobs.  It’s not all high school and college students.  It’s mothers and fathers trying to make ends meet.  People who have fallen on hard times because their job was shipped over seas or downsized.  So they did what they had to do–adjusted.  Moved to the service industry.  Instead of good benefits and decent hours, they are working all hours of the day and night, and weekends.  Missing their kids’ games and homework to put food on the table and keep the lights on.
  Oh, sorry…I got all emotional.  I figured it would appeal to you, since you want to essentially socialize the hospitality industry.  And we know how much liberals are long on "feelings," and short on substance.
  Yes, of course, no one “has” to work there.  But the tips make the job a draw; without them, it just might be another job Americans won’t do.  Not everyone can have a union job.  And if everyone did, America would burn to the ground from the inflation.  For those of us who actually live in the real world, our choices are limited.  Go back to school, get re-educated?  Sounds a little like Nazi re-education camps to me.  Not only that, but listen—really:  Not everyone is smart enough.  Hell, not everyone is even smart, period.   Situations and circumstances are different for everyone.  Your sweet, cute waitress may also be dumb as a box of rocks, or just have an LD.  She’s not going back to school.  This is the job where her strengths—being cute and friendly—work for her.  She doesn’t have to know math beyond counting cash.  She’s saving up her money to leave an abusive boyfriend—and you want to take that away from her?
  There we go with the emotions again.  I’m not stupid, either.  I have a ridiculously high IQ, and wasted my education in my youth with a drug problem.  I’m clean now, but my life is a product of my mistakes.  But—never mind.  My point is this:  for everyone to have some level of success (and success is defined differently by everyone) tipping is a real, tangible measure of that success.
  There are groups who want to unionize the pizza delivery industry.  Without even knowing the details, I’m sure you can guess that it’s a bad idea.
  And one thing they want to do is what you suggest—raise prices and eliminate tipping.  This is because it’s hard to get union dues from cash.  And it’s always for everyone’s own good, isn’t it?   
  (Another of my own ADD moments:  This won’t work for all industries.  Just how do you expect a stripper to get paid if there is no more tipping?  Those tattoos and piercings and waxings aren’t free, brotha!  Do you know what high heels go for these days?  Not to mention crotchless—anything . . .)
          TAXES
  At least one good thing will come out of it:  Currently, employees who make tips declare them as income.  Of course, they declare as little as possible, hitting the threshold of barely acceptable.  The employers appreciate this, because they have to match Social Security and some other things, like unemployment tax.  So a server making 2.13 declares enough in tips to make it 5.50 or 6, when in fact he’s probably making 9 or 10 bucks an hour . . . or more.
  Why, that is cheating the government out of valuable tax dollars that they need to give to Africa to piss away.  So, businesses will probably both raise their prices AND cut people, to avoid paying as much in taxes.  Plus, having more sales dollars affects the taxes they pay as well.  It’s a win for everyone–because the government wins and gets more tax revenue.  This will go to government programs to help those who lost their jobs when employers cut their labor.
  This is a rough estimate, but a server who makes 10 bucks an hour in tips makes more versus someone who makes 10 bucks an hour on a check.  Obviously, they aren’t paying taxes on all of that money, or FICA, or SUTA, or SS.  Maybe that’s wrong, and they should—
  Or maybe people being paid some of their wages in cash is a way for them to stick it to The Man.  Don’t worry; they still pay taxes on a portion of it.
  On a personal note, back in 1992 the company I worked for got audited.  The owner rolled over on the drivers as part of his plea, so we got audited.  I felt that you should be as honest with the government as they are with you, so I declared nothing in tips for that year.  Including late fees and penalties, I had to pay back 2600 dollars, which became over four grand before I was through because the fees and penalties don’t stop accruing.  
  They had a formula for figuring out what my tips were, basically amounting to one dollar per hour.  It looked like a substantial amount. My wife at the time said, "There’s no way you made that much–"
  I said, "Remember how during most of your pregnancy you weren’t working?  We always had money, we always had food, and we paid our bills.  Just from what I made from tips.  You have no idea how much I made.  None.  My tips kept us afloat."
          CULTURE
  Lastly, this is about our culture.  May I remind you that the commie pinko socialists in Canada don’t tip either?  Yeah, they don’t tip in a lot of other communist, totalitarian countries also.
  Tipping is a pillar of our culture and economy.  It is a trademark of capitalism.  Of course there are good and bad parts to this; no system is perfect.  Tipping the guy who hails me a cab because that’s the rule?  Not bloody likely.  Tipping the cute waitress who was cheerful and kept my drink full?  Absolutely.  There is also survival of the fittest involved here.
  Good, quality people who work hard, have a good attitude, know how to hustle and take care of the customer–they are going to be rewarded with cash, and better opportunities for jobs where the tips are even better.  The surly, slothful, and lazy will still get tipped…but not as much.  The good jobs will weed them out, and they will get sifted to the bottom and end up working at crappy ghetto diners.
  Sure, sometimes you tip when you don’t feel it’s necessary.  Sometimes you can see the larceny in their hearts.  Capitalism isn’t a perfect system.  I personally don’t like what WalMart has done to the economy; while conservatives continue to sing its praises and worship at the altar of their cash register, I search for signs of the Number of the Beast there.
  But I still shop there.
          CONCLUSION
  Like I said, tipping isn’t a perfect system.  Neither is capitalism.  But it’s still the BEST system–and by that I mean both capitalism, and the tiny artery of capitalism called tipping.  It allows people on the lower rungs to compete among themselves and get a leg up.  If you, on the other end as a customer, see disparity, try living on my end.  Do your job for tips, and see how it works out.  
  For the longest time now, I’ve been in management, and there’s been some disconnect between me and the customer.  But recently I had to return to delivery, part time.  Who says the economy is tanking?  I have three jobs!
  But since I work for tips now, my attitude is better.  I used to be bitter, jaded, and resentful.  But now I pour it on thick.  I flirt with everyone, even the men.  It’s professional flirting.  I’m nice, I joke, I compliment, and I’m prompt and friendly.  It’s purely pragmatic, but it’s made me a better person because friendly equals cash, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  Tipping isn’t required.  It’s customary, that’s all.  However, I do recommend that you tip the Pizza Guy.  He knows where you live.

Where At Are You? At?

March 30, 2010 at 10:53 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I had one of my best nights at The Three Jakes this last Saturday night.  Of course, it wasn’t *that* great because I was still at The Three Jakes.  Nonetheless, it wasn’t bad.
The weather was nice and we weren’t that busy, and everything on the special bitch list was already done.  And there wasn’t much on the regular bitch list to do, either.  We had a fairly easy night.  Me, Von, Will, and Cam.  One old white guy, two young black guys, and a mocha freak of indeterminate age.  Von put on System of a Down through the sound system again.
I told him I was going accidentally break it.
Later, it was on different music.  SOAD, if you didn’t know, is a hard, heavy metal group.  There’s only so much of that shit I can take.  The gangsta rap we listened to later sounded soothing in comparison.
Jared was the closer, and he wanted to know if I would stay so he could come in at 11pm instead of 9pm.  I was cool with that.  That contributed greatly to my good night, but also re-affirmed my logic and calculations:  Even if I liked this job, I couldn’t stay.  Since the truncation of my hours because of Steve’s firing, I don’t get to work long enough and I don’t make enough money here.  In the extra two hours I worked, I doubled my money from the first four.
The nut for the part time job is 300 per week, net.  I need to work as much as I can to make that nut.  Before I was close, putting in about 20 hours a week or so.  Now I’m down to sixteen hours with a comparable decrease in tips.  To make 300 in 16 hours, I need to make 18 bucks an hour.  That’s 11 bucks an hour in tips alone.  I don’t think I can fondle that many balls.
That might be a big part of my anger–too much ball fondling.  As far as work goes, lately the place hasn’t been that bad.  The managers I deal with (now and for the moment–you always have to add that caveat because things always change) are easy going, and the tasks, although ridiculous and illogical, are easy.
I have a spreadsheet where I track everything.  My best month (of three) was February, and I fell short of my nut for the month by about five bucks.  This month, I’m going to be short about 200 dollars.
So, I am back to looking for a new part time gig.  It’s always an adventure. 

Speaking of dickheads, let me tell you about a delivery I took that night.
I took the order on the phone, and it’s by Lafayette Park.  Two guys I hear on the phone, and one laughing in the background–always a good sign.  They tell me the address and I asked, “Is this a house or apartment?”
One of them answers, “It’s a funeral home,” and laughs, and the other one tells him to shut up.
“It is?” I ask.
Finally I got an answer out of him.  I swear he said, “It’s a dental facility.”  That makes no sense whatsoever.  I get there–or near there–and I see a funeral home.  Hmmm…oookay.  I turn there, park across the street from it.  I start to walk up, and I give them a call as I do because I don’t want to bust in on any funeral service.
I said, “Hi, this is Bryan from The Three Jakes, and I’m outside.”  He said okay, and he hung up.
Several minutes later, I still don’t see him.  He calls me back.  “Are you sure you’re at the right place?”
“Well, I don’t know.  I’m in front of a funeral home.”
OKAY–LISTEN:  Right here–maybe I am in the wrong place.  I saw the funeral home or whatever and forgot about the rest of what they said, but this clicked.  Okay.  My bad.  But right here I TOLD THEM WHERE I AM.
At this point, instead of answering my questions, he tries to think instead.  I don’t need a fucking customer trying to think.  Just shut up and tell me where you are.
But he couldn’t.  Back to me:  “–I’m in front of a funeral home.”
“We’re across the street from you.”  I turn around.  I see a park.  Maybe he sees me, because he says, “Turn around.”  I turned around.  “Okay.  I’m looking at the funeral home.”  He says, “Look to your left.”
I look to the left and I see the street that I turned from.  The houses on it face me, and they all look big enough to be funeral homes as well.   It’s pretty far away–this is all a big area with big lots, and a park.  “We’re across the street.”  Maybe this was supposed to make sense.  Which street?  It didn’t click with me because I was over half a block from the intersection.  I wasn’t near anything that could be called “across the street.”  Plus, now that I know the truth, I’m explaining it MUCH better than he did.
At one point during our…what’s the word for it?  Communication?  What an oxymoron.  At one point, while I was asking a question, he hung up because he figured I understood.  I didn’t.  I waited and looked around.  Nothing.  I called him back.  He sounded surprised to hear from me.  “Yeah?”
I said, “Look, generally, this is how a delivery goes:  You tell me where you *ARE*, and I go there.  Where.  Are.  You.”
He said, “I’m over here.”
You’re on a fucking cell phone, dumbass.  Where is “over here”?
I said, “You realize that means nothing to me.”
“Uh….turn a.. face south.”  Finally, a coherent piece of information.
“Okay.”
“Now do you see me?”
It’s dark, I’m in the middle of a dark street next to acres of darkness in the park.  Now facing south, I’m looking at a dozen very large and dark homes.  “No.”
“I’m waving my arms.  See?”
Finally, I see him and his buddy, coming from the south*WEST*.  They weren’t straight away south.  No, that would have been simple.  They came from another block away.
I walk over and across to meet them.  The guy seems to have an attitude about my failure to follow the simplest directions that he gave with his mind.  I dismissed it all quite professionally and moved on.  “Ah, here we are.  Good.  You’re total is 24.66.”
And then the bastard had the nerve to give me thirty bucks.  What the hell does he mean by giving me a five dollar tip?  If I wanted this kind of relationship, with all the mind games and mixed messages, I would have stayed with my ex.

Later, after I thought about it, I realized that I was indeed more or less in the wrong.  I was on the wrong hundred-block, and the numbers increased going the *other* way.  My bad.
But still–
Do you not understand where you are well enough to tell me something useful?  These are the statements that would have been more logical:
“I am across LAFAYETTE from from you.”  (Not “Across the street.”  I’m at an intersection, which fucking street do you mean?)
“I am not at the funeral home.  I am somewhere else entirely.  Forget the funeral home.  The funeral home is not an option.”
“You are on the wrong hundred-block.”
“There is another section of this street on the other side of Lafayette.”
All of these would have been so much better than wearing a dark jacket in the dark and waving your arms and saying, “Over here!” on a goddamn cell phone.
Marco!
Polo!
Fuck you!

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