Pizza scam busted

     About five or six years ago the pizza restaurant that I worked at finally got rid of their horrible 30 year old cash register system and went computerized.  Though there was a painful period of time training some of the people on this it did turn out to be better in many ways.  You could type in much more detail about orders you were ringing in avoiding much swearing back and forth with the kitchen staff which did get out of hand during busy times.  It was at this same time that some tricksters decided to come up with a scam that targeted almost every food delivery business in town I later found out.

     Up to this event I have to admit that I was one of those idiotic people who had the belief that it wasn’t always necessary to lock the doors when out I was out of sight of the vehicle, such as in an apartment building, dorm or hotel.  I had just been lucky up to this point, never losing a pizza from a vehicle in about 12 years delivering pizza.  Then I lost a pizza.

      I took an order to a hotel and no one answered the door.  Happens all the time, they’re usually having sex.  I called the front desk while I was still standing outside the door to see if they could ring the room.  They said that wouldn’t do any good because that room was vacant that day.  Sometimes the hotel can check their switchboard and tell what room called your number last but this front desk agent said he didn’t know how to check it.  I was out of luck here.   All you can do is assume it is a wrong room number and wait for them to call back after an hour.  I returned to the car and noticed as I put the pizza bag down in the back seat that the other order was gone and I began to swear.  I had been scammed.  It then hit me like a ton of bricks, I had been talking to a courier driver who had been delivering chinese food to the same hotel and the same thing had happened to him, I had forgotten all about it.  I was mad at myself for forgettting this and realized that I took it very personal for some reason.  It did turn out of course that the order that I had also been a fake address.

      I made a point of talking to that courier driver again that night.  It seems that the fellows conducting this scam were counting on a lack of communication between rival pizza places and other restaurants that did delivery.  The courier driver, who delivered for any restaurant that called him knew of at least ten restaurants that got scammed, the creeps got lucky that it was never the same driver twice and that there actually was not much communication until it was too late.  Just in the last couple of days before I got scammed had the problem become severe enough that the word had actually got out there among different restaurants.  It had actually been casually mentioned to me and I guess I didn’t listen very well.  There were a lot of delivery joints in town and I’m sure there were other ones they would try. 

     I talked to that same driver again the next day and he said theyhad struck again, scamming a rival pizza place for the second time.  This when it occured to me that these guys were too cocky for their own good and in time they would call our place again.  I really hoped that I would be working.  It turns out that the trick was always the same, they would call in an order for the hotel and within about two or three minutes call in an order to an apartment that was just a few hundred feet down the street from it.  Of course these deliveries would be going in the same car.  The thing they did to cover themselves is give their cell phone number in case anyone called back from the store to verify the number.  Nobody along the way noticed that it was the same phone number on both orders they were taking.  It actually isn’t something you would be looking for unless you thought something was going on.  It was the cell phone number that I used to catch them.

        I guess I must be a bad guy to piss off because every time I answered the phone or was nearby when someone answered the phone for the next week or so I was studying the order to see if there was anything fishy going on.  I was really starting to annoy my coworkers.  I only had to wait about a week and luckily it was me that answered the phone.   I picked it up and the display showed an address on Walker St. which would be a couple hundred feet away from the Holiday Inn.  When I asked him what his address was he gave me a room number at the Holiday Inn, not Walker St.   This is what got them.  The computer would save the address that was typed in the last time someone called from that number and that was the Walker St. address from the week before, the order that had been stolen from my car.  The guy must have been very practised at placing bogus orders because he never faltered once, the order was a normal order and he was very calm and polite when placing it.  I played it pretty cool and didn’t let on that I suspected anything.  When I got off the phone I told the manager that I was postive that these were the guys but I don’t think he really believed me.  I told him that if he had any doubts about it that within five minutes there would be a call where the computer would display Holidy Inn when the phone was ringing but the order would be for Walker St.  He looked at me as if I was crazy.  Within two minutes the phone rang and it was exactly as I said it would be.  I got him to answer it.  When he got off the phone he said “Okay, what should we do to get these pricks”?

          We had to think fast, we only had about a twenty minute window to take some sort of action.  We happened to have a few old phone books around so we boxed a couple up and put them in a pizza bag.  I gave the manager my jacket with the restaurant logo and I put on his leather jacket.  I said I’d go down with my car and park around the corner and watch from the bushes.  We made it easy for the crooks.  About five minutes later he went down in a marked pizza car and left the passenger side window open for easy access to the pizzas, I mean phone books.  He went into the hotel with the other pizzas and waited for something to happen. 

         It didn’t take too long for something to happen.  It turns out that my hiding place in the bushes was about three feet behind the car containing the scammers.  One fellow got out of the passenger side and walked towards the pizza car, looking around, hands in his pockets and whistling.  Looked pretty guilty to me.  I waited until he got his head and shoulders in the car and hands on the pizza bag.  I really hadn’t thought much about what I would do or say at this point because I had my doubts that I would ever get the opportunity.  I jumped out of the bushes and yelled “Does that fucking pizza belong to you, asshole?!” 

         The guy let go of the pizza and jerked upwards so hard that the back of his head hitting the window frame shook the car.  He began to run away, howling in agony, clutching the back of his head.  I don’t know how he didn’t knock himself out, he hit that hard.  Any trace of a plan I did have went all to hell at that point, becaused this was about the funniest thing I had ever seen.  I ran after him but apparently he ran faster hurt and scared than I did laughing so hard I was almost crying.  It got even funnier.  The other young punk who was driving the car who had lots of opportunity to drive away was sitting there shivering with fear in the seat.  As I walked towards the car, trying to stop laughing and look mean I saw him reach around and lock all four doors as I approached.  He still didn’t drive away.  I went and looked at the license plate and took a piece of paper, put it on the hood of the car and began to write down the number while looking at him.  By the look of fear on this 17 year old punk you would have th0ught that I was pointing a gun at him.  I’m sure he shit his pants.  I told him all I wanted was his license plate number, he drove away about one mile per hour across the parking lot and I was nice enough to walk beside him until he got to the street where he didn’t drive too much faster.  At this point my manager finally emerged from the hotel.  “Did anything happen?” he whispered.

            We called the police with our information, they called us back and said that the perps claimed that this was the first time that they had ever done anything like this.  I told the cop that a second staff member hiding in the bushes was not something we regularly do on delivery and explained to him how the computer is linked to the display phone and how their information was saved.  I guess he did see my point and they did get charged with something very minor, I don’t remember what the charge was.  The cop told me that the two boys should be more worried about someone else.  The punk that was driving was using his mother’s boyfriend’s car and this fellow was a known bad ass and didn’t see the humor in his car being used in various crimes.  Now I just hope I didn’t give somebody in a different town a good idea for a scam.


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