A rewarding phone call

    Approximately ten years ago I recieved a phone call that was so maddening I can still feel the frustration when I think about it.  This occurred while I was temporarily serving a sentence as assistant manager of the shop instead of delivery driver.  This was an extremely busy pizza place with an asshole general manager, low pay and very high stress level, didn’t last long.  During this time I was a very cranky individual with very little patience, at least while I was at work.

      Back to the  phone call.  Thinking back now I should have just hung up early in the call because it was obviously a lost cause.  It was a crazy Friday night at suppertime.  There is a delivery  board there where you hang the slips of orders waiting to be delivered.  I do remember the board was full which meant there were over twenty orders waiting to leave the store and at the time all four drivers were  still out on deliveries.

     This guy called cursing about his big order of pizza that wasn’t there yet.  Here is the conversation.

Me:   “What was the address”?     (My stress level at 1 out of 10)

Asshole:   “I don’t know what address they gave.”

Me:  “What name was it under”?

Asshole:  “We’re having a big party here and I’m not sure who ordered it but I want my pizza”?

Me:    Let me get this straight, you don’t know who ordered it or what address they gave, I’m not sure I understand”?                      (My stress level up to 5)

Asshole:  “We live on a kind of confusing corner and I’m not sure what they said for the address”

Me:    “Would I be able to talk to the person who ordered the pizza”?

Asshole:   “I allready told you I don’t know who ordered the pizza but I think they left.” 

Me:   “Do you know what they ordered”?

Asshole:  “I didn’t order the fucking thing”       ( He was really getting nasty)

Me:   “So the person you think ordered the pizza left and you don’t know what address or name they gave.”  (This is where I should have hung up)   “How would you describe the address”?

Asshole:  “We’re out in Tree River”.

Me:  “Where in Tree River”?

Asshole:  “Where’s my fucking pizza”?  (My stess level at 8)

Me:  “Hold please”              (If I remember correctly I punched something or threw something at this point, considering my frame of mind those days, its a safe bet).        Keep in mind that this shit for brains had still not given me much information except for the community.  This was a small area on the outskirts of town where we hardly ever received orders but still had about thirty streets to chose from and I’m sure lots of “funny corners”.  I checked all the slips and there no order within miles of Tree River at any point that day.  I also asked all the people who were working the phones that night and the answere was no.

Me:  “Are you postitive that these people called here”?

Asshole:  “I know they called there, they told me”?

Me:  “I thought you didn’t know who called”?

Asshole:  “I don’t, but they ordered there.”

Me:  “We don’t have an order for you, would you like to order now”?

Asshole:   “It’s not my problem that your people fucked up, I want the pizza I ordered”?   

Me:  “I thought you said somebody else ordered it.”  (I hoped that being a smart ass would make him hang up.)

Asshole:   “I want my fucking pizza free! Now!”  boomed the dickhead.     (My stress level at 11)

Me:  (Keep in mind that I was not thinking about customer satisfaction at this point)  “There is NO pizza to get FREE.  You can order a pizza now and pay for it.  You realize that you’ve given no address, don’t know what was ordered, don’t know who ordered but they probably left and have the gall to say we FUCKED up.”

Asshole:  I’m coming in there asshole, you better be ready.      click

He never did show up, I guess with his poor knowledge of addresses he couldn’t find the pizza shop.


Where did all the jerks go?

The job actually seems to have gotten easier but I assume that it has something to do with all the tricks I have learned along the way.  I guess its safe to say that someone doing it as long as myself has forgotten more about delivering pizza than most people will ever know about delivering pizza.  This is probably not the most impressive claim to fame that a person could aspire to have but I believe it to be true.

       It seems the frequency of assholes I meet on my travels seems to have gone down a very large percentage and I don’t think people have gone nicer but I must have become better at dealing with them or blocking them out so effectively when they are being idiots that I don’t notice anymore.  I do consciously greet the customer according to the situation.  If you are delivering a pizza to certain places in a seedy part of town you have to have the “Don’t you dare fuck with me”  face ready which I describe as a combination of being very friendly and looking like you are ready to stab someone all at the same time.   This took years to perfect and yes I am aware that it sounds ridiculous but if you delivered pizza to some of the places I’ve been to you would realize that how you carry and present yourself can be what keeps you safe.  These are not situations where you try to win the politest man on the street award as to get the biggest tip but simply to have an incident free delivery.  I do remember in the first few years that I delivered that it was a very common occurence to have some dickhead mouthing off or trying to take his problems out on the pizza guy.  This doesn’t seem to happen much any more and besides the “no fuck” face I think sometimes its just the fact that I’m quite a bit older now that makes them bite their tongue.  I remember being a loudmouth young fellow and there was shit you would say to another loudmouth young fellow but probably wouldn’t say it to somebody ten years older.   Whatever the reason for this trend is I’m not complaining but now that I’ve talked about things getting better tomorrow at work I’ll probably have to deal with the biggest asshole that I’ve ever seen. 

 If you are delivering to places where safety or drunken idiots is no concern at all then your main concern is the big tip.   There are many little old ladies that order and it really pays to suck up to them.  You can do little things like pick up their flyers or newspaper if its on the walkway and give it to them.  They always have a cat.  Pet the cat.  More importantly if the cat tries to make a run for it, catch the cat.  Be over the top “Aw shucks” polite with the old girls.  They will love you so much they will tell you to hold on while they look for even more money to give you if you follow these easy steps.

How to order a pizza

If I had never worked in a restaurant I would probably have gone my whole life not realizing that people’s brains stop functioning when the time comes to order food.   Here are several examples of actual things that people actually do ask.

1.  How big is a 12 inch pizza

I don’t really know how a person can ask this and believe it or not it is a very common question.  I think that sometimes the person is really trying to ask how many people it will feed but I think that usually the problem is that they are genuinely unintelligent individuals.  Back when I was young and cocky and if having a bad day I would answer by telling the customer that it was 10 inches or maybe 15 inches just to see if they would catch on, often they didn’t notice.

2.  How much is a pizza?

My problem with this very common question is that its not quite specific enough.  I think its comparable to calling up your local Ford dealer and asking “How much is a car”?  How do you give a simple answer to this?  Often times when you try to probe this customer by asking what size of pizza they would like to know about the reply is usually very similar to this  “Oh doesn’t matter what size, I just want to know how much a pizza is”, no further ahead.  I just don’t think that some people realize that a question that is too general can’t really be answered successfully.  It tempts me to reply that a pizza is ten dollars, no matter what size or what is on it,  just to see if they catch on.

3.  What comes on a pizza?

This again is a very common question and again is a little too general.  The obvious answer to them would be that the customer decides what comes on the pizza, that we don’t make it until they order it .  This statement can be followed by informing them of what toppings they have to pick from.  The problem is that seems to be too complicated for a lot of people because after you give them all the necessary information because often they then ask, “Well, which of those toppings come on it”?  This is where I say “Which of those toppings did you want on it”?  This is often followed by them saying that they want the ones that come on it where and it is at this point you realize that they just don’t get it.  I have had the carbon copy of this conversation countless times over the years and it is as frustating now as it was the first time.  I have tried modifying my answers and my questions as to make the process less painful but there are always those who can’t grasp the concept of ordering food.  I’m afraid there will always be people that make you bang the phone against the wall.  In the defence of the people that make me angry every pizza place has a somewhat different menu.  I have heard the identical pizza called the works or all dressed or a combination, these can all mean the same thing so there is room for confusion there.  Many pizza places have a special name for their all meats pizzas or vegetarian pizza and other specialty pizzas.  These also provide the opportunity for confusion and are more likely to cause confusion with an employee who is not familiar with the fact the same term may mean something totally different from city to city or restaurant to restaurant.  Now that I have been fair and provided some defence for the unintelligent customer let me return to making fun of them.  I have often encountered what I call virgin customers, who stand out like a sore thumb.  A person who has never oredered before is dreadfully obvious by the questions that they ask and don’t ask.  They think that you have a whole bunch of pizzas made waiting for them to call and pick one, they seem baffled that you don’t allready know their address, they don’t think that is their responsibility to pick out the toppings and have a very hard time with it.  I answered the phone one time and an old man placed an order and then said he wanted it delivered by taxi.  He told me where he was and then I proceeded to tell him that we had our own delivery cars and that we would be happy to take it out to him.  He was shocked “You have cars there, right there at the pizza place, when did you get those”  I informed him that it had been that way for at least twenty years and he couldn’t believe it.  “I’ve never heard of such a thing, your own delivery cars”  He did get us to deliver his pizza with our very own delivery cars and I’m quite positive he told all his friends and relatives about his discovery.

Watch out for the pizza police

Many people ask me what the weirdest thing is that I’ve ever seen in a hundred years of delivering pizza and I think this one is the most memorable.  This was within the first year of my pizza career when things still surprised me.  Not much surprises me anymore but I think this still would if it happened now.

One night  I was working and received a call from a fellow who identified himself as the Pizza Police and began to describe his mission in great detail.  I listened to his ravings for about fifteen minutes, put him on hold because I had to and told the one other employee that night that she was going to talk to him or more accurately listen and nod during his mindless babble.  He obviously took his self appointed position as the pizza police very seriously and felt he had to rate the service of every pizza restaurant in the area so he could aid them with his infinite wisdom.  I took a quick delivery and when I got back she was still on the phone with him, obviously becoming very annoyed.  He had been explaining his mission as pizza police and talking about changes in the restaurant industry and how not many people were as qualified to be pizza police.  When questioned about what organization he actually worked for he would just start raving about some unrelated pizza problem.  She was convinced that he was most certainly hopped up on something or off his meds and was near delirious because much of what he said absolutely no sense.  At the end of his rant he did actually order pizza and I was going to get the pleasure of listening to him in person.  I was a little bit wary of delivering a pizza to a fellow who had just raved like a crazy person for 40 minutes before managing to get him off the phone.  At this point I had allready seen my fair share of drunken idiots but this one seemed different.  As I drove I convinced myself that no matter how odd this fellow was I would keep my cool and just get out of there without incident.  The apartment building he was at was just a normal place in a good part of town, nothing creepy that way.  It was a security building where you would normally have to be buzzed in but the outer door was open so I walked in and went down to his apartment.  When I knocked he said “Its open”.  At this point things really got weird.  This fellow sat in an apartment empty of any furniture except for the one flimsy chair that he sat on in the centre of the living room.  He had a small dim lamp beside the chair and a shrine of pizza magazines.  What I mean by a shrine here is that there were about 20 magazines with pizza in the title arranged in a perfect circle on the floor around him.  There were 4 or 5 competitor’s empty pizza boxes behind him.  There were no bodies of rival pizza drivers in the corner that I could see which was good.  This fellow was pretty big too which didn’t do much to relax me and he was acting weird.  I supposed he didn’t know or didn’t care that it was me that he given his pizza police spiel to on the phone but luckily this time he gave me the short version of his purpose in life.  When he was done talking he paid including a very large tip and gave the pizza back to me.  I informed him that he had just paid for this and should probably keep it.  He said that he had eaten too much pizza allready that day and that I should knock on the door of someone else on his floor and give it too them.  I didn’t like this idea and I told him that he would have to give it to them himself since it was late and I didn’t want to wake anyone up.  He persisted a little and I just placed on the floor beside the door inside his apartment and quickly left.  Afterwards I decided that I should have just taken it with me as to not have that awkward moment at the end, Rule #1  Keep interaction with crazy people to a mimimum whenever possible. 

           I drove like hell back to the shop, I’m not sure why, perhaps I thought that he was going to chase me with his chair and attack me with a pizza magazine.  I was confused as to what had just happened and to tell the truth I still am over 15 years later.   I even considered that there might have been a hidden camera and I would soon see a Candid Camera episode all about pizza deliveries gone wrong but I never did see one.  It might have been somebody really bored, really crazy or really desperate to conduct some strange social experiment.   When I got back to the shop the girl was on the phone with him again.   The weird part about this was that he wasn’t giving us our pizza police report but giving the exact same talk that he did before he ordered as if it never happened. 

             I actually did see the pizza police guy years later walking down the street, he looked pretty normal in the daylight and yes I’m sure it was him, some faces you never forget.  I was tempted to ask him what that was all about that night but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

There are maps in the phone book

             At the beginning of my pizza career I knew absolutely nothing about the town I was working in.  I lived about a forty five minute drive away but if I would have been from the moon I couldn’t have known much less.  There was a very large and detailed map at the pizza shop which even had the number of each house in town which came in very handy.  I would have been literally lost without this map for the first couple of weeks.  I also needed a map in the car.  Perhaps I didn’t know where to look but it seemed that I couldn’t buy a detailed map anywhere for the town.  If it were now I assume I could find one on the internet in thirty seconds, things have changed quite a bit from the early 90s.  I had shared my map problem with at least one wise person who told me that the local phone book had a full page map of the town and that was then taped to the dash of my car for the first month.  After that month I  felt confident to leave the shop without any navigational aids and often did not even have to consult the map in the store.  At that point I realized that my knowledge of the area seemed to have exceeded the knowledge of some of the drivers that had grown up in the area and had also been working there much longer than myself.  Not all of them but some of them.  What I am trying to do is not blow my own horn but share what observation I suspected then and have decided is a truth in the many years since.  Some people can’t deliver pizza. I have observed that if  a person is noy competent at it within 3 to 5 weeks there is no hope, its just not in their blood.  People can’t deliver pizza for various other reasons;  here are some I have observed:

1.  Some people are too stupid, yes you can be too stupid to deliver pizza.

2.  Some people have a bad sense of direction

3.  Some people move and/or drive too slow

4.  Some people are too excitable, driving by the correct street four times in their unrestrained panic.

5. Some people drive too fast and spend too much time in the ditch, snowbanks or sitting in the backs of police cars.

6. Some people refuse to drive a reliable car.  Many drivers I have seen have the logic that since they are going to be beating the hell out of their car that it makes sense to not pay any more than $250 for their vehicle.  These vehicles tend to be somewhat undependable and sometimes break in half upon hitting a large bump.

7. Some people can’t see well enough, in many cases they have some degree of night blindness and don’t like to admit it. It will never work out for these people.

8. Some people don’t have a good enough memory, sometimes they are born with this problem but often it is as a result of what substances are used for entertainment purposes.

Don’t deliver pizza

This is my first post and first attempt at blogging except for the one I set up a year ago and only wrote in once.  My friends have convinced me that I have to start writing my stories down but I think it is just to spare them from having to hear them over and over.  This time I plan to actually write in my blog which makes it much more interesting.  I do have  many many years of pizza adventures and misadventures to share with the world.  Along the way I might share other life lessons I have learned perhaps preventing someone else from embarrassment, bodily harm or unnecessary car repairs.  One of the first lessons I learned was a very simple one but saved myself much harm and maybe you as well.  You see, when I began my pizza career the first shop I worked for put the fear in us drivers that if we were spotted not “hustling” from the car to the customer’s door we would be fired.  Whether anybody ever really got fired for not hustling I never did find out but I wasn’t taking any chances.  One icy evening when I was working one of my first shifts I arrived at a person’s house with a pizza and I do recall that the order wasn’t even late but I better hustle anyway so I began to bolt full speed for their door.  As soon as I began to run I realized what a bad idea this was.  If you have spent any time in a climate where its cold enough to have ice and snow you can probably relate.  The walkway leading up to the house had been icy but  I made it to the step.  As my first foot hit the step at high speed I realized that it was as smooth and icy as a skating rink but it was too late.  Both my feet shot straight out from underneath me and I think at one point were at the level where my head should have been.  I saw one of the burglars on the movie Home Alone have a similar fall.  After reaching a great height in the air I fell flat, hitting my head, my back and my elbow on the door.  I lay there trying to figure out if I was really hurt or just a little hurt.  While I thought about this the door opened and the corner of it hit me on the side of the head.  Now I was really hurt, as I winced in pain I looked up at an old lady and a four year old girl looking at me apparently quite puzzled.  I guess when my elbow hit the door during my fall they thought that was me knocking.  The little girl said “Grandma, why is the pizza man lying on the ground?”  Before Grandma could answer I blurted out  “Don’t come out here, its too dangerous”.  I assumed they knew I meant because of the ice.  At this point I realized that I had somehow managed to keep the pizza and the bottle of Pepsi upright so I set them beside my while I very painfully forced myself to a standing position.  I gave them the food and got the money and the whole time they looked at me very strangely, this pizza guy barely able to stand and bleeding from the head.  As I limped back to my car I had two thoughts, “hustling” to the door may be more fun as a summertime activity.  I also wondered if  the managers from the pizza shop follow every driver on each delivery to see how fast they walked or ran to the door.  Did they call the customer back after I delivered the pizza to ask how fast I got from the car to their door.  Neither of things seemed very likely.  I have just realized how long this post has been, I’m sure that anyone that was reading has fallen asleep by now, I’ll finish this up tommorrow.

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