Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Carnival News, Book Review Coming

First I want to thank Gary at The Garage for including me in this months Carnival of Wheels. He made some funny (but true) remarks about my pizza wagon!

Second, I just picked up the book, How to Open a Financially Successful Pizza & Sub Restaurant by Shri L. Henkel & Douglas R. Brown from my local library. I will be reading it and posting a review in the next few weeks.

"Never Mind"

First off, a quick story from Sunday night that I forgot to include. I was making a delivery and as I stepped up onto the porch I noticed a big appliance box on it's side with a guy's legs sticking out. Had I walked up to the door without noticing, this box would have been behind me.

But I stopped in my tracks and said loudly, "What's up guy?" A high school aged kid and his dog crawled out and the kid sheepishly said "Never mind."

I'm sure he was hoping to scare me from behind. Kind of funny now but definitely not cool. Pizza delivery can be a pretty dangerous job and some drivers will react quickly to a threat and may even carry a weapon. (I have a stun gun but I rarely take it out from under the seat of my car.)

Back to tonight, I worked 5 hours, took 9 deliveries, drove 42 miles, and made $22 in tips.

Coolest delivery tonight was to a couple of twenty-something girls at the Journey Inn, a low-rent hotel that rents by the day, week, or month. It was a credit card delivery and the first girl signed it and handed it back to me.

"You have to fill out the total even if you don't add on a tip," I said. "It's for your own protection, you know, so nobody adds it in later." The girl then copied the total ($11.83) straight down to the total line, then turned back to her friend and said "Do you want to give a tip?" The friend said "Sure" and the first girl then added $2 to the tip line.

It's always a positive feeling when you get a tip from someone who originally was not going to tip you. Not quite as cool as what happened to driver Desiree tonight. She was serving a pick-up customer at the front counter and got a $1 tip. Those are very rare indeed!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Want To Drive 12 Miles For 4 Cents?

Neither do I. But I did tonight.

As usual, I delivered pizza on Sunday from 5-close. In my 6 hour shift, I took 18 deliveries, drove 69 miles, and earned $37 in tips. All in all a pretty good night, mostly because Tyler called off (car trouble) and we were short a driver.

The most frustrating by far was 2 orders to the same house (different people were paying) at the far end of our delivery area, over 6 miles away (each way). A guy paid by credit card and a girl wanted to pay by check but we don't accept checks.

The guy left the tip and total blank and signed the slip. I told him he had to fill in the total, and he did, $23.56 (still with no tip). The girl rounded up some change and ended up giving me $18.61 for her $18.57 order. So I drove 12 miles and delivered over $40 worth of pizza for 4 cents, plus $2 for gas (since there were 2 orders).

The very next order I delivered was less than a block away and gave me $17 for their $14.68 order.

At one house, a pre-school girl told her mom that she saw me on tv. That was kind of neat, obviously she saw a pizza commercial but it sure wasn't me. At another house, a raspy-voiced woman told me I must be new as she hadn't seen me before. Strange, I have more seniority by far than any of our other drivers except Mark (who works days).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Carnival Of Pizza - Coming Soon

We are excited to host the inaugural Blog Carnival of Pizza.

The Carnival of Pizza will be hosted on the first Friday of every month. Submission deadline is the Wednesday before. Since we only have 1 week, the first Carnival will be delayed until April 6th.

Check back soon for more information!

Pizza Delivery As A Second Job . . .

. . . or "why is a 39-year old with an engineering degree delivering pizza?"

I was a divorced dad with a mountain of debt. Then I remarried and we bacame a blended family with 6 kids. Victoria worked 1 day / week as a school librarian but for the most part she was a stay at home mom. Our home needs it and she is good at it!

But the bills were piling up and we realized we needed some extra income. So after talking it over, I went out one day and got a 2nd job delivering pizza. At first I was only working weekend nights (Friday - Saturday - Sunday) because I thought that would be when the pizza shop was busy and needed extra help.

I soon realized that I enjoyed the work and, although the money was good, we could use still more. So I started asking to work a few weeknights when my kids were with their mother. I worked hard when I was there and did a good job so eventually Bill (the manager) began scheduling me whenever I would work.

I was working 5 nights / week for a while, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday-Sunday. When I was still paying alimony, my pizza delivery income of over $350 / week was actually more than the take-home portion of my regular job in the IT department for a large company.

When the alimony ended I was able to start taking more nights off. Now I pretty much work 3 nights per week.

Delivering pizza is a great second income. It's totally different from what I do during the day, sitting at my computer and solving IT problems. I get to drive around, listen to the radio, and interact with people.

Delivering pizza is very stress-free, every night when I leave my work is totally done. Contrast this with my other job where some projects last for weeks and are always in the back of my mind, even when I am at home.

I get cash every night, so I almost never have to take money out of the ATM anymore. This cash is good for gas money, lunch money for the kids, allowances, and other incidentals.

Once I established myself as a good employee, I was able to pretty much set my own schedule. Of course at first I had to work when I was needed the most, but since I have a family and most of my co-workers do not, I can usually find someone to cover for me if an important family situation arises.

And let's not forget the food. I love pizza so I am happy to feast on the mistakes, buffet leftovers, and crew pizzas pretty much every night that I work.

Of course the main reason I drive is for the money. And when a few more bills are paid off, the need will be less. But I will probably try to work 1-2 nights each week even then. The money is almost too easy to give up!

Happy Birthday, Free Pizza?

I just found Pete's Birthday Club on the East Of Chicago website. It says that kids 2-12 can get a free gift on their birthday. I'm guessing the gift is free pizza of some sort. I'm not sure because I just now signed up my kids.

If you don't have kids or if you don't live near an East Of Chicago franchise, this may be of no use to you. But since I have 7 kids, I am definitely signing them up. When I find out what we get I will post it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Win $25,000 From Pizza Hut For YouTube Video

Pizza Hut has announced a contest to find America's Favorite Pizza Fan.

By submtting your video to YouTube you can win $25,000 cash, free pizza for a year, a "company car" for 3 months, and the title Honorary Vice President of Pizza.

If you're reading this blog because you love pizza, you just might have a chance!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Came Home Early

We were not very busy tonight and Mona had the dishes all caught up so I got to come home about an hour early. I took 9 deliveries, drove 35 miles, and made $21 in tips. All 8 customers that paid tipped at least $2.

Gas has gone back up the past couple weeks so my per-run reimbursement went back up from $0.95 to $1.00 even.

Only 2 interesting deliveries tonight. One early in the night had in the notes section of the delivery ticket "Next to Pizza Pan." And it was! I always smile when I'm taking an order that is within walking distance of our competition, it means that for some reason they like us better.

My final trip of the night was to a house on a street in the bad section of town. Order was $17.71 and I wasn't expecting a tip, I even had the 29 cents counted out in my hand as I walked to the door. A woman answered and seemed surprised to see me.

The woman spoke to someone in the house and said that they had called back to cancel the order. Well I had left the store 16 minutes after the order was placed so they sure took their time. I let them know that we could refuse deliveries in the future. And with my wonderful manager's permission, I put a note in the system on their address that they had refused to pay and future orders should be pick up only, no delivery.

Ordering Pizza For Delivery - A How To Guide

Today's post will list some tips for the customer on how to order pizza for delivery. If you follow these instructions, you will have a better chance of getting your order made correctly and delivered quickly.

Before Calling:
  • Know what you want: Talk it over with your friends or family before you call and decide what toppings you want to order. Long delays while you decide in the background may lead to being put on hold at busy times or when multiple lines are ringing.
  • Find your coupons: Give your coupon information over the phone when you make the call. Some places will accept "surprise" coupons at the door but often this will force the driver to call back to get the revised price, which delays you getting your dinner.
  • Know where you are: Believe it or not, often times someone will call in an order from a friend's house and doesn't know the address where they want the food delivered. Find out before you call if you are not sure.
  • (Optional) Have your credit card ready: If you are paying by credit card, have it ready before you make the call.
While On The Phone:
  • Ask for specific specials: Many customers will call in and ask "What are your specials?" This is fine but when the phone person describes the deals on 3 pizzas, and you reply "No it's just me," they have wasted both of your time. Asking if there are any deals on single (or multiple) pizzas may get you a faster, more accurate answer.
  • Answer questions in order: Many pizza shops now use computer-based ordering systems and the data must be entered in a certain order. For example, on our system, the person taking the order must enter the phone number and address before adding any items to the order. They must choose the crust type and size before choosing the toppings. If you call up and blurt out "I want a pepperoni mushroom pizza" you may have to repeat yourself.
  • Specify how you are paying: If you plan to pay by check, be sure the pizza parlor accepts checks. Many do not. If you plan to pay by credit / debit card, now is the time to give out the information.
  • Ask for extras: If you need napkins, plates, red pepper or parmesan cheese packets, ask for them while you are ordering. If you do not ask, the driver may not have any.
After Ordering:
  • Stay home: The quoted delivery time is just an estimate and may not be accurate, especially if you live close by. If the shop is not busy, your order could be on it's way in as little as 10 minutes. Now is not the time to go to the store for a bag of chips!
  • Answer the phone: The pizza shop may need to call you if there are any questions with your order or if they ran out of a topping and want to offer you a replacement. If your ringer is off or if you are online and your phone is busy, it could delay your order.
  • Get your money ready: If you have a group, collect the money now. If your purse is upstairs, go get it. Be ready to pay when the food arrives.
  • Turn your porch light on: Making your house easy to find helps the driver get your dinner to you as quickly as possible.
When The Doorbell Rings:
  • Answer it: This one seems like it should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people call out "Who is it?" as if they have no idea why anyone would knock on their door 30 minutes after they ordered pizza for delivery.
  • Tip the driver: Pizza delivery drivers work for tips. If you paid a delivery charge, in most cases, it goes to the store. The driver may get a portion of it to cover his gas. This is not in place of a tip, this helps cover his vehicle expenses. A good tip is 15% of the order, with a minimum of $2. Tips should be more in harsh weather or for far-away locations. Drivers have good memories and a driver who remembers a good tip will go out of his way to get you your pizza fast in the future!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What's In A Name?

I drove the last 2 nights. Sunday we got about 4 more inches of snow, mostly in the morning. Part of it fell after we had left for church. After church we went straight to my niece's birthday party and then I was rushed, getting home just in time to change and get to work. I didn't take the time to shovel my driveway and ended up getting stuck in my own driveway for about 30 minutes and was late. How frustrating!

Sunday ended up being another super-busy night, in 5 1/2 hours driving I took 20 deliveries and made $58 in tips. I drove only 48 miles, a very low amount for that many deliveries. I typically average 4 miles per delivery.

My most interesting delivery was to an apartment building. The delivery ticket said what the street address was but did not say which unit. I knew that this address was a 3-floor, 12-unit apartment. Unfortunately my cell phone was dead and I didn't realize the apartment number was missing until I was well on my way. (It was another 4-bagger).

My options were to return to the store and call the customer, or take a chance and knock on all 12 doors until someone answered. I decided to gamble and drove on to the apartment.

The name on the ticket was "Sue." Once I got inside the building I checked the mailboxes to see if I could find a clue. Well each mailbox had a first initial and last name, and there were 4 first initials of "S." I went downstairs and tried the first one.

Bingo! Sue came to the door with $20 for a $14.08 order and said to keep the change! Not only did I get lucky finding the right door on my first try, but this $5.92 was my best tip of the night.

I did have 3 other $5 tips and 4 others that were $3.50 or higher. Everybody tipped except one customer who gave me $22 for a $21.32 order. That customer's name happened to be "Crook."

One other customer only tipped $1, but he was forgiven. When I arrived at his house, there was a car running in his driveway. The man walked out through his garage and said, "We told the girl it was for pick-up, we don't have any cash." He agreed to run his debit card over the phone and he gave me $1 cash tip, which he said was all he had.

On Monday I took the day off from my day job and went sledding with the kids. My son and I also watched a tape of the NBA All-Star Game, since I had to work Sunday night. Since I was off I was able to start driving at 5PM instead of my usual 6PM.

I ended up driving 34 miles for 12 deliveries and raking in $30 in tips. Nothing like the previous 2 but another above average night for sure.

One delivery was to a customer named "Short" who lives about 2 blocks from the store. I made a joke as I was leaving that this would be a "Short" delivery. I didn't realize the foreshadowing that this name-game would bring.

Two deliveries later and I was headed back to my least favorite customer from the night before, "Crook." As I told a newer driver the night before, pizza delivery drivers remember the good tips and the bad tips. And this was a bad one. The ticket was for $23.07 and I changed in a dollar bill so that I could give this woman her exact change, hopefully letting her know that the coin-change was not considered a tip.

Well what do you know, she arrived at the door with cash in hand, asked me for the total, and went back to her purse for 2 pennies and a nickel, so that she could give me $23,07 exactly. She stole my thunder! Now I have to try to think of another creative way to educate this stiffer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

It Pays To Track Your Tips

The other night I had a really slow night. I only had 3 deliveries so it was easy for me to count my tips and to know how much money would take home at the end of the night. But I ended up having an extra $3.95. I will try to explain why.

We have a touch-screen POS (Point Of Sale) / Dispatch system. On our "Dispatch" screen, there are 3 columns. Orders to be dispatched, Drivers In Store, and Drivers Out. When you are ready to leave with an order, you click the order, click your name off the "In Store" list, and click "Dispatch". It moves you (and the order) to the "Out" list.

When you return, you click your name on the "Out" list, click a button that says "Pay Check", and it moves you to the bottom of the "In Store" list. Tough to explain but really pretty simple.

Well one glitch in our system is that if there is a credit card order that has not yet been dispatched, and the manager updates the bank deposit information, the credit card order disappears from the list and cannot be dispatched.

At this point, the manager has to give the driver who takes the order credit for an extra run, plus (if there is a tip on the credit card), the driver must be "tipped out" as a server to get their tip money. Not a big deal. This happenned to me on Friday night. The customer tipped in cash so all I had to do was get the $0.95 per run from the manager. Pretty simple.

Well anyways, at the end of the night while checking out I realized I had about $4 more than I expected to have. I looked closely at my checkout sheet and saw that I was being given credit for the run and also the tip ($3) on a credit card order that I did not remember delivering.

I knew that the only credit card order that I took tipped in cash (as I mentioned above) and it would not show up on my check-out since I was not able to dispatch it to myself.

As I thought about the situation, I remembered that the next run after my credit card delivery was another credit card delivery that the other driver was able to dispatch. However, since I was not dispatched, my name was still at the top of the "In Store" list.

The other driver must have carelessly clicked my name instead of his own when he dispatched himself.

Now most of the time, seeing 2 names on the "In Store" list when he knew I was out on a delivery would make another driver stop to think. But recently, some people have been "cheating" the system by returning drivers while they are still out on delivery, in order to make our on-time % look better. So when he saw 2 drivers on the "In Store" list, he probably didn't give it a second thought.

Since I'm an honest guy, I will be giving Brad the $3.95 next time I see him. But as I told the manager that night, if that was my $3.95 that was missing, we would have been arguing about it. I log all of my deliveries and my tips, so I always know within a dollar how much money I should have at the end of the night.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Smell Of Money

As I posted yesterday, I was unable to make it in to my day job on Valentine's Day. So I went to my pizza job a little early, around 5:00 instead of my usual 6. Manager Ady seemed surprised to see me so early. Manager Ward tried to explain my presence to her in this way: "Kevin smelled money so he came in early."

Now for as long as I have worked here, we have always been extra-busy on Valentine's Day. Some couples will order pizza and stay in, as an alternative to going out to eat. Others will go out, but will get a pizza for the kids to eat with the babysitter.

I ended up with 20 deliveries in a 6 hour shift, driving 54 miles and earning $57 in tips. I had so many eventful deliveries, I will just explain my whole night, trip by trip.

Trip 1 - a triple to a not so good neighborhood. First street is not plowed and has a pile of snow at the intersection. I consider shoveling myself a path, but first call the customer. Customer suggests I park in a doctors office on the next street over and approach the house from the back. This works fine and I see the house. No path shoveled to the front or back but I do see some footsteps out the back, so I go through 2 feet of snow to go that way. Customer hands me $11.85 for a $11.83 order.

Second delivery is to an even numbered house on a section of a street that only has odd numbers. I call the phone number on the ticket and it is not in service. Next!

Third delivery gets me $4 and change on a $13.58 order. Now that's more like it. (3 runs, $4.44 tips)

Trip 2 - a single credit card delivery, pasta and a 2-liter. (1 run, $2.00 tip)

Trip 3 - a four-bagger, ending up pretty far away. Deliveries are getting backed up, I start calling each customer when I am on my way to let them know when to expect their food. I think this is appreciated. The money finally started rolling in, including $7 on a $24.57 credit card order to the 4th house on the run. (4 runs, $17.83 tips)

Trip 4 - a double to the same far-off neighborhood, and another $7+ tip. (2 runs, $11.34 tips)

Trip 5 - another four-bagger, not nearly as nice as the first one. First house has the driveway not shoveled but a path out half-way to the road. I climb through the deep snow to give them their food and am rewarded with $2.12 on a $17.88 order.

Next house the mom tries to pay by check, which we have never accepted in the 3 years I've worked here. I suggest a credit card / debit card over the phone. She agrees and then goes into the basement to get a card. I call the store to get ready and her kids tell me it looks like I have their mom's phone, which I assure them I do not. Meanwhile I hear a voice bellow up the stairs, "No way am I giving out our credit card over the phone. He can eat it himself." Then after a pause, "You tell him, if I have to come up there I'm going to be upset." What a jerk, I feel sorry for that guy's family. But, no payment, no pizza. I move on.

Next house the guy comments on how awful it is out, and hands me a $20 and $4 in coins for a $22.58 order, saying "You deserve a tip on a night like this." Well thanks, buddy, and I'm glad most of the other customers realize what a tip really is.

Fourth delivery is to the local Super 8 Motel, room 106. Credit card delivery to a young couple with a 10-month old. They sign the credit card and move the total down, leaving the tip line sadly blank.

(With Manager Ady's permission of course) I give the food from the 2nd order (that wanted to pay by check) to the desk clerk, wishing him a Happy Valentine's day and asking him to keep recommending us. Making someone happy like that is cool. The rest of this trip was not. (4 runs, $3.54 tips)

Trip 6 - Yet another 4-bagger, winding through town. First delivery was to a large older man on oxygen. Storm door was closed but the front door was open and he hollered for me to come in. I said my shoes were snowy but he said that was ok, it was just him and the dog. He was plopped on his couch and didn't look to be getting up soon. He had me set the food & drink on some tray-tables, and had laid out $33 for his $28.64 order.

Next house is pre-paid cash at the store with a $5 tip. As expected, several kids follow the babysitter (talking on the phone, what a surprise) to the door. This trip is starting well. Oops, spoke too soon.

Next house the guy hands me $22 for his $21.70 order. I have a pocket full of change so I dig in and said "Hang on, let me get you the 30 cents."

"I don't need it" he replied.

"I don't either." Man that felt good to say!

Fourth house pays a $20 for their $14.59 order. I hand her back $5 in singles, and she keeps them all so I dig in and find her another 41 cents. She actually turned a lamp on so that I could find a penny among my nickels and quarters. The nerve of some people! (4 runs, $9.64 tips)

Finally I get a break and Driver Desiree and I bust out most of the pre-close, oiling pans and prepping dough for Thursday. Meanwhile cooks Steve and Mona have been keeping up with the dishes. Thanks guys!

Trip 7 - Probably my last run, a single order pretty close to the restaurant. I've turned in all my coins for cash so I'm a little disappointed when the guy pulls out a wad of cash that looks like it came from Fort Knox and hands me $22 for his $21.32 order. I wish him a good night and turn to leave. He says something that I don't hear, then follows me out the door and calls out again, I turn around and he hands me a wadded up $5. "Thank you sir, I appreciate it" (1 run, $5.68 tip)

Driver Mike leaves with a double, and the clock turns to 11 PM. I get all cashed out up front and am still standing there when the phone rings. It is Mike and he is stuck in between his 2 deliveries. Cook Nick (yes him AGAIN!) rides along and helps push Mike out of the snow while I grab his 2nd delivery. I call the customer to explain that the original driver got stuck but their food is now on it's way. It's been over an hour. (1 run, $2.95 tip).

Finishing the dishes, sweeping, and mopping, we are there until well after midnight, but it ended up an extremely profitable night, almost $10 per hour above and beyond my hourly rate.

I didn't get to have dinner with my wife but now I can take her out another night and pay for it with the tips from tonight!

Happy Valentine's Day, Victoria!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I didn't drive Tuesday night, and I'm glad. The 20 minute drive home from my day job took about an hour. And you can see in the picture how much snow fell overnight.

I started shoveling about 6:30 this morning and it took me until 8 AM to clear out my driveway. Meanwhile our street has not been plowed recently and has about a foot of snow.

There were drifts in the driveway as high as 3 feet tall. And the snow all around the car was almost as high as the tires.

Because of the snow in the road, I won't be going in to my day job unless our street gets plowed soon. We live on a cul-de-sac in a newer development so I expect we are not very high on the city's priority list. I called my boss on his cell phone and he wasn't at work either, he was at home trying to relight his hot water heater.

I am supposed to deliver tonight. I am not looking forward to it, I hope it stops snowing soon so that the streets can be plowed!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't Go Into That House!

I worked 5 hours on Monday night, took 9 deliveries and made $22 in tips. I only drove 31 miles, had a couple of very close deliveries and most of my far-out ones were doubles.

When I started delivering pizza about 2 1/2 years ago, I worked with another driver named Rob. Rob was a very smart guy, going to college and also was the lead singer in a band called Mush. Rob had been jumped and he explained to me how it happenned.

He had a delivery to a large, older house that had been turned into multiple apartments. This house had an entryway that led to the doors to some of the apartments. Rob had stepped into the entryway and there was someone hiding behind the door. Now he was cornered and could not get out.

This taught me to always be cautious about entering houses and buildings.

For a while that building was on our blacklist, but as time passed and we got new management, I'm sure I'm the only person that remembers exactly where it happenned. So there's nothing stopping us now from taking a delivery order for that address.

Which is exactly what happenned last night. And as luck would have it, I was up in the rotation when the order was up for delivery.

I drove to the address and walked up onto the porch, realizing that there was no apartment number on the delivery ticket. I called the phone number from my cell phone and a girl answerred, saying that they were #3 upstairs. I said "Well I'm on your porch, come on down."

Now the entryway has 2 sets of doors, an outside door and an inside door, about 6 feet apart. The hallway from the outside door was dark but the hallway inside the inside door was well lit.

Less than a minute later, a male walked down the stairs, stopped at the inside door (in the well lit area) and waved for me to come in.

I shook my head no and waved for him to come out. Which he did without hesitation.

"I'm sorry man, we were robbed on this exact spot a while back. I can't come inside," I explained. The guy apologized, said he didn't know, and remarked that there were some crazy people living there. He paid $30 for his $27.58 order, a decent tip for that neighborhood to be sure.

If I have another delivery to that apartment, now that I've established he's a decent customer, I may actually go inside and take it up to their door. We'll see. I hope I didn't offend them, but in this line of work, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Short Slow Night, Party Tipper

I worked late Friday night. I went in around 10 and worked until close (1 AM). I had to do this so that Mike could switch with me on Sunday (and not go over 40 hours) so that I could go to the Cavs game with my son.

It was a pretty slow night, I only had 3 deliveries. The first one tipped $2, the 2nd one tipped $2.43 on a $27.57 order. The last one was another $27.57 order. I got there and it was a business (Chiropractor) in a big old house that was obviously closed. I could hear loud music coming from upstairs.

I knocked a few times and called the number, no answer. I finally decided to (cautiously) walk around the back of the building to see if there was a 2nd entrance to the upstairs apartment.

I found a doorway in the back that led to a stairwell that led up to the music. Stairwells are notorious places for punks to hid out and try to rob the pizza guy, so I proceeded very cautiously. Got upstairs and knocked on the door for a long time, the party was kind of loud.

Eventually after hearing "hey I think someone's knocking on the door", "don't just puke anywhere", and "I think the cops are trying to shut us down", a girl in her early 20's named Rachel came to the door. She handed me $35 for the food and said to keep the change.

That $7.43 tip gave me almost $12 in tips for my 3 hour shift, which ended up giving me a better than expected night. Thanks Rachel!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Schedule Changes

Our schedule gets posted on Tuesday (usually) and runs from Wednesday to the next Tuesday. Since this is a 2nd job for me, I only have certain days and times that I am available to work. Our GM is very good about meeting my schedule requests, so I pretty much know when I will be working. However, most people either stop in or call in on Tuesday to find out their schedules.

This week I had a dilema. I was scheduled to work on Sunday night 5-close but then on Tuesday (after the schedule was posted) I found out that I won Cleveland Cavaliers tickets to Sunday's 3:30 game against the LA Lakers.

Immediately I called our GM and asked if there was any way I could get that night off or switch with someone. Well we have a driver in Texas, another who already requested off, and 2 others that already had 40 hours scheduled. (We're not supposed to work overtime unless it is approved.)

We discussed it and figured that the only way it would work was:

1) Manager Alison, working as a driver that night from 4-9, would have to be able to stay until close.
2) Driver Mike, off on Sunday, would have to be able to work from 4-7.
3) I would have to pick up at least 3 of Mike's hours as he already had 40 scheduled.

Well I stopped up at the store when Mike and Alison were both working on Wednesday night, after my soccer league meeting, and explained the situation with each of them. Both were happy to help me out.

Thanks guys!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Journey Of A Quarter

This is actually 2 stories, that both happenned on the same night and both involved the same US Quarter. I'm pretty sure this happenned in the fall of 2005 but I'm not positive. I know it was a chilly and rainy night.

I had a delivery to a public housing facility. I had no expectations of getting a tip. The order was for 2 medium pizzas (with coupon) for $14.98. Add in the $1.25 delivery charge and the total was $16.23.

I arrive at the building, get buzzed in, ride up the slower-than-molasses elevator, and knock on the door with their food. The custmer answers the door with $16. I quote the price and the customer yells back into their apartment, "Hey do you have a quarter?"

What I hear in response makes me cringe. "I think there's one on the bathroom floor."

The customer disappears around the corner, and reappears with a 25-cent piece, saying "Yeah there was." I pocket the money, trying not to touch the coin, give them their food, and proceed with my night.

Sometime around midnight I get a delivery to the far end of our delivery zone. This time the total is something like $20.74. Could have been 2 large pizzas and an extra cup of garlic sauce, I'm not exactly sure.

What I do know is that as I was standing at the door in the cold rain, a man in his early 20's handed me a $20 bill and then, like the customer before, called back into the house, "Mom, do you have a dollar?"

There was no immediate answer, but the guy didn't move to go find his mother, instead he just stood there and yelled out a few more times.

Meanwhile I am getting wetter and wetter. I realize I am not getting a tip from this guy, and I owe him back a quarter. Hmmmm . . . . .

I reach into my pocket and there it is, the quarter from the bathroom floor. I pull it out and get it ready to give this guy. Finally he goes into another room and returns with his dollar. I hand him the food and hold out the quarter.

"Keep it," he says.

"No, I really couldn't," I reply.

He still doesn't hold out his hand, so I flip the coin into the air, like the referee at the start of a football game. It lands with a jingle near his feat as I turn and head for my car.

"Hey you don't have to throw it at me," he calls out after me.

As soon as I got moving I got out my cell phone and call back to the store to warn our manager. "Ward, if a customer calls and says that I threw a quarter at him, here's what really happenned . . ." and I describe the events that just transpired.

Sure enough, before Ward hung up with me, I heard someone in the background say, "Ward, manager call, line 2"

Ward handled it well, and was very supportive. He asked the guy if it was his money, and when the guy said he should come up and beat the driver (me) up, Ward asked if he was making a threat, as Ward would be happy to call the police if he was. That pretty much ended the discussion.

And that ends the story of the journey of the quarter. From bathroom floor, to my pocket, back to non-tipping customer.

Sweet justice.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Coin Change Issues

Where I work we are given a bank of $15 to start our shift. This is usually one $5 bill and ten $1 bills. We are not given any coin change to start the night unless we specifically request it. I don't ask for it, and I don't know of any other drivers that do.

For the first 2 1/2 years that I delivered, our delivery charge was $1.25. Most of our items were priced at $x.99. A medium was $8.99 and a large was $11.99 (with 1 topping each). This made most orders $x.24 or $x.23. For example, a large was $13.24 (with delivery).

If the customer handed me a $20 bill for their $13.24 order, I would hand them back six $1 bills as change. Usually they would either hand me back a tip, or walk away, either way I kept the $0.76. If they gave me back $2, my tip would actually be $2.76. If they didn't tip, at least I had the $0.76.

Sometimes breadsticks, sodas, extra toppings, extra sauce cups, or other side items would change the price, but usually not.

Of course, if the customer just stood there, obviously waiting for their coin change, and I had some coins in my pocket that a customer had paid with on a previous delivery, I would dig in my pocket and give them their change. This happenned very rarely.

Also, if they specifically asked for the rest of their change, I would give it to them. I only remember this happening twice in 2 1/2 years. If I didn't have the coins, I would give them an extra $1, and let them know that I would cover it out of my tips.

Now sometimes, when I knew the customer would not tip, and I had coins, I would be ready with the exact coin change. For example, we have a customer that would consistently pay their $20.23 order with a $20 and a quarter. I would try to have 2 pennies in my hand as I walked to the door. In my mind, anything less than $1 is not a tip, it's an insult, and handing them back those insignificant 2 cents gave me a small bit of satisfaction.

Coming tomorrow, 2 related stories about how giving a customer back their change resulted in a complaint call to my manager.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dry Your Hands ... Before Taking Out The Trash

I started this blog so that I could write about the interesting things that happen while out on delivery. But the last few weeks have been pretty boring. Partly because the weather is freezing (single digits the last 2 nights) and the transaction at the customer's door is handled as quickly as possible, for both parties involved.

I did have a good night Monday night, much better, both per hour and per delivery, than the (Super Bowl) night before. I took 11 deliveries and made $33 in tips. The lowest tip was $2 and that was a $21 order less than 4 blocks from the restaurant. I had a $5 and two $4 tips, and everything else was in the $2.50 - $3.50 range. Even the neighborhoods wher you don't expect much of a tip were generous last night.

So anyways one of the driver duties is to take out the trash at the end of the night and toss it in the dumpster. We have 3 big trashcans throughout the store. They usually aren't that heavy except when we throw out alot of dough.

We throw out dough that has been prepared the night before or that morning, but was not used during the day, due to slower than expected business. Last night was one of those nights. We have a new advertising promotion that hasn't quite caught on yet, so the trash by the make table (where pizzas are made) was pretty full.

Nick (the cook last night) volunteered to help me take it out. On the way out, he mentioned that he couldn't touch any metal, because his hands were wet, and he was afraid they would freeze to the metal.

The dumpster was pretty full so instead of throwing it in the sliding door of the dumpster, we had to throw it over the top. No problem. But the bag was so full that it didn't immediately fall out of the trash can, so we had to wiggle the (upside down) trash can to dislodge it. I slipped trying to step up the side of the dumpster, so Nick gave it a try. As he grabbed the top of the dumpster he screamed, "OUCH, METAL!"

He got the trash bag to fall but then on his way down he inadvertently grabbed the side of the dumpster again for support. When he got inside you could see the marks on his hand from where he had touched the metal.

While writing this, I was looking on snopes to find support for the urban legend of freezing your tongue to the basketball pole on the playground, as seen in the classic movie, A Christmas Story. I didn't find it, but I did find this amusing story. I guess it's a good thing Nick didn't have to pee.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Not So Super Bowl

I worked last night from 4-close. That is 7 hours on the road. I took 17 deliveries and made $35. Now that is slightly more than I would make on a typical Sunday, but not much. We were busier than usual but we were WAY overstaffed. Every driver I spoke with was disappointed in how much they earned.

In our area at least, I believe the thinking that the Super Bowl is a bonanza for pizza delivery drivers is a sad myth. Affluent customers that may have a big party and tip very well are more likely to prepare their own food these days. People eat pizza so often that I think it just isn't 'special' anymore.

Of my 17 deliveries, I only took 2 that were $25 or more, and each of those was just 2 pizzas and some sides and 2-liters. I didn't take 3 pizzas to one house all night. I did make 2 nice $5 tips but about half (8) of my tips were $1.40 or less.

I almost didn't write about the Super Bowl at all, I thought about titling my post "It pays to answer the phone."

Now I believe that phone-answerring is important. Most people, as many as 80-90%, have decided how much they will tip before they answer the door. The drivers actual service and job performance seems to have little effect on the size of the tip, in most cases.

Almost the only chance we have to affect the tip is during the phone transaction. So I try to answer as many phones as I can, and to be friendly and cheerful while taking the order. I believe this helps increase my tips.

But last night I actually made money just by answerring the phone. I started off with my normal greeting. "Thanks for calling (name of pizza place), this is Kevin, will this be for delivery or pick-up."

"Actually I already placed a pick-up order and it should be ready. I'm outside with 2 sleeping kids in the van, can someone possibly bring it out to me?", the lady asked.

"Absolutely," I replied, "we will be right out."

I found the order, grabbed the 2-liter of Pepsi, checked the amount ($15.00), and took the food out the front door. The woman opened the door to her van, thanked me, and handed me $20. "If you have $3 that would be great" she said.

I quickly handed her her change (out of my drivers bank that I keep in my pocket), went back in and paid the $15 check, and I made a nice $2 tip for about 1 minute of work.

This was before the game started, and it at least put me in a good mood for a few minutes.

Oh and I should say "Thank you" to my co-workers Nick and Ward, for helping me get home last night. If you were following along from last week's blog, I was driving a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise that I had to return at the end of my shift last night. Nick picked me up from Enterprise after my last delivery and Ward took me home after we closed. Thanks guys!

Friday, February 2, 2007

How Much Does A $600 Car Really Cost?

From when I started delivering pizza in the summer of 2004, I drove a 1998 Ford Escort. This was a great car for me, very dependable, good gas mileage, but over time it developed numerous things wrong with it. Recently the clutch has been slipping, and the brakes are badly worn. You can hear the metal-on-metal scraping each time you stop.

Along with those 2 major items, there is some bumper damage (my own fault), the A/C gave out this summer, the shocks & struts need replaced, the back-up lights malfunctioned and are disconnected, the dashboard lights (speedometer, etc) are out, the rear view mirror fell off, and there is a cassette stuck in the tape player.

To top it all off, in December when I went to have an e-check so that I could get my license plates, they refused to test it at all because the brake light is on. (The emergency brake is out).

It does have 215,000 miles, so I decided to replace it. Shopped around and found my Hyundai Excel listed on eBay for $500, with a Buy It Now for $1000. It was local, I test drove it, but then someone did the Buy It Now before I got a chance to bid.

That deal fell through so I made an offer and bought it (outside of eBay) for $600.

When I went to get license plates for it, it failed the e-check and I had to spend $700 at Monro to replace the entire exhaust system, everything from the catalytic converter on back. OUCH! But I think you have to expect for a car that cheap, something will probably go wrong soon.

With that taken care of, the car seemed to be a great little pizza wagon for me, up until the events of Wednesday night. Now it is back in the shop and Firestone says it will need a new ignition switch and cylinder, total cost of around $350.

I need this car running so we are having this fixed also, but we are quickly approaching the point where we stop putting more money into this car and cut our losses.

In the meantime, we visited the local Enterprise where the weekend rate is less than $20 per day. I'll be driving a PT Cruiser this weekend, including Super Bowl Sunday. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Serious Car Trouble

Went out to make my 5th & 6th deliveries last night and my 1992 Hyundai Excel made a very strange, grinding/spinning/scraping/whirring noise as it started up. Kind of sounded like trying to start the car when it is already started.

On my way to my first delivery I noticed that the sound reappeared every time I put in the clutch. Also I noticed that my radio had no power. As I drove on I also discovered that my headlights were out, as well as the fan for the heater/defroster.

Left the car running while I made the first delivery, second one was to a low-income high-rise so I had to turn it off. I just prayed that it would start when I got back.

Made the delivery and called the store to return me in the computer (so the delivery did not show as late) and to let them know I would be delayed. I stopped at both AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts. AutoZone tested the alternator / battery and the charge was fine. Neither of them really had a solid idea what it might be.

I made it back to the store. We were in pretty good shape because Mona was working again tonight, the dishes were caught up and the prep work was complete. It was about 9PM so they let me just go home.

I called my good friend Randy who knows way more about cars than me. He came up and had a look, and also led me home (me having no headlights and all).

So now my car is at Firestone and I am checking out Enterprise to possibly rent a car for the weekend.

I'm very frustrated, I still haven't told the story here of why I am driving that car anyways, but so far in the 1 month I have had it, I have not had very good luck.

In the 3 hours I worked, I did make 6 deliveries, drove 20 miles, and earned $14 in tips. Our driver reimbursement got dropped from $1.00 per run to $0.95 per run. This is a result of the falling gas prices, I knew it would be happening but was hoping it would not.

I'll write again when I know what is going on with my car.