Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizza Delivery - a Real Job or Just Selling Your Car in Slow Motion?

Delivering Pizzas is hard work - for both you and your car!

When I was working my way though college, I did a number of odd jobs.  In addition to my work at GM and Carrier, I also interned at Planned Parenthood, tutored Calculus, worked as a Teamster, and also delivered Pizzas - for three different outfits.

Is delivering pizzas a good way to make money?  I had fun doing it, of course.  But it was dangerous to some extent, and it wears a lot on your car.  In fact, it really is little more than selling your car to Domino's, a little bit at a time.

My first job was at Domino's, before the corporation bought back a lot of the franchises.  It was a Mom and Pop shop, casually run out of a little shack, and we dressed casually (leather jackets and blue jeans).  It was a lot of fun, and you could make some good money if you hustled.  When we weren't delivering pies (they don't call them Pizzas, they call them pies) we folded boxes and B.S.'d and the manager, if he was in a good mood, would make us a pie to share.

We put our money in locked cans and we had to count our dough every night.  I learned a lot of respect for money then, as it was hard to come by.  But also I learned respect for physical money - Putting all the Presidents facing the same way, working out the folds and wrinkles in the money, and putting them in order of denomination.  You can tell a former Pizza Delivery driver - he usually has neat money.

One fellow had a fairly new Jetta that he was making payments on.  He asked the store manager about car insurance, and the manager said not to tell the insurance company he was delivering pizzas, or they would cancel his policy.

He topped the hill at S.U. and someone ran a stop sign and hit him broadside, totaling his car.  Only 36 more payments to make!  And since it was a "commercial delivery" the insurance company wouldn't pay out.  The cop on the scene, seeing the Domino's light on the roof, muttered about "30 minutes or free" and said the delivery driver was at fault for "driving too fast".

Needless to say, delivering pizzas didn't work out well for him.

Our pay was hourly, plus tips, plus a certain percentage of each "pie" - the latter of which was supposed to cover car usage, but really wasn't quite enough.

I left the job to go back to work at Carrier, as they had, by then, given me a raise in pay.

I went back to Domino's later on, when it had moved to a shiny new corporate-owned "store".  We had to wear dorky uniforms with name badges that said "Driver has only $20!".  And when we returned from a run, we were supposed to ring this stupid bell.

Other than that, it was pretty much the same deal as before.  They still had that "30 minutes or free" deal, and people would call in an order, and then claim you delivered the wrong pie, and they say "you have to give it to me for free!"  Needless to say, Domino's wasn't stupid.  We rarely gave out free pies.

I had only one scare while there.  Back then, the delivery labels were hand-addressed and sloppy writing could be a problem.  I remember telling one manager that some day, it would all be computerized, so that if you entered the phone number (or used caller ID) it would enter the address and print a label automatically.  He called me a dreamer.

But anyway, I went to the wrong address - a public housing building that was none too nice.  Some fellows chased me, but I made it back to the car OK - didn't even spill the cokes!

Once again, our pay was hourly, plus tips, plus a certain percentage of each "pie" - the latter of which was supposed to cover car usage, but really wasn't quite enough.

But working for the corporate man didn't seem like as much fun as before.  So I took another job...

My third job was with Sammy Ventura's Wings and Things.  Sammy was the Polish Bowling King of East Syracuse, New York.  He provided an old Plymouth Volare with bowling balls in the back.  I quickly learned not to put pies back there, as the bowling balls would roll over them in the corners and ruin the pies.

When not delivering, I would cut celery and learn how to make wings and pies.  Sometimes, I would make other types of deliveries and pickups.  I would fetch dough for pies, or deliver racing or football bets, in fat envelopes stuffed through door slots after ringing the bell and saying "Sammy sent me".  Other times I would score pot for the chef.  It was a very fun atmosphere.

At the end of the night, they would pay me a couple $20 bills, a large white pizza, a dozen wings, and a six-pack of St. Pauli Girl, and perhaps a couple of joints.  Needless to say, I was a popular guy with my friends at that point, when I showed up at 3:00 AM just as they were saying to themselves, "Gee, I could go for some wings, beer, pizza, and pot!"

I finally had to quit.  Sammy said I was the best driver they ever had and begged me to stay.  But I told him, "This is so much fun working here, that if I don't leave, I'll never graduate from college!"  So reluctantly, I quit.

My last delivery job was with Acropolis Pizza in Syracuse.  The store was run by a little Greek man, Ari, whose brother owned the shop.  His brother had returned to Greece and let Ari run the store with the proviso that Ari could keep all profits he made while his brother was gone.  Ari lived in a cot in the basement and pocketed as much as he could before returning to Greece.

The money was good there - I made hundreds of dollars a night on a few occasions, such as the Prince concert.  The only downside was that I had to wash dishes.  Sometimes my pot-smoking friends would drive around with me, out of sheer boredom, and ask if they could deliver the pies.

It was common, by the way, for college kids to play "Let's get the delivery driver stoned!" and I was offered, over a typical Saturday night, many a beer or bong hit or joint (the latter usually as tips) and yes, I consumed them all.  Not very safe, of course.  After the third or fourth occurrence within the hour, I was a pretty mellow delivery driver, and had to concentrate hard to remember what I was doing and where I was going.

And on occasion, people of all ages and genders would try to offer the delivery driver something a little more.  And it wasn't that I wasn't flattered or anything - or uninterested.  But those pies don't deliver themselves, and if I have three pizzas sitting in the car getting cold, I can't stay around for a quickie - not if I expect to get tipped or keep my job.

My pay at Acropolis was hourly, plus tips, plus a certain percentage of each "pie" or  food item.  The only exception was salads, which Ari felt he was losing money on, anyway.  So it was always a bummer when two girls from remote South Campus ordered salads - and then didn't tip you.

We had one guy working there, who was African.  The other drivers called him "Chicken George" which was racially offensive.  Not that George noticed - he called every black person he saw, the "N" word.  When I asked him about this, he said, "I am African, not some American (N-Word)!"

George always had a saying about South Campus - "They order cheap pie, leave no tip!"

I finally left Acropolis to work as a Teamster with United Parcel.  The pay was better (a staggering $8 an hour!  Whoo-whee!) and it was a lot less wear and tear on my car.

How much wear on the car?  A lot.

Consider than when you deliver a pie, you leave the store, open the car door, slam the car door, start the engine, drive like hell (full acceleration, full brakes) a relatively short distance, then stop the car, shut off the engine, open the door, slam the door, deliver the pizza, and repeat the process.

Each delivery is about the same amount of wear as commuting to work every day.  The same number of car-door slams, starter motor starts, etc.  And on a good night, you might deliver 30 pies.  So in one night, you do a month's worth of wear on your car.  In a month, you've done nearly three year's worth.  In a year, you've basically trashed the car.

A pizza delivery car, besides smelling like pizza and spilled coke, often has sagging door hinges on the driver's side, a shredded driver's seat, with a collapsed cushion, and a well-worn steering wheel and shifter.

So while the pay is OK, in addition to providing your services, you are providing the services of your car.  And if you think running to and from your car is hard on you, well, they are basically gang-banging your car in the process.

So over time, your car will fall apart, and the money they give to you better be more than the cost of a new one, is all I can say.

Throw in the occasional mugging, and wrecking your car (and not getting paid back by the insurance company - or having your insurance canceled) and it can be a pretty raw deal.

So if you are thinking "Gee, I need some extra cash, maybe I'll deliver pizzas!" think long and hard about it, as it really is not as lucrative as it may first sound, once you factor in the car costs.

But looking back, it was kind of fun and all.  Not that I'd do it again, in a heartbeat.

And of course, the few times I order a pizza, I always tip generously.  But I never offer him beer, pot, or sex.  Too old for that sort of thing!