Nov 29, 2007
A college assignment.
I’m cruising down some nondescript back road into the evening sun, wind in my hair, one hand on the wheel, the other turning the radio in an attempt to find something better than Sundance ads. Flashing blue and red lights pull out in front of me as they pursue another speeding citizen. Being no stranger to this occurrence, I ease off the gas pedal, knowing full well how lucky I am that it wasn’t me. I can’t afford another ticket. I also know that this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, either. Coasting carefully by, my excitement ends for the day. After passing several more cornfields, I reach the familiar farmhouse that is my destination. I put on my best fake smile, hustle to the door, and deliver the goods, receiving little in return. Delivery driving is not the ideal occupation. In fact, it is monotonous, dangerous, and unrewarding.
There is no doubt in my mind that delivering pizza for a chain like Dominos would not be so boring if only for a variation of scenery. Perhaps city driving is more exciting than barns, trees, and the occasional suicidal deer. The time of day simply adds to the monotony, being mostly nights, and I run the risk of falling asleep if I can’t keep myself busy screaming along with the heavy metal blasting out of my failing “Blue Light Special” speakers. I’ve learned to laugh at the bewildered looks from those who take notice, yet it is short-lived, as nearly all of my driving is outside of town, and there are numerous things to keep me from actually calling my job a “good” one. Tipping, or lack thereof, would be of the utmost. One would suppose that a person should tip according to the distance a driver must travel (a maximum of nine miles being the general rule of thumb), or the size of the order. Most of the time, this is not the case.
Instead, day in and day out, I must take dinner to those content to give me the pennies on their order. As always, I will smile and thank them, through gritted teeth, to be sure, in the hope that they will remember me the next time around. Often times, it doesn’t matter how sociable a driver is; there are still those who send their little girls with the check so that they don’t have to see the dissatisfaction on the face of someone that has just been stiffed. Tipthepizzaguy.com, an informative website on the general tipping “etiquette” of pizza drivers and winner of several awards, including Yahoo!’s pick of the week for best of web, implies that not tipping a pizza driver is considered rude, inconsiderate, and ungrateful. The driver is performing a service for the customer, while depending on tips to cover his expenses; not tipping is simply unheard of. (“Reasons,” pars 1-3)
It is rarely a challenge to know when a driver is going to be stiffed before actually delivering the pizza. Most often there are trends to where and who will be an area’s worst tippers; you can tell a lot about a tip by the type of person that orders. The wealthy have a tendency to be somewhat stingy, yet always keen to let you in the house and show off something new and luxurious. The older generation seems to be considerably better, if you are willing to give a minute or so to idle chitchat. Churches tip very well; perhaps it is their subtle way of “advertising”. Subsequently, there are those who are just rude, waiting until minutes before closing time, forcing a driver go to the limits of the delivery area to an address with an unmarked mailbox, and failing to leave their porch light on. This is a waste of a driver’s time, as these houses take significantly longer to locate, and it puts the driver in a potentially dangerous situation. Providing a treat to the hulking Rottweiler that’s eying me warily, I recognize that this job is not the safest.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies driver-sales workers as the fourth most dangerous job in America, resulting in 37.9 deaths for every 100,000 workers. (“Extra,” par 4) The risks aren’t limited to deaths, either; car accidents, rape (particularly of women), and armed robberies are just a few others. A January article in the Oakland Tribune conveys the story of a 52 year old man assaulted twice in one night; he was beaten on the first incident, and robbed at gunpoint in another. (Aguirre A1) Perhaps the hazards would be worth it if drivers made minimum wage, but contrary to what the worst of tippers must convince themselves, delivery drivers often don’t, even factoring in their hourly pay. Tipped employees, by law, aren’t required to collect minimum wage; I’m only being paid $5.35 hourly. Any bit of money I might make is kept in check by the plethora of expenses on a car that is driven relentlessly. People seldom consider that a driver is hardly reimbursed for the gas he uses. In the age of $3 a gallon gas, $1.50 per delivery just doesn’t cut it, especially when the majority of delivery drivers can’t afford a costly, fuel-efficient vehicle. Add in the cost of insurance and regular oil changes, and it is easy to understand why a driver might get upset with the people who love to shell out a check one penny short of the actual amount.
Admittedly, at the end of the day, I get to go home with cash (Certainly not everyone will stiff me), and this is why I will stay with my job. Truth be told, I have met some of the friendliest people that I know through delivery, and many people do tip well enough to make up for those who don’t. So as monotonous and unrewarding as delivering pizza can be, I will still set off into the familiar sunset, cruise down the same old road, and put on my fakest smile so that at the conclusion of my day, I might go home with a dollar amount that outweighs that which I spent on gas.
Aguirre, Ben. “One Shift, Two Robberies for Pizza Driver”. Oakland Tribune. 23 Jan. 2007: A1.
“Extra: The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America.” MSN Money. 14 Oct. 2003: 13 pars. Microsoft Network. 25 Nov. 2007. http://moneycentral.msn.com
“Reasons for Tipping (If You Don’t Already Know).” Tipthepizzaguy.com. 12 Aug. 2007: 4 pars. 27 Nov. 2007. http://tipthepizzaguy.com