Last week, Eater asked for your worst, your funniest, your grossest pizza delivery horror stories. Now, to close out Eater Pizza Week, we've gathered the best tales from both sides of the transaction. You guys hit us with grand theft auto, epic service fails, and one OMG cringeworthy car accident, and we cannot thank you enough.
So during high school I worked at a small delivery branch of a large national pizza chain. I worked the phones and the line and have plenty of stories about horrible, awful things happening to food. All that stuff you hear about and think is urban legend... I never saw it happen in a professional kitchen or even a dive bar, but a suburban pizza chain run by stoned high school dropouts? Yes.
To be honest most of the delivery stories are about the drivers themselves, rather than robberies or the 70's porn situation that everyone jokes about. One guy had a CD selling scam where he had 25 P.O. boxes in the area and would order hundreds of CDs with fake names from Columbia House (those things in the '90s where you could order 12 albums for a dollar or whatever). Then he made this list with his pager number on top (again, this is the '90s) and passed them out all over town. You would just send a code indicating "Pearl Jam" or "Biggie Smalls" and he would drop it off between pizzas.
There was another driver who was 8 feet tall and looked like Dennis Hopper. He only worked 3 months a year and the story was that he "made bank in the stock market" the rest of the year. Turns out "stock market" really meant "moving large quantities of drugs through the suburbs" which I'm pretty sure everyone else who worked there was also a part of. Another guy sold dime bags and 40's of Colt 45 out of the window of his apartment. Another dude whose wife kicked him out or whatever actually lived in the back of the "restaurant", sleeping on top of cases of flour and coca cola syrup. Instead of selling drugs or stolen Red Hot Chili Peppers albums out of the back of his car, he was stealing cheese and selling it to rival pizza places at 3am. I was basically working for the white trash pizza mafia.
Food52's Brette Warshaw has a very different idea of horror:
So I was a student at Penn at the time, and a few friends and I were at someone's apartment at end of a long, drunken night. It was around 2:30 or 3am, and so someone ordered pizza from the one place that was still open: College Pizza. Just a plain cheese pie — harmless, right? Well, around a half hour later — we were obviously famished, at this point — we get a call that they were on the way, but that they accidentally put ground beef on our pizza. They assured us that they did not charge us for it, and that they threw in a few chicken fingers, too. This part now gets hazy, but I guess someone said fine, if you don't charge us, whatever. So they deliver this gross ground beef pizza — and it turns out they just didn't charge us for the ground beef. They did charge us for the pizza. And then people (NOT ME I PROMISE) ate it anyway.
[Ed. note — Brette, please don't judge us, but we would've eaten it, too.]
And now for a slew of horror stories that came in via the tipline (most requested anonymity, so names have been removed).
What do you tip a guy that just had his car stolen?:
A couple of years ago we ordered Lazaro's delivery during a very cold winter Sunday. The driver arrived and left his car running in the street as he ran up to our door, but I invited him into our entryway since it was so cold out. He took one step in and, all of a sudden, we heard screaming from across the street, where people were gathered outside of a community center. Someone was getting into the delivery driver's car, but his first attempts to drive off were thwarted by his inability to drive stick shift. The delivery person ran back out to the car and stood in front of it yelling, as the car thief revved the engine and the car bucked back and forth.
Eventually, the car stalled, and the delivery guy attempted to open the door and remove the thief. This is when things got a little scary: the thief began fighting back and reaching into coat as if he had a weapon. When the delivery guy backed away, the thief restarted the car and, this time, got it into gear. He began sputtering down the street as the delivery guy ran alongside and banged on the car, until the thief reached a suitable speed to drive off, never to return.
We had the delivery guy come back to our house and contacted the police. He sat there and waited as we all just looked at the pizza we were supposed to eat. It was really awkward! Plus what do you tip a guy that just had his car stolen? In the end no one was hurt and we still see that same delivery driver and laugh about the story with him to this day.
Some places insist the customer is always wrong, no matter how improbable the circumstances, as these two questionable service experiences illustrate:
· My husband and I ordered a pizza from a local place, waited the usual 30-45 minutes... nothing. After an hour, we called the restaurant, and they said that it had already been out for delivery. Well obviously we hadn't gotten it yet, so they sent our order out again, and the delivery person called our phone box, and we came to pick up our food and pay for it. When we got to the door, the delivery person was livid, saying that he'd been at our building before and called us and we refused delivery. "This is our dinner, why would we refuse it?" "NO, I talked to a woman on the intercom and she sounded just like you and she said, NO." "Ok, but we ordered the food, we wanted the food, we're here for the food..." "But the lady, who sounds a lot like you, by the way, said she didn't order anything." He continued to argue with us, saying it was our fault for denying the order when all along he'd clearly tried to deliver it to the wrong place.
· This was probably 2 years ago from a place on your Philly's Essential Pizzeria list:
The delivery guy called, so I went down the 3 flights of stairs to answer the door. It's pouring rain & the guy isn't here. I wait a minute & call him back to double check he's at the right place. He stubbornly insists he's standing on my stoop, so I say, "I think you're at the wrong address. I'm on my stoop. Can you see me?" He can't, but is still convinced he's at the right address, and is now being a dick about it. Eventually I say, "Tell me what you're looking at. I'm outside & if you're not looking at me, then you're at the wrong address." He describes the block one east of mine, but continues to convince himself he's at the right address.
So now I call the restaurant & ask them to send the driver to the correct address. A guy eventually shows up at my address with a soaking wet pizza. This is 20 minutes after the initial "I'm here" call, & the box was so wet you could ring it out like a soaked kitchen towel.
I call the restaurant again. They're apologetic & say they'll send a new pie right over. The people at the restaurant were totally cool & polite about the whole thing. The same delivery guy came back to my address with a fresh pie really quickly, but demanded I go back upstairs to get the wet pie out of the trash before I get the fresh one. So I go up, get the wet one, back down, trade for the new pie & finally get to eat the dinner my wife ordered 2 hours earlier.
Final note: I live on the same street as the restaurant. 6 blocks, straight shot.
I recently got a pizza delivered and the delivery guy was hopping around kind of strangely until he begged to use my bathroom. I let him in, and he not only left the seat up but he also didn't wash his hands... who is handling my precious pizza?!
This last one comes from Ken Alan, a local food/travel/hospitality writer and founder of the Philadelphia Concierge Association. He says it happened back in the '80s, so while it's funny now, we're betting it was a little less amusing at the time:
It was one-thirty on an icy January morning when I climbed into my beat-up Datsun B210, wrapping-up my shift as a pizza delivery driver for Drexel Hill Style Pizza in Broomall.
I started the light-as-a-feather car - which was parked on an incline in front of store, - maneuvered the gear shifter into reverse and kept my foot on the break since there were cars behind me waiting for the light to turn green at the nearby intersection.
("Dottie," I should add, had been rebuilt the year before after a near-totaling accident so her guts – especially the transmission – were not exactly working like-new)
When I had shifted into reverse the car rocked, and the momentum caused the car to slide down the short hill into the intersection and – BANG – right into the side of a brand new Cadillac.
With the driver and his wife screaming at the hapless eighteen year-old that was me at the time, Marple-Newtown's finest arrived and told me to move the car.
It started – it revved – it screamed and then rocketed forward, heading straight through the shop's window.
When "Dottie" came to a stop I looked up and over the dashboard. All I saw was the electric PIZZA sign, swinging slowly back and forth, bleeding neon. Ernie, the original owner of the shop ran over. "Ken, wha' you do to my store??"
Thus ended my short career as a delivery driver for Drexel Hill Style Pizza on the night I turned it into a drive-thru.