PSA: Tip the Pizza Guy!

< Public Service Announcement >

If you have ever wondered about what to tip your delivery driver, or whether you should tip him or her at all, go to There's a calculator on the front page you can use to determine your tip, with the helpful note: "The minimum is three dollars."  As for whether or not to tip the us, the site has your questions covered.   Generally, the answer is YES, ALWAYS, but, sometimes we make mistakes.

Also included on the site are several objections to tipping, a few of which I wanted to highlight from my own delivery experience.
  • They get paid anyway.  "The driver really has two jobs, an in-store job and a delivery job. They receive minimum wage for the in-store job and tips for the delivery job."  We don't get paid for delivery.  We make minimum wage, and we use our own vehicles.  So no, despite the ad you saw in the classifieds, we are not making $15-20/hr (I found that out rather quickly).
  • The pizza was late.  "Most people... can't see inside the store. They don't see their pizza waiting 30 minutes to enter the oven. They don't see their pizza waiting in the store for a driver who's out making other deliveries. It could be another 20 minutes before the driver has a chance to grab it. ... Your house is only five or ten minutes from the store. That's how long the driver had it, no matter how late it was. ... If you feel it was excessively late or cold, by all means, call the store and get a discount but still tip the driver. This way, you punish the store but not the driver." Amen.
  • There was a delivery charge.  "The driver does not benefit from the delivery charge. It is a price increase in disguise." Yep. To be honest, I see roughly 30% of the delivery charge as a "gasoline surcharge." In other words, the company pays me 75 cents to go the 7 miles to your house. That does not cover the gasoline it took me to get there, nor does it cover the oil, tires, brake pads, car washes (since I can't wash my car at my apartment), and other maintenance or repair issues (three times in the shop in the last year) arising from delivering to your house.  And let me repeat two words: minimum wage
  • The pizza was free/discounted.  "Since the order is free, you should be more free to tip." I've had nice people realize the mistake was not my fault, and gave me the money they would have gave the store. :) Most, however, think free means "no tip for you!" I'm sorry the store made a mistake, but punishing me is not punishing the store. I have to keep my car running... help a brotha out!
  • I'm not required to tip.  I respond with this: if I have three orders, I'm not required to go to your house first.  Nor am I required to get it to you within a certain time frame.  This is not a comment out of spite---those who tip do so to encourage faster delivery.  I will honor that.  Hopefully, if you are a reader of this blog, however, you wouldn't take up such a rude position against tipping.
There are also some simple mistakes you as the customer could avoid.  We can all work together to get pizzas delivered faster.  Here, again, are a few I want to point out from my experience.
  • Lack of visible house numbers.  This costs me more time on the road than anything else.  Thankfully, most of the homes in my delivery area have uniform, back-lit numbers, as most homes belong to neighbor associations.  Most of the issues I have are 1) owner's vehicle is blocking the numbers painted on the curb, 2) a tree or plant is covering the numbers posted on the home, 3) the numbers painted on the curb are illegible due to wear, 4) the numbers posted on the house are posted in an inconspicuous place, 5) some of the numbers on the mailbox are missing, 6) the numbers on the mailbox are illegible, usually because they are written in marker, 7) there are no numbers anywhere(!).  I might remind you that I am not the only one who needs to know your house numbers, as you, unfortunately, may need to call police or rescue, making this a real safety issue.
  • The porch light is not on.  This makes your house harder to locate at night, makes your house numbers less visible (unless they have their own back-light) and is a safety concern.  "Technically, we are not allowed to deliver to a dark house."
  • The money is not ready.  As an occasional customer, I get my money together after I order the pizza, as I'm prone to forget little details such as the price while I'm waiting.  Plus, I want to know that I have enough money.  Believe it or not, I've waited while people have dug change out of their couches. 
  • Paying with a $50 or $100 bill for a small order.  Technically, I'm not supposed to accept $100's.  I'm also not supposed to leave out of the store with more than $15-$20.  So no, unless you are feeling very generous with your tip, please don't give me $100 to pay for your $15.95 order.
  • Your phone is busy.  I've had this happen at the store when I needed to contact a person before leaving, making that delivery late.  I've had this happen when I discovered someone's house was behind a gate requiring a code for entry, and I'm idling outside trying to think of what to do next.  Sometimes the person lives in a gated community or building, and I cannot get buzzed in until the person gets off the phone.  I hate to just go on toward my next delivery, skipping you (and my tip), but sometimes there is no other choice.
  • Paying in penny rolls, bags of change, or crumpled cash.  Please don't make me stand there and count.  Usually, I have other deliveries waiting.
  • Not telling us your business name.  Believe it or not, it's easier for me to locate the local "Ralph's Grocery Store" that it is for me to locate "31970 Castaic Rd."
  • Not notifying your co-workers/not meeting in the lobby.  Many-an-hour has been logged by delivery drivers waiting in the lobby while reception or security tries to track down the offending party. 
  • Not being there/taking a shower or bath/doing work in the backyard.  Yes, some people think it wise to get an errand or two accomplished before the pizza arrives.  There's two problems, however: 1) the ETA you received is only a guess, as it could arrive earlier (or later) and 2) the person who took your order may not have been a driver, and may have overestimated.  If your not there, or you don't answer, I have no choice but to move along.
  • Trying to negotiate the cost/haggle/complain about the price.  I usually don't know what you paid on each individual item that made your price so high (except in the rare case that I happened to be the person who took your order over the phone).  I can't change the price at the door unless there was a grievous error (like they gave you the wrong pizzas in your boxes).  I can't help the fact that you paid less last time, nor can I help the fact that the pizzas seem expensive.  That's something you should have discussed on the phone when you placed your order, and I will be especially annoyed if such things affects my tip.
  • Complaining it was late when it was really not OR complaining that it was 5-10 minutes late.  Okay, first of all, no one makes a 30-minute guarantee anymore.  (Please, don't tell me stories at the door about how you did it in your day... that delays me more.)  Yes, years ago there was one, and pizza drivers died as they broke the law trying to make it.  Also realize that I know from my delivery tag what time you called and what time you expected your order.  If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they had been waiting for an hour and a half when the delivery tag clearly said 60 minutes... well... I'd have at least three more dollars now. 
  • Changing the order after several minutes.  The pizzas are already in the oven, or I may have them and am already on the road.  Please, know what you want before you call or, at least, before you get off the phone.
So, according to the IRS, if it costs an average of 58.5 cents per mile to operate a vehical, and I traveled 80 miles tonight, I needed to make $46.80 in tips just to cover my car.  I made $49, which gives me $2.20; money I can put toward my bills, pregnant wife, and three children.  I also have that that minimum-wage check, so clearing the $2,500 dollars in expenses it costs me to have a family in California should be a breeze (*nervous laugh*).  (Oh, and I forgot to factor in school expenses...)

So, in closing, please tip your delivery driver.  Remember the "minimum is three dollars" rule and the calculator.  Consider it a spiritual service.  Your driver may be like me, an unpaid minister of the Gospel who is in seminary, struggling to support a family in one of the highest-cost-of-living-places in America.

Thank you.
< /PSA >

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