The day I realized I was racist, I sat on the toilet–well, at least metaphorically sat on the toilet.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, if you were in the pizza business, you saw a distinct drop in the business and tips. Before 9/11, I could work three or four days a week and earn enough cash to pay the rent and electric, take my wife out to dinner. After 9/11, you either didn’t get the business or you didn’t get the tips. I remember one night I had ten deliveries and zero tips. And even though most drivers are reimbursed for fuel, I din’ t have enough to fill the tank at the end of the night.
The hallmark of a good pizza delivery driver is that one knows the area well and stereotypes begin to form in your head: black people don’t tip, Latinos always tip, wealthy white people behind their bolted doors never tip, always deliver to the poor neighborhoods. And if you’re a really great driver, you know your customers–you know their names and you know how easy they are with their wallets, and the more money you throw the driver on a consistent basis, the better your service–you start getting paper plates, napkins, Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets. And most importantly, when the driver leaves the store with three, four deliveries, even if you’re last on the list, your pizza is delivered first.
Look, it’s all a matter of economics.
You don’t necessarily get to choose your deliveries, but there are tricks you can work. Such as not speeding, but running between doors and the car. Taking more deliveries than you should, or taking less deliveries than you should. Or, in my case, telling people you have the runs and hiding in the bathroom–
So a delivery came up on the screen. The customer had never ordered from us before, but I knew the delivery was going to a predominately black neighborhood. The delivery after it, that one looked promising–a middle class suburb that had fallen on hard times, a lot of blue collar workers who understood the value of a dollar–what it was like to hustle.
I did not want to take the delivery to the African American–that whole economics thing coupled with my perceived stereotypes. I went to the bathroom. I heard my manager asking where I was, and I replied through the door, “I’m going to be a bit. Just have someone else take it.”
When I returned from my delivery, angry because I delivered to a sweet old lady with silver hair who pressed three quarters into my hand with the admonishment not to spend it all in one place. “I’m giving you an extra quarter,” she said. “It’s so nice for you to come out like this. I always used to give the grocer a nickel. Of course,they don’t carry your groceries out to the car like they used to.” Yeah, old people played you for the fool too.
When I returned to the store, I asked the driver who took the African American delivery how he did: five dollar tip.
Want to read more? Read Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping