Working last night and finishing up with two orders that stiffed me has prompted me to put my take on tipping etiquette to words. Here is where you’ll learn just how much to tip your pizza delivery driver, and what to expect when you don’t.
LOOG’S PRIMER ON TIPPING THE PIZZA GUY
I’m writing this primer to show people just how important it is to display a little bit of appreciation for the work that we pizza delivery people do to bring your order to you as soon as we can, by presenting them with a couple of dollars for their trouble.
Part I – Why you tip
1. For a living wage
Drivers are typically paid minimum wage for their work. $6 or $7 an hour is a fairly paltry wage, considering the fact that we’re probably using our own car, meaning we have to pay for gas and other maintenance out of our own pockets. I work about 35 hours a week, and have to spend roughly $50 a week on gas. I also have to get the typical maintenance (oil changes, new tires and the like) done more often because of all the stop & go driving I do. Take that into account, and the money we make is not worth it for the job we do. I could flip burgers for $6 an hour, and I wouldn’t be putting wear on my car to do it.
2. For the convenience
When someone is delivering an order to you, it means that you don’t have to drive over to us and pick it up. Instead, you can watch TV, do yardwork, take a shower (although try not to do anything you can’t stop if the driver comes early), whatever, while the order is being made and delivered. A tip is basically what you pay for not having to drop everything you’re doing, use your own gas, etc., to get your order.
Some people have argued that since drivers get a small reimbursement from their store for each delivery, it negates the need for a tip. Well, it doesn’t. Where I work, I get 85¢ for every delivery on top of the hourly wage. That covers the gas and other expenses, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide some sort of tip.
3. For appreciation
Delivery guys are people, too. Which means that when someone gives us a couple of extra bucks, we feel that our work is being appreciated. If someone gives us a disproportionately large tip (I once had a $24 order where the customer gave me $40 and told me to keep the rest), that puts a spring in our step and gets us in a very sunny mood. Contrapositively, when someone stiffs us, we tend to walk away very grumpy, muttering obscenities under our breath. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if some drivers take retribution for your cheapness. Due to the nature of our work, we know who doesn’t tip, and typically those people get their orders delivered last (when a driver is making multiple deliveries on one run). Some people (myself included) will go so far as to spit in your food before it gets there, and I’ve even heard of drivers stealing things off the customer’s front lawn when he got stiffed.
Part II – What’s a good tip, what’s a bad tip
1. Big orders ($30 or more)
If the order is particularly large, I typically expect about a 10% tip, up to a maximum of $10. If it’s a $30 order, tip $3; if it’s a $50 order, tip $5; if it’s $100, tip $10. Large orders are usually difficult to carry (1 pizza may not seem too heavy, but try carrying 10 at once), and you should take that into consideration. If it’s under 5%, you should expect to find yourself on the Spit List.
2. Smaller orders (under $30)
If the order is of average size (two pizzas) or smaller, then percentage really falls by the wayside. In these cases, we’re looking for a dollar amount.
At this point, I should mention this: We drivers really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the change left over from a dollar. If the order is $13.25, the 75¢ in change is not going to make a difference either way. In fact, it’s sometimes considered even more insulting to round up than it is to be a total stiff. If the order is $14.57 and you hand us $15, we’re not going to swoon at your generosity when you tell us to keep the change. Oh boy, a whole 43 cents! Thanks to your kindness, I can almost buy a candy bar!
So what’s a good tip and a bad tip? Here’s the general rule of thumb:
$4 or more: If you tip $4 or more with an average or small order, we will be extremely grateful. We’ll say “thank you” and mean it. By no means should you feel obligated to tip this much, but if you do you will certainly put a smile on our faces and we will do everything we can to keep you satisfied in the future.
$3: I also consider this an above-average tip. If you tip us with $3, you should also expect some genuine gratitude for your generosity. Remember, you can be as rude, obnoxious, and slow as you want. If we’re amply reimbursed for it, we’ll take whatever vitriol you throw at us.
$2: Par for the course. This is really the least that you should plan on tipping, since it shows some appreciation for our work. Whenever I walk away from an delivery that gave me a $2 tip, I come away reasonably satisfied, and I typically don’t expect to get tips larger than this if the order is of normal size.
$1: This is considered a mediocre tip, and this is where you begin to find yourself skating on thin ice. There are times when you’ll be spared from the Spit List, and other times when you’ll find yourself on it with the same amount or even slightly more (with the leftover change). Those extenuating circumstances are listed below.
$0: People who are total stiffs or only round up to the next dollar get a one-way ticket onto the Spit List. It doesn’t matter how pleasant you are when you handed us that exact check or what excuse you use when you give us $17 for that $16.89 order. You’re a cheapskate, and we don’t take kindly to your ilk.
3. When $1 isn’t enough
Now, as you can see above, $2 is the cut-off line. If you tip $2 or more, no matter what else happens in the course of the order, it’s all good. If you don’t tip at least a whole dollar, you’re going to get an extra topping on your next order. But at the $1 level, it can go either way. Sometimes, you’ll get off with us just making a face as we leave, and other times you’ll be lumped in with the other stiffs. These are the cases in which even a $1 tip won’t be enough to keep you off the Spit List:
A. Excessive delays/long deliveries
When I come to the door with your order, I expect you to answer within a reasonable period of time. I also expect that you’ll be ready to pay me. If I have to ring the doorbell three times, then wait for you to write the check, then a dollar isn’t going to be enough to satisfy me. Similarly, if I’m driving all the way across town to make the delivery, I think the tip ought to be worth the trip. Keep in mind, the longer we have to wait for the transaction to take place, the later we get back to the store, meaning the fewer deliveries we get to make. And in some cases (particularly mid-afternoon when it gets slow), that 2-minute wait you put us through could make the difference between getting that $150 time order with the guaranteed $10 tip and spending the next 45 minutes washing dishes and folding boxes.
B. Withholding money
There have been a couple of cases where it looks like I’m going to get a $2 tip, since I see an extra $2 in the customer’s hand, only to see him/her put one of those dollars back in their purse/wallet. What, we’re adequate enough that we get to look at the second dollar, but not good enough to actually get it? If you’re going to dangle money in front of our faces, giving us a single when we know you could afford to give us a second will draw some ire from us.
This falls into one of two categories. Obviously, if you’re getting into an argument with us about cheese and peppers (“Hey, don’t you have any more? I need 12 packets of each for my small pizza!”), we’re not going to consider a buck adequate combat pay. Also, I expect you to come to the door with the proper clothes on. That includes a shirt, believe it or not. The dollar you give us is not going to compensate for the nightmare we’re going to have that night.
This is kind of unfair, but it bears mentioning because you will get hurt by this whether you meant to do it or not. Sometimes, people will place time orders – orders that are placed well in advance and are to be delivered at a specific time. These orders tend to be pretty sizable. As the time to start that order draws nearer and nearer, the last thing we want to see is someone who calls in 30 seconds before the time order is to be made, placing a miniscule order. Granted, big tips on big tickets is never a sure thing, but one can extrapolate the kind of tip they’d get for a big order from experience (since almost every big order I’ve done has been worth at least a $5 tip to me). When you cut in line and deprive us of the big order, that’s money we never get to see. Again, this really isn’t the fault of the customer since he doesn’t know about the time order, but a proper tip will help ease the blow.
Part III – The Spit List
1. What it means
When you’re on the Spit List, it means that the driver remembers your reputation for being a bad tipper, and will pre-emptively respond for the disrespect you’ll be showing us. It means that if we’re making two or more deliveries in the same trip, that your order will the on the bottom of the stack – no matter how close you are to us. It means that we are going to provide absolutely no extra service when we arrive at your house. No “Thank you” or “Have a nice day”; we’re just going to take your money, hand you your food, and walk away. But most importantly, as the name implies, it means that you should expect the driver to pull over to the side of the road on the way to your house, open up your box, and spit in it.
2. You actually spit in my food? Do you honestly expect us to tip you after that?
No, but we wouldn’t have expected the tip anyway. That’s why the Spit List exists. If we’ve done several deliveries in the past and you short-change us once, then you’re more than likely going to be forgiven (see below). But after two or three visits without anything to show for it, we’re going to figure out that there’s nothing we can do to earn a tip from you, and so there’s subsequently nothing we can do to deprive us of the tip we aren’t going to get anyway. And if you have no qualms with making someone burn down their own gas and put wear on their own car to bring you your food so that you don’t have to interrupt your schedule coming to us and picking it up, and giving us nothing for the trouble, then we have no qualms going ptooie into your food. If you don’t like it, then give us a tip. $2 isn’t asking much.
3. But how could you do something so disgusting?
Easy. Anyone who knows me knows that my last job was bagging groceries at a supermarket. While I was there, I was at the behest of any and every person that came through my line. For eight hours a day, I had to put up with customers that treated me like their manservant and managers who treated me like an undocumented worker. I worked there for three years and was never promoted. When a chance for a promotion finally cam up (after 2 1/2 years, mind you), they made me choose between the two departments I was least suited for, berated me every time I made a mistake while training, and demoted me after lying to my face about a second chance. Needless to say, I have become very embittered about the prospect of being taken advantage of while on the job. So if you’re going to be a dick to me, then you ought to know that I have no misgivings about being a dick right back. You disrespect me, I disrespect you.
And besides, spitting ranks pretty low on the disgusting scale if you ask me. It’s only saliva, and probably no more than you’d get if we shared the same can of soda. I obviously won’t do it in any manner that would be noticed, otherwise it defeats the point of it. It’s just me saying “This is what I think about your 13-cent tip.”
4. Forgiveness & how to get off the list
As I mentioned above, if you’ve given us good tips in the past and deprived us with a later order, we’ll usually let it slide. You’ve developed a reputation for tipping well and you’ll get the benefit of the doubt since we know that you’ll probably tip us next time. Again, the Spit List is used as a tool to get back at people who are notoriously cheap. If small or nonexistant tips is the exception and not the rule with you, we won’t sweat it. But stiff us a second time, and you’ll be on the list.
Getting off the list is quite simple: give us a $2 tip. We’re not looking for retroactive payback or anything silly like that. Just show us that you respect and appreciate the service we provide and you’ll be crossed off the Spit List. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to deal with the order just given to you, but that’s the one drawback to the list: it’s a pretty reactive way for us to do things.
Part IV – The 5 lamest reasons not to tip
Some people try to defend the fact that they’re a tightwad by making an excuse why they don’t tip. Here are the ones that seem the most stupid.
1. “Don’t you guys get paid $10/12/15 an hour?”
Sometimes people will notice the want ads or signs posted on the door advertising this sort of hourly wage for our work. What these signs don’t say is that tips are included in that hourly wage. The manager expects his customers to tip his drivers to make up the difference for the minimum wage we actually get. If people stopped tipping, one of two things would have to happen: either prices would have to go up to account for the payroll, you’d have to pay a large, non-negotiable delivery fee to replace the tips we lose, or the entire delivery service would be done away with altogether, because they’d never be able to find people who are willing to do this kind of work for minimum wage. Even McDonalds is less strenuous.
2. “My order was late.”
There are so many variables that come into play with regard to the speed of the order. If it’s busy, it might take a while for the pizza to be made. It may take a while for it to go in the oven. It might take a while to be cut, boxed and bagged. And most of all, if there isn’t a driver there at the store, it might have to wait until someone gets back from their current order to deliver yours. None of this is the fault of the driver, and yet you’re punishing him for the lateness.
Granted, if you have reason to suspect that the driver was taking his sweet time getting to your place, then by all means call the store and ask for the status of your order. But if you think about it, us being slow with a delivery is kinda counter-intutive. We want to do as many deliveries as we can, since that means more tips. It doesn’t make sense to waste time on a delivery because doing so limits our productivity.
3. “I thank the driver for coming. Isn’t that enough?”
This is known as a verbal tip. You can say thank you, God Bless You, you’re my favorite driver, this is my favorite pizza – say whatever you want. But talk is cheap and gas isn’t. By giving us a couple of bucks, we’ll know that you mean what you say. Otherwise, you come off being snobbish and hypocritical.
4. “I can’t afford the tip.”
Then what the hell are you doing ordering a pizza?
Think about it. Delivery pizzas are probably the least economical way to eat. A large pizza, one that could feed a family of four, costs about $16 on average. If you went to McDonalds, you could get two Big Macs and two Happy Meals for about $12. Hell, if you want pizza that bad, go to the store and buy a frozen pizza for 5 bucks. If you can afford the pizza, you can afford to give the driver another 2 dollars. And if you can’t, well, I want to be there when the landlord comes around for the rent money.
5. “I don’t like tipping.”/”You’re doing your job. If you don’t like it, get another one.”
Not surprisingly, the people who use this excuse (which isn’t an excuse as much as it is open defiance) tend to be jackasses to begin with, so there’s really no convincing them. But let’s face it: if you refuse to tip, you’re a dick. No way around it. Once again, I’m using my car, which I’m fueling and maintaining with my own money. The hourly wage and per-delivery stipend we get from the register doesn’t really cover these expenses. If you’re not willing to help us offset this cost of doing business and provide a little extra pocket money for us, then you deserve horrible service.
If giving someone a tip really bothers you, the least you can do is call these pizza places up and ask them to pay a decent wage so as to make tips unnecessary. There’s actually talk going around about unionizing pizza delivery people, and having come from a union myself and seeing the crap that comes along with it, I’d hate to see another occupation sell their souls to a union.
And frankly, any time I hear the argument that “if you don’t like the pay/the conditions, quit complaining and find another job”, I want to punch that person in the nose. By that logic, there would be no pizza delivery people, no waiters, nobody in any retail job, or anyone working in any job that involves dealing with mass quantities of customers.
These people think that the only people who ought to be working these sorts of jobs are people they can easily push around. High school students, illegal immigrants, that kind of thing. These people are so spoiled by the philosophy in business today that the customer is some sort of altar that we should worship to, that they see no reason to show some gratitude to those that have made their lives easier. (It’s part of the reason why I think the person who invented the saying “the customer is always right” deserves to be boiled in acid.)
Pizza is a good. Delivery is a service. You’re paying for the good. Now pay for the service. I just burned half a gallon of gas, risked getting in an accident, and made myself a big target to get robbed, just so you could have fresh, piping hot pizza brought to your door. If I get stiffed, I’m going to do something about it. If you don’t like it, drive over here and pick it up yourself.
Part V – Conclusion
Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll understand the following things:
– That delivery drivers rely on tips to supplement what would otherwise be a high-risk, high-maintenance, minimum-wage job.
– That a $2 tip, or 10% if it’s a large order, is considered an acceptable minimum for the convenience of having your food brought to you.
– That people who don’t tip quickly develop a reputation for being cheap, and see their quality of service go way down, up to and including hostile acts by the driver.
– That there really isn’t a good excuse for not tipping aside from your own selfishness.
So as a general rule of thumb, remember that cheapskates get it sent right back at them. Meaning that if you give:
Expect your food to get
(And Darren, I know you don’t tip. You were the inspiration to lame reason #5.)