"Why," you might ask, "would anyone want to become a pizza delivery driver, and why would you write a node about a profession that has little more to it than working at McDonalds?" I'll give you one reason: Money. If you happen to find yourself in a college town, you can make upwards of $11 an hour.
I hear your outcry: "But how is this possible! It's unskilled labor!"
The answer is as old as time itself, or at least as old as the first time someone brought something to a customer, and the customer, for some unknown reason (but for which all pizza drivers and waitstaff are eternally thankful), felt sorry for the poor fellow and gave him some extra moolah:
As a pizza driver, you will probably make minimum. But if you work at a pizza place that has a college somewhere nearby, you're guarenteed to never want for deliveries. Which means all your working hours are spent getting tips. Which also means that you don't have to help with in-store that often; i.e., you don't have to make pizzas or mop or take orders or answer the phone all that often - you get to spend most of your time in your car, which means you are sitting in a comfy chair and listening to the music of your choice.
Drawbacks to the job:
On the other hand, pizza driving is hell on your car. If your car is even vaugely new, don't use it for pizza driving. You will have frequent brake jobs, and keep an eye on your battery and alternator - one or the other will wear out quickly, unless you shell out the big bucks to get quality ones. One way around this is to separate your ignition key from your keychain, and leave the car running as you make deliveries, thereby reducing the number of times your car is started in an hour from ~ 4 to 1.
If your car is a 6-cylinder, your gas mileage will suck. You have to decide whether $11 an hour is worth it.
Income augmenters other than tips:
Some, if not all, pizza places will give you some sort of commission for each delivery: either a flat fee (for example, 75 cents at Papa Jon's), or a percentage of the cost of each delivery (for example, 5% at Pizza Shuttle). The flat fee, especially if it is 75 cents or more, is much preferable to the delivery %. Assume, for the moment, that deliveries range in price from $5 - $25. If you were working for a place that does percentages, your orders would have to average $15 each in order to make 75 cents a delivery. And from what I've seen, they usually don't, hence the flat rate being more desirable.
When to work?
If you are working for a pizza place that has hours beyond normal business hours (and what sensible pizza place doesn't?), you will have a wide range of different hours you can work, even if you're working full-time. The busiest (and thus most profitable) hours are usually from 4pm to whenever the place closes. The buisiest days tend to be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Don't work to close (verb: closing) unless you want to spend another 45 minutes to two hours after closing time cleaning the store.
The Pizza Driver Mentality: Competition and Camaraderie
Pizza drivers are a diverse lot united by a common goal: money. The more deliveries one makes per unit time, the greater the chances that you will get tips (hopefully good ones). From this stems driver competition, as each driver tries to take as many deliveries as they can on a run. This provides more motivation than any crafty manager scheme could ever dream of. The number of deliveries you can take on a run will be determined by a number of factors:
- How well you know the area. New drivers consistently take fewer deliveries than experienced drivers, because it takes them time to actually find their targets.
- How geographically close together the next batch of deliveries are. If there are 6 within a half-mile of each other, even a newbie could take all six on a single run. On the other hand, if there are four scattered at different corners of the delivery area, even an experienced driver would think twice about taking all four.
- How long the orders have been out of the oven. If you walk in the door from your last run, and there are orders sitting on the rack that are more than 10 minutes old, you had better take as many of them as you can, or they might be late. Even if they are scattered across town.
- How many drivers are working/how busy the store is. If there are a lot of drivers and business is slow, likely there will be several drivers in the store at any one time, helping with in-store and waiting for their turn to take the next delivery. In this case, it is considered bad form to take more than one delivery unless they come out of the oven right next to each other, AND are right next to each other geographically. This is where the camaraderie comes in.
- Simple time constraints. Each pizza place will have its own definition of a "late" order, and you can only take so many orders on a run before the last one or two end up being late (for example, Papa Jon's considers "late" to be more than an hour after the order was placed, even if the pizza came out of the oven 45 minutes after the order was placed - which gives you 15 minutes to get the order to the customer's door. In order to keep customers happy, most places will knock the price down a bit if the order is late, and thus, they don't like it if you consistently deliver orders late.
Pizza drivers, being in the same situation as each other and being able to trade war stories, will tend to be good-natured towards each other, barring any personality conflicts. They will sometimes band together in the face of management, and even against the in-store employees if circumstances warrant it.
Tips: What to expect
Each time you walk up to someone's door, the uncertainty of whether or not they'll tip you well will eat at you just a little. Even if you don't need the money. I generally consider $1 to be a standard tip, and anything over that to be a bonus. Anything under 85 cents, and I feel I've been stiffed.
When making change for people, I leave the coinage out - that way I've guarenteed myself possibly up to 75 cents in a tip. This is kind of an underhanded way to get a tip, but its better than nothing. And if it pisses off the people who weren't going to tip you to begin with, so much the better - it's practically the only way to indicate to them that pizza drivers should be tipped. As for the others, chances are they will hand you a dollar.
I used to utilize the strategy of asking people, "how much change do you want back?" This makes them think about a tip. However, it can backfire - some people interpret "change" as "coinage", and say something like, "I don't want any change, just give me the bills." Sometimes they will then hand you a dollar, sometimes not. All in all, I think it's best just to pull your money out and start counting. With this method, people will either tell you to just give them back a portion of the change, leaving you with the tip, or they will take all the change and then hand you a tip out of that.
In the first month of every college semester, the tips will be very good from the people living in the dorms. This is because their pockets are lined with their parents' money. I get a handful of $5 tips from the dorms at the start of each semester. After that, though, they drop off sharply as the fish realize that no more money is forthcoming, and they have to start living on a shoestring budget.
Thanks to ideath for spelling camaraderie and moolah, and in general for being my spelling whore.