In which a pizza place becomes a cautionary tale

Last night at 5:30, I came home to find the power company working at the corner, and every house dark. I turned the Kiddos loose to play on the lawn (it’s ridiculously warm) and found the flashlights, but it had the earmarks of not being a big deal. Clearly they were on the job.

Sure enough, the power came back on eventually, and when my Patient Husband arrived, I said, “If you’d been here five minutes earlier, we’d be going out for dinner.”

One of our money-saving tactics is never to go out for fast food. Early in our marriage, we bought a box of Hamburger Helper and threatened that if ever we simply failed to make dinner, that would be our dinner. The threat worked. We have had a Hamburger-Helper-Free marriage.

But last night, my Patient Husband said, “At this point it’s going to be really late if you start cooking, so let’s go out anyhow.”

We went to a national pizza chain. In the interests of fairness, I will say it was NOT Pizza Hut and not Domino’s and not Papa John’s. Oh, and not Sbarro’s, either.

Oh, where to begin…  There was one other family in the dining area, and one woman who came after us for pickup. While I waited for our pizza, she received her order. Ready?

Her: Does the sub have cheese?

Employee: Yeah, why?

Her: I specifically requested no cheese.

Employee: Oh. Um.

Her: Wasn’t it written down?

Employee checks the receipt, cryptically encoded with the following eldrich inscription: NO CHEESE.

Employee goes to re-make the sub. The manager offers a refund, but the woman says, “I don’t want a refund — I want a dinner.” Followed by, “I told you no cheese when I phoned in the order. When I came to pick it up, I verified that it said no cheese. You agreed it would have no cheese. Your employee didn’t even look at the instructions. It’s like this every time! What else do I have to do?”

Yeah. We should have just left.

Ten minutes later I see our pizza come out of the oven, but the guy can’t get it off the pizza peel. He puts it into a take-out box. I figured whatever, maybe it’s not ours. Nope. Five minutes later the manager comes over and says the pizza “tore” when the guy got it out of the oven, and he’d re-made the pizza and it would be out in ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, the stupid pizza arrived. The cheese and sauce were soupy. The crust was paper-thin. We couldn’t get the individual slices off the pan.

This horrible thing was a micrometer from inedible, but at that point we just didn’t feel like dealing with this incompetent pizza place anymore.I could have gotten a refund. I could have pointed out to the manager that his employee had very clearly, twice in a row, made a 17-inch pizza with the 14-inch pizza dough. I could have pointed out that the manager had to have noticed this when he put this mess on the pizza pan, and that he must have figured the lesser evil was giving us vile food rather than explaining a second screw-up and making us wait an additional fifteen minutes.

I could have pointed out that the phone had rung only once during the half hour we’d waited and asked what would have happened had the place been busy.

I could have done any of that, and instead, I said to my Patient Husband, “It’s funny to think this is the last time we’ll ever go to ******.”

I’m not picky. I wasn’t looking for gourmet. I didn’t expect five-star service. But I wanted “okay,” and what we got was not okay. You guys know I’m not afraid to write a complaint letter or a compliment letter, but in this case…why? Why would I waste my time when all they’ll do is throw me a shut-up coupon I don’t want? I’m not giving them another chance. Based on the emptiness of the dining area, no one else wants to either.

Last night my Patient Husband said, “We now have a new threat. If we both fail to make dinner some night, we’ve got something worse than Hamburger Helper to dangle over our heads. It could be {chain pizza place}.”

Quite the legacy, huh?


  1. seschoen

    So why did the first patron go back?

    Hopefully it’s not the entire chain, just the local one.

    You’re right, a letter won’t help. If you send it to the local manager, he’ll ignore it. If you send it to the chain, they’ll crack down on the local manager who clearly has no clue how to make it better. They don’t close or reassign franchises lightly.

    Meanwhile, I’ve added Hamburger Helper to the grocery list. I think we tried it once. By the time you brown the meat, adding the mix and letting it simmer, it’s only 2 minutes faster than browning meat, boiling water, adding a jar of sauce, and draining the pasta. I need help taking the ground beef out of the freezer in time.

    1. philangelus

      I spoke to her briefly but didn’t ask why she comes back. It’s entirely possible it’s her husband’s idea and she doesn’t want to deprive him of his sub just because they never make hers right. It’s possible she likes the food when they don’t screw it up. Not for me to decide where other people eat. 🙂

      HH is good in college, honestly. You can short it on the meat and not have to buy sauce. You can make it on Monday and then you can eat leftovers on Tuesday and Wednesday, and for lunch on Thursday. It’s salty as heck, though, and some of the flavors are just vile. On the other hand, it worked great as a deterrent. 😉

  2. Marie

    My husband’s college roommate begged a MRE from him (dh said they could issue him one and make him pay for it, but 48 hours FTXs weren’t long enough to make him eat it) and carried it around in his backpack. The roommate said he was too cheap to buy food if he had some, so periodically he would take it out, look at it, and decide he wasn’t that hungry. Note: Natick Labs has drastically improved the quality in the intervening years.
    We keep some meal-in-a-bags from the warehouse store in the freezer for when we would otherwise have to go out for fast food. It’s healthier and cheaper than fast food (and less stressful than taking our squad out on what must have been a stressful day or we would be eating the planned dinner), but more expensive and less healthy than our normal fare.

    1. philangelus

      That’s awesome. 🙂

      Normally I do have a few pre-cooked meals in the freezer for nights when I don’t feel like cooking or don’t have time to cook, things like meatloaf where I made three meatloafs at the same time and froze two. But we’ve used them up and I never got around to replacing them. I need to start that again.