The Scales of Justice

Why You Should Always Tip Your Pizza Driver

from our trusty friend Eric Byrd, Community Union Organizer

Sometime back in the second century BC, at the start of the Roman Empire, unscrupulous Roman business owners noticed that certain of their employees were receiving tips from their customers… and they didn’t like it.  The business owners, that is.  They didn’t want their employees to make too much money, and thus “outgrow” their servitude, so they lobbied their Congresspeople to lower the minimum wage for these people.  Augustus Gluteus Maximus, a noted manufacturer of vomit troughs for the Roman orgies during this period, is credited with saying, “Competition in my industry is fierce… it’s tough enough for a guy like me to maintain a reasonable profit margin, without having to abide by anti-competitive minimum-wage laws.  These people are already earning a generous wage, thanks to this law, and it isn’t fair that they continue to receive this wage, while other less fortunate employees do not receive tips.  It’s only fair, then, to reduce the minimum wage for tipped employees.”  And so, while some readers might take issue with some of this author’s historical citations, it remains to this day, that there are classes of workers that are exempt from the minimum wage laws.  That is, business owners are legally allowed to pay them *less than* the minimum wage, which in New York State is $7.25/hr. Currently, tipped workers must be paid at least $4.65/hr, and some farm workers, who don’t even earn tips, can be paid as little as $2.65/hr… figure that one out.  But that’s a topic for another op-ed.

Anyway, among these “tipped employees” today are pizza drivers.  I am a pizza driver.  I’ve worked for the last five years at half a dozen delivery restaurants in the area, and I’m good with arithmetic, and I’ve crunched all the numbers, and I am here to tell you, down to the penny, what it costs me to work as a pizza driver, and why pizza drivers should not be considered “tipped employees” even though they receive tips… because there are costs associated with this job that other employees do not have to pay.

Obviously, those costs include car maintenance.  I’m lucky, because I’m a decent amateur mechanic, and I can do most car maintenance myself, for only the cost of the parts, while other drivers must pay a professional’s shop fee for labor.  But I must, and I do, maintain my car in whatever weather is available, because I can’t afford to miss work, and nobody pays me a cent to freeze my heiny off in February, changing brake pads in my driveway.  By my estimate, I have spent approximately $3000-$4000 per year, variously, over the last 5 years, either maintaining *or buying* vehicles I need to keep doing this job, and I have destroyed 4 (that’s right) FOUR vehicles in the last 5 years, not including the one I’m driving right now, in the pursuit of this line of work.

For a full-time driver, then, this amounts to $1.50 – $2.00 PER HOUR, just for maintenance.  And it would be even worse, perhaps $3.00/hr, if I had to pay the shop rate for all my maintenance.  I know all this because I’ve kept track of it all, for tax purposes, so I know what I’m talking about.  Put another way, I pay about 22 cents per mile for gasoline and maintenance… which happens to come a penny or two over what the restaurants have typically paid me at the end of the night for mileage, which you see on your ticket as a delivery fee.  And here’s a secret some of you don’t know:  sometimes the restaurant doesn’t give me all of the delivery fee, but they keep a part of it for themselves, and they leave you with the impression I’m getting all of it.

So there it is, I actually LOSE a penny or two for each mile I drive, and lately, with gas prices inching up and mileage fees staying constant, I’m losing a little more than that.  What is left?  The wage I am paid and the tips.  In this area, a driver’s wage varies from $5 to $7.25 per hour, although I did apply once at a small place that paid $9/hr.  In any case, isn’t it clear that if I WANTED a minimum-wage job, I could easily find one that doesn’t require me to destroy my own vehicle??

Currently, I work at two different restaurants, one of which pays me a $6/hr wage, and the other pays me $7.25, the state minimum for non-tipped workers.  When you add the tips, I average about $10-$11/hr, after paying for gas and maintenance.  But I think I deserve it, because other employees don’t have to deal with all the off-the-clock hassles involved with maintaining my own vehicle for use at work.  Many times over the last few years, I have looked into other lines of work… because about half the time, I’m not sure this one is worth all that hassle.  And perhaps the worst hassle of the job comes when, after spending my (unpaid) afternoon maintaining my car, and after hustling around and driving your delivery out to you as quickly as I am able, on snowy, dangerous roads, I arrive with your pizza, and you cheat me of my tip.

There’s a reason we call people like that “stiffs”.  When you “stiff” me, here’s the message you send to me, and to all other drivers:  “After all the hassles you handle with your own vehicle for this job, you still don’t deserve more than $6 per hour.”  Let’s get something straight.  I’m not UNICEF.  I don’t do this to serve my fellow man, but to pay my electric bill and my lot rent.  I don’t care if you’re tired.  I don’t care if you deserve a treat once in a while.  If you don’t think the pizza guy deserves a tip, then why don’t you get your fat, sorry behind out to your car, warm it up, drive it to the restaurant, and pick up the pizza yourself.  Because if you ask me to do it, I deserve more than minimum wage.  I also don’t care if you’re poor, or if your welfare check is late:  if you can afford 20 bucks for a pizza, then you can afford to pay me more than minimum wage, for the privilege of having me deliver it to you in my own car.  Even *taxi drivers* make more than that, and they drive *someone else’s* car.  The bottom line is, you’re a pig if you don’t tip your pizza driver.  And herein are the numbers to prove it.  Thanks for your friggin’ time.