Sorry burgers, pizza is America’s fast food. According to stats (and The Washington Post) Americans dig into the equivalent of 100 acres of pizza every day. Or to put it in an easier-to-swallow context, we scarf down 350 slices a second.
As ubiquitous as pizza pies are the brave women and men who deliver them to us, hopefully in a still-crunchy state of piping hotness. We encounter these unsung heroines and heroes on doorsteps and in elevators, on bikes and in cars (and even on jet skis), from coast to coast. But other than the brief yet magical transaction wherein a boxed pizza is exchanged for a (hopefully generous) tip, what do we really know about their professional woes and triumphs?
In an attempt to reveal some of the lesser-known perils, problems, pranks, and pleasures of the pizza delivery segment, here is a behind-the-crust glimpse into the life of a pizza delivery driver.
Being a pizza delivery driver is ‘one of the most dangerous jobs in America’
Back in 2015, Vice published a much-cited article that landed like a bomb. It began with the scary but true tale of Josh Lewis, a college student/pizza driver from Louisville, Kentucky. During a delivery, an assailant stabbed him with a knife and took off with his Jeep. Despite the "blood cascading down his back," Lewis heroically delivered the pizza he was carrying before being rushed to ER with a collapsed lung and punctured liver.
Lewis’ viral story is only one of many frequently reported instances of pizza delivery drivers being robbed on the job, which have become a constant fixture on local and national news. Vice bullet points some of the grizzlier episodes. A Maryland driver swarmed by four machete-wielding assailants. A Bay Area driver robbed at gunpoint and then raped by a 17-year-old. An Alabama driver almost beaten to death. A New Orleans driver who was shot and killed. In the last two cases, the drivers had less than $20 on them.
In a 2018 Coworker.org survey, 22 percent of pizza and food delivery workers identified robbery as a major problem with the job. They’re backed up by hard stats: In 2018, "driver-sales workers and truck drivers" — which includes pizza delivery drivers — ranked seventh on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of most dangerous jobs, with assault and robbery accounting for roughly "a quarter of all fatalities."
Pizza delivery drivers are ‘soft targets’
Plundering pizza delivery drivers is a relatively new-ish phenomenon that kicked into high gear at the end of the aughts, according to Dayton, Ohio, crime prevention officer Ronald Strehle in an interview with Vice. Strehle blames word of mouth among would-be criminals for the escalation of attacks. The fact that pizza drivers are out alone, often after dark and supposedly unarmed, makes them vulnerable. The fact that they’re toting a tempting combination of cash, food, a cell phone and a vehicle makes them into targets as appealing as they are easy.
A common strategy of most thieves is to place an order that lures unsuspecting drivers out to abandoned homes or construction sites. Once drivers are isolated, stealing their cell phones prevents them from reporting the crime until later. Strehle estimates that the majority of perps provide some warning tip offs. He gives the example of a Dayton caller who ordered a pizza with "any toppings" and "any kind of soda," and then left a premonitory note on the door of an abandoned house that read: "Door broken, come around back."
As a result of such schemes, many pizza chains across the U.S. have allowed their franchises to create "no delivery zones" so that drivers can avoid delivering to high-crime areas. While these measures may enhance drivers’ safety, such zones are controversial in that they exclude residents of poor and/or crime-heavy neighborhoods from getting their pizza fix.