In November of 2014 I marked 15 years of delivering pizza. I’ve been at my current store since May of 2007. You could say I have sauce in my veins… but cheese would probably be more accurate. 15 years, 15 cars. Thousands of orders delivered. Money made and spent. Stiffed more times than I can remember, but I’m still here, right?
I want to share something I’ve learned over the years, because I spent far too much time obsessing over this and when I look back, I see how silly it was to be so preoccupied with it. It is what it is- or, it was what it was. I don’t regret it- much. It took me this long to learn for a reason.
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
I made that big because it’s kind of important.
It’s been months since I’ve been upset at a stiffer. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. There is an order to this job, an ebb and flow. There will always be customers who tip well, most will tip average, and a few will not tip much if at all. With all that anger and resentment gone, I have way more room to appreciate the ones who do tip. So no, it doesn’t matter. Being upset will not generate you one single penny in extra tips. In my 15 years, nobody has ever quit because of stiffs, although I’ve know a couple to be disciplined for giving stiffers a piece of their mind, myself included, but there’s no need to let it get that far. We have agency. We have a choice.
So, what do we do about stiffers?
That’s right. Nothing.
Choosing to do nothing is powerful. It’s revolutionary. Somewhere between being stiffed and reacting, there is a moment where you can make that choice. You can choose to be angry and allow that to color your interactions with people long after this stiff happens. You can choose to try and come up with a way to make things difficult for that customer- slow walk their pizza, “drop” their soda, or act standoffish if you know you’re going to get stiffed going in, which still won’t gain you anything. Or, you can allow the situation to be what it is and do nothing. By the time you are back in your car, the transaction is behind you and a new one awaits. And what’s more, you aren’t carrying a scowl or a bad vibe with you wherever you go. You won’t be focused on the negatives and every wrong you’ve suffered that day. And you don’t have to burn lean tissue thinking about ways to change that person or get them to not order from your store. It’s wasted energy, don’t even bother.
Personally, I don’t always choose “nothing”. Sometimes I try harder (but not too hard, I don’t want to be creepy) to develop a personal relationship with repeat stiffers, and so far, it’s worked on all but one lady, and you know what? She’s a nice person and I enjoy talking to her. A moment of pleasant conversation is always a blessing, and sometimes that’s worth more than a few bucks.
I know what you drivers are saying. Try paying your electric bill with pleasant conversation, right? To that I say, my lights are still on. There is food in my refrigerator. I have a roof over my head, gas in my tank, and some extra cash in my wallet. I have bills to pay, so does my husband, but we’re paying them. We’re surviving. That one bad stiff, that one lousy night, that’s not what really matters, because it all works out in the end.
What it took me 15 years to learn is that being angry over a stiff never got me better tips, and only served to stress me out and make my job less enjoyable. I used to think, why would that customer do this to me and make me have a lousy day? But no, it’s not them making me have a bad day, it’s me letting a disappointment ruin my day. So now, whenever I get that credit card slip back with a goose egg, or get told I can keep the whopping 36 cents on the dollar as a tip, I smile and thank the customer, wish them well, and move on.
My joy does not come from what others do for me, it comes from what I do to make others smile and feel better.
The chain of misery can end at your feet, you only need to do nothing.