In yesterday's blog on this topic, we told the story of a pizza delivery driver whose undisclosed seizure problem put others (and herself) at risk. Today we examine the inordinate and ultimately terrifying risks that routinely confront the people who deliver pizzas to homes.
The risks of delivery jobs are embodied in one sad tale. Richel Nova, 58, was a hard working immigrant who worked two jobs, one being delivering pizzas for Domino's in Boston. He responded to a call from the Hyde Park neighborhood. The address was a vacant home. He was lured into the house, robbed, stabbed multiple times and left for dead. The three thieves took his money ($100) along with the pizza and drove off in his 1995 Subaru. (The age of the car tells us a lot about Mr. Nova.) The abandoned car was found a bit later, along with the blood-stained pizza box. All but three pieces had been eaten.
Nova's life revolved around his family: twin 20-year-old daughters and an older son. The twins are both juniors in college. All that stood between Nova and a seat at his daughters's graduation next year were a hundred bucks and a pizza to go.
Robberies of delivery people in the Boston area have been a long-standing problem - 52 were reported through mid-September.
Common Ground Among Competitors
The three main pizza chains - Domino's, Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's - have collaborated on developing safety programs for drivers. Among them, they have nearly 90,000 drivers on the road. (Here is the Domino's description of the job.) Statistically, it's not difficult to identify the riskiest neighborhoods for delivery, but the chains face pressure from neighborhood groups and the federal government to provide delivery services without discriminating against the poor.
Back in 2000, Domino's reached an agreement with the Justice Department to formalize a delivery policy for all its restaurants. Reflecting what Domino's said were well-established standard practices, the new guidelines require managers to evaluate crime statistics with local law enforcement agencies and community groups before limiting delivery. As part of that policy, drivers must report any incidences of violence, and delivery limits must be drawn narrowly. (Easier said than done.)
(Sort of) Managing Risk
There are a number of ideas floating around on how drivers should handle what appear to be risky delivery scenarios:
- Require the customer to come to the car to pay for the delivery and pick up the pizza. (This may not be feasible in all circumstances - for example, disabled customers may not be able to come to the street.)
- Require customers to have exact change for their purchase (and hope against hope that they have a bit extra for the tip!)
- Advise drivers not to enter darkened dwellings
- Limit deliveries after certain hours (in the Boston data mentioned above, many of the robberies took place after 9:00 pm.)
- When in doubt, when confronted with what appears to be immediate risk of harm, the driver is instructed to return to the store (and risk the wrath of legitimate, irate customers awaiting their dinners)
For those of us who have never had a gun or knife thrust into our faces, the dangers confronting delivery workers every day are both frightening and unimaginable. For Richal Nova's children, any mention of pizza will haunt their thoughts for the rest of their lives - reminding them of their father's lonely and senseless demise at the hands of cruel thugs with a half-baked plan for a free meal.