“FREE PIZZA”: two words that haunted my existence throughout college and grad school. Free pizza was the holy grail, the siren that beckoned me to parties, departmental functions, and family gatherings. Yet, as I got older, I would come to face the hard truths that adult life tried to teach me, namely that there’s no such thing as a free pizza.
But is that really true? Well, after consistently pushing the customer service department of one nationally known pizzeria chain to its limits, I’m starting to believe otherwise.
Living in a sleepy, urban neighborhood in St. Louis, my delivery options are weirdly limited, especially late at night. I live within walking distance of some of St. Louis’ best local pizzerias, but none of them deliver. So, if I don’t feel like going out or cooking after working on my feet all day, or when I’m exhausted after 12 hours of writing, there are basically only two or three places I can call, unless I want to go through an expensive delivery service like Postmates, which I prefer not to do.
Of the few choices my neighborhood offers, I’ve decided that one pizzeria—let’s call it “Pizza Daddy”—is the best of them. And I use “best” very loosely.
I first caught wind of how easy it is to get cheap pizza a few years ago, when I learned of a promo code that a friend had found on Twitter that would give you 50 percent off of your order from Pizza Daddy when you input it during checkout. Using the code quickly became part of my friend group’s weekly routine—we even developed a language for it: “Do you want to order pizza?” became “Should we ‘tweet’?”
At that point, I realized that if you’re not getting at least 50 percent off of a pizza delivery from a major pizza company, you’re a sucker. (If you remain skeptical of how easy it is to find deals like this, just Google “50 percent off coupon” alongside the name of your favorite corporate pizza establishment, try out a few of the codes that come up until you find one that works, and behold: you’re at the gates of half-priced pizza heaven—or hell, depending on your standards.)
I also discovered that when you eat a lot of Pizza Daddy, errors are bound to happen. In fact, they happen often. I’m not one to complain in a restaurant if my food is slightly off, but if the experience is legitimately bad, I may say something. One night, a while back, I was biking home from the bar pretty late and was feeling hungry, so I ordered a half-priced pizza from Pizza Daddy’s app; when it arrived, it was overcooked and the toppings were wrong. I decided to send feedback, and within minutes I got an email from Pizza Daddy Consumer Services, saying: “We are sorry that we have not met your expectations at your local Pizza Daddy store. I would like to personally apologize that your experience was unsatisfactory. That is not at all to our standard and I would like to replace your pizza.”
So it began.
I soon found that the more I held Pizza Daddy to the high degree of quality and customer service that it claimed to embody, the more free pizza I got. Pizza Daddy was eager to send me free pizza codes to compensate for any minor issue I would report, no questions asked.
Here are a few of the anecdotes from my recent streak of free pizzas.
One evening, I was hanging out with my neighbor, Thomas, and we ordered two half-priced pizzas from Pizza Daddy. Shortly after, we received a call from the store manager, who told us that their delivery driver hadn’t come to work and that we would have to pick up our own pizzas. Since neither of us were in any position to drive at that point (I should have mentioned earlier that inebriation is one of the primary conditions under which I’ll order from Pizza Daddy), we had them cancel the order and refund us. We called another major pizzeria instead—let’s call that one “Domino’s.” Then, I sent feedback to Pizza Daddy and promptly received two coupons for free pizzas.
An order for two half-priced pizzas (that we also didn’t pay for) had produced two actual free pizzas, which had now yielded another free pizza.
During our next meal together, when using one of these very coupons, we found another issue with our order: Pizza Daddy had forgotten to include the extra side of marinara sauce we’d requested. It was a devastating letdown, of course, so I informed Pizza Daddy of this omission, making a reasonable request that offered them a way out. I wrote that we hadn’t received the supplementary marinara sauce, and that I’d like to be refunded for the $1.50 that it had cost. Their response: “Thank you for providing us with your feedback. I am sorry to hear that you did not receive the extra dipping cups. I can’t do partial refunds but here is a code for a free pizza on your next order.” So, at this point, an order for two half-priced pizzas (that we also didn’t pay for) had produced two actual free pizzas, which had now yielded another free pizza. That’s three pizzas for $0. We were gaining momentum.
The following week, Thomas and I reconvened over a few beers late one night and decided to hit up Pizza Daddy to get another fresh pie. When the order was complete, we pulled up the Pizza Daddy tracking application so that we could monitor our meal’s progress while we continued to drink beer and watch TV. The delivery time was projected at over an hour, and when the food finally arrived, it clocked in at closer to two hours. We were half-asleep. “We got played, dude,” Thomas complained. “They fucking played us.” We were famished and exhausted, and as we ate our post-midnight meal, I emailed Pizza Daddy to let them know that the food had taken way longer than we had expected. Within hours, I wound up with another free pizza code. And in addition to the code, they sent me a postcard a few days later with another code for a free large, 2-topping pizza—this third pizza failure had gotten me two more free pizzas.
I felt invincible. But Thomas, trying to ride my wave, flew too close to the sun.
Thomas later told me that he, too, had emailed Pizza Daddy about the incident with the absent delivery driver, but he had used the chain’s customer service email address rather than its feedback form. This is the wrong way to do it. If you want free pizza, you must go to great lengths to avoid speaking with a human being, which is why the Pizza Daddy Consumer Services feedback page is absolutely necessary. Instead, Thomas had emailed the customer service department directly, and when someone responded and asked him for more information, he turned my technique on its head: He explicitly asked for free pizza. “I would really just be content with a coupon or two for a pizza or the two pizzas I was planning on buying and eating.” Pizza Daddy did not comply. The feedback loop closed.
Fortunately for us, it’s no great loss—between the aforementioned anecdotes, as well as ones I haven’t mentioned, I have multiple coupons ready and waiting for the next time we hang out.
In fact, my most recent Pizza Daddy encounter was last night. Biking home from the bar at about 1 AM after drinking with some coworkers, I realized that I hadn’t eaten since lunch, so I begrudgingly contacted my favorite neighborhood pizza delivery team. As the order was placed, I was informed that the pizza would take at least 80 or 90 minutes to be delivered, which, in Pizza Daddy language, meant closer to two hours. After 30 minutes of the tracking screen telling me that someone was “making” the pizza, I decided that I couldn’t stay up until 3 AM., so I cancelled the order and went to sleep.
This morning, ravenous, I ate a hearty breakfast while doing some writing. I’m sure you can guess who received my first email.