May 1, 2012 |

My Turn: John Gutekanst, Avalanche Pizza, Athens, Ohio

By John Gutekanst

A Matter of Perspective


John Gutekanst
Avalanche Pizza
Athens, Ohio

It was a busy night and we were running at a 55-minute pizza delivery time. I just put four large pizzas on the rail of my conveyor oven and pulled the ticket from the make line that would eventually accompany the four boxes on to the customer who ordered them. As I looked at the bottom of the ticket, I saw an order taker note usually typed with delivery instructions such as “go to the back door” or “last house on the left.”

On this particular ticket, someone had typed “Fairly cool people.” I first smiled at such unique insight obviously from a delivery driver to tell other drivers that these were cool people. Then I thought again, they didn’t write “cool”, they wrote “Fairly cool.” I thought that if I had ordered a pizza, tipped well and saw this on the ticket referring to me and my family, I wouldn’t be mad, but puzzled as to what I did, or didn’t do to deserve this “fairly” moniker. I corrected this comment and broadcast to my staff that these comments are best kept off tickets.

I am not the only owner these days surprised by (sometimes serious) comments written on customer receipts. Two large pizza chains have recently been traumatized by ignorant racist comments typed onto a customer’s receipt. Some of these have appeared in the national press. Even small, seemingly innocent observations about a person’s appearance like a young pick up customer that had “Ginger Kid” typed into a computer have elicited apologies from one large chain.

As owners, we hire people from all walks of life. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would intentionally hire racists, Klansmen or axe murderers, but sometimes careless or hateful thoughts can take hold of a pizza employee’s brain, travel down to their finger and burst forth upon a waiting keypad. The loss of common sense is usually accompanied by loss of money — so this enters into the realm of vindictiveness and open retribution thrust upon an “NT”, or non-tipper. (I’ve found and erased all my “NT’s” also.)

I certainly do not want to lose my business because of a stupid comment, so I keep my eyes on my comment lines all the time. But when incidents do occur, I try to look at it with a modicum of philosophy and talk to the employee about how their comments can negatively impact my reputation. It’s a matter of perspective.