When dining out, I live by one very important rule: Do not anger the people who are handling your food! I’ve worked in too many restaurants and seen too many disgustingly atrocious things done to the food of customers to risk having my food tampered with by a disgruntled worker. Residents of Springtown, Texas, have been left wondering if their food was ever “doctored” since the health department has shut down Mr. Jim’s Pizza after it was discovered that employees added the extra and unwanted ingredient of laxatives to at least one pizza.
According to a report on Fox4, an employee of Mr. Jim’s Pizza bragged on social media about putting Miralax on a pizza that was eaten by a coworker who was unaware of the “prank.” Fox4 adds:
When questioned by police, the employees said they never put Miralax on any pizzas that were made for customers. The City of Springtown Health Inspector was contacted, and the restaurant had its health permit pulled. The restaurant is shut down until it can be re-inspected on Monday.
Raise your hand if you believe that the employees were 100 percent honest when questioned by the police. After having worked in multiple pizza restaurants, my hands are clenched firmly by my side (well, they would be if I weren’t typing at the moment).
Fair warning: there are some generalities and stereotypes ahead. If you are easily offended, keep reading because this will be good for you.
In my experience at six different pizza restaurants (four different chains that will remain unnamed), as a general rule, there are three types of employees: 1) high school and college students, 2) people working a second job for quick cash, 3) drug addicts.
Of those three groups, two are not known for their critical thinking skills nor for their ability to regulate their emotions. While working as a driver coordinator at one restaurant, I discovered that some of my drivers kept tip logs. And by “some of my drivers,” I mean those who fit under categories 1 and 3; drivers in category 2 did not (or they were at least smart enough not to tell me about it). If a customer didn’t tip or tipped poorly, the drivers would write their name and address down. After discovering this, I asked what that information was used for. One driver smirked, “You don’t want to know.”
I immediately replied, “If I catch a driver with a tip log from here on out, that driver is fired immediately. All of our customers should be treated the same.”
While saying that, I knew, of course, that I was spitting into the wind. Unlike my drivers who were no doubt spitting (or worse) into non-tipping customers’ pizzas, my proverbial spitting was not going to hit its intended target. No amount of lecturing about ethics from their boss was going to stop pizza delivery drivers from spitting on pizzas if they already believed it was their right to do so. However, as a supervisor, I did my best to ensure that customers’ food wasn’t tampered with, and found reasons to fire several drivers whom I suspected of believing that they had the right to enact their own version of justice on those who stiffed them (if proof had been available, I would’ve turned them over to the authorities).
When I first started working in the pizza industry as a college student, I didn’t have the authority nor the developed ethics to respond appropriately to the behavior I saw around me. The things I’ve witnessed and heard of cause me to be overly diligent in making sure that the food service employees I interact with are happy with me. Granted, at times there is no accounting for maliciousness or just downright evil.
My point is that the service industry doesn’t always employ the most upstanding of citizens and it’s important for customers to be proactive in protecting themselves from food tampering. One way to do that is to patronize local businesses with owners who are active in the day-to-day running of their business and who take pride in customer service. In my experience, involved owners do a good job of weeding out bad employees and keeping deviant behavior in check. Let’s hope that the owners of Mr. Jim’s Pizza learn from this and do a better job of keeping tabs on their employees — assuming they have any customers left after the health department allows them to reopen, that is.