Pizza and the Economy

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Originally published December 17, 2011

I have been asked a few times recently how the economic downturn has affected the well to do I deliver pizza to. I was reminded of that again last night. A regular customer is moving. That is one way the economy has affected what may not be the 1%, but the upper 10%. The house goes on the market.

This particular house was built by the current owners in 2005. It sits on a two acre lot. The price has been reduced by $200,000 since it was first listed. The tips have gone down at this regular customer, but not the order frequency. For most of our customers, the drop in order frequency is how we can tell that the household income is not what it used to be. This house is an exception. But they no longer tip $5.00 on a $15.00 order.

There is another street with three houses next store to each other, all for sale. They are in the two to three and a half million dollar range. Two of them have been on the market for more than a year. Another regular customer just moved. His house was for sale for two years.

There is an advantage to not living paycheck to paycheck. Most of my friends and family who have lost jobs can only be out of work long enough to fill out the paperwork for unemployment. Then they learn to live on two thirds of what they used to. My friends tend to not get much notice either. When I was laid off, our household income dropped 45%, it was 2:00pm on a Thurday, effective immediately.

In the land of the wealthy, there are severance packages. Banks do not want to list FORCLOSURE on million dollar homes. The owners put the house up for sale. A car gets sold. They don't go to the lake in the summer.

There was another regular customer. One day, the house was empty. Soon it was on the market. The family name no longer appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal. It disappeared from billboards where it used to be easily spotted. Pity the real estate market tanked. They were great customers. That house was on the lists of St. Louis' most expensive homes for sale. It eventually sold for 25% or so less than the asking price. The asking price was less than the construction price.

How people pay has changed too. The American Express has made way for more ATM cards. Checks are making a resurgance. Nicley for my boss, bad checks have not. Small bills are more prevelant. It used to be uncommon, unless I delivered to a group of high schoolers to get a handful of ones. Now by the end of the night, I may have more than 30 ones. It is about the same for every driver. It used to be someone would stop by the ATM and get some twentys for pizza night. Now sometimes, I think it is an IOU from the piggy bank. For a time a multi-millionaire was tipping with rolled dimes.

There is one other way the downturn has affected the pizza gig, there are better looking cars showing up looking for full and part time work. I'm betting that the driver I saw last week with a Mazda RX8 didn't buy it to deliver pizzas in.