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How Domino's 'need for speed' delivery guarantee came to an end

When your livelihood depends on you getting somewhere and getting there fast that’s nothing unusual. In a number of fast paced jobs, one is required to execute many tasks or make several decisions on tight timelines, with outside events (sometimes beyond one’s control), leading to moving deadlines. Some find the thrill of working in a ‘pressure’ cooker environment exhilarating and intensely motivating.


But when one is driven by that kind of motivation, whilst on the road, it can be dangerous. Take the case of gig work which involves food delivery, couriering and transport. Gig drivers too have to work at very high speed, on tight deadlines and experience extreme pressure as a result of their work. It is precarious work with delivery drivers having to speed in order to fit in all the deliveries on time.


But, when the heart and soul of a corporation, where their entire mantra, their entire business model, their entire focus of all operations is on “on-time delivery”, it put enormous pressure on gig drivers.


In 1985, Domino’s declared that customers could expect a pizza on average, 28 minutes after placing the order over the phone. This was based on staff cooking a pizza in seven minutes and for delivery to take another twenty one minutes at most.


Domino’s founder Thomas Monaghan believed that Domino’s, instead of spending heavily on marketing, would develope its base by taking the path of ‘speed’ to meet customers’ expectations.


Thus began the offer of a free pizza if it didn’t arrive in 30 minutes or less. Soon after, the 30-minute recommendation became a guarantee: Any pizza that took longer than 30 minutes was free. (It was later changed to a $3 discount.)


The chain focused on delivery “as if it was life or death.” And in the 1980s, Domino’s share of the US pizza industry increased from a small slice to over 15%, growing from 300 restaurants to more than 2,000. The chain also claimed that in terms of delivery times, it had a national success rate of 89% in 1984 and 95% in the late ’80s.


But this growth and success came at a heavy cost – the needless loss of many lives. Despite several non-fatal and fatal accidents (Domino’s knew of 20 people who died in crashes involving its drivers in 1988), - one that included a driver who died after crashing into a utility pole; all because he didn’t wear a seat belt to save a few precious seconds to get the pizza delivered within time, the chain ignored calls for doing away with the 30 minute or less delivery promise,.


Until In late 1993, a case for a woman who’d been struck by a Domino’s driver while taking her kid to a bowling alley went to trial. The jury found Domino’s liable for $750k in actual damages and $78m in punitive damages. This proved to be the turning point, because soon after the trial ended, Thomas Monaghan announced that Domino’s guarantee of a free or discounted rate pizza for late deliveries would cease.


Source; External


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