In June 2020 thousands of people had a visceral reaction to a social media clip of a Domino’s Pizza driver. That’s because the video saw the unwitting delivery man invited inside someone’s home – and coerced into playing a strange game to receive his payment and a tip. The driver’s emotional response to these events caused the story to go viral and took many viewers by complete surprise.
What happened? Well, the video opens with a group of friends excitedly organizing 12 red paper cups in a circle on a kitchen counter-top. Then the doorbell rings, and one of the women grins and rushes to answer the door. That’s when the delivery driver enters, and she invites him inside the house to get the money owed for the pizza. She tells him – not quite truthfully – that the cash is in the kitchen.
The driver introduces himself as Bob, and he quickly realizes what is happening when he enters the kitchen. He even smiles in an interested, but taken aback, manner when he sees the cups. It seems like he knows that he is about to take part in a game devised by the group of friends. Yet Bob probably doesn’t know that this game will eventually bring him to tears.
So what sort of game does Bob have to play to claim the cash? The woman who answered the door enthusiastically explains the rules to him, laughing and grinning with her friends the whole time. It turns out that they want Bob to flip over six of the 12 cups – and tell him that he can keep whatever money is underneath as his tip. Yet Bob has absolutely no idea what is under any of these cups.
The group are arguably already in dicey waters. You see, tipping food delivery drivers can be a tricky process. Finance website The Balance Everyday even published a handy guide to best practices in November 2019. And it seems that, although technically not mandatory, it would be a faux pas to not give your driver a tip. Writer Lahle Wolfe advised, “If you don’t want to leave a tip, order the food for pickup instead.”
Wolfe then cleared up the difference between a delivery fee and a tip. She wrote, “A minimum delivery fee is not the same as a tip. It refers to the minimum price of food you must order for the restaurant to deliver. The restaurant owner may pocket an upfront minimum delivery fee and isn’t required to pass it along to the driver.” On this advice, then, the group should probably give Bob some kind of tip – so why the game?
But wait, there’s more. Wolfe went on, “For delivery orders of $20 or less, it is customary to offer a minimum tip of $3. For any amount over $20, tip ten to 15 percent but never less than $5.” Wolfe also offered a piece of sage wisdom, advising the customer to put themselves in the shoes of the delivery driver. She wrote, “Before opting for that $3 tip on small orders, consider whether you would make the same trip for a mere three bucks.”
As for when you should tip above the average amount, Wolfe also had some advice. She wrote, “Although you can always opt to go for the recommended minimum tip, be considerate and factor in times and conditions in which a larger tip would be more appropriate.” You could see why, then, Bob might have been wary of the group’s suggestion that he play a game for his tip. After all, we don’t know the conditions he endured to deliver these pizzas.
According to Wolfe, you see, you should offer a larger tip “during inclement weather or any time driver conditions are more hazardous than usual.” Other appropriate situations are “when the driver has to travel more than five miles from a store location to make the delivery” or “if the driver gave you outstanding service or preferential treatment.” Tipping a little more during “peak order times, such as major televised sporting events,” is also encouraged.
Most importantly, though, Wolfe believes it’s vital for customers to tip their delivery drivers – due to the realities of their employment status. She wrote, “Typically, food delivery drivers are paid minimum wage or less and earn more from tips. If a driver’s tips plus hourly wage does not equal federal, or if higher, state, minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference.” So the idea of making a poorly paid person play a game for a tip is perhaps a dubious one.
The writer continued, “[Minimum wage] is why most restaurants now charge a minimum delivery fee. It safeguards the employer from having to pay the driver to make up the difference if they do not earn enough tips. In essence, the delivery fee collected from you guarantees the driver at least minimum wage without the employer having to kick in.” It’s worth mentioning here that Domino’s Pizza does indeed charge customers delivery fees – and suggests tipping the driver on top of this.
Wolfe wrote, “Some drivers are paid a small commission for each delivery to help offset the cost of gas and use of their car.” Again, this appears to be the case at Domino’s, but it is not true across the board. The writer continued, “They may also receive a small stipend for displaying the company’s pizza delivery sign on their car.”
The author went on, “In addition to paying for their gas, insurance and increased costs for wear and tear on their cars, delivery drivers may have to pay higher insurance premiums, carry extra coverage or pay uniform maintenance fees.” She then clarified, “In other words, being a delivery person is not lucrative, and your tips make a difference to the driver.” All things considered, it’s easy to see how an average delivery driver – such as the hero of this story, Bob – may struggle to make a living.
So we know tipping is extremely important for delivery drivers. And a recent incident showed how a situation can go very wrong if the custom is not adhered to. In a May 2020 clip, TMZ spotlighted an irate Domino’s driver who swore at two young teenagers – because they hadn’t tipped him.
The video shows an older teenage boy handing a delivery receipt to the driver. The delivery man immediately responds sarcastically, “Thanks for the tip.” And when the young man shrugs off the driver’s response, this angers the Domino’s employee. He can even be heard calling the kid a “douchebag.” He then aims an F-bomb at the youngster, who replies with a surprised, “What?”
This reaction produces more cussing from the driver, at which point the boy says, “That’s funny, bro. Really? I didn’t even order it.” The teen further clarifies that he wasn’t the one who placed the order, it was his little sister. The driver angrily replies, “Well, tell her. I don’t make f***ing money if I don’t get tipped. I just brought you your [order] with my gas.”
Enraged, the driver then walks away, leaving the stunned teens reacting to what happened. The kids’ father later explained to TMZ that the root of the incident was a misunderstanding of tipping procedure. The man said that he had been out of town at the time and had received a phone call from his daughter asking if she could order a sandwich from Domino’s.
The father claimed he had then given the youngster his credit card details over the phone, and she had placed the order. But when the driver had arrived and she’d signed the receipt, she’d thought that the delivery charge was the tip. According to the dad, you see, the youngster didn’t know that she needed to fill out a separate section on the bill. And that’s why she’d left it blank – leading the frustrated driver to believe the teens had refused to tip him.
The dad told TMZ it was his daughter’s first time signing for a delivery and she was confused. To add insult to injury, though, the dad claimed that the food Domino’s had delivered was incorrect. He then told TMZ, “She ordered a sandwich but received cheese bread. Go figure.”
Naturally, the unhappy father phoned the Domino’s branch after the delivery driver left, registering his displeasure at the man’s conduct. The very next day, the location owner and store general manager both called to apologize for their employee’s actions. The owner also told TMZ, “I am a small franchisee that is locally owned and operated, and we always strive to do what is right.”
To make things right with the customer, the store manager and area supervisor then visited the family personally. As recompense, they gave them a $100 Domino’s Pizza gift card and also presented each teen with a prepaid $200 gift card. But on top of this, the owner also had to deal with the delivery driver.
As you could have guessed, the driver’s employment was terminated after the branch owner watched the video and oversaw an investigation into his conduct. Yet the reaction on social media was mixed, with some commenters believing his firing was justified and others feeling very differently. In fact, many believed Domino’s was failing its low-paid delivery workers by firing the man.
So the timing was just right for the video featuring Bob to make headlines. But how did the clip first come to the public’s attention? Interestingly, it was shared on Facebook by magician Justin Flom. He titled the video, “The second gift got me,” followed by a crying face and heart emojis. Flom seems to have had no part in creating the video, but his huge online presence meant it was watched by a large number of people.
In case you don’t know, Flom is best known for his YouTube series and the SyFy reality show Wizard Wars. He has successfully used social media and internet videos to boost his profile, dating back to his first videos in 2011. He even caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres in 2012 and wound up becoming a regular guest on her talk show. So the video had a natural boost from appearing on Flom’s page.
But how did the game turn out for Bob? Did the group stick to standard tipping custom? Or did they do something else entirely? Well, in the clip, the driver turns over the first cup and finds a $20 note, which is already enough money to pay for the pizza. So any further cash – if there is any – hidden beneath the next five beverage holders will go directly to him as a tip.
Under the next three cups, though, Bob finds a $1 bill and then two $5 bills – taking his total to 31 bucks. At this point, the driver becomes quite excited. He tells the young men and women that he has been a Domino’s employee for 11 years and no customer has ever done anything like this with him.
The person filming the video then tells Bob that there is a large sum of money underneath one of the remaining nine cups. The first woman agrees, saying it’s more than the $31 Bob’s already won. The driver then flips over his next cup and is stunned to discover a crisp $100 bill nestling on the kitchen counter.
Bob’s eyes grow wide, and he throws his arms in the air in victory while the group all laugh happily. In disbelief, he asks, “For real, you guys?” The woman says yes, the money is all his to walk out of the front door with right now. She adds, “We just wanted to make your day.”
Overcome with emotion, Bob counts his money and is then moved to tears. He silently nods his gratitude and waves goodbye to the group, before beginning to make his way to the front door. Before he leaves, however, the driver gets a group hug and weeps a little more, while the young women tell him they appreciate what he does.
But then the woman has a brainwave. She invites Bob back into the kitchen to retrieve the rest of the money from underneath the cups he didn’t flip over. All told, it comes to an extra $83 for the driver to take home. Overwhelmed, he tearfully says, “Thank you guys so much. You saw me crying, guys.”
The Domino’s employee receives a few more hugs on his way out the door and tells the group, “That is so wonderful, you guys did an awesome thing.” The person behind the camera jokes that the driver’s tears are going to make him cry, and the two young women weep a little themselves. When they finally close the door, one of the pair wipes her eyes and says, “I love Bob.”
Since posting, the video has received 1.8 million likes, 76,000 comments and 664,000 shares on Flom’s Facebook page. The vast majority of commenters were charmed by the video, too, with one writing, “That was such a precious moment! Especially during these trying times. Keep up the good work.” Another said, “Aw, it really made me cry! Such a great way to make someone’s day.”
One happy viewer wrote, “Poor Bob, he is probably still sitting in his vehicle bawling himself into a heart attack. What an awesome gesture; you folks deserve a hug from the Lord above. Delightful to watch and cry and be so happy for all of you.” Another commenter said, “That was the sweetest thing anybody has ever done for anybody.”
Not everyone was a fan of the video, though, and some even questioned its veracity. One skeptic wrote, “Pretty sure this was set up. Where was his hot delivery bag that the pizza comes in?” Another went even further by writing, “What’s amazing is that people think this is authentic. ‘Bob’ walked right to the kitchen and the cups. They need to enlist better actors.”
Other observers believed it was a genuine interaction, though. Yet they also questioned the message it was sending. One wrote, “How condescending. Privileged people being kind to the working class! If it was a genuine gesture, they wouldn’t have recorded it and put it on social media.” A reply to this comment read, “I was thinking the exact same thing! Well put.”
Another commenter wrote, “Rich people playing with poor people for likes. Give him the tip, don’t film it for entertainment. So weird! Who does that? Be nice without the need for validation.” Regardless of how the group’s act was interpreted, though, one viewer voiced what countless people around the world must have been thinking when they wrote, “Nobody ever did nice things for me as a pizza guy…” followed by a smiley face emoji.
And in the talkback section of the Metro website’s article about Bob’s game, a similar dichotomy reared its head. One commenter wrote, “How lovely. A bunch of young people lured a delivery driver into their home to ‘play a game.’ It could have ended very badly for the driver, and this would have been a different article.”
The commenter went on, “Why do we keep encouraging this sort of behavior?” They then took issue with social media benevolence in general. “While it was generous and I’m sure it made the driver’s night, these people only did it for the internet fame, which Metro has so graciously provided to them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have bothered filming it.”
The observer concluded, “Long gone are the days when people would do a good deed for another just to feel good knowing that they helped another human. In the internet age, people can only feel good about helping another person if it is filmed and posted online. [This is] so that they can receive hundreds of comments telling them that what they did was good.”
But another commenter clapped back at this attitude, writing, “Why am I not surprised to find nasty idiots commenting on this amazing story? These kids did something fun and nice for that man and if you can’t see it, then move on, your comments aren’t necessary. This is the kind of story America needs right now.”
Whichever side of the debate you fall on, though, it seems clear that delivery drivers can become very familiar with particular customers. Angela Nguyen and Sarah Hughes can certainly testify to that – and they had a customer named Lee Haase who they could expect regular orders from. However, when the pair took a closer look inside his trailer, they knew that they had to act quickly.
A resident of Ham Lake, Minnesota, Angela became a delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza back in 2013. Before that, she’d had a very different job working for Minnesota Visiting Nurses. Sadly for her, though, everything changed following a devastating personal loss.
“I did housekeeping for people with AIDS and HIV,” Angela recounted to The Atlantic in October 2016. “Then they closed my department. They offered me another position with [a] hospice, but I had a daughter that had died while I was working for Minnesota Visiting Nurses, and it was just too difficult for me to think of going to work with other people that were dying. So I left.”
Some months after that, Angela looked to get back to work in a part-time job despite caring for her grandchildren regularly. With that in mind, she showed an interest in working for the same company as her oldest daughter, Sarah. This was in the hope that they could maintain their current routines, with different shifts allowing for constant childcare cover.
“I would help [Sarah] out quite a bit, watching her children,” Angela recalled to The Atlantic. “I got a job at Domino’s and worked the opposite hours of her. It was flexible enough for me to watch her kids while she worked and then for her to have her children when I went to work.”
As Angela settled into her new role, she soon became very familiar with one specific customer, who lived on the fringes of Anoka County, Minnesota. His name was Lee. “He likes to order every Saturday,” she told USA Today in December 2015. “About 10:15 a.m. you are going to get an order from Lee.”
However, in late 2015 Lee was the victim of an unimaginable chain of terrible events, leaving him heartbroken. Firstly, the elderly customer’s house was badly damaged following a storm, which made it uninhabitable. And then, tragically, his son passed away in a snowmobile accident. After that, he moved into a small trailer just outside his home.
Unfortunately for Lee, though, the trailer had no electricity, plumbing or heat, leaving him in a vulnerable position ahead of the winter months. However, it was when Sarah noticed his situation that she soon informed her mom. Unsurprisingly, when Angela received this news, she didn’t like what she heard.
“I thought, ‘We got to do something,’” Angela told USA Today. “We got to do something. We can’t let a human being live like this.” With that in mind, she bought a heater for Lee’s trailer and even decided to go a little further when delivering his pizzas every Saturday morning.
“[The pizzas are] what [Lee] would live on on the weekends because he was elderly and couldn’t get Meals on Wheels,” Angela told The Atlantic. “I would look forward to delivering to him and just being a little ray of sunshine to him every Saturday morning, saying, ‘How are you doing, Lee?’ Sometimes, I would stop at the store and grab him a hot cup of coffee and a doughnut before I’d go there with his pizza.”
Moreover, Angela’s work didn’t stop there, as she continued to search for ways to help Lee. “There’s no way somebody can live like that and be fine,” she said in a YouTube video produced by Humankind, a channel created by USA Today, in December 2015. “So you just step in, and you do what you got to do.”
With that in mind, Angela set up a GoFundMe page for Lee, leading to numerous contributions from across the world. “We got donations from as far as Australia,” the delivery driver told USA Today. Some two months after that, the page had raised more than a whopping $32,000. This impressive figure sparked the next phase of Angela’s ambitious plan.
Using that money, Angela bought her elderly customer a brand new home, while the local community kindly donated all the furnishings. The Humankind YouTube video, titled “Pizza delivery driver delivers new home to homeless man,” captured the moment when Lee finally saw the results of their incredibly hard work. Unsurprisingly, he was touched beyond words.
With Angela by his side, Lee is greeted by many local volunteers as he walks through the front door. When he is sat down and beginning to settle in and absorb his surroundings, Sarah gives him a warm hug. “You remember when this started, and I promised you we were going to help you?” she tearfully asks Lee during their embrace.
“It’s wonderful,” Lee later tells the camera crew. “I’m so grateful for [the] people doing this.” After that, Angela gives him a tour of the house, noting that he has plenty of food stored up in the kitchen. Incredibly, his new bedroom is the same size as his old trailer, while a message above the bed reads, “Joy, hope, love, peace, believe.”
The interior of the house can be seen covered in festive decorations, and the video closes with Lee and his new friends singing Christmas carols. Angela offers one last heartwarming message about the situation. “Every single one of us enjoyed doing this,” the thoughtful woman tells the camera crew. “This ain’t all for Lee. We all benefited.”
Indeed, while Lee now had a proper roof over his head for the winter, Angela continued to do good deeds for her other Domino’s regulars. “Another customer’s daughter just had surgery for Crohn’s disease and was very, very ill and the mother was out of work,” she told The Atlantic.
“I started a GoFundMe for her, and we are getting enough donations that her mother doesn’t have to worry about going back to work right now,” Angela continued. “She can just stay home and take care of her daughter.” As for Lee, his weekly routine changed following the move to his new home.
“[Lee] really stood out for quite some time and doesn’t order for delivery anymore because he’s got a stove and a refrigerator and a microwave,” Angela said of her former customer. “Yeah, he stood out for a very long time.”
While delivery drivers can become very familiar with certain customers, few can emulate the generosity of Domino’s employee Angela Nguyen. Alongside her daughter Sarah, she delivered something far greater than a pizza to Lee Haase in December 2015. She gave him a new place to call home.