Per request, here is the infamous Pizza Hut bell story… This was one of Mike’s favorite stories to tell… It requires a bit of background information, so this will be a long read.
After working at Pizza Hut for 7 or 8 months taking pizza orders by telephone, our attitude towards management began to sour. They began hiring people into the phone center and paying them more money than we were making even though we had been there for 6+ months. They had also begun playing with our schedules so that our group of friends were not working together as much and the fun atmosphere that had always been a part of the job began to dissipate.
The layout of the place was thus: You would walk down a narrow hall into a large room with five long tables set in a row. On each table was four or five stations consisting of a computer monitor, a keyboard, and a phone into which you would plug your headset. There was a long aisle down the middle, so really I guess there were 10 tables split by the long aisle and around 40 or 50 total stations.
At the front of the room was a raised area which was enclosed by glass where three supervisors would sit and watch over the employees, take complaint calls, deal with the individual delivery stores, etc. There was also a little station next to the supervisor station with a printer and a TTY machine to take pizza orders from the hearing disabled. There was no assigned seating on the floor, so we could sit at whichever station that we wanted. However, most people would tend to sit in the same general areas each day.
Supervision was pretty lax when we started and most of the employees were 16 to 18 years old, so we goofed off quite a bit and were always doing silly stuff to make each other laugh. Some quick favorites were taking orders in silly voices (I liked to do Count Dracula’s voice), saying “Ibbity Ibbity” like the robot from the old Buck Rogers TV show after each line in our script, and making up silly things to say at various points in the script.
The beginning of the end came when they instituted a “Mystery Caller” program. This was where management would randomly call into the phone center and place orders and then would call up to the supervisor’s desk and grade the person that took the order. They made up all of these posters with the Hand of God reaching out of the sky towards a telephone with the words “Beware of the Mystery Caller” on them. I wish that Mike or I would have snagged one as a keepsake!
When they started the Mystery Caller program, they installed a bell at the front of the room to the front of the supervisor platform. The bell was silverish and had a large hanging clanger. It was attached to a piece of wood that was attached below the glass on the front of the supervisor desk.
The plan was for the Mystery Caller to call into the phone center and place an order and if the person taking the order scored perfectly, they would be called to the supervisor station, given a reward, and then get to ring the bell. I believe that our group of friends were pretty unanimous when we decided that this was a pretty lame idea. With 30 or 40 people taking pizza orders all at a time on a busy night, it was noisy enough without some idiot ringing a bell when they did their job right!
Management taped up the “Hand from God” posters at each table and placed them in the break rooms. Mike, our good friends, Rich & Lance, and I all hated the idea of “Big Brother” watching over us all of the time.
It was about this time that Mike & I were working one Sunday and it was real slow. Each keyboard had a manual and we started looking through the manual. We figured out that we could press ESC+CTRL+[any key] and be given the opportunity to reprogram any of the keys on the keyboard. Each of the function keys (F1 through F12) were programmed to quickly take us to different screens when taking the pizza orders with the exception of the F2 key. The F2 key had no function and was unused.
Mike & I reprogrammed the F2 key to pop up the message “F**K the Mystery Caller!” each time that it was pressed at any of our stations. We taught Rich and a few other people how to redo the F2 key. An alliance was formed to start a grassroots employee movement to urge management to get rid of the stupid Mystery Caller program. At random points, we secretly replaced posters with copies that had the “F**K the Mystery Caller!” mantra written on them in different handwritings.
Over a few weeks, we redid most of the F2 keys at each of the 40 or 50 stations so that they said something. Most of them said “F**K the Mystery Caller!”, but some just had silly sayings. At some point, we got the station which was up front next to the supervisor’s desk.
The general manager, Lou, came in one day and pressed the F2 key on the machine next to the supervisor’s desk. The “F**K the Mystery Caller!” message was displayed and this made Lou very angry. He ordered the supervisors to find out who did it, how they did it, and then to fire them!
Somehow, one of the supervisors got the knowledge of how to reprogram the keys. The keys were all cleared and the manuals of how to reprogram the keys was removed from each station. Rich & I came into work the next day and worked our normal shift. At some point, I reprogrammed the F2 key at the station where I was sitting to say “The Purple Worm Has Arisen”. Rich reprogrammed the F2 key at his station to read “Lou is great, Lou is God”.
The next day, I came into work and was the only one from our group working. About half way through my shift, I was called into an office and fired for “destruction of company property” for reprogramming the F2 key at my station the previous night. I retorted that I hadn’t destroyed a damn thing and no one had ever told me not to reprogram the F2 key so I had not done anything wrong.. What’s wrong with “The Purple Worm Has Arisen”? But, they had to make an example of somebody to get the F2 key reprogramming stopped so they fired me.
I told Rich what had happened and he quit before they fired him for the same thing. Domino’s Pizza happened to be creating a call center of their own at exactly that moment, so I applied to them and got the job. During the interview, I was asked why I had left Pizza Hut and I told the manager the story of getting fired for reprogramming the F2 key. He laughed about it and assured me that I would not get fired for something so stupid under his management. He also hired me in making .50/hour more than what I was making at Pizza Hut. He told me that he would give interviews to anyone else that wanted to come over from Pizza Hut and give them the same deal, so I told Rich, Lance, Mike, & everyone about the jobs.
I still had one check coming from Pizza Hut and Mike was still employed by them at the time. Mike & I called into the call center and asked if we could stop in to pick up our checks. They agreed and I told Mike that I was going to announce the deal that Domino’s Pizza had made me. Mike loved the idea and suggested that I get everyone’s attention by ringing the bell.
Mike & I walked into the call center and there were about 20 people working. We went up to the supervisor station and picked up our checks and I told a couple of the supervisors that had been cool towards me that I’d enjoyed working with them.
I then went around the front of the supervisor station and rang the bell — CLANG!!! CLANG!!! CLANG!!! I shouted “DOMINO’S PIZZA IS PAYING .50/HOUR MORE TO DO THE EXACT SAME THING!!!”
One of the supervisor’s yelled “Get outta here!”
I said “Don’t worry, I’m leaving…”
Mike quit on the spot! Mike, Rich, Lance, Lance’s girlfriend, and a few others quit soon after and came over to Domino’s Pizza. A couple of older ladies that had been working on the day that I rang the bell also quit Pizza Hut and came to work for Domino’s. It was a very gratifying exit for us!
I don’t recall the bell breaking, but Mike swore that I rang the bell so hard that I broke it loose from it’s wooden base. To our displeasure, one of our close allies decided to remain at Pizza Hut and he later confirmed that the bell was broken and stories were swirling about how Mike & I had broken it!!
A long story, but I believe that this shared moment really solidified our lifelong friendship. Mike & I went on to work at 3 or 4 more places together, but we never had to leave a job under such circumstances again!