Domino’s recruits customers as delivery drivers

The last bloom of American innocence fell sometime Sunday afternoon when I was trying to find a baseball game on TV.

There was a commercial for Domino’s, a restaurant that delivers pizza and other food-like products to your house for what one can only assume is fair market value for the convenience of not having to go into the kitchen and make a meal yourself.

This commercial in itself would hardly be a noteworthy occasion. Pizza delivery commercials frequent the spaces between strikeouts and home runs almost as often as advertisements for watery American beer.

But this commercial carried with it a tragic storyline, one so sad I scarcely repeat it in these paragraphs.

The commercial showed a woman walking out to her car with a pizza she had apparently picked up at the restaurant. The narrator said that when you pick up your own pizza at Domino’s, you become the delivery driver.

Fancy computer-generated graphics turned the woman’s everyday casual look into the garb of a Domino’s driver. 

The pizza company promised a $3 tip to customers who carried out their own pizzas rather than have a delivery driver do it.

What sad desperation is this?

Domino’s, the chain that once promised us our pies in 30 minutes or less is now giving us $3 if we just ferry the pizza ourselves.

This can’t be Domino’s.

Four years ago, Domino’s was dolling out $5,000 a pop to cities to help fix potholes, so pizzas wouldn’t get jumbled in transport.

Des Moines got a chunk of the “Paving for Pizza” money thanks to a column by yours truly in the local newspaper in the capital city.

In the 1980s, Domino’s avoided the Noid, a claymation villain determined to make your pizza arrive cold.

They brought a CGI Noid back to challenge self-driving delivery vehicles specially designed to keep your pizza hot.

Now it’s your problem.

I suppose this has something to do with the labor shortage everyone keeps talking about. Domino’s doesn’t want to pay drivers. Customers don’t want to tip drivers.

So Domino’s decided to tip customers and pretend they’re employees.

Drafting the customers to work for you is a strange way to resolve your labor problems.

I would prefer they called the $3 a discount and not a tip.

But I like this idea.

America thrives on convenience. 

As a nation, what we hold most dear is getting something with the least effort possible. 

This isn’t true down to the last person, of course, but there wouldn’t be hardware stores, banks, and pharmacies in grocery stores if we didn’t worship convenience.

We will pay a 15% to 30% markup on pop, candy, and donuts at the gas station because, well, hell, we could go to the grocery store where things are cheaper, but we’re already here and it just cost $70 to fill up a 20-gallon tank. 

This Domino’s situation reminds me of the gas station. And that’s not a knock on their food, gut 

I’m not old enough to remember the gas stations of the 1950s, when men in white shirts with bow ties came out to wash your windshield, fill your tank, and top off your fluids.

But I do remember full-service gas stations lanes at the gas station.

You pulled up, paid a couple extra cents per gallon, and a sweaty guy filthy shirt and oil-stained jeans came out to pump your gas and wash your windows.

Even that service faded away by the early 1990s.

Gas stations are convenience stores that sell gas along with breakfast pizza, DVDs, and enough varieties of pop to make a healthy pancreas explode like the Death Star at the end of “Star Wars.”

Maybe I would feel better if the gas station gave me $3 off per gallon.

But I doubt it.

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express. Reach him at

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

How will Hy-Vee fare with latest expansion plans?

Hy-Vee has announced plans to expand its empire to Indiana, Tennessee, and Alabama in 2023.

The West Des Moines chain plans 20 new stores over the next four years, per a report from the Supermarket News.

This aggressive expansion follows Hy-Vee cutting 121 corporate jobs — about 8% of its corporate staff, per an Axios report. Most of the cuts were in marketing and IT. Hy-Vee was also cutting back the number of stores offering Aisles Online, the company’s service that shops for customers who order online and either pick up their groceries or have them delivered.

Aisles Online was so popular during the early days of the pandemic that it was nearly impossible to get a delivery spot. Apparently, as restrictions have lifted, so has the demand to pay other people to do their shopping.

This expansion worries me. Hy-Vee is doing well. Hy-Vee ranked as the 24th largest privately owned company, per Forbes.

Yet I worry.

There once was a dominant grocery chain named Dahl’s. Founded by Wolverine Thilbert Dahl, the chain was known for innovation. They invented drive-thru grocery pick-up. The first debit card transactions in the country took place at Dahl’s on Ingersoll Avenue. 

Dahl’s was among the first chains to have an in-store pharmacy, a sit-down deli, and a bakery. Much of what we think of as standard stuff for a supermarket started with or was heavily promoted by Dahl’s.

But W.T. Dahl tried expansion. He opened stores in Missouri in 1979, attempting to crack the Kansas City market. Dahl’s struggled and after 18 years, pulled out of Missouri. Dahl later said the money and effort poured into expansion in Missouri allowed Hy-Vee to become the top chain in Des Moines.

Dahl’s never recovered. It fell behind on the most important measure in the business: prices.

The chain filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and it was bought by a Kansas City, Kansas, food distributor which rebranded the remaining Dahl’s stores Price Chopper.

Hy-Vee is in a much better position to expand than Dahl’s ever was.

The chain founded in 1930 by Charles Hyde and David Vredenburg already has more than 280 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

It sure seems like they know what they’re doing.

Then again, I miss the old Hy-Vee sit-down deli. They replaced those with supposedly classier restaurants with wine and beer. I don’t think fine dining when I think Hy-Vee, but it seems to be working for them.

Hy-Vee is also tied up with this Wahlburger franchise. I’ve not heard many positive reviews of Wahlburger’s food. I’ve not been there. I’m not a big Mark Wahlberg, the actor and chain’s co-owner with his family.

One of the stores in Wisconsin has a nail salon and its own line of clothing.

That’s a bridge too far in my mind.

You can try to sell me all the varieties of kumquats you want, but don’t push high fashion on me when I’m just there to grab bread, milk, and eggs.

The duty of every CEO is to make more money than the year before. I accept that.

I’m not sold that Hy-Vee is going about this in the right way.

But what do I know?

In my lifetime, Hy-Vee faced challenges from Hinky Dinky, SuperValue, and Safeway. Those stores are all ghosts. Hy-Vee is still standing and expanding.

In the late 1990s, Albertsons invested in the Des Moines market heavily with both supermarkets and their Osco Drug Stores. Albertsons is now the second-largest grocery store chain in America, but you won’t find one in central Iowa.

Hy-Vee whipped them.

The largest chain in America is Kroger. And Hy-Vee will be going into their turf when they roll into Tennessee and Alabama.

But Hy-Vee already duels Kroger in the competitive Omaha grocery market. They’re both still standing.

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about Hy-Vee.

What a story it could be: The little town store from Beaconsfield rises up to be one of the great supermarket success stories of all time.

Then again, I remember going to the Hinky Dinky in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines. There was a butcher named Sam, which my sister and I thought was hilarious because Alice from “The Brady Bunch” dated a barber named Sam. I bought my first comics off the wire rack by the magazine stand there.

The lot is a Walgreens now.

There are always winners and losers in business.

I hope Hy-Vee is on the right side of this one.

Former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Express. Reach him at

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

Bill to remove teacher test is an A+ idea

A bill that would remove testing as a requirement for teaching licenses is before the Iowa Senate. 

It passed the House unanimously. 

Dear Iowa Senate, please pass this bill and get it under Gov. Kim Reynolds pen at once. 

I rarely speak publicly about political issues anymore, but I confess my vested interest in this one. 

I’m student teaching this semester and if this bill doesn’t pass, I’ll have to file a blizzard of paperwork and pay $300 to a private testing company for evaluation. 

If I pass the evaluation, I’ve finally earned the right to pay the state $165 for a license to do a job so very few people want to do for wages that impress no one.

A $300 fee may sound small. If you took your car to the mechanic with a “rattle rattle, thump, bang bang” and walked out for less than $300, you’d be thrilled. 

But that’s not the whole picture. 

My tuition at Drake University this semester was more than $12,000.

Yes, I could have gone through a different school with lower tuition, this is a master’s program.

I’m 46 years old. I can’t afford to start over to the fresh-out-of-college salary scale. Most districts will start a new teacher with a master’s degree in a higher pay lane. 

Student loans funded every dollar of my last two years of school. I’ll be paying that until I die. 

So it goes. I’m pretty sure dying in debt is basically the same as dying rich. 

What’s another $300 on top of that?

It’s more principle than anything.

Presently, there are two kinds of tests you can take to earn a license. One is a pair of exams, one for general teaching and another specific to your discipline such as English or math.

The other is a complex collection of video recorded work with students, unit plans, and essays with 17 different rubrics.

Both tracks cost $300. 

You generally take them as you’re student teaching. 

Student teaching is the capstone of education school for both undergraduates and graduate students. 

You worked side-by-side with an experienced teacher for roughly four months, including leading classes for four to six weeks. 

Student teachers are not paid. 

They are working full time. They are not getting paid. 

You are actively discouraged from having a part-time job, though some of my classmates do. 

How they handle it is beyond me. Student teaching is the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. The level of executive function — the sheer amount of stuff you have to keep straight — is staggering. 

I come home from days and collapse into bed by 7 p.m. 

As a student teacher, I’m evaluated twice a week by a mentor teacher — usually a retired teacher interested in passing along good pedagogy to a new generation. 

I’m observed nearly every minute by my classroom teacher. 

I talk regularly about progress with both teachers and my professors at Drake. Our class has weekly seminar meetings — also a class I have to pay for. 

In the end, I need three letters of recommendation from people who have seen me teach. 

If I haven’t impressed my classroom teacher or my supervising teacher, I’m in trouble. 

My point is this: How many tests are enough?

I’ve taken pedagogy. I’ve taken subject classes. I lived the journalism. 

I’m constantly observed and have excelled at an accredited university that sets its standards in line with both the state and the latest ideas on teaching teachers. 

The thing is, the test isn’t a measure of potential in a future teacher.

It isn’t even a measure of how good they are at taking tests or writing rubrics. 

It’s a grift. 

Private testing companies shakedown education majors for a few hundred bucks after they’ve already stacked up thousands in debt to take a job that faces historic shortages. 

I’ve only been in a classroom since January. Already I am a changed person. I had no idea what I didn’t know about this job. 

It is hard work. It might be the hardest civilian non-first responder or peace officer job there is. 

Sometimes I think I’ve permanently scrambled my egg to think I could do this. 

But I’m getting better everyday. And I think I love even on the days I’m cursing into my pillow at night. 

So, yes, please Iowa lawmakers and Gov. Reynolds, remove one expensive hurdle for me and the thousands of students working hard to become the teachers our state so desperately needs. 

Former journalist Daniel P. Finney writes columns for the Marion County Gazette. Reach him at

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.