Laughs about gaffes and goofs, plus some congrats

Sept. 9, 2003

A look at recent news and newsmakers ...

* This week's You Catch on Fast Award goes to the operator of a Camp Hill, Fla., Pizza Hut, who accepted 15 bad checks for pizza from customer Halil Nickos Steigerwalt. Seems Steigerwalt went to the well one too many times, was reported to the police and hauled in front of the judge.

The judge in the case gets a special You're Too Soft on Crime Award, for sentencing Steigerwalt to six months in the pokey -- and paroling him on the spot. I suppose he doesn't think rubber-check writing is that big a crime. Little does he know how often it happens to and costs readers like you.

And to the pizza store operator, along with your award comes some free advice: Read my story, The bounce stops here, which shows successful ways to handle both bad checks and boneheads who write them.

* Soon to be seen at a fraternity party near you ... . A $700 human pizza slice costume was stolen from a Pascagoula, Miss., Papa John's store last week, after employees washed it and set it behind the store to dry.

Steve Coomes, Editor

Police have no leads in the case, but one might bet that the consumption of a case of malt beverages played a role in the theft. Pascagoula Police Capt. Jamie Hunter doubts the alleged thief will wear the suit in public, but I doubt his doubts. Anyone stupid enough to steal Mr. Slice (yes, that's the costume's name) is stupid enough to enjoy the attention he'll get from wearing it in public.

If Mr. Slice isn't spotted at a keg party this weekend, my money says he'll have a Halloween coming out party.

* The Slice and a Movie Award goes to Sbarro for newly signed partnership with National Amusements. The 1,381-theater company is doing a gradual rollout of Sbarro pizza in select units. Not only is the notion a darn creative move, it's a positive move for a company in real need of some new business ideas.

Plus, it'll serve to cut down on all the loud popcorn chomping always going on behind my seat in the theater.

* The Let it Go and Move On Award should go to Aage Bjerre -- but he just can't let it go. Bjerre is the pizza operator in Denmark who got in hot water for refusing to serve French or German customers, because their countries wouldn't support the U.S.-led war effort in Iraq.

A judge recently gave Bjerre the choice to pay a $780 fine or serve an eight-day prison sentence, and Bjerre chose the latter. His refusal to change his position also cost him $7,800 in vandalism done to his pizza shop, which he later sold.

Still, Bjerre vows to remain in the pizza business via Internet sales -- though he insists he won't ship any orders to Germany or France.

* The You're not a Pizza Maker Award goes to a number of as-of-yet-unknown suspects in a Florida case of pizzeria impersonation.

Yes, that's right. Just when you've thought to yourself for the 32nd time today, "Why am I in this business?" you learn that someone's playing pizza operator for fun -- well for funds, really.

Seems that customers of some Kissimmee, Fla., hotels have found fliers in their rooms promoting pizza service. Then unsuspecting customers place their orders with the "services" and receive pizzas of warehouse-club quality that police believe were baked in the perpetrators' home ovens.

I'm all for scrappy ingenuity in tough times, and everyone loves a guerilla marketer, but this is taking it too far.

Perhaps I'll send the award to the Kissimmee jail, where -- it's my hope -- the fraudulent operators will receive it along with their tin cups.

* And speaking of playing pizza operator, on this coming Sunday, I will have for the third time in a week, made homemade pizza for friends and family.

Not that anyone reading this will feel threatened by that -- though my dough's a darn good one -- as a former chef, I still love to play around in the kitchen, and putzing around with pizza reminds me of why you readers are in business and I'm not. It's work, and I will only have made nine pies once it's all done.

As Chris Bianco, the James Beard Award-winning owner of Bianco Pizzeria in Phoenix once told me, "About anybody can make one great pizza, but do that 200 times a night, six nights a week."

He's right, and I'm sure that before long, I'll be buying your pizza again instead of making my own again.

Until then, have a great Labor Day.

Topics: Commentary , Crime , Dough , Independent Operation , Papa John's , Pizza Hut

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