Pizza Pi Theory: Size Matters

April 16th, 2006

Get disappointed!... it's Domino'sIt’s a Friday night, and you’re having some people over to watch the movie Crash.  It’s about 7:30, there’s seven of you (5 guys, 2 girls), and you’re getting hungry.  What do you do?


Order pizza, right?

Sounds good, in theory.  But sometimes things don’t always go as planned…

The Deal

The following is an actual letter I sent to Domino’s Pizza Customer Care last week after one such occasion:

Part 1

Boy that sure looks big, doesn't it?  Look, it doesn't even fit in the picture!

The Theory

So let me start by saying that we were already fairly skeptical about the amount of pizza we would be receiving if we bought the “XLP” but the numbers seemed to work out.  It was, after all, supposedly the “Largest, Most EXTREME PIZZA… EVER!” - and, well, it’s kind of hard to argue with that.

Of the seven of us, the two women (W[2]) weren’t that hungry and one guy claimed he had already eaten - so that basically left four men (M[4]) that wanted pizza, with an extra slice or two here or there.  By my count, a typical large from any regular Mom & Pop pizza joint can feed 2-4 guys, or maybe 4-6 girls - since males generally eat around 2 to 4 slices (sl), and females eat 1 to 2 (no gender prejudice there or anything ;-).  Therefore, we were looking at something like:

 W[2] x 0.5 + M[4] = (2 x 1.6 sl) x 0.5 + (4 x 2.67 sl) =

3.2 x 0.5 + 10.68 = 12.28 slices

Before Pizza.

Yeah, that’s me with the glasses and the goatee.  Note that the 0.5 exists to account for the women’s “hunger factor” HF - or lack thereof.  So at over 12 slices we were looking at beyond your typical large, for sure, but we didn’t want to be drowning in pizza either.  Would the XLP be able to satisfy?   Well, we weren’t so sure, but for the “limited time only” low-low price of $9.99 (including one topping) I figured how could we go wrong?  Well, let’s find out:

The Letdown

Part 2

Ouch.  That’s rough (thanks a lot, Jason).  Being a proper host is very important to me, so running out of food for movie night is no insignificant matter.

So what went wrong?  Well, for starters, we somehow forgot that all Domino’s Pizzas are about 10 to 30% smaller than “real” pizzas already for some unknown reason (oh there’s a reason: profit).  On top of that, the “Largest, Most EXTREME PIZZA… EVER!!!” is proclaimed to only be 30% larger than their regular large.  Assuming their regular large (8 sl)  is even compatible with the formula above, that would make the XLP 8 x 1.3 = 10.4 sl, and we’d be short a couple of slices (sorry ladies ;-) - but even so, that wouldn’t have resulted in the disaster that it truly was.  Thankfully all hope was not lost because I, generally one to think ahead, had established a backup plan…

Part 3

Turns out we not only needed that supplemental pizza, but some popcorn and candy too - and that was barely enough.  After feeling like I really rubbed it in, next I tried to express our confusion, frustration, and disappointment at the time:

Part 4

And it really did.  Well that, and the fact that I thought I could get some sort of “retribution” for all my heinous “psychological suffering”.  Accordingly, I tried to finish the letter by really laying it on thick:

Part 5

I find making the somewhat empty threat of maybe ceasing to patronize an establishment is occasionally effective - at the very least to get them to notice you had a bad enough experiene to claim that you will never use their services again - even if you probably still will.  And every now and then you might get something back in return.

So I sent them the letter - if nothing else to make myself feel more at peace with the whole experience.  I did feel cheated by the XLP.  It was basically a glorified large, with one topping and no glory, for $9.99.  It makes sense that you get what you pay for, but of the “Largest, Most EXTREME PIZZA… EVER!!!!!!!!!!” I was expecting so much more.



The After-Math


At the end of the day, I still couldn’t put my finger on why we ended up so short.  Well, in addition to the above factors, the gals who “weren’t that hungry” were of course made much hungrier at the sight/smell of live pizza.  The guy who said he already ate was too, so the bastard probably snagged a slice or two when no one was looking.  But this is typical.

FACT: There will always be at least one person, at any given time on any given day that claim they don’t want any pizza, but will eat a slice or two (or more!) when it shows up in your house.


See, what they are really saying is they don’t want to pay for the pizza, but they will most certainly eat it if it’s in front of them.  Because really, who doesn’t want free pizza?

After Pizza.  Typical.

The rest of the blame I place squarely on the pizza itself.  Domino’s advertizes the XLP as “30% larger” and I’m sure that would have to be true otherwise people would be suing them left and right.  According to the Domino’s website, their “large” is a 14″ pizza.  A “30% increase” in diameter could yield an awesome 18.2″ pizza, but this the XLP was definitely not.  And it wasn’t any thicker than normal, so that’s not it.  The only way an increase of 30% makes any sense is if they’re talking about the area of the pizza.  So let’s take a closer look, by way of napkin math:



Where Domino’s went wrong is that while technically the XLP is 30% larger (although ours didn’t even fill up the box it came in - too bad we don’t have the photos to prove it), aesthetically it hardly seems any bigger at all.  And their efforts to make it seem more plentiful by increasing the number of slices you get from 8 to 10 (or was it 12?  I don’t quite remember), just makes it look like they are overcompensating (and they are), because the slices are obviously narrower than those on a regular pizza.  Much like a balding male driving a hot new sports car to make himself look more virile and lively - sorry, it’s just pathetic.


This will probably be me someday.


For a pizza whose only groundbreaking new feature (if a “feature” can even exist in the pizza universe - though hiding leftover cheese in the crust probably qualifies) is being “big”, “huge”, “enormous” etc., its size will come under much scrutiny.  And in this case, it’s bound to disappoint thousands of people when they see that their “Largest, Most EXTREME PIZZA EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” looks “not all that big” after all.



The Response (topping 1)


So how did it turn out?  What happened to the letter?


I can imagine some of you asking (if you’re even still reading this).  As it turns out, a couple of days later a representative from Domino’s responded with the following letter:

The Reply

While “Edward” (if that’s even his real name) was quite prompt and courteous in his reply, there were a couple of things that struck me as unusual about his response:

  1. I’m not sure he ever provided his last name.  I mean I guess it didn’t really matter - now that we’re on a first name basis, and pen pals and all - but still it would have been nice to know.  Maybe his last name was actually “Grzymkowski”, and I could have speculated that I had a long lost cousin - albeit a pizza-industry-customer-relations-employed cousin - but a cousin nonetheless.  Perhaps his last name was “Pietza-Haitr”, and I would have found myself amused at how ironic that is.

  2. He referred to my Domino’s pizzas, past and present, as “products”.  While technically anything you buy is a product (yes, anything) - the usage of the word makes me think less of pizza, and more of… I don’t know… maybe ladies cosmetics?  floor cleaner?  tampons, perhaps?  Certainly nothing I’d want to eat.  That wonderful imagery makes me want to go to Domino’s even less.

  3. For some reason, the organization he works for uses the acronym “T.E.A.M.”.  Now either they’ve come up with some combination of fancy business words that just so happens to spell out “TEAM” (Isn’t that clever?  We’re a team and we work on a T.E.A.M.!  Tee hee!) or they’re too busy throwing dough in the air to realize that “TEAM” is actually just a word.  In either case it’s lame.  I mean, what could that possibly stand for?  Unless of course their group is really called the “Tiger Eviscerating Angry Monkeys”, in which case it would be totally awesome - but have absolutely nothing to do with pizza.  But I don’t think anyone would fault them.

  4. The fact that the phrase “Total Satisfaction” was in both bold and italics creates a sense of innuendo that is just asking for some sort of sexual joke - but it’s just too easy so I won’t go there.  Besides, if this guy really is my cousin that would just be sick.  So, exercise left up to the reader ;-).

But nonetheless, Domino’s did reply - albeit to say almost nothing at all.  It would seem the real response was to be provided by someone else.  Someone possibly with only a last name and no first name to speak of.  A man known only as “Guffman”, perhaps.   And so I waited.



The Response (topping 2)


Within another day or so I received a voicemail (this puzzled me especially, because I didn’t remember giving Domino’s my phone number - except probably to make the initial pizza order) from a man whose name I do not recall.  Perhaps he had no name at all.  He said very briefly and succinctly that he was sorry that the situation occured, that the XLP was in fact 30% larger as advertised, and that I should look in the mail for something that will ensure my next movie night goes more smoothly.  Right then I was wondering how the mail carrier would manage to cram a stack of Tombstone pizzas in my mailbox - but I figured I’d wait and see.


That evening I checked the mail and there were no Tombstones, but there was a letter from Domino’s.  “Ah, a formal apology,” I thought,  “or perhaps a check for $9.99?”  I opened the envelope.


Its sole contents:


Two XLP Coupons.  Whoopie.



In Closing


So I guess all’s well that ends well.  Though I vowed to never get an XLP again (I guess I meant never buy an XLP again).  With my two free coupons, my XLP ended up actually 290% the size of the regular large - to which I will finally agree was the most pizza I ever received for $9.99.  Well $9.99, a letter, and some psychological trauma.

My pizza is bigger than yours.

Will I ever pay for an XLP again?  No way.  If you ask me I’ll tell you “I’m good.  I’m not that hungry.”


But if I’m around when you happen to order one, will I try to grab a slice?…


You bet I will.





Update: 11.16.07


While it seems Domino’s is no longer offering the XLP (what a shame), fear not because you too can still relive the exhilarating pizza experience we did.  Apparently Papa John’s is offering an “XL3” pizza, advertised as “30% Bigger” than their original large.  Wow, that sounds pretty big.  Come to think of it, I did plan on having another movie night soon…



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7 comments for “Pizza Pi Theory: Size Matters”

  1. Ha. “This guy always fucks things up!”

  2. In the time it took to read this my 5 inch personal pizza from Dunkin Donuts got cold. Would the “size matters” princple apply here, and would a 30% larger pizza cool off more slowly? Please do the math for me.

  3. Hilarious comment, Dad. And you raise a good point, too.

    Without busting out a protractor, slide rule, or abacus, I would say that it does in fact cool off more slowly. If you assume the 30% larger pizza has an equal thickness with respect to its regular counterpart, then it would also have 30% more volume (and mass). If you introduce a hot pizza with 30% more volume into a cold room - you have introduced more heat into the system and it will take more time for it to disperse - until the room and the pizza are the same temperature. In theory it will also warm the room up more in the process. Just how slow would depend on the size of the room, and its temperature at the time.

    Then again, the larger pizza also has about 60% more surface area, so it might cool down quicker if… bah. Who knows. Oh, you were just making a joke and not expecting me to respond? Oops. Well, you should know me better than that by now :-)


    P.S. Dunkin Donuts makes pizza? How good could that possibly be? The Dunkin Donuts guy gets up so early to make the “donuts” I can’t imagine he’s got any energy left to make the pizzas half-decent by the evening…

  4. “Right then I was wondering how the mail carrier would manage to cram a stack of Tombstone pizzas in my mailbox” — you bastard Paul, you made me laugh out loud in class. Notwithstanding the fact that I should be in no way reading your web page while in class, I hold you and your excellent sarcastic sense of humor fully responsible.

    Also, now I am craving a goddamn pizza.

  5. Paul, I enjoyed this post and am actually surprised that I read through the entire thing. Furthermore I am even more surprised that I am responding as I have been unusually captivated by this. For future reference I think a graphical representation of various pizza places would help users to make an educated decision offering some sort of closure to those less willing to reply to customer service. Pizza mass is the clear choice when correlating a pizza’s ability to satisfy the hunger of the consumer (pun intended). Pizza mass is not a good measure in the context of this article, however, and as such the ultimate analysis would be represented using a mass per unit cost value. I am visualizing this thing as a 2-d plot with various pizza types e.g. Domino’s, Pizza Hut,Tombstone etc. in the x-axis with the mass per unit cost in the y-axis with the x-axis organized in ascending order of y-axis values. In my past experience I think that the best value is perhaps obtained with the purchase of a take and bake pizza from Costco as the mass is much greater than that of any Domino’s pizza all while maintaining a lesser cost.

  6. Derek,

    Good idea. However, I should also point out that a great mass-to-cost ratio is worthless if the taste/quality is not adequate. Of course, if your only concern is “appeasing the masses” - then taste doesn’t need to be as much of a priority.


  7. I felt like I was in some sort of pizza dream while reading this. I’ll never look at Domino’s the same way again..

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