Houston Dog Friendly Restaurants and Bars

I took data from the City of Houston’s Bureau of Consumer Health Services, which maintains a current list of bars and restaurants that have approved dog patios.

Effective September 22, 2011, owners of restaurants and other food establishments have been able to apply for a variance to the Houston Food Ordinance to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.

I mapped the data using Google Maps for my personal use, and have made the map publicly viewable for other dog owners. While the weather is tolerable, take Fido out to dine with you.

The map can be viewed here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=znuw07LBYA-o.kQRaK4J-ORcc

Consulted Resources
http://www.houstontx.gov/health/Food/
http://www.houstontx.gov/health/Food/dogpatios.pdf

BMW E46 Windshield Wiper Clips

I went to the dealership today to pick up an order that I’d placed for a couple of minor parts.

The windshield wipers on my 2003 BMW 330i (E46) have been driving me nuts. Years ago, when I tried to replace the rubber inserts by myself for the first time, I didn’t know the correct procedure to remove the wiper blades. I forcibly separated them from the wiper arms, breaking the locking tab on the windshield wiper clips (61618233577, part #8 in the diagram below, buy on Amazon.com) in the process.

BMW-wiper-arm-wiper-blade

The part is described in BMW’s system as a “wiper blade clamp” – its purpose is to hold the windshield wiper blade in place. Without the locking tab, the wiper blade can move laterally in the wiper arm.

My windshield wipers used to chatter loudly. The driver-side (left-hand) wiper blade was the worst offender. The noise went away if I allowed a sufficient quantity of water to accumulate upon the windshield, but even at the lowest automatic setting, I’d hear a terrible sound with each pass of the wiper blade. They made this noise with fresh wiper inserts as well. The sound was so bothersome that I started to manually actuate the windshield wipers, running them only when I’d deemed that enough water had accumulated so as to keep them quiet.

(this made me feel like the old bus driver back in my high school days at ISKL)

Before committing to purchasing the new windshield wiper clips, I’d considered swapping the wiper blades entirely. I was inspired to do so after reading a newsletter sent to me by one of the (many) online parts stores that I’ve used in the past. It dawned upon me that it was highly probable the wiper blades weren’t the problem at all, and that I had best exhaust the cheapest options before opening up my wallet any further. I paid just over $5 for two clips.

I replaced the windshield wiper clips while parked at the dealership. The sun was shining brightly outside this afternoon, and, prior to hitting publish, I realized that I had yet to test the wipers after removing and replacing the faulty clips. I’m back inside now, and pleased to report that my windshield wiper blades are functioning as intended.

Looks like I’ll be putting off my purchase of new wiper blades for a while longer, yet.

BMW E46 Misfires

Have encountered the SES light numerous times, going on at least a couple of years.

Error codes that I have encountered

Misfires (all 6 cylinders)
Lean condition
O2 sensors

I’m just spitballing here, these are all worth investigating.

Air and fuel. Are there any vacuum leaks allowing air to enter the system downstream of the MAF sensor?

Inaccurate readings along air path. MAF sensor, O2 sensors

Irregular fuel pressure. Fuel pump, fuel injectors.

Reading Materials:
http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=897616

Pizza Delivery Driving Tips

I’m writing this article after having worked at Domino’s as a delivery driver. I start with a discussion of my personal philosophy on the job and earning money as a pizza delivery driver. I then introduce some nuggets of wisdom that I received before my first shift. This culminates in a number of common-sense items that I believe are the foundation for working effectively in this capacity, and I’m writing a follow-up article to discuss one simple trick that I found significantly increased my earning potential within the scope of this job.

First, some history and philosophy about the job:

I took up delivery driving because I’d gone without a regular source of income for months on end, and market forces were working in my favor. My lack of an occupation left me feeling out of place: I was essentially living the life of a retiree at the age of 25. Concurrently, crude oil bottomed out at $45 a barrel. This made using my car to make money a fairly attractive proposition.

My delivery driving experience started with very little in the way of training, not that I could have expected much. The job itself is simple: all you have to do is safely take the order over to the customer, making sure not to forget anything. You find doing this that you’re entirely at the mercy of the customer. After all, they are the ones who wield the power. They decide how much money you will make during any given shift. Do this for a while, and you’ll have your share of good and bad experiences.

When I started at Domino’s, I went under the impression that I would be going just to do my job, and to get out as soon as my shift was over. What I found was that by consciously working to be the best pizza delivery driver that I could be, the customer came to appreciate that, and so with every interaction I sought to make a good impression. Likewise, I found that good work ethic earned me the respect of my peers, and I quickly became a trusted and valuable member of the team. It was the least that I could do, and the most that my position required of me.

A brief aside

When starting a new job, you can shorten your learning curve and save yourself grief by learning from the experiences of others.

Start by looking at an example of a very poor delivery experience. The pizza delivery driver appears thirty minutes late at your door, badly in need of a shave, and there’s pizza sauce smeared across his shirt (wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere!). His beat up car, music blaring, sits idling noisily on your driveway. It expels the occasional puff of off-white smoke between misfires. The pizza delivery driver shoves your order at you before presenting his upturned hand in your direction. If yours was a credit card order, he reaches into his pocket and brings out a crumpled receipt for you to sign (of course he has no pen). If cash, no change to offer. Naturally, he receives a poor tip.

Three functions in optimizing revenue

  1. Increase revenue potential
  2. Minimize lost revenue opportunities
  3. Maintain work efficiency

If you pay attention to these three functions, you’ll be a smooth operator.

Discovering the Key to Earning Fat Tips

I saw it written once that a rich man is someone who makes 15% more than you do. With that in mind I set about on my pizza delivery career for Domino’s Pizza seeking a way that would guarantee I would make greater tips than anyone else for the time that I spent on my shift.

To make 15% more than your peers, simply reaching the level of acceptable is not enough. You have to go a step further.

I started by querying WF about his delivery driving experience. WF had been working at Jimmy John’s, mostly as a delivery driver, since he came to Houston just over half a year ago. He had recently decided to pick up a second job as a delivery driver – he tried Domino’s against a Houston-based pizza chain over the period of one week. I knew that he’d have some wisdom to pass down about the job.

WF’s tips on delivery driving dealt primarily with the core tasks of navigating and presentment of the customer’s order.

On navigating:

  • Know your delivery area: have a general idea of where an address is so that you can get headed in the right direction as soon as you leave the store
  • Avoid traffic: when there are long waits to make a turn, cut through an adjacent lot to skip the line

On presenting the customer with their order:

  • Hold the order above your head, with your arm out at an angle to your body (like a server at a restaurant)
  • Employ some theatrics: make the experience engaging for your customer. At events with groups, ask where they would like you to place the food items

I thanked WF for these tips, and searched for more to add to the list.

Pizza Delivery Driving Tips

Here are some tips that I found through my experience working at Domino’s, ways to create a good impression upon the customer, in partial service of Domino’s corporate goal of, “Sell more pizza, have more fun!”

A quick refresher on the three functions of optimizing your pizza delivery:

  1. Increase revenue potential
  2. Minimize lost revenue opportunities
  3. Maintain work efficiency

Judge for yourself how these tips apply to the three functions.

The first tip: be prepared. This is the Scout Motto, and something that you ought to hold close to heart. This means reviewing the order before it leaves the building. I left the store without customer drink orders a couple of times in my first week at Domino’s, adding unnecessary time to my delivery run. In the event that you leave the building with a botched order, it’s highly likely that you will be the one who has to make it right with the customer. Eliminate repeat trips during which you won’t make anything, and you’ll have the capacity to take more deliveries during your shift.

In the event that you arrive at the delivery address without the customer’s soda, it’s probably worth your time to go to the nearest store and purchase the soda with your own money. You can inform your manager about the incident later.

If your customer has paid for the order with a credit card, a good place to keep the receipt is on top of the pizza box, and inside of the bag. This ensures that the receipt won’t get lost, soiled, or come out looking like garbage. Bonus points for keeping receipts on a clipboard (more on this, later, in the section on tools)

If a customer is paying cash for an order, let the customer know aloud how much change they are due. Go through the process of counting out the customer’s change, and hand it to them. Customers will tell you if they want you to keep the change or not. It’s always safe to assume that the customer wants all of their change, unless they say otherwise.

On my first few cash orders, I’d prepare coin change before leaving my car with the customer’s order. I no longer do this, because I find that most of my customers will tell me to keep the change right away. I do keep sufficient coin change in my car. My BMW E46 has a very neat coin holder. If your vehicle isn’t equipped with a good coin holder, it may be worthwhile to invest in a coin holder.

Treat your customer with respect. This goes without saying. Unless they prove otherwise, assume that the customer is deserving of your respect.

If you are late to the customer’s address, make some type of apology to the customer in recognizance of this. It can be as simple as telling the customer that things got hectic at the store. Most people will be quite understanding. In these situations, I always thank the customer for their patience as part of my greeting.

Take pride in your job, and take it seriously. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about working any job, it’s that. Your customers (and your coworkers!) can tell the difference. When you behave professionally, you eventually establish a good reputation. This results in myriad benefits that you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.

Weigh the costs and benefits of speeding, especially inside of residential areas. When you accelerate and decelerate rapidly, you introduce added stress on your vehicle. Tickets are counter-productive to your hustle. Are the potential rewards from arriving a few minutes early worth the risk?

Keep your vehicle street-legal. Getting pulled over for any issue with your vehicle will slow you down at best, and may result in a ticket at worst.

Maintain your vehicle, both inside and out. Under normal conditions (read: garaged, driven to the grocery store and back every week), I might check my vehicle’s tire pressure once a month. When I’m relying on my vehicle as a money-making tool, I increase the frequency of these checks. I am careful to account for my vehicle’s needs, because keeping it running well means that I can perform my job with fewer unexpected setbacks. The customer will almost never see the inside of your car, but in the off chance that they do, what does your vehicle’s interior say about you?

Take good care of yourself. Aside from your vehicle, the most important machine to take care of for this job is your body. Make sure to treat your body well. Get enough rest so that you are vigilant on the road. If you’re working hard, you deserve to eat well. You can do much more in good health than in poor health.

Appear professional. Like it or not, you will be judged by the customer based on your appearance. At Domino’s, there are rules on facial grooming standards and the use of hair colorings and dyes. Not every pizza shop is going to have such restrictions on how you look, but it’s always safer to err on the side of caution lest your customer take offense.

Finally, avoid these unproductive behaviors:

      Passive aggression
      Dwelling on the bad customers. I’d rather do something about them, instead of fretting about it.
      Avoiding what needs to be done. If it’s part of your job description, you should see to it that you do it in a timely manner to the best of your ability.
      Substance abuse. If it isn’t helping your work performance, then don’t bother with it. If you want to be the stoner pizza delivery guy, you can be that guy, though I think you owe it to yourself to try it sober.

Potentially Useful Tips

Dave Ramsey has apparently been a vocal supporter of taking up pizza delivery driving for extra money. If your customer knows Dave Ramsey and has heard him speaking, you might get extra consideration by using the line, “I’m doing better than I deserve” when you exchange pleasantries.

Using a highlighter to call attention to the tip, total, and signature lines on a credit card receipt may help, but I don’t bother with this because I use my time before leaving the store doing something else (you can read about it, soon)

Probably Bogus

I’ve read some reports of pizza delivery drivers with multiple cars stating that they’ll drive their beater, reasoning that a customer spotting a nice car might not tip as well, assuming the driver to be well off. I’ve gotten a handful of compliments and humorous comments on my BMW E46 from customers. Most customers will hardly notice your car, so long as it doesn’t draw attention to itself in a big way.

Possibly Damaging

You might ask the customer if they need their change, but some customers may take offense to this question.

Tools

– Get on Amazon.com and pick up a 6″ x 9″ clipboard, or look into Vaultz for a premium touch
– Pens (keep a spare in the car)

One simple trick to make fat tips

It’s easy to get upset with a customer, say, for leaving no tip on a $70 order. From the customer’s point of view, there is no obligation to leave a tip for a basic service. Remember that tipping, while polite, is by no means mandatory.

As a driver, you should ask what you have done to earn a tip. Once you lose the sense of entitlement, you can move forward, and begin to uncover solutions to making more money. It requires that you be an active participant within the game.

Sometimes in customer service, we have a tendency to forget about the customer’s needs because we’re so fixated upon our own. Remember that the customer is your best friend. If not for the customer, you would have no one to serve. Consider this tenet of customer service: take care of the customer, and the customer will take care of you. Exceptional service is the key to earning exceptional tips on the job.

That’s the thinking process that led me to discovering my game changer…