5. 30 Minutes or Less
Domino’s Pizza got its start in University of Michigan college town Ann Arbor in 1960. Today, this multi-billion-dollar company is controlled by the controversial Bain Capital (co-founded by ex-US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney). Domino’s has largely stuck to more orthodox advertising strategies than its competitor Pizza Hut. In fact, the company’s greatest claim to fame was their guarantee to deliver in 30 minutes or less, or the pizza would be free.
Unfortunately, the policy put them in some pretty damning legal crosshairswhen their drivers got into accidents. Lawsuits alleged that the drivers were forced to drive recklessly to meet their deadlines. In 1992, Domino’s paid $2.8 million to the family of an Illinois woman whose van was struck by a vehicle delivering pizza. But then in 1993, a court awarded $78,750,000 to a Missouri woman stemming from injuries she’d received in a 1989 crash. They settled out of court for a sum believed to have been approximately $15 million, but the policy was scrapped.
4. The Noid
As advertising icons go, Domino’s Noid was particularly unappealing—a monosyllabic gremlin-like character in a red rabbit suit meant to manifest the difficulties in delivering a pizza in the 30-minute deadline. The Noid would do anything in his power to make the driver late, including shooting the pizzas with a gun that turned them ice cold. Much like the Trix rabbit, the Noid was constantly foiled. The gimmick was popular enough to roll it into its own video games for computers and the Nintendo.
The story of the Noid took a truly bizarre turn on January 30, 1989, when a deranged customer named Kenneth Lamar Noid burst into a Domino’s in Atlanta, Georgia, taking a pair of employees hostage. Kenneth Noid actually believed the ads were an attack on him. The siege lasted five hours, with Noid making outlandish demands for $100,000 and a getaway car, among other things. He forced the employees to make him pizza during the ordeal. After they escaped, Noid turned himself over to police. He was charged with a laundry list of felonies, but he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
3. Philip Workman
While binging on cocaine, Workman robbed a Wendy’s. An employee triggered a silent alarm, and Workman fled when the police arrived. What happened next remains contested to this day. Workman alleged that he fled, but when the officers caught up with him, he attempted to relinquish his firearm, but it accidentally discharged when they hit him with a flashlight. The police returned fire, wounding Workman.
In the melee, Lieutenant Ronald Oliver was killed. The trial, which many regard as a sham, eventually condemned Workman to death. There was some evidence that Lt. Oliver died from friendly fire, and Workman was briefly granted a stay of execution, but a judge ruled that the evidence did not warrant an entire new trial.
Perhaps as some kind of last-minute act of martyrdom, Workman requested that a vegetarian pizza be delivered to any homeless person living near the prison in lieu of his last meal. His request was denied. When the story went public, there was an outpouring of support for the cause, and hundreds of pizzas were delivered to homeless shelters throughout the country.
2. OJ Simpson
In America, the day of the year when the most pizzas are sold is Superbowl Sunday. But remarkably enough, some other odd events have caused spikes and drops in pizza sales. One such phenomenon was the OJ Simpson saga; on June 17, 1994, the nation was glued to their television sets, watching as the former football hero fled from police with friend Al Cowlings in a low-speed chase. Domino’s reported a huge increase in sales as the white Bronco crept down the highway.
Several months later, the pizza chain would notice another bizarre trend when sales skyrocketed in the moments leading up to the verdict in the case. According to company spokesman Tim McIntyre, things slowed down considerably a little after noon, when the decision was finally read out. McIntyre said “We could barely believe it, but not a single pizza was ordered in the United States for five minutes between 1 o’clock and 1:05.”
1. The Pizza Bomber
The case of the pizza bomber is one of the most bizarre crimes in American history. On August 28, 2003, pizza delivery man Brian Wells burst into a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was armed with a shotgun and had a bomb attached to his neck. Wells requested $250,000, but he received only $8,702 and was intercepted by the police in the parking lot. From there, he proceeded to tell a weird story—that he was delivering pizza when some men forced him to put on the bomb. Unless he pulled off the robbery for them, it would explode and kill him. While negotiating with the police, and minutes before the bomb squad arrived to disarm the device, it detonated,killing Wells.
The case remained a mystery for years, but was solved in 2007, when several people were indicted for the conspiracy. It is believed that Wells was in on it the entire time, but did not know that a live bomb was going to be used. When he found out the bomb was real, his co-conspirators forced him to strap it on at gunpoint. The money from the robbery was to be used to hire a hitman for prostitute Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, who wished to kill her father, whom she believed to be wealthy. Diehl-Armstrong was sentenced to life plus 30 years, and another another man involved in the plot, Kenneth Barnes, received 45 years.
The story would go on to be used as the plot point in several television shows, as well as the basis for the largely forgettable comedy 30 Minutes or Less. In his review of the film, critic Roger Ebert said “Moral of the story: If you occupy the demographic that this film is aimed at, Hollywood doesn’t have a very high opinion of you.”