Last month, Super Bowl XLVI featured a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl, with the Patriots squaring off against the Giants. It made for an entertaining storyline, but I'll admit that I didn't follow the NFL season as closely this season as I have in past years, and I wasn't nearly as excited to watch the game as I normally would be. It probably didn't help that the Vikings were essentially eliminated from the playoffs before the halfway point in the season.
But despite my relative indifference to the outcome of the game, there was one match-up that had my attention this year: the coin toss. That's because Papa John's, the official sponsor of this year's Super Bowl, ran a promotion called "America Makes The Call," encouraging people to visit a website and predict the outcome of the coin toss. If the majority of the voters guessed correctly, Papa John's promised to give everyone with an online account a free pizza and 2-liter.
This year's Super Bowl was an exciting game, but the most entertaining part of the whole event was over before the opening kick-off. Sixty percent of America voted heads, New England called heads, the coin landed on heads, and Papa John's would supposedly be giving away free pizzas to all of its online members.
This sounded too good to be true--if there's anything I enjoy more than pizza, it's free pizza. Long before the coin toss, I feared that Papa John's might pull the 'ol bait-and-switch if America got the call right and tarnish this enticing offer with those four evil words you never want to see in front of FREE: Buy One Get One. In the days after the big game, I was anxious to see if the offer was everything Mr. Schnatter had promised. I was very pleased when the message finally showed up in my inbox:
There were no catches, no gimics, no dreaded "Buy One Get One" before the "Free," just a link taking me to a site where I received my redemption code for a free pizza and 2-liter, valid until March 4th. Not too shabby! I saved the code in my inbox and almost forgot about it until this past week, when I realized that I needed to redeem the offer this weekend before it expired.
When Saturday night rolled around, I logged into my Papa John's account and placed my carryout order. The confirmation email said that the order would be ready for pickup in 15-25 minutes. I happened to glance at the email again after a few minutes, and I noticed a bit of a problem...
You see, I don't order pizza too often. In fact, the last time I ordered a pizza from Papa John's was a few months ago, when I was back in Iowa for the holidays. I never bothered to check exactly where my carryout order was being prepared before I placed it last night. The good news was that, yes, the order would be ready for pickup in 15-25 minutes...the bad news was that I would not be there to pick it up for more than three hours--even I sped the whole way--because my pizza was about to go into an oven in the middle of Iowa. I thought long and hard, but the seven hour round-trip drive to pick up dinner just didn't seem worth it.
Was this it? After all of my effort, would I have to abandon my free Super Bowl pizza in central Iowa? Had I squandered my prized promo code? I called the Iowa location and explained my unfortunate mishap. They were able to cancel the order and suggested that I call the Papa John's online ordering help line to try to get my code re-activated.
I spent the next twenty minutes on hold, listening over and over to a static-y, looped recording featuring a run-down of pizza offers and bad elevator music. Even if the Papa John's online ordering help line had only one operator, how could it possibly take so long?! Surely I'm a member of a very, very small subset of the population stupid enough to order a pizza in the wrong state...
By the time the operator answered, I was weary and weak with hunger. But he had good news--if I gave him a few minutes, he would work some magic in the computer system and reactivate my code. I hung up, then waited again, though time seemed to pass much more quickly without the elevator music. An email popped up in my inbox, and I was able to enter the code and place my order, this time at a much, much closer location.
I'm pleased to report that this story has a happy ending: 15-25 minutes later, I finally held that pizza in my hands. With all that effort--not to mention an extra hour's worth of hunger--the pizza tasted even better than I had imagined. And I was reminded of just how much truth is packed into that old phrase, "the best things in life are free."