A pizza is ordered. If it fails to arrive within a certain time frame, it's free! This was an advertising gimmick invented by Domino's Pizza in the 1980s, but was largely discontinued in the early 1990s because of an increase in the number of delivery drivers getting into car accidents or being pulled over for speeding and reckless driving. Nonetheless, it still shows up in fiction.
Can be done from the perspective of the irate customer or the put-upon delivery guy — who may well have his job dependent on getting there in time. Comedic versions may have someone order pizza from some outrageous location in the middle of nowhere, such as the middle of the jungle, Antarctica, or the moon. Most of the time, the pizza still gets there on time (or two minutes late).
open/close all folders
A pizza place commercial, aired on a Toronto radio station in the 1980s, satirized this with a reporter giving a play-by-play of a fictitious restaurant's thirty-second delivery, with predictably disastrous results. ("Oh no, there's tomato sauce all over the road! Someone get a serviette!") The commercial's concluding slogan: "No gimmicks. Just great pizza."
An ad for Western Union shown in Australia had a student order a pizza and then realize he didn't have the cash to pay for it. He phones his father overseas for his allowance, who wires it to him. A split screen shows the pizza being prepared and delivered while the student goes to collect his cash. He gets back to his apartment just before the pizza delivery guy gets there within the thirty-minute deadline. After this version became well-known, the ad was changed so that the pizza is ruined at the end because of all the weaving through traffic the delivery guy did.
Anime & Manga
The second segment of the Ecchi anime Tales of Titillation by U-Jin makes use of this trope for outright parody. A trio of sisters persecute the deliverymen of "Pizza Tokyo" with acts of blatant exhibitionism to delay them past the thirty minutes mark. The funniest part is when the clueless (and virgin) rookie is sent to do the delivery, and all his co-workers act as if they were in a war movie and watching him go on a suicide mission, with "Taps" playing in the background as he drives off.
In Ninja Burger, the rule is "Delivery in thirty minutes or we commit seppuku." Based on Greenwich Mean Time for locations in geosynchronous orbit. And there's one city they don't deliver to (Detroit. Anything but Detroit.). Aside from that — yes, the extreme case. Lost hikers, hostages, recluses or dictators who don't want to have to turn off their security, submarine crews... thirty minutes, pretty much guaranteed. They even mention that Jimmy Hoffa is one of their best customers. And yes, they do deliver to the Bermuda Triangle.
One stand-up comic had a routine about a city he visited which straddled a time zone. Right across the street was a pizza joint.
"The second you order it, it's already late!"
Bill Hicks' recipe for a perfect world? Let everyone stay home, get stoned, and order pizza.
"Domino's Pizza trucks passing each other on the highway. Let them get stuck in traffic — all our pizza will be free!"
Jughead encounters this problem when he has to deliver a pizza to a house atop a rocky cliff on an island.
Archie also once went through this problem in a story where he worked at a pizza place a few minutes away from Reggie's house. Reggie pulls off several traps to prevent Archie from making it through his front yard, but Archie accidentally tosses the pizza, it lands in Reggie's face at the last second.
There is a story where Scrooge McDuck orders a pizza, and, being his regular parsimonious self, deliberately sabotages the delivery, so that it would take longer than the thirty minutes and he wouldn't have to pay for it. Unfortunately for him, it's well enough time for the pizza to get cold and wet, and he doesn't get to enjoy it very much.
Donald Duck's neighbor Jones, with whom he's in something of an Escalating War, also tried to sabotage a delivery — not because he really wanted the pizza, but because Donald had just been hired as the delivery boy. This was an extreme case, since the pizza chain would offer as many pizzas of that type as you wanted, any time you wanted, free for an entire year, and Jones had just ordered the most expensive pizza on the menu. Donald did not in fact make it in time, but the joke was ultimately on Jones—he hadn't checked what ingredients went into that type of pizza, and the special pizza sauce turned out to be a substance he'd previously been revealed to hate.
In a Ren & Stimpy comic, the two have only thirty seconds to deliver a pizza with absurdly many toppings.
Films — Live-Action
Spider-Man 2: Peter Parker lost a job as a delivery boy due to arriving late having to give the food to the customer for free. His responsibilities as Spider-Man kept getting in the way. Though watching Spider-Man swinging through the skyscrapers of New York with pizza boxes was pretty badass.
"Whoooooa!... He stole that guy's PIZZAS!"
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the pizza delivery is two minutes late, so Michelangelo got the pizza at a discount. Also, the "the address" was a storm drain they christened "122 1/8", making the address a bit of a puzzle.
The Thunderbirds movie: John, who mans space station Thunderbird 5, asks if he can have a pizza sent up to him, and adds "thirty minutes or it's free, right?"
Dirty Work: In the beginning, Norm MacDonald's character was fired from pizza delivery after failing to deliver a pizza within thirty minutes because a car accident blocked his route. The Jerkass customer informed him for being two minutes late. This makes it the fourteenth time the character was fired in the past three months.
The Mexican comedy movie Temporada de Patos was entirely built around this trope.
The "Little Nero's" driver in Home Alone races through icy roads and continually knocks over a lawn ornament at Kevin's house to make the "29 minutes or you don't pay" deadline advertised on the side of their boxes. Granted, the first time he is seen, he has over $100 worth of pizzas.
30 Minutes or Less starts out this way. The pizza boy is almost always late both because he's very lazy and apathetic and because he gets orders from people who live very far from the pizza place.
In the novel Waiting for Godalming by Robert Rankin, Lazlo points out that if they make this offer they are going to find you rather than give you a free pizza. He experimented with this fact by hiding in his house, leading the pizza deliverers to abseil down to his window.
Lazlo also uses this knowledge to escape from a secret underground base, by ordering pizza, relying on them delivering in under thirty minutes, then paying extra to get a lift out. Taking this to illogical extremes, oh yes.
Snow Crash begins with a suspenseful, high-speed version from the pizza guy's point of view. The pizza company is run by The Mafia, and their guarantee is that if the pizza is late, the customer will get it for free, and Uncle Enzo himself will drop whatever he's doing to come and apologize immediately, in person. The book never says what, exactly, would happen to the delivery boy, but given that Uncle Enzo is the head of the east coast Mafia and that he would have had to interrupt whatever he was doing to apologize to some schlub in the middle of nowhere, no-one really wants to find out. The Uncle Enzo guarantee only covers the time the pizza arrives in. Not the shape. Since part of the "apology" includes, among other things, a vacation in Italy it's implied that a lot of people just order pizzas as a form of gambling.
In Gerald Gardner's Who in the World Is in Charge?, Lech Walesa is shown talking on the phone: "So, if if it's not here in 30 minutes, the pizza's free? I'm in Poland."
An episode of Due South utilized this, when Ray called a place far away on purpose in the hopes that the delivery boy would be late and the pizza would be free.
The guys in Men Behaving Badly tried to take advantage of this by deliberately asking for rare and hard-to-prepare toppings to slow down the response time, and eventually pretending there's no-one home in the hope of claiming later that the delivery guy must have gone to the wrong house. Tony messed it up because he wasn't in on the 'pretending no-one's here' bit.
In the British sitcom The Thin Blue Line, Inspector Fowler says this while pretending to be a pizza delivery boy so he can gain access to a bank where robbers are holding people hostage.
The Deputies of Reno 911! set up a kid like this. They called in an order for halfway across town and then waited down the block. When the delivery driver came tearing out of the parking lot at breakneck speed, they pulled him over and arrested him.
The Red Green Show: Red sets up a number of roadblocks in order to get the pizzas he ordered for free, unbeknownst to him, the pizza guy called back and got directions from Harold on how to avoid all of the Lodge's debris.
In the short-lived BBC comedy about an understaffed remote RAF base, All Along the Watchtower, a company offers 50p off the price for every 10 minutes longer than an hour the pizza takes to arrive. When the pizza finally arrives (days later than ordered) the cast are also given several pounds.
The Australian sitcom Hey Dad..! had an episode about a diet, or a hunger strike, or something, that ended with the starving characters giving up and ordering pizza — which then never arrives, because one of the other characters deliberately misdirects the delivery guy in an attempt to get the pizza free.
The music video for PBS's Square One TV, "Ghost of a Chance", seems to be based on this trope. The pizza delivery guy is getting lost inside a haunted house to delay him from delivering in time.
On one episode of Clarissa Explains It All, Clarissa and Ferguson are allowed to order pizza while their parents are out, despite their mom's usual strict health-food obsession. They repeatedly time the delivery boy down to seconds, and then repeatedly send him back with a new order when he's inevitably late.
In Alias, when in the safehouse, Will says ""thirty minutes or less" before opening the door and getting shot by Sark.
In an episode of Brazilian series A Grande Família, the delivery boy made it on time but the customer delayed his response until the thirty minutes were off so the pizza would be free. The two of them argued over this.
In Stargate SG-1 season 8 episode "Gemini", General O'Neill mentions that Thor will deliver in thirty minutes or it's free — except it's not a pizza here, but an Asgard satellite of Replicator disruption.
On the Growing Pains episode "The Home Show," the Seavers are having to set up a party at the last minute, because Jason used an old calendar to set the date. When a pizza is accidentally delivered to their house instead of the neighbors, Jason starts to tell the delivery guy his mistake, until Mike reminds him they need the food for the party. Jason thinks for a second then says, "We ordered five pizzas, not one, and that was 31 minutes ago, so they're free."
Ordering a mid-battle delivery in Disgaea 2 warrants the response, "If it's not there in thirty minutes or less, just wait longer!"
One of the fake hint messages in NetHack is a plug for a nonexistent pizza delivery shop, promising it "in thirty turns, or it's free!"
While not as reliable about it as Ninja Burger, Billy vs. SNAKEMAN has a semi-secret fast-food franchise (partially concealed by the façaade of a different semi-secret fast-food franchise) which hires ninja for their thirty -minute deliveries, of varying difficulties and with active opposition a possibility.
In SimCity 2000, if traffic congestion in your city is bad enough, the newspaper will run articles about pizza chains in your city rescinding these policies.
In The Sims, it takes an hour of Sim Time (a minute of gameplay, if you don't speed things up). When the pizza guy arrives and is greeted, a text box comes up with "Dude! I made it from Sim City to your house in less than an hour!" (And then your Sim household pays 40 Simoleons for the damned pizza!)
Reaper: I'm bringin' the pain, and the pizza, in thirty minutes or it's free!
The video game of Spider-Man 2 uses Peter's pizza-delivery job, as seen in the film, above, as a Timed Mission.
In Simon the Sorcerer 3D, Pizza Lord charge 10,000 coins for their pizzas, unless they take more than 1 minute to arrive. To get your pizza for free, you have to give one of the characters a bottle of booze; the pizza delivery boy has a terrible sense of direction and is forced to ask the character for directions, but if the character is drunk they'll refuse to help and slow the delivery down.
In Absurd Notions, the characters call out for pizza when there's 5 feet of snow on the ground. The result:
Warren: But you do have some kind of delivery guarantee, don't you? Pythagoras' Pizza Palace: Of course. If it's not there within two hours, the pizza is free. Warren: So, what does that mean in this context? Pythagoras: We have your free pizza waiting for you here. Come get it whenever you like.
And to beat the company time trial Altair the pizza delivery guy/arms dealer has an armored pickup and has Hunter ride shotgun, literally.
Referenced here in Kevin & Kell. Kell reminds Kevin (who ordered grass sod, being a rabbit) to tip the driver either way.
In InSONICnia, the HyperMetalTriad egged Sonic's house, so Sonic gets revenge by ordering 1000 pizzas under their name and address.
Charmy: Mach Pizza; I've got those 1000 pizzas here, just like you ordered! That comes to $600,000.00 Muckles: Your guarantee states that you will deliver in thirty minutes. You have exceeded your time limitations by approximately 7.2 minutes. The cost of those is nullified.
An episode has Garfield at war with a pizza delivery service which kept almost arriving on time, but each delivery-person fell prey to elaborate traps Garfield had set to weasel his way out of paying.
Garfield: Thirty-one minutes. Sorry.
Taken Up to Eleven when the pizza parlor's owner attempted to make the delivery himself (using a helicopter to get to his destination faster); Garfield pulled out all the stops to make his delivery late. Eventually, Garfield and the owner signed a peace treaty.
Garfield did mention there should be a way to get free pizzas without them coming cold. In the end, Garfield wondered if there was some Chinese place that also promised to deliver in thirty minutes.
In an episode of Robot Chicken, astronauts on the Space Station called pizza deliveries with this policy in order to get unlimited free pizza for the guys at NASA.
A Cartoon Network short titled Pizza Boy in: No Tip! revolved around a delivery boy trying to deliver to the Arctic Circle within five minutes. He somehow managed it, but the Eskimos refused to give him a tip because it had anchovies on it and no whale (surprisingly, no one mentioned the pizza's damaged state), which causes him to go berserk.
In an episode of Pucca, the Go-Rong restaurant has a "thirty minutes or it's free" policy, so the Vagabond Ninjas plan to get free Ja-Jang Noodles by making delivery girl Pucca late. One of the attempts were to disguise themselves as a dragon. They eventually succeed, but get arrested for impersonating a dragon, and the police officer gets their noodles.
On Chowder, Chowder and Schnitzel had to deliver an order before sundown or else it was free. The customer lived on top of a giant. They finally make it just before sunset, but the customer delays them until the time is up. Then the giant helps them out by walking west until the sun was up again.
When Warner Bros.. had original Looney Tunes shorts online, one cartoon involved Daffy Duck ordering from Porky Pig what amounted to a plain cheese pizza, and then trying to delay the delivery in hope of getting the pizza free.
The "138th Episode Spectacular" contains an outtake from the "Devil and Homer Simpson" segment of "Treehouse of Horror IV", in which Marge hires lawyer Lionel Hutz to represent Homer after seeing a Yellow Pages ad in which Hutz promises "Your case won in thirty minutes or your pizza's free". At the end of the clip, Hutz gives Marge a pizza box; when she points out that they actually did win the case, he tells her the box is empty anyway.
There's also the time Homer ran a break-up service: "We're there in thirty minutes, or your next break-up is free!"
An episode of The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat has Felix charged with delivering a meatball in five minutes or it was free, complete with a continually running timer in the corner of the screen. When he just barely makes it in time, the customer's wife expresses her desire for a meatball of her own, and the countdown clock gives a nasty chuckle as it starts without even letting Felix get back to retrieve the meatball.
Futurama pizzas use this system, but the man on the box will angrily tell you how long it's been if you try to con the delivery person.
Cartoon Network's League of Super Evil (read the acronym) executing an "evil plot" to cause the pizza delivery boy to be late and get free pizza, complete with death traps on their walkway. They've apparently pulled this so many times that the manager of the pizza place has a war room for the purpose of thwarting their plots against the delivery boys. Everyone's gotta start somewhere...
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: When Frankie discovers the pizza they ordered for the house is over the budget they have, Bloo runs out and tackles the delivery guy and sits on his head until the thirty minute marker has past.
An episode of King of the Hill has Peggy and Luanne rushing to the pizza store to pick up their order before it gets cold. Luanne sagely reminds Peggy that if they're not there in thirty minutes the pizza is free.
In a Histeria! sketch about Rene Descartes, Toast delivers him a pizza that was actually meant for Galileo, the reason being that Toast can't get to Italy within a half-hour.
In an episode, Little Beeper is the pizza delivery boy. Only because Little Beeper has effectively Super Speed, the time is measured in mere seconds.
In another episode, Buster Bunny is a knight for hire and is hired to rescue Babs from a dragon. Hamton reminds Buster that, if he doesn't save her in thirty minutes, the next rescue is free.
In The Batman, Joker once ambushed someone by waiting outside their door dressed like a pizza boy. When the victim phoned for pizza, his reply was that it would be there in thirty seconds or it was free before immediately knocking on the door.
Kick Buttowski: A ridiculously intricate version was done in "Stand and Delivery" where a mysterious customer keeps ordering food from Battle Snax and delaying the order so he'll get it for free, almost running the Magnusson family out of business.
Phineas and Ferb, "The Lake Nose Monster": Doofenshmirtz mentions this trope when explaining to Perry the Platypus that he's waiting for his hot wings to be delivered. To the bottom of the lake.
Doofenshmirtz also tried to exploit this in "The Sci-Fi Pie Fly", but the pizza shop owner sees through his attempts to slow him down and makes Doofenshmirtz pay for the pizza anyway.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): One episode featured villains breaking in the mansion of a pizza chain's tycoon. Raphael describes the motto as being that, if the pizza doesn't come on time, it comes cold.
The New Woody Woodpecker Show has an episode where Woody tried to delay Dooley so his pizza would be free. His efforts not only failed, but also ruined the pizza. When Woody tried to protest, Dooley said he guaranteed delivery, not satisfaction. Because Woody didn't have the money to pay for the pizza, Dooley had him work off the debt as a delivery boy.
One episode of T.U.F.F. Puppy has Olly answering DOOM's phone with the words "Diabolical Order Of Mayhem. We deliver evil in thirty minutes, or it's free."
In the opening scene of the Rocket Power TV movie "Race Across New Zealand," the Rocket crew are working as Shore Shack delivery boys for tips, with a strict "22 minutes or it's free" policy instigated by Tito.
Lola And Virginia: Lola held this policy during her brief career as a sushi delivery girl. Virginia once tried to stop Lola from making a delivery to her (Virginia's) Dad out of fear he'd compel her to get a part time job.
Teen Titans Go!, "Hey, Pizza": Beast Boy and Cyborg lay all sorts of traps for the pizza delivery guy in order to get a free pizza, but with each attempt he always ends up at the tower in under a minute.
The Trope Namer is a Domino's Pizza ad campaign wherein if customers didn't get their pizza at their door in thirty minutes, the pizza was free. Unfortunately, it went horribly wrong, with Domino's drivers running red lights, exceeding speed limits, extremely reckless driving, and causing car accidents while attempting to beat the thirty minute time limit. Domino's was eventually sued and forced to stop using the promotion.
Domino's brought it back in the late-00's with an ad campaign stressing realistic and silly things one can do in the thirty minutes while waiting for pizza. Of course, the small print indicates that the thirty minutes is not a guarantee due to the inherent danger.
Domino's most recent overall campaign Oh Yes, We Did! stresses a complete revamp of the way they do business and make the pizza better. In at least one commercial the old 30 minute promotion is referred to, saying "...we've discovered you need to take a little longer to make a good pizza".
Places that still do have the "thirty minutes" deal nowadays mean "thirty minutes from when it leaves the parlor", not "thirty minutes from when you place the order" giving drivers more leeway (and ensuring their safety) while still technically keeping their word.
In Brazil, (or at least in Rio de Janeiro), Domino's "thirty minutes" deal came with a disclaimer: it was not valid if the order was for more than five pizzas and/or the destination was out of their delivery area.
At least into 2013, this guarantee still applied in Mexico...for competitor Pizza Hut.
The Canadian pizza chain "Pizza Pizza" (not to be confused with Little Caesar's, whose slogan was "Pizza pizza"), has a 40 minutes-or-it's-free guarantee. Pizzas always seem to come at 39 minutes. The amount of time changes depending on the size of the order and the weather conditions. Large orders can take up to an hour (but are still free afterwards).
Read any message board where delivery drivers post. People still appeal to this policy to try to get free food, even if it's not pizza.
Some McDonald's restaurants once had a guarantee on how long it would take from ordering to receiving your food at the drive-thru, complete with a clock installed at the drive-thru window that counted how long it's been. That didn't last very long. Among other problems, service for customers inside the restaurant suffered badly.
They also had a promotion with a timer on the inside-restaurant counters where you got a free drink if the order took over a given time to be filled. Since this was in Sweden, it was generally ignored by both workers and customers until they stopped the promotion again.
There is still a clock inside and the drive-thru have a time that the managers want to keep them under, regardless of the actual orders. When large orders come through, support for the inside customers can still drop to one frantic employee.
A variation of this promotion is still given to drive-thru customers by some of them during the weekday lunch rush. If your food isn't ready within a certain amount of time of your car reaching the pick-up window, you get a coupon for something.
Seafirst Bank used to have a "You get served in five minutes or you get $5" policy at its teller windows. They eventually gave it up for obvious reasons. Then they got bought by Bank of America.
Dunkin' Donuts starts a timer whenever a new person reaches the speaker. If it hits 150 seconds, a loud buzzer sounds every fifteen seconds until the customer drives off. A running tally, visible to the indoor customers, is kept of how many customers were served under the cut; if it drops under 80%, it starts to glow bright red.
Habib's, a Brazilian chain of Arab food is known for the low prices and also for the "If it's not at your door in 28 minutes, it's free".
Sears has an in-store ready for pickup service after you ordered online. If the associate doesn't deliver your merchandise within 5 minutes after you input your order information, you receive a coupon good for the next in-store purchase.