In May 2014, a thread in the popular AskReddit subreddit sought feedback from 911 dispatchers on the “one call they could never forget,” with one participant contributing the following:
I’m seeing an article showing up all over about a woman who, while in the middle of a domestic abuse situation, calls 911 and pretends to order pizza. The operator figures out what is going on and has officers dispatched to her location. Can’t find out if it’s true or not. Help?
While 911 operators often have experience ranging from funny to harrowing, one comment in the thread stood out against more than about 5,000 others. In October 2014, that one comment crossed over and began appearing on high-profile blogs, prompting interest in its veracity.
The original story was indeed compelling. The 911 dispatcher who posted it (Reddit user Crux1836) related a tale of a domestic violence victim’s subverting her attacker by pretending to order a pizza after calling emergency services:
I had a call that started out pretty dumb, but was actually pretty serious:
“911, where is you emergency?”
“123 Main St.”
“Ok, what’s going on there?”
“I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.” (oh great, another prank call).
“Ma’am, you’ve reached 911”
“Yeah, I know. Can I have a large with half pepperoni, half mushroom and peppers?”
“Ummm… I’m sorry, you know you’ve called 911 right?”
“Yeah, do you know how long it will be?”
“Ok, Ma’am, is everything ok over there? do you have an emergency?”
“Yes, I do.”
“… And you can’t talk about it because there’s someone in the room with you?” (moment of realization)
“Yes, that’s correct. Do you know how long it will be?”
“I have an officer about a mile from your location. Are there any weapons in your house?”
“Can you stay on the phone with me?”
“Nope. See you soon, thanks”
As we dispatch the call, I check the history at the address, and see there are multiple previous domestic violence calls. The officer arrives and finds a couple, female was kind of banged up, and boyfriend was drunk. Officer arrests him after she explains that the boyfriend had been beating her for a while. I thought she was pretty clever to use that trick. Definitely one of the most memorable calls.
It’s not precisely clear why or how that user’s story crossed into news reports five months after it was posted. In the same discussion thread, the man who posted it came back to acknowledge he’d seen his comment published on news sites but didn’t know why it was picked up as new.
BuzzFeed profiled the story in a 29 October 2014 article and interviewed an individual claiming to be the original poster. The man, Keith Weisinger, provided additional details about the 911 pizza call and said he had no information about the woman’s fate following the incident:
“This call occurred almost 10 years ago,” he said. “I worked the graveyard shift, 6pm-6am, and I remember this call being pretty late — close to midnight.”
Weisinger said the woman — who he believed was in her 30s — was calm at first, but gave short, hurried responses. “I remember feeling relieved we had an officer close by who could respond quickly,” he added.
Weisinger said he never found out what happened to the woman after she called:
“This is a part of the job most 911 dispatchers find frustrating. Beyond the immediate resolution — arrest, hospitalisation, etc. — we rarely hear what happens to the people who call.”
While Weisinger hasn’t been widely acknowledged in circulated accounts of the 911 pizza call, he was awarded “Reddit gold” by fellow site users for his contribution to the thread. It’s very likely Weisinger is the individual responsible for sharing the tale on Reddit, but it’s difficult to verify whether or not the incident in question occurred as relayed by him without additional detail.
Others have expressed skepticism about the veracity of his story, however, noting that the very same scenario was used in a public service announcement for the Norwegian Women’s Shelter Association back in 2010:
Police emergency call line: Hallo
Woman: Yes, hi. This is Monica Andresen. I would like to order a pizza for 74 Church Street.
Police: (interrupts) This is the police emergency line.
Woman mumbles in the background.
Police: This is the emergency line for the pol …
Woman: Yes, that’s right. The address is 74 Church Street. We would like to order a large pizza no. 11, with ham and mushrooms.
Police: (confused) Ehhhhh … yes
Woman: Yeah. And it would be really great if could get here as quickly as possible.
Police: Yeah. Yes, I understand. We’ll be right there.
Voice-over: More than a quarter of Norwegian women are exposed to violence from their partners. Get help before it’s too late. Read more at WomenShelter.no.
On 26 January 2015, another public service announcement inspired by the story was published to YouTube with the following description:
Watch the official Super Bowl NO MORE ad (the first-ever Super Bowl commercial addressing domestic violence and sexual assault) and pledge to say NO MORE at http://nomore.org. The 30 second version of NO MORE’s Super Bowl ad will air live during the first quarter of NFL Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015.
In December 2017, we came across a new version of the pizza/911 story:
IF YOU NEED TO CALL 999 BUT ARE SCARED TO BECAUSE OF SOMEONE IN THE ROOM, dial and ask for a pepperoni pizza. They will ask if you know you’re calling 999. Say yes, and continue pretending you’re making an order. They’ll ask if there’s someone in the room. You can ask how long it will take for the pizza to get to you, and they will tell you how far away a patrol unit is. Share this to save a life!!! Dispatchers are trained to ask specific yes or no questions..dont hang up!
The source of this message was unclear, but its use of “999” instead of “911” suggested that the forward originated outside the United States. What began as a story of ingenuity in the face of danger evolved into a purported code by which anyone caught in a dangerous situation was able to summon help safely, and the “share to save a life” suggestion incited users to spread the dubious directive on social media.
Like other bits of lore promising a clever way out of an otherwise potentially hopeless situation, the “pepperoni pizza” advice is problematic. It makes a sweeping claim that “dispatchers are trained” to understand the purported code in the message, an assertion quite likely based solely on inferences drawn from the original story.
We have not been able to determine whether dispatchers are aware of the original legend or trained to recognize cloaked pleas as something other than a prank call, so we cannot at this time endorse it as a course of action if any other options for calling for help are available to you. However, we hesitate to endorse doing nothing if you are in immediate danger.
Warren, Rosalyn. “A Woman Called 911 and Pretended to Order a Pizza to Alert Them of Domestic Abuse.”
BuzzFeed. 29 October 2014.