Let me set the scene for you. It’s summer 2001. I’ve just moved to Vancouver in (what turns out to be a failed) attempt to do some higher education stuff. After rent and damage deposits and tuition and bus passes I’m totally broke. Like I can’t buy groceries kind of broke.
But there’s hope for me, as I do have a job! In the box office of the Vancouver Film Festival. So all I have to do is survive on the care package my mom gave me (canned soup and dry noodles, oh boy!) until my first pay day. No problem.
I’m sitting at my little desk, waiting for the phone to ring so I can start taking ticket orders, when one of the higher powers walks in. Psst, guys, she whispers to the four of us crammed into the closet being used as the box office headquarters, take one of these but don’t tell anyone!
She’s handing out shiny bits of paper. Coupons. For free pizza! McCain was a sponsor of the festival that year, and they were pushing their new International Thin Crust line. They gave the festival coupons to give out with every ticket order. Not for staff! Never, ever for staff!
At the time this felt like the god of thunder, Zeus himself, had leaned over from his cloudy bed, spotted poor, hungry me, and sent a lightning bolt flashing through the air to land in a pizza-y heap at my feet. Thanks, Zeus! That thin crust pizza lasted me a good three meals.
Those magic coupons were being handed out on the sly, like shady drug deals in dark, smelly alleys. At the beginning of the festival, anyway. The higher powers were afraid we’d run out, and every customer had to get one!
Well, every customer did, and there were still tons left over. On my last day of work the PR lady was complaining that she didn’t know what to do with all those damn coupons! They were being thrown around with reckless abandon. I must have scored at least one hundred. One hundred free pizzas! Me and my roommate ate like queens that fall.
The best part was, these little pieces of papery joy had no maximum amount per customer, and no expiry date. You just know someone at McCains HQ was fired over that one. Vancouver was suddenly flooded with demands for these pizzas, and the factories making them could barely keep up. Suddenly grocery stores had big empty shelves in their frozen food sections. And if you were lucky enough to find a pizza on that shelf, the toppings were all askew. All the cheese would be on one side, the meat on the other. Only half the crust was properly sauced. They were just slamming these bad boys together and chucking them in the truck, to be delivered to hungry movie lovers.
I’d walk up to the cash register with 20 pizzas and 20 coupons and the cashier’s jaw would drop. Normally a supervisor had to be called to confirm that the coupon was legit, and then enter some special code to allow the transaction to continue. I’d hand out these coupons to friends and coworkers, instantly popular and adored by all.
Over the years, these coupons kept popping up. Just when I’d think they were all gone, another few coupons would appear. In my sock drawer. In the envelope with my tax receipts. Behind the gin bottle. Stuffed in a recipe book. Off to the grocery store I’d scamper, waving my coupon like I won the golden ticket into Willy Wonka’s factory.
I hadn’t seen one of them for years. I’d nie forgotten all about them. Then, a few days ago I was going through some old papers and one fluttered to the floor. A final treat, hiding in my old phone bills. I’m certain this is the last one. It has to be. So I headed to the store one last time, selected my very “favoritest” of all the flavours (Texas Chicken), opened a bottle of pinot noir, and ate the last remnant of a wonderful era in my life. The Free Pizza Age (2001-2010). It was a prosperous time in the land of Sarah, and it did me well. I will remember TFPA fondly. RIP, old ally.
Texas Chicken Pizza © McCain
Did you enjoy this article?
Please let the author know by leaving them a comment below!
And, subscribe to our free weekly digest!
Simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you.