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99 Cent Pizza
Why NYC's worst pizza is disappearing
Everywhere you turn these days, you hear people talking about inflation. Inflation is a fancy term which means a given quantity of money today is worth less than it was worth in the past, so prices for a given thing now must be higher than they used to be. For example, an apartment in New York City in the 1920's cost about $60 per month. It's a good thing nobody built an apartment complex named "60 Dollar Apartments" because they would be in hot water today!
Surely a company wouldn't include its product's price in the very name of the business, as this would result in a branding nightmare should prices ever have to change, right? Unfortunately, a New York City staple didn't get the memo, and now an identity crisis looms for countless New York businesses.
I'm talking, of course, about 99 Cent Pizza. 99 Cent Pizza is a cardboard-like substance you eat when you're fucked up in order to soak up alcohol and stave off a hangover. 99 Cent Pizza (also known as "dollar slice") storefronts dot the map in NYC and you can find one on almost every block. They all have similar names and nearly identical signage and branding, creating the illusion that they are all the same company, when in reality they are several disparate chains and individual establishments who all just call themselves some variation of "99 Cent Pizza."
There are different tiers of New York-style pizza. There are a few excellent pizza places, like Prince Street Pizza. There are many decent pizza places, like Joe's, which costs a couple dollars per slice. And finally, there are countless shitty pizza places. Anything that calls itself 99 Cent Pizza, in my opinion, is the bottom rung of the ladder. If Prince Street Pizza is the "Cadillac" of NYC pizza, then 99 Cent Pizza is the "Subway car with a live crackhead inside" of NYC pizza.
I'm not saying 99 Cent Pizza is inedible. I'm just saying don't eat it if you're sober or if you have more than a dollar to your name.
It's worth noting that different people have different opinions. For example, I have a friend who loves 99 Cent Pizza. When he was new to the city he walked into a 99 Cent Pizza joint, bought a slice, then walked out to the sidewalk and took his first bite. "This is the greatest pizza in the world!" he exclaimed into the night. "No it isn't!" replied a homeless man sitting nearby.
And so what if a scraggly homeless guy has a more refined palate than my friend? The real issue is that these sad pizzerias are all being forced to make some drastic changes in the face of rising inflation. For the establishments who made the baffling decision to simply call themselves "99 Cent Pizza," their day of reconning has arrived. With the rising cost of ingredients and rent, it is no longer feasible to continue selling their wretched pizza for the standard 99 cents per slice. As a result, they must do one of two things to remain in business.
The first camp decided to make their pizza even worse. I didn't think it was possible, seeing as a slice of 99 Cent Pizza already tasted like the paper plate upon which it is traditionally served, but some have managed to find lower quality ingredients or serve smaller portions.
The second camp raised their prices to $1.50. This is a terrible option because "Dollar Fifty Pizza" doesn't have the same ring to it. And who walks around with fifty cents?
If you look closely, you can see that they announced the new price via printer paper haphazardly cut out and pasted over the original price. It looks more like a low effort Halloween costume for their menu than a real price increase.
This pizza place employed the "oops, I broke a hole in the drywall and need to cover it with a poster before my parents get home" approach. By sticking a pizza decal over the 99 cents part, they changed the establishment’s name to just "PIZZA." Here's a zoomed out picture, with the new price, of course.
But these are just band-aid solutions, and soon 99 Cent Pizza joints will be all but extinct. And while I haven't shed any tears for them yet, I'll surely feel their absence if ever I'm stumbling home from the bar with only a dollar in my pocket, which has never happened but could someday. And like a wise economist has probably once said, "there's no such thing as a free lunch, and there's no such thing as good pizza for 99 cents (or $1.50)."
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