On April 13, 2009, a video emerged on YouTube showing a Domino’s Pizza employee – Michael Setzer – tampering with a customer’s food orders. Doing the filming was Kristy Hammonds, who was on the same shift as Setzer when the incident occurred. In the video, Setzer is shown stuffing cheese up his nose before placing it on some garlic bread, intentionally sneezing on other food items, and even wiping his backside with a sponge before using it to wash dishes. In the background, Hammonds is heard laughing and narrating; “in about five minutes, they’ll be sent out to delivery, where somebody will be eating these, yes, eating them.
By 9:30pm the following evening, the video had attracted nearly one million views. References to the video were also showing up in Google search results for Domino’s. The incident was also receiving increasing news coverage, both locally and nationally. Making matters worse, the media released details of Hammonds’ criminal record, indicating that she was a registered sex offender. At first Domino’s senior management decided to do nothing, assuming that the hype would die down and the situation would get better by itself. But the issue was far from fading away, so Domino’s felt it was necessary to act.
First, they had the video removed from YouTube, but numerous other cites had already downloaded it, making distribution of the video impossible to control. Next the two employees were immediately fired and charged with contaminating food distributed to the public. Finally, on the advice of the local health department, the franchise owner discarded all open containers of food and sanitised the entire branch. Despite these efforts, the issue was still not going away. It was becoming increasingly clear that Domino’s needed to respond publically – but how? To whom? And when?