A Veneziana Conundrum

Last week, my companion and I found ourselves in the Islington area of London, and in possession of a voucher for Pizza Express. We had received the voucher by email, and had printed it out, as per the instructions. We were amused to note that in the “small print” it stated that photocopies of the voucher were not accepted. You could print out as many as you wanted, but not photocopy them.

This is amusing in itself, but provided extra amusement for us, as it reminded me of a curious incident from my time working for a publisher in Birmingham. I was in charge of a website that published technical articles, and was tasked with commissioning various experts to write for us. The website was well regarded and was doing well. One writer had done a nice article for us, and we were in the process of commissioning another from them when negotiations stumbled unexpectedly. In the tetchy aftermath, they commented that we published too many articles by writers with Indian names. We said that we would not stop commissioning articles from highly qualified and competent technical writers with Indian names, and left it at that. Fine, we thought. Weird, and annoying that we had already spent some time on the article, but, there you go. Then they emailed the editor to request that the article they had submitted, by email attachment, be sent back to them. I’ll say that again: they had sent us the article as an email attachment, and now, because we weren’t going to use it, they wanted us to email it back to them. Our amusement at this request, which we were happy to oblige, was muted only by the knowledge that we had already published a technical article by this person.

So, back in Islington, flushed with amusement at the follies of others, we ordered our meal, being careful to inform the waiter, as directed in the instructions, that we were in possession of, and fully intended to use, the voucher.

I ordered a Nicoise Salad, and my companion opted for a Veneziana Pizza. The voucher entitled us to buy one main meal and get (the cheaper) one free. So.

As followers of Richard Herring’s Pepysian weblog will know, Pizza Express has for some time offered a “discretionary” 25p to the Venice in Peril fund, with every Veneziana Pizza purchaseda. Whilst I have great respect for the Veneziana Pizza, I have a distinct and mildly irrational antipathy to Venice. I visited Venice once – a day trip from Croatia – and enjoyed a splendid Italian lunch in one of its many piazzas. The waiter attempted to instigate a “Venezian in Peril” fund of his own by adding a zero to the four thousand lira cover charge, effectively hiding about twenty pounds amongst all those circles on the bill, presumably in the believe that two hot, stuffed, pissed English tourists wouldn’t notice. I challenged him on this (using my fluent English) and it was all cleared up, but left a bitter aftertaste. One which I harbour to this day, in fact.

Herring does an amusing job of explaining the ins and outs of the Veneziana Pizza issue in the piece linked to above, but suffice to say that, although the 25p donation is “discretionary” there was no way for Pizza Express to guarantee that, when you order the pizza and pay the bill, whilst they can refund you the 25p, the system won’t donate 25p to Venice anyway.

So here is my conundrum. If you order a Veneziana Pizza, and you get it free on production of a “buy one, get (the cheaper) one free, does Pizza Express donate 25p to the Veneziana Fund?

a As ever, when you look into it, the situation is more complex. According to the Word document linked to from the relevant page on their website, the 25p now goes to the Veneziana Fund, which then donates 50% of its “net receipts” to the Venice in Peril Fund, with the other 50% “being available for grants for the preservation, restoration, repair and maintenance” of various UK things that were around before 1750. According to the figures quoted in the above documents, as of 23 September 2007, the total amount raised was £1,736,842, and as of 14 March 2008, £1,147,669.68 had found its way to the Venice in Peril Fund itself.