Customers Wait Hours For 23-Cent Pizzas

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) -- Maybe Cleveland Cavaliers fans can hope for cheap gas if an oil company insults All-Star LeBron James.

Lines were so long Thursday at some of the 86 Papa John's stores offering a large, one-topping pizza for 23 cents that police stood nearby to make sure people didn't get unruly.

The Louisville, Ky.-based company agreed to the offer after a franchisee in Washington, D.C., made T-shirts calling star LeBron James a "crybaby." The shirts referred to James' complaints about hard fouls during a playoff series victory over Washington. The company also will donate $10,000 to the Cavaliers Youth Fund.

The 23-cent price of a pizza is a homage to James' jersey number.

"It's a recession busting offer, and we certainly hope we have made it up to Cleveland," Tim North, vice president of the company's northeast division, told WEWS-TV.

There were a few headaches, mostly complaints about long waits and line-cutting.

In University Heights, an auxiliary police officer tried to settle a line-cutting complaint without riling either side. In Springfield Township outside Akron, police said their was an argument between two people in line, but no one was hurt and there were no arrests.

Locations were making 300 pizzas an hour to satisfy lines in which customers waited 90 minutes, North said.

Each Papa John's location offering the deal in the Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Youngstown areas was prepared to sell more than 900 pies. Outlets were ordered to close early if, as expected, they ran out of pizzas.

Police said a regional manager for Papa John's asked for officers to help close its Columbus stores, WBNS-TV in Columbus reported.

In Akron, one location gave rain checks good for one week.

"We're certainly a bit surprised about how darn popular this is," North told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

In suburban Cleveland, people stood wrapped in blankets outside a store in Westlake and the line was two blocks long in University Heights.

"I did it for the principle of it. The principle of it is he's not a crybaby and Papa John's should not have gotten into it," Jennie Moore, 54, of University Heights, said as she waited for a pepperoni pizza.

Randall Hunter, 50, from Cleveland Heights, spent most of his four-hour split between bus driving shifts waiting for his pepperoni pizza. He defended James and what he said were flagrant fouls he received in the Washington series.

"You hit him in the face, you undercut him where he could really have an injury," Hunter said. "He could be out the rest of the season."

In Westlake, the line at one store snaked through the parking lot to the edge of the mini-mall and across a lawn along Detroit Road.

Patrick Mone, dressed in a blue Lebron James "Witness" T-shirt, was willing to wait as long as necessary for the bargain.

"It's worth it," he said. "All the money is going to charity, and obviously, it's bringing new business to Papa John's. Even though there is a line, I think it's pretty cool ... 23 cents, you can't beat it."

As he neared the store, Mone was amazed by the crowd.

"As I got closer, I was like, 'Oh, boy. This is going to be nuts.'"

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