The flier in the mail came from Amazon: $10 off a restaurant meal, delivered right to our house! I’ve never had anything delivered that wasn’t circular and cut into triangles, because I suspected that it would arrive lukewarm. You wouldn’t go a restaurant where the waiter said, “Your food’s out, but I’m going to drive it around for 20 minutes, OK?”
But Amazon getting into the game — that’s different, somehow. Because we had a few people over and the clock had struck the Hunger Hour, I ordered some food from one of those Malaysian-Canadian Fusion joints, because sometimes you just want Malaysian-Canadian and nothing else will do.
Half an hour later, the phone buzzed like a bee that got stung by another bee: The driver was on his way. He was a blue dot, moving from Lake Street to our house. Godspeed, valiant provisioner!
When he was about 10 blocks away, I got out some plates and napkins and cutlery, wondering if he would just leave it on the stoop like other Amazon deliveries, and I could open the door and clap my hands in wonder because the Curry Fairies had favored us tonight.
Then the blue dot on the map on my phone vanished. Huh. Had he arrived? I stood outside, looking for a car driving slowly up and down the street, bearing cubes of lamb. After a few minutes I called the restaurant.
“That order was canceled,” said the harried restaurant phone-answering person. (They’re always harried. People answering the phones in an emergency room during a plague outbreak sound less stressed than restaurant people answering the phone.)
“But I didn’t cancel it,” I said.
The phone-answering person wasn’t impressed: “It says it was canceled.”
“Oh, well, if IT says that, I must be wrong. Can I speak to IT? No? Well, let’s reconstruct the situation. You made the food, gave it to a driver. ... ”
He cut me off. “We don’t make the order until the driver shows up,” he explained.
“So all that stuff about a blue dot moving my way? The words that said the driver had picked up the order? Was it just a cruel fabrication designed to stimulate my salivary glands to prove some Pavlovian hypothesis?”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” he confessed.
Because we had hungry people in the house who still thought food was on the way, I asked a wild, crazy, hypothetical question: If I placed the order again, would the food actually, you know, show up?
“I can’t guarantee that.”
Well, it wasn’t his fault. It turns out that the driver had canceled the order. I went straight to Twitter and yelled at Amazon, and within minutes Amazon responded with a link to a page that, I was sure, had the phone number that makes Indian food appear on the table in 45 seconds. Instead, the link went to a page with zero (0) phone numbers, and subsequent tweets to the Amazon account had the same effect as shouting at Mount Rushmore.
Eventually I found a feedback page. A box popped up: Enter my phone number, it said, and Amazon would call me.
Amazon would call? This is like getting a text from the Wizard of Oz — a remote and all-powerful figure whose personal contact with mere mortals is the stuff of rumors and miracles. I entered my number, hit send and my phone buzzed a second later.
“Hi, this is Gabby,” the caller announced.
“Hi, this is me. I assume you’re looking at my file, which has everything I’ve ever bought from Amazon. Just so you know, the women’s clothes were for my wife.”
Gabby could do nothing to help, of course. It’s not like she could rewind time and put hot Indian food on the table. Amazon isn’t rolling out PrimeThen until 2020. All she could do was assure me that this was not acceptable, and they would be reviewing the matter.
Wonder how that went. I had an image of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, striding into a boardroom and slamming down a folder: “I just heard about this. Tell me the driver has been sent to work in our salt mines in the Urals.”
“Yes, boss — it’s been dealt with. And the customer has had his coupon code reactivated, so it can be used again.”
A sudden chill sweeps through the room, as Bezos fixes the underling with a terrifying stare. “Boss? What? We gave him a $10 credit, as well.”
“Can the coupon code and the credit be applied to the same order?” Bezos asks with unnatural calm, stroking his cat.
“I don’t know, boss, I’ll have to AAHHHHHHHH!” The underling falls through a hole in the floor and is eaten by piranhas.
Sure, I’ll try the service again — and hope it fails. Every time dinner doesn’t show up, it’s another 10 bucks. I get enough Amazon credit, I can buy a cookbook.