31 December, 2006

Too Lazy to Cook

Seriously, this is very boring, but writing it down has saved me from throttling someone.

It's a simple thing: you phone them up, tell them what you want and they bring you food. It can't be that difficult or else it wouldn't be the primary source of income for a great number of people for whom English is not a primary (or even secondary language).

I hesitated there before carrying on because any comment on immigration or even strong accents is knee-jerkingly interpreted as racism nowadays. I think it's a fair point that if you're working in a job that requires basic communication skills, one essential part of that is to be able to speak clearly and the other is to be able to listen to what's being said. It puzzles me that companies will employ people who will cost them money by getting orders wrong. I don't think we need return to the days when people felt the need to speak in 'Alexandra Palace' English and say things like 'I'm just connecting you, caller...' but when you can't understand what someone is saying because they're bored, underpaid, racing through the standard script and not making any effort to connect with the person on the other line, mistakes will happen.

Two weeks ago, my flatmate called our local Chinese for a delivery. Their food is very good and the fact that it sometimes takes up to an hour to get to us is just testament to how popular they are. However, after an hour and a half, we had to call them back to ask where the food was. 'He's on his way', the nice lady said.

20 minutes later, my phone rang and this voice mumbles: 'I'm at school. Where you?' No 'Hello, this is the man from the Chinese' or anything. I get a lot of wrong numbers because my number's similar to one for the local hospital, but that's a whole other thing. I eventually work out that he's the delivery man and I ask him where he is. 'I just said,' he shouts 'and I can't get in the school!' His accent's not Chinese, it sounds more like Portugese. By the time I work out that he's in the wrong road and trying to gain entry to an empty girls' school, he's jabbering away and shouting at me because I have the cheek to live at a different address to the one he's gone to. I try to explain where I am, or work out where he is but he just won't shut up. He's getting me angry and frustrated because, after all, we ordered the food two hours ago and if he's wasting time arguing about whether or not I live at the address he's gone to the food's going to get even colder by the time he accepts that I know where I live and heads over this way.

After I've made repeated attempts to get him to listen to my address properly, he just puts the phone down on me. I called the shop, explained the situation and told the nice lady that, much as we love their food - best in the area - waiting two hours for a cold meal and putting up with a nutter delivery man isn't worth the stress. Five minutes later, the man finally arrives, gives me a bag of cooling Chinese food, takes the money and leaves without a word of apology.

One of the reasons this place is so popular is that there are other Chinese take-aways, but few of them do delivery. This place seems to work their way through a lot of drivers and so it came as no surprise this week to see a new driver working there. The new guy is very polite and speaks very good English. He won't last. Why would he? If he has good enough English skills and owns a car, he's not going to want to be delivering food to ungrateful fatties like us for much longer.

Last night, we ordered pizza. The place we ordered from has a computerised ordering system. We know this because sometimes the person on the phone tries to tell us what our order is before we tell them - and sometimes we go along with that as it makes things easier and we know what we'll be getting. Last night however, the man on the phone simply wasn't listening. I worry about being patronising, but sometimes they push me to it. 'We'd also like an extra bottle of diet coke, please.'
'You want one bottle of diet coke... and another bottle of diet coke.'
'Yes, that's right.'
'So that's .... two bottles of diet coke.' 'Yes.'
'And a large pizza, on one side there is Hawaiian. On the other side there is Texas Barbecue. Plus garlic bread and chicken nuggets.'
'That's right.

Well, he got most of it to us okay, but we noticed that our starter of breaded reformed chicken pieces had somehow transformed into a box of potato wedges. I phoned up to complain and the man assured me that, despite being very busy, he'd get the replacement starter to us, and by the way, was it potato wedges that we wanted. No, I said, we've got potato wedges, we wanted chicken. Twenty minutes later, the delivery man comes by and hands me a box and refuses to accept the potato wedges. 'No, you keep 'em,' he says. When I got back up to our flat, I discovered that we now had two boxes of potato wedges. The man on the phone explained that they'd thought we had chicken bits and had wanted potato wedges, which made me a bit cross as I made him check the original order and it had said chicken on there. So, with apologies and a promise of a free medium pizza next time, he despatched another delivery man...

'Hello, you got my order wrong again. We wanted the chicken nuggets. We've had two boxes of potato wedges already and now we have a box of onion rings. Seriously, are you doing this to upset me?'

By the time the chicken things turned up, we'd finished our pizzas and lost our appetites. We also had three boxes of tepid food that we didn't want.

Still, we got to keep all the dips and we had a promise of a free large pizza next time.

Next time? Pah - they know we're weak.

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