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Late-night food delivery mixup

grubjpeg

Last Saturday night I got the call that everyone dreads.

“Is this John?” asked a voice attached to a toll-free number. “Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news…”

Nooooooo!

That Thai food delivery we had been anticipating for the past 30 minutes wasn’t coming. It wasn’t going to come — ever.

The call came at  about 9:30 last Saturday evening, just as we were trying to avoid handfuls of cereal and blocks of cheese because we thought nam sod was just around the corner.

We had ordered through GrubHub, a web-based restaurant pick-up and delivery service (pictured in the screen shot above) that recently rolled into Atlanta. It has a huge presence in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities — and I can see why.

Customers sign in with their accounts, choose take-out or delivery, and then browse all the available menus. Once you choose your restaurant, you click to add items to your basket and then check out with a saved credit card. Delivery fees are stated up front — usually a buck for restaurants that do a lot of it (Chinese, pizza, etc.), to a bit more for smaller operations (sandwich shops, Mediterranean restaurants) that might not deliver otherwise. You can download an app for mobile devices, which makes things easy. Pull up a recent order, modify it and — boom — you’ve got dinner ordered in about eight clicks.

GrubHub had served us well until this evening. They had been unable to reach the restaurant by phone to confirm the order, so they had no recourse but to cancel it.  They credited my card and added a $5 coupon for the hassle.

“It’s no problem,” I lied, feeling peevish and gearing up to rampage through the Frosted Flakes.

But we  decided instead to see what if anything we could scrounge from the fridge. A good number of vegetables, a tub of frozen chicken stock and a can of coconut milk provided the foundation for a right tasty vegetable curry stew. Once we turned off the TV, got off our butts and started cooking, we were happy for the change in plans.

Just as we were sitting down to eat, my phone rang. It was the delivery guy, at the front door. They had the order ready to go.

Sure enough, both the restaurant and GrubHub had tried to call to say they could rush the food, but I was too focused on cooking to pay attention to my phone. So we sent the delivery driver away with the order and ate our curry instead.

I still prefer GrubHub to hunting and pecking through a bunch of different restaurant websites. It was a godsend the night I was caught in gridlock traffic coming back from the office and  could place a quick order that arrived at house 2 minutes after I did.

Zifty seems to feature better restaurants, but the higher delivery fee and concerns about how well the food would travel have kept me from trying it out. GrubHub seems to focus more on the kinds of places that are used to carryout orders.

But I’ll keep all the fixings for a curry on hand just in case.

EMERGENCY CURRY

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 can (14-15 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1 can (14-15 ounces) chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 2 or 3 dried red chilies
  • 4-6 cups cut-up vegetables  (we used eggplant, fingerling potatoes, carrots and lotus root)
  • fish sauce and lime juice to finish

Heat the oil until it shimmers in the bottom of a large, heavy pot. Add the slivered shallot and fry just until golden. Add the curry powder and fry until fragrant (20 seconds). Add the tomato paste and fry until it just starts to brown. Add the stock, canned tomatoes and coconut juice and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and reduce heat to an active simmer. Continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. (We added some pasta, as well, which helped thicken the sauce.)

Finish with lime juice and fish sauce to adjust flavor. (I like to collect unusual condiments, so we also added some Indian kokum, a souring agent made from dried mangosteen skins, as well as a funky fresh Vietnamese soy sauce with a strong fermented flavor. Big ups to both. )


37 comments Add your comment

Reds

April 24th, 2012
8:19 am

Might have to try this sometime. Both the veggie curry and grubhub. I like the concept. You said it’s served you well until now. How long have you been using it?

bongostella

April 24th, 2012
8:34 am

Would you please let us know a couple of good fish sauces to try?
And the name of the funky Vietnamese soy sauce. Also, do you
know any stores around town that carry B&M brown bread in a can?

Thanks, keep up the good work!

jimmy

April 24th, 2012
8:47 am

Very similar to our go-to meal at home, as my wife is a vegetarian. I just add chicken to mine after I portion out hers. I like to add a few cardamom pods.

Kar

April 24th, 2012
9:08 am

I was disappointed. When you said Late-Night, I thought you meant after midnight delivery options besides pizza.

Ganners

April 24th, 2012
9:35 am

Check out Whole Foods or Harry’s Farmer’s Market for the B&M. I have seen it at my Pblix in Marietta on occasion.

I was weeping about WebVan again this weekend….golly, few things are as awesome as a great food delivery service.

John Kessler

April 24th, 2012
9:47 am

Bongostella – The sauce is called Tuong Cu-Da and identified as “natural wholegrain soysauce” on the bottle. It’s cloudy and a bit grainy, and it packs a wallop of umami. I’m crazy about it, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. BuHi Farmers Market. As for fish sauce, I normally use Tiparos — a readily available Thai brand that isn’t anything special, but reliable and not too salty. Forgot to mention that I had a knob of fresh galanga in the fridge, and that added a lot to the curry. As did a fresh salad of onion, mint and arugula we put on top. The seemingly empty pantry wasn’t too shabby.

Kar

April 24th, 2012
9:51 am

Speaking of BuHi Market, I was surprised you didn’t have any pre-mix starter packets on hand John. I’ve been pleased by the rendang packets I’ve picked up from there. One of those, a can (or powder) of coconut milk, you’re halfway there.

nsk

April 24th, 2012
10:13 am

“So we sent the delivery driver away with the order and ate our curry instead.”

You paid for the order and told the delivery man to keep the food? I didn’t ever realize this was an option with unwanted delivery food. Unless he offered the food to a rando on the street who inexplicably agreed to take unsolicited food, I’d imagine the delivery man tossed the order…

Grasshopper

April 24th, 2012
10:20 am

“Sure enough, both the restaurant and GrubHub had tried to call to say they could rush the food, but I was too focused on cooking to pay attention to my phone. So we sent the delivery driver away with the order and ate our curry instead.”

You couldn’t be bothered to answer your phone? So you stiffed the restaurant and the driver when they were trying to rectify the situation? That was kind of tacky John.

Why not pay for the food and eat it later? It keeps well.

John Kessler

April 24th, 2012
10:28 am

NSK – They refunded my card when they cancelled the order. I’m sorry for the restaurant, but they shouldn’t have sent the driver if they were unable to reach me.

PTC DAWG

April 24th, 2012
10:35 am

I disagree about not sending the food if they didn’t reach you. They tried to call you back. I would have paid for the food myself. It will keep as others have said.

Foodgeek

April 24th, 2012
10:51 am

It sounds as if the company was willing to comp the food to make up for their mistake. I probably would have accepted it, tipped the driver and put the food in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner, knowing that otherwise they would throw it out.

No big moral issue either way, though. I worked at a chain, fast-casual restaurant back when Take-out Taxi was around, and back when the “Curbside To-Go” concept was just starting and I can verify that both of these ideas lead to enormous amounts of food being wasted due to mix-ups like this, prank calls, calls to the wrong location and other various SNAFUs. One order being thrown away in this instance is just a tiny drop in a very large bucket.

Edward

April 24th, 2012
11:41 am

Because you were too self-absorbed to answer your phone, the restaurant got stiffed for the food. What a selfish bunch of pricks. I’ve lost any respect for you.

Edward

April 24th, 2012
11:42 am

Hopefully, that restaurant blocks any future orders for you, I know I would.

1164mgc

April 24th, 2012
12:02 pm

I agree with what John did. As he said, they should not have sent the driver if they couldn’t get in touch with him. How do they know that he didn’t just take the family out to eat after the order was cancelled? Plus the fact that the company couldn’t get in touch with the restaurant to confirm the order in the first place. If John had accepted and paid for the food, then it’d have sent a message to the restaurant that their behavior was not only tolerable, but accepted and expected.

CocoaChai

April 24th, 2012
12:30 pm

Sounds like an annoying night for you. :( At least it sounds like your curry turned out tasty. There is never a bad time for curry.

On another note, I also had trouble with online delivery companies. But I’ve been using Eat24.com for a few months now and they are great. I had a similar problem the other day. I ordered from a restaurant that only opened in a half an hour. They called me back within minutes to save me from 2 hours waiting for my food.

Baltisraul

April 24th, 2012
12:52 pm

Edward ……you are out of touch with the real world. Nobody answers their phone anymore. The only thing that needs to be blocked are your posts, for ignorance and being self-absorbed yourself. What a Maroon!

Edward

April 24th, 2012
1:22 pm

And so the continuation of the decent of American social discourse into the sewers of selfishness and disregard for anyone but themselves. Sadly, Baltisraul, you are correct in regards to the “real world” in that the real world is increasingly selfish and self-absorbed with no regard for anyone else. Me Me Me!

Grasshopper

April 24th, 2012
1:32 pm

If no one answers their phone anymore, then the restaurant is even less at fault for following through with the delivery and attempting to satisfy a customer.

John Kessler

April 24th, 2012
1:50 pm

I wonder if GrubHub delivers chill pills? :)

Kar

April 24th, 2012
2:14 pm

I doubt GrubHub delivers under bridges.

grover

April 24th, 2012
2:47 pm

John, John….you should have paid for the food. You didn’t “have” to, of course, (since you didn’t answer the phone), but it’s just the *right thing to do*. Just like we ex-servers don’t “have” to tip better than most customers, we do to show appreciation for the industry. You, who make your living with restaurants, would have shown good will as well. You know that driver had to eat his own gas expenses, and the restaurant itself was doing its best to go the extra step to keep a customer happy. I’m disappointed in you.

John Kessler

April 24th, 2012
3:16 pm

Gotta disagree, Grover. While I was busy trying to scrounge dinner at 10 p.m., GrubHub sent an email with this message:
“If you would still like the food from them they have made it and are willing to rush it to you. If you want to leave this order cancelled feel free to ignore this email. If you still want the food go ahead and ring up our Customer Service team at your earliest convenience.”
I’m sorry I didn’t notice my phone (which was on vibrate on a kitchen counter) but the driver called a fair spell after the original time promised…I really don’t think I should have paid $40 for salads and things that wouldn’t have held up and that I didn’t want to eat. (And, PS, if the driver had actually rung the bell I would have given him a few bucks for the hassle, but he called to say he was near, so I told him not to come.)
Interesting discussion!
Also interesting is GrubHub’s Twitter feed, which shows a number of such glitches…

Grasshopper

April 24th, 2012
3:33 pm

The extra details do work in your favor here John.

grover

April 24th, 2012
4:51 pm

I agree, Grasshopper, those details do help. :) Ok John, you’re excused. Just ribbin’ you, really.

Edward

April 24th, 2012
10:18 pm

I agree, the devil is in the details and had John offered some of them originally I would have felt very differently and not judged him so harshly. My lofty opinion of John has been restored. :-)

missnadine

April 24th, 2012
11:08 pm

I don’t remember the name of the service, but there was one maybe 15 years ago, that charged $5.00 delivery for the same service. It was before the time when everyone had a PC at home. Does anyone remember? I vaguely recall the word Taxi was in the same. It was a limited menu, with maybe only 10 restaurants involved – more like the family-style chains.

carla roqs

April 25th, 2012
8:24 am

still stirring up the passions, john? meh… and anyway, i would have gotten the city paper’s food critic editior as well. IJS. edward- descent, not decent. for example: john is a decent guy who prob is not gonna make a true faux paux when it comes to paying/not paying for food? and…nope, i dont think they would deliver if they had to descend to the depths of the underpasses…

carla roqs

April 25th, 2012
8:31 am

oops, s/b: i would have gotten the cpfce’s food to him, as well… (your name preceeded you)

Baltisraul

April 25th, 2012
8:43 am

Edward,,good for you, John didn’t do anything wrong. I wish more people would not ans their phone. Most of the time it is at the wrong time or wrong place. Leave the damn thing turned off until it is appropriate to take or make a call. Better called “old world” than “real world” as I did earlier. Manners has left the bldg!

carla roqs

April 25th, 2012
8:45 am

okay preceed is not a word. i taked back my correction to edward, preceded looks crazy

1164mgc

April 25th, 2012
10:33 am

carla – you roq!

Funny how John had the time to answer the phone when the guy was on his way over:-)

Edward

April 25th, 2012
11:09 am

Carla, typically I am a grammar/spelling nazi, but I was very tired and bleary-eyed from being up for over 23 hours working on a friend’s computer. I wish there was a way to edit comments. ;-)

carla roqs

April 25th, 2012
3:37 pm

Sophie

April 25th, 2012
5:58 pm

Just to be anally nitpicky – carla, I think your faux pas was in your “faux paux” comment:-)

bongostella

April 25th, 2012
7:21 pm

John, one other thing, as I am an early retiree due to a disability, could you please hold another
contest for new bloggers? Some of the ones you chose last time have not posted in over a year,
some longer. There are plenty of chowhounds in Atlanta that would be more consistent and maintain
a more current view of what is going on around town.

carla roqs

April 30th, 2012
9:28 am

@ Sophie, thanks