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April 17, 2008 4:40 PM

Pizza Delivery: on track, but so what?

Posted by Nancy Leson

As a rule, I don't order Domino's Pizza, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken. Like today, when I opened an e-mail here at the office and found the following announcement:

"Domino's Pizza has launched another food delivery industry first: Pizza Tracker."


This technology, say the folks at Domino's, "allows Domino's Pizza customers to follow the progress of their order online from the time they click the `Place Order' button or hang up the telephone until the Domino's delivery expert is knocking on their door. . . Pizza Tracker will allow customers to know when their order is being prepared, when it's out of the oven, and when it's out the door and on its way."

Well, in the name of science, I felt obligated to try out the new technology, which works whether you order online or by phone. So I went online, found the Domino's nearest the Seattle Times, dialed the number and "talked" to a computer-generated-voice who asked me a series of questions with prompts like, "For a list say, `Tell me my choices,'" and "What else can I get cha?" (Cha, swear.)

I ordered a medium thin-crust pepperoni pizza (pepperoni is Domino's biggest-selling topping). It took about three or four minutes to complete my order, as I was eventually put through to a real-live human being at my local Domino's. Apparently, the computer-voice couldn't reconcile the Seattle Times general phone number with the street address. "Do you happen to know the major cross-streets," asked the human being over on Taylor Avenue. "Fairview and John," I answered. Once we had that all squared away and I gave her my credit card number, she told me, "I'm processing your order." It was 2:13 p.m. And THAT'S when the fun began:

Seated at my desk, I logged on (using my phone number) to the tracker system. Seconds later, the "Order Placed" light shone red on the blue tracker-device, and a note read: "Jody began custom-making your order at 2:14 p.m." Four minutes later the red "Prep" light came on alongside the "Order Placed" light and I learned, via high-technology, that "Jody put your order in the oven at 2:18 p.m." Only three steps left: Bake, Box and Delivery.

"Hey you guys!" I yelled to my neighboring keyboard hounds, "How long do you think it'll take Domino's to bake a pizza?" (Mark Ramirez came closest. He said seven minutes.) Meantime, I got a note on my screen that read "Tracker has lost connection." Cursing, I called up the web address again, hit tracker, re-entered my phone number and saw that Jody was still at work. At 2:26 p.m. -- eight minutes after the Jodster put my pizza in the oven, the Bake and Box lights were both shining red, and I got the happy news:

"You got it on the Way -- Our delivery expert, Gordon, left the store with your order at 2:27 p.m." (Er, shouldn't that be "You've got it on the way"? But then, this is the same company that has a computer-generated-pizza-operator that asks, "What else can I get cha?")

I waited a few minutes before grabbing my camera and heading downstairs to the security desk. And shortly thereafter, guess who walked in the door? Gordon! My delivery expert:



Note the clock behind Gordon's head. Here's his tracking print-out:


So? How was the 'za? No offense to my good friends Gordon and Jody, but it was small, expensive (because I failed to order one of Domino's menu specials) and it tasted lousy. Plus, it was cut up into teensy pieces:



I do love the technology though, and I just might use it at home the next time I have to order pizza for my kid. That way, when he asks, "Mo-ommm, Where's the pizza? When's it going to get here?" I can tell him, "What cha bothering me for? Go ask the computer!"

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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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