Under my byline

Thrice burnt, slightly crusty

Posted in Living by Rrishi on 26 July 2009

Pepperoni pizzaCalling for a home-delivered pizza is not as easy as pie

Before you pick up the phone to order a pizza, you have to examine the pizza company’s latest menu leaflet with close attention. You know you can’t depend on the employee who answers the phone to explain the various options, offers and toppings, and even if he does, you’re not sure you will be able to understand what he’s saying.

“Hello-thank-you-for-calling-Domino’s-would-you-like-to-try-our-special-cheese-burst-pizza?” As always, I have to ask the voice to please say that again. After I’ve agreed on cheese burst pizzas (cheese “poore crust mein hota hai”), the time comes to decide on toppings.

I explain that I want two cheese bursts but have four eaters — three vegetarian and one non. The voice of Domino’s is nonplussed, so I suggest one pizza with vegetarian toppings, and the other, half vegetarian and half non. I add that mushrooms, paneer and pineapple are not welcome. “Golden crone” (i.e., sweet corn) is more than welcome. I’ll spare you the details — it is an intricate process, requiring my patience and his cooperation.

At Papa John’s, a similarly speedy but still more slurred voice answers the phone. I agree to a family-size thin crust pizza, again half and half (they don’t do thirds) to feed two vegetarians and one non. But the selection of toppings is a real trial: the voice of Papa John’s, realising that this is a customer who needs handholding, takes frequent breaks in mid-sentence (my sentence), to attend to other phone calls. “Which margarita you want?” he asks, and I splutter “No margarita!” before realising he’s talking to someone else. Garden Special, he suggests, adding offline, “Paharganj 35-40 minutes.” Veggie Barbecue, what’s that? “This rate is 155. Just a moment sir.” Hot Pepper Passion, sounds tasty — ouch, a piercing tone in my ear. Tiring!

At the next company, the voice on the phone doesn’t have a ready chat-up line. I have to ask: “Chicago Pizza?” Yes it is. I tell him I want one pizza for two eaters: one vegetarian and one non. The voice is dismissive; the minimum order for delivery is Rs 300. What sizes of pizza do they have? “Inches ka koi hisaab nahin hota hai,” he says, they sell only by the slice. (But no, they don’t. Just the previous day two full pizzas were delivered to us at the office.) He tells me that their pizzas have 18 pieces, and each piece is for Rs 80, so I will have to pay around Rs 700 per pizza — no, I don’t understand the maths either.

While we’re working through the list of non-vegetarian toppings, the voice tells me that they have chicken pepperoni, which, intrigued, I agree to. The process grinds on, until finally the Chicago man says, away from the phone, “Zyada jhila raha hai, yaar” (which is both clever and rude), and suddenly I have a new, and thankfully more able, conversant. This new voice tells me that no, in fact their pepperoni is pork. I shudder to think of the mistake that could have been made.

Ultimately, I order four slices of different kinds of Chicago pizza and drop the phone, exhausted. Later I realise I forgot to ask, and they forgot to tell me the total price.

The pizzas arrive, eventually; my colleagues eat. My appetite has faded somewhat.

Score: 6/10 for Domino’s, 4/10 for Papa John’s, and 3/10 for Chicago. Patience, manners and clarity count.

(This is a Mystery Guest column.)

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2 Responses

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  1. Abhijit said, on 29 July 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Weird. Very. In my experience employees at fast food outlets stick stubbornly to English. Broken english comes usually from the customers side after the employee fails to reciprocate in Hindi. In south Delhi, at least.

  2. Rrishi said, on 30 July 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Aha, perhaps both customer and employee end up speaking the same broken Hinglish in a mutual-reinforcement sort of thing. I find my English also usually reverts to patchy Hindi when on the phone with any sort of customer service here. But the first sentence is always in English, as with the Domino’s line. Perhaps it’s different facing a live customer across a counter?


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