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2:34pm on Saturday, 17th October, 2020:

Just Late


There are two major hot food-delivery companies operating in the UK: Deliveroo and Just Eat. Deliveroo doesn't deliver to our village (even though I'm fairly sure some drivers go through the village to get from one part of Colchester to another). This means we're stuck with Just Eat, or Uber Eats if we happen to want food from the exact right restaurant at the exact right time.

Just Eat deals mainly with the kind of establishment normally frequented by drunk people who stagger into a pizza joint on a Saturday night, demand a kebab, are given a burger, then happily stagger off munching on it until they find a chippie. There are some decent places that use them, though, and we usually order from them on a Friday for a Burger Amour burger, Dough & Co pizza or Fai's whatever east Asian culinary experience takes our fancy.

Yesterday, we noticed that the Zizzi chain had started using Just Eat. Woohoo! Variety! We used to eat at Zizzi's occasionally Before the Sickness Came, so naturally we ordered something. This was at about 5:40pm. Estimated delivery time was 6:25pm.

6:25 came and went. The app informed us that Zizzi's was locating a driver.

Zizzi's remained locating a driver until nearly 7:30, whereupon the app told us that our order had been delivered. Our order had not been delivered; leastwise, if it had been delivered, it was to the wrong address.

We phoned the number for Zizzi's on the Just Eat order page. It was a London number. After pressing some buttons to indicate the nature of our call, we were left listening to holding music.

Not expecting great things from someone this, I looked up the number of the Colchester branch and called them direct. I didn't even have to press buttons this time, it was straight into the music.

We'd tried to contact Just Eat during the period when the delivery was merely late, not lying about having occurred, using their online "contact us" feature. Sadly, it was actually more of a "read this FAQ explaining all the ways we normally screw up" feature. There was one that matched our this-is-annoyingly-late problem: it suggested that the delivery could be behind schedule because of bad weather, bad traffic or problems at the restaurant. I don't know how thick people would have to be not to have thought of those possibilities on their own, but the app was clearly concerned with generalities rather than specifics.

However, once the delivery had supposedly arrived, a new option opened up: chat!

Seizing upon this, I ignored the yet-more stock answers it proposed (cold food, late, wrong item and so on) and found myself talking to a chatbot. It told me it was a chatbot and that if I wanted to talk to a human I had to tell it that I wanted to talk to a human. I told it I wanted to talk to a human. 98 people ahead of me in the queue also wanted to speak to a human.

It only took about 20 minutes to get to talk to a human, which was faster than I was expecting. The human communicated using canned responses, sometimes youchingly with a "<name of operator> is typing something" message to try to give the impression that I wasn't speaking to a script when anyone with English as a first, second or third language could have spotted that I was.

In the end, we managed to establish that what the app was telling me (order delivered) is not what the system was telling the operative (order refused by restaurant). The operative cancelled the order and my money was refunded. I left a comment saying my experience with their human-bot operative was good, and rather better than my experience with Zizzi's.

I was sent an email by Just Eat that apologised for the problem and asked if I wanted to try again. The link hidden beneath the "Browse menu" button was 15 lines long. We were recommended three restaurants based on our searches: Grill Bros (kebabs and chicken); Pizza Bros (pizza and kebabs); Pizza Hot 4 U Chicken (pizza, Italian). I think they may have only a postcode-level record of what our searches actually are.

It was something like 8:15pm by then so we decided not to wait another hour for a replacement order to arrive. I made myself fish-finger sandwiches instead and woke up in the middle of the night with acid reflux.

Maybe next time we see a new restaurant appear on Just Eat, we'll give it a week or two to learn the ropes before we order anything from it.

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