Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pizza Hut Online Is A Joke

Alright, the basic idea behind ordering a pizza online is twofold, at least to my understanding:

  1. Ordering online prevents the customer from having to actually talk to another human being, reducing potential interpersonal tension from the equation (if you don't think this can be a problem, the next time you're hanging out, nominate someone else to order the food, and you see if they don't squirm just a little bit).
  2. Ordering online creates a digital ticket that should result in fewer problems resulting from human error, miscommunication, or general malaise by the order taker.

That's why you order online; you don't have to talk to anyone and the place is more likely to get your order exactly correct. I'm a fan of ordering online. I think most businesses should offer online ordering, especially food delivery places. If I didn't have to call up for Chinese food and could instead order it online, I'd be up to my eyeballs in General Tso's chicken.

But Pizza Hut seems to miss a piece of this puzzle. Allow me to elaborate.

I have ordered from the local Altoona, PA Pizza Hut near me a number of times, almost always through their website. If my memory serves me correctly, the first few times were pleasantly uneventful and involved approximately zero effort on my part. Then, one time, I placed the order online and received a phone call soon after from my local Pizza Hut. They were wondering where I found the coupon that I had used for my order. I explained that it was on the PizzaHut.com website, and that seemed to satisfy their inquiry. Though not exactly. When the driver arrived, he said, "That'll be $16.41 and a coupon." I explained that it was one of the coupons available to click on the website, and whether by the merit of my explanation or his own distaste for human interaction (which I certainly share), he accepted it and left.

My hope was that my experience was a result of a kink in the Pizza Hut online ordering system that would be worked out on the corporate side. Bzzzt! Incorrect.

I received another phone call after my next online purchase, this time asking me to print out the coupon I used. What? Just print it out and give it to the driver. I don't understand that, but again, I believed the problem to be a system-based problem that would get worked out soon enough.

Months later, after a hiatus from pizza, I ordered from Pizza Hut again, just recently. No call this time, thankfully, and I waited with baited breath for my warm Stuffed Crust pizza and boneless buffalo wings. The driver arrived at the door, and said what I ought to have expected: "There's your receipt to sign, and you have a coupon?" No, sir, I ordered it online and do not have a coupon. "Okay, they'd like you to print out the coupon and give it to the driver in the future." Really? "Yeah, just print it out and give it to the driver." Okay, I'll do that the next time I order from you guys.

I will never order from them again.

What exactly is the point of a complex online ordering system if not to eliminate the need for paper coupons? When you order stuff on sale at Amazon, do they make you give the USPS guy a printout of the item description from the day you ordered it? I mean, the coupon is on your site and in your computer system. I clicked it and the system already knew what I was ordering, and took me to a page to make whatever decisions I needed to make concerning this dish. Your system told you that the pizza was ordered online, and gave you a total price for the order. I didn't hack your damn system to save four bucks on a large pizza.

I haven't decided yet how much swearing I'm going to do on this blog, but rest assured, if I had decided to go all out, this post would've been chock full of expletives. More than anything else, I hate when people make me waste my time or my resources; Pizza Hut was asking me to do both.

In fairness, I've ordered Pizza Hut pizza online at my mother's house and had no such problems. It's possible that the Altoona branch isn't sophisticated enough to fully integrate itself into the online ordering system. But if that's the case, then just don't offer online orders. Papa John's has never even suggested that I provide a coupon for my online order. They've got a fully integrated system, and they understand that if you're going to allow online ordering, you'd better do it right. I prefer Pizza Hut pizza, and I believe Pizza Hut pizza is generally less expensive. But that little tweak of convenience is worth it to me to downgrade to Papa John's for the foreseeable future.

I should write Pizza Hut a letter, or at least an email. But I'd rather just complain about it.

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