January 19, 2000


Ordering dinner online seemed like a good idea at 5:15 p.m. last night.

I was still sitting in my office, lethargically stuffing business cards into the CardScan 300. The only thing I'd eaten all day was a banana and a handful of stale Ritz crackers. David wouldn't be picking me for another 45 minutes, and I knew that by the time we made it back to The Castle, the LAST thing in the world either one of us would feel like doing would be firing up the Pink Stove and cooking.

So I went to Togo's Online.

David and I are huge fans of Togo's hot pastrami sandwiches. We stop at the Alameda location maybe once or twice a month, on our way home, and cart home a couple of sandwiches the size of small nuclear warheads. You eat one ofi'm out of polaroid film this week ... ok? those puppies, and you don't feel like eating -- or doing -- anything else for the rest of the night. Or the rest of the WEEK.

The only thing we really don't like about Togo's is the interminably long wait at the counter, every time we visit. Frankly, I've had job interviews that didn't take as long.

"Maybe we should try ordering from their website," I suggested. "You place your order online, and by the time you get to the restaurant, it's ready for pick-up."

"Sounds good to me," David said. "Let's do that, next time we're running late."

So last night I typed the URL into my browser. It took me to a site called Waiter.com, where I was asked to register with a user name ["CELINE DION"] and a password. I then provided them with my name, address, telephone number, e-mail address and credit card information. Once I was registered, I was whisked away to the familiar Togo's menu, where I popped in our usual order: two #9's, large ... an extra scoop of avocado on one, no peppers on the other, both on sourdough ... with chips and sodas. Plus a couple of cookies.

(Yeah, yeah.  I know. What happened to the much-ballyhooed New Year's Resolution about "starting to think about planning to begin considering to contemplate deciding to try and possibly lose some weight" ... ? All I can say is that technically the year is STILL  'new,' bitemeverymuch.)

A few minutes later I got a call from the Atlantic St. Togo's. 

"ThankyouforplacingyourorderwithTogosAlameda," said the Unintelligible Teenage Counter/Phone Person. "Your order will be ready at 5:30."

"Umm ... we might be picking it up slightly later than that," I said, glancing at my watch. 5:25. "Maybe more like 6 p.m. But the order will be READY then, right?" No standing in line for thirty minutes, whilst our sandwiches were painstakingly built from scratch, one micro-thin pastrami slice at a time. Not for SecraTerri and DRaftervoi. Not TONIGHT. No sirree bob.


He promised that yes, our sandwiches would be 100% ready to go. All he would need to do is take a copy of the credit card I'd used to place the order. 

"That's fine," I said, and I hung up. This was working out great!

So of course when we finally got to the restaurant, shortly after 6 p.m., and proudly/breathlessly/ravenously announced that we were there to pick up our Internet order ...

... the counter people had absolutely zero idea what we were talking about.

"I ordered from your website," I said. "About an hour ago."

Vacant stares.

I picked up one of the menus and pointed to the little URL at the bottom. "See? Where it says 'www.togos.com'? That's your website. I placed my order from there."


"Somebody called me and verified the order!" I said, starting to feel edgy and panicked. "I was told that it would be ready for pick-up at 6:00."

Tiny glimmer of *understanding.*

"We DID get a faxed order a while ago," said The Head Counter Person. "Are you the two large number nines?"

"YES!" I exclaimed, nearly faint with relief and hunger. "That's my order!  Is it ready to go??"

"It'll be just a few minutes, ma'am," said The Head Counter Person. "Would you like that on white, wheat or sourdough?" And she started the long and laborious process of painstakingly constructing our order from scratch.

One micro-thin pastrami slice at a time.

I am turning into a snob. I admit it.

More specifically: I am turning into an Internet snob.

I'm finding that I have increasingly limited tolerance lately for anybody who doesn't possess at least a molecule's worth of understanding about the online world, and about the way it works.

There are a couple of notable exceptions.

For instance, I don't so much mind that Franz is -- for all intents and purposes -- computer illiterate. He doesn't even have a computer in his office: I routinely field all of his e-mail for him.  If he needs to see something on the Internet, I print out a hard copy for him. If he wants to correct the spelling on our corporate website, I play webmaster for him. If he feels a sudden overwhelming craving for a groovy new True Type font, I handle the download for him. Etc. It's a fine little arrangement. It makes me feel smart and technically competent and superior to my boss in at least one critical *skills area.*

And it keeps him the heck away from David's pig picture, which I would have one heck of a time explaining.

Grove's Chill Tonic

I'm also not terribly worried about my ex-husband's lack of computer skills. One person in that household downloading 75MB .jpgs of Jenny McCarthy is plenty.

But I get downright aggravated when the rest of the world demonstrates blatant ignorance of the Internet ... and doesn't seem to give a crap. Like people who believe that AOL and the Internet are the same thing. Or the woman who announced on the message boards that she would never use the Internet for research because the information there is too "unreliable." Or the guy who called the office this morning to give me his e-mail address.

"Do you think you can write this down?" he said. "It's long and sort of complicated."

Gosh. I dunno. I MIGHT be able to handle it. Let me spit out my gum and pull my pencil outta my beehive, first. 

"OK," I said pleasantly. "Fire away."

"First you type the letters 'h', 't', 't', 'p," he began. "Then a colon -- not a semi-colon, but a regular colon ... " 

"Sir?" I interrupted politely. "I believe that's an Internet address, not an e-mail address."

Momentary silence on the other end. Then, huffily, "This IS my Internet address."

"OK, right," I said, still outwardly pleasant ... attempting NOT to grind my teeth into those little pointy stubs. "Then what you're giving me is the address for your corporate website?" I asked. 

More silence on the other end. "No," he said, sounding peeved. "This is my E-MAIL. First you type an 'h', then a 't,' then another 't,' then a 'p' ... "

I wound up taking down the information as he insisted on giving it to me, then plunked it into my newest favorite browser, and -- sure enough -- it was the URL to his company's website. From there I was able to scoop up his e-mail address. Soon afterwards, he had his HYG Report ... and the accompanying 43,897,621 MB PowerPoint attachment.

I trust he knew what to *do* with them.

There was e-mail waiting for me when I got into the office this morning.

Nope, not from Mr. *My URL Is My E-Mail* Cranky Pants. It was from Togo's Online, wanting to know how I "enjoyed" my online dining experience last night.

"Hi Terri!" the e-mail began. "My name is Craig! I want to thank you for placing your first order online. I also wanted to follow up and see how the order went. Did you have a good experience? Would you use us again? Would you recommend us to a few friends or colleagues?"

I swiftly composed a reply.

"Hi Craig!" I wrote. I can be as friendly as the next guy ... even when I'm writing a complaint letter. "The truth is I was really disappointed in the service last night." I went on to describe my experience with the clueless Counter People, including me having to point out the URL on the menu. "I literally had to pick up a takeout menu and point to the www.togos.com URL and explain how I had placed my order. In addition, the counter person who served us was extremely rude and defensive, and once we got back to the car with our order, we discovered that it was incomplete." (Note: They forgot our cookies. Grrrrr.)

I concluded my grumpy little tale of woe thusly:

" ... All in all, I think that the idea of ordering online is a good one. But if the order is NOT going to be ready for pick up when the customer gets to the restaurant, that should be clearly stated on the website. It's also clear that your employees need to be more educated about the online ordering process."

I haven't heard back from him yet. I'm sure I will, though. And I'm sure he'll be properly apologetic, and explain where the lines of communication broke down, and offer me some sort of compensation. (A free COOKIE, maybe.) And eventually I'll give www.togos.com another shot, and it'll either work or it won't, and life will go on.

But in the meantime,  I'll probably continue to secretly look down my nose at anybody who doesn't know their URL from their Earl Peterson. I'm sorry. I know I'm terrible. I know it's *my* problem ... not theirs. I know I should probably try to be more tolerant and understanding and patient.

I know I'm probably going to wind up in www.hell.com.

Oh well. At least I know the pastrami will be hot.