Self-Returning DVDs

Netflix has (albeit inadvertently) added a nice feature: self-returning DVDs.

While I was in Phoenix with my girlfriend, we watched at our hotel a movie that happened to top my Netflix queue.  Netflix sent me the DVD before I had time to remove it.

And then it didn’t arrive.  I waited patiently for three days with no sign of it, but just when I was ready to report it “missing,” it got marked “returned” and Netflix sent the next movie on my list.

(Speaking practically, I assume the label got torn off and someone at the post office, having no idea where to send it, just sealed the envelope shut and sent it back — a wise and helpful solution.  But it’s more fun to think it’s just a self-returning DVD.)

Pizza Surprise

Let’s talk about Domino’s online ordering system, and how it’s both very flashy and fails to be in any way accurate or useful.

Full disclosure: I have an inordinately hard time ordering pizza for someone living in a major city.  The very first time I tried to have pizza delivered here, I had this conversation, verbatim:

Me:  Good afternoon; can I give you a delivery order, please?

Guy on Phone: No.

I switched to Papa John’s after that, who lets me order through their website.  This weekend, however, I placed my standard order and then got this followup phone call:

Guy on Phone: This is Ed from Papa John’s.  The location where you placed your order is closed, so I’m canceling your order and refunding your credit card.

And thus I turned to Domino’s for the day, whose online ordering system is all but legendary among my kind (i.e., the geeky and nerdy).

For the uninitiated, you place your order using a flashy interface that draws a picture of your pizza with the toppings you’ve selected (including which halves of the pizza get which toppings).  It comes with this disclaimer:

The Pizza Builder will always show a large pizza.  If you choose a different size, the topping amounts will vary.  The deliciousness, however, will not.

Then, you can follow the progress of your pizza as it’s prepared, baked, put in a box, and delivered — up to and including the name of the person performing each task.

I remain entirely underwhelmed.

First, a minor point: I can’t place a tip on the website; I have to sign a credit card slip at the door.  This delays the driver, who could be out earning his next tip if he weren’t waiting for me to write down mine.  (Papa John’s drivers hand me a box, thank me, and walk away.)  Plus, the driver doesn’t know until arriving if I’m going to tip well.  How old fashioned!

Second, and more importantly, the flashy pizza tracker reported my pizza “delivered” fully 20 minutes before it got to my door.  It even, rather tauntingly, “hopes I’m enjoying my meal.”  Nope.  I’m still hungry, Mr. Pizza Tracker, ’cause I still don’t have pizza.

The next time Papa John’s is inexplicably closed, I’ll just make a sandwich.

Living in the Technological Past?

What ever happened to that “caller ID” craze that took the nation by storm back in the 1990s?  It was this fascinating technology that would show the name of the person calling whenever the phone rang.

Sure, telemarketers abused the system, either sending false information or simply hiding their number as “Out of Area” or “Unknown Name,” but for legitimate calls — the ones we wanted to answer anyway — it worked great!

Of course, when someone in my “Contacts” list calls my cell phone, I can see the person’s name and even their picture now, but what about people who haven’t called before?  I just get their number!

Now I have to turn to Google whenever my phone rings to figure out who’s calling.  Searching for a number works well when it’s a legitimate business calling, or an illegal telemarketer, but it fails entirely for personal calls.

So I ask again: what happened to that “caller ID” craze of the 1990s?  Have we just forgotten how it’s supposed to work?