The Perils/Pleasure of Online Ordering

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I'm the first person to admit that I am technologically challenged, which is probably why up until last week I had never ordered takeout/delivery online. (Oddly enough, I do use the interwebs for purchasing almost everything else).

My aversion to online food ordering stems in part from the fact that I tend to be just a little detail-oriented in my food requests. Perhaps not as bad as Meg Ryan à la When Harry Met Sally but nevertheless (probably annoyingly) fastidious.

But the new year is all about trying new things and taking chances, so a few days ago I placed an order for a burrito via Freebird's online ordering system.

It was extremely easy and I was excessively proud of myself. Freebirds not only sends you an email confirming the specifics of your order but also sends a follow-up email alerting you that your designated pick-up location has "processed" the order.

I received both missives in a very timely fashion and looked forward to strolling into Freebirds (at 5 p.m. as per the website's instructions) to pick up my customized burrito.

About approximately 5:06 p.m., I strolled into Freebirds, which was empty save two tables of diners finishing late lunches/early dinners. I approached the lone clerk behind the counter and requested my order.

"Um..." he said, looking around.

Turns out "processing" the order doesn't necessarily involve completing it. Kudos though to the manager, who offered me a free drink (I declined) then a free cookie (well, all right). Although I was initially annoyed my food wasn't ready, I certainly recognize it's not the end of the world to wait an extra five minutes for a terrifically tasty burrito made exactly according to specification.

But will I use the online ordering system again? Eh, perhaps not. For me, the allure of internet ordering is its ease, efficiency and (particularly when i'm feeling anti-social), minimal human contact. If, however, I spend just as much time clicking away and then waiting at the pick-up location as I would standing in line and speaking to a person, then I might as well do the latter. Especially at Freebirds where the burrito builders are so jolly and the filling options so diverse.

Readers, what are your experiences with online ordering? Are there any Houston restaurants where this method is so reliable as to make it preferable over calling on the phone?

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