Amazon Restaurants Gave Me a Coupon, So I Tried It

And yes, it was great—but I have so many questions.

Photo credit: Jaysin Trevino, CC BY 2.0.

So as you might remember from the one task I need to get done today, my kitchen is completely empty of food. Before I left for the holidays I meal-planned so that I would have enough fruit, crackers, hummus, and soup to get me through Tuesday afternoon, with the assumption that I would go grocery shopping on either Monday or Tuesday night.

But I came back from the holidays with that same nasty cold that everyone else has, so I did not go grocery shopping. Instead, I ate my cupboards bare, went through a box of tissue, and binge-watched Black Mirror. (It’s so good. I really want to talk about the financial aspects, but I’m like, way late to the fandom. Right?)

Just when I thought I would either have to eat Kraft Zesty Italian salad dressing on chow mein noodles for my next meal—because that’s what we’re down to, at this point—or pay more than I cared to at one of the few restaurants that will deliver to my slightly out-of-the-way apartment, I got an email.

There’s so much about this email that I appreciate: the fact that they didn’t bother to auto-fill the name of an individual Prime Video and just went with “we hope you enjoyed whatever you watched,” and the adorable plea that I not share this coupon on any of those coupon-sharing sites. (I didn’t.)

And when I went to “browse restaurants,” I learned that I now had dozens and dozens of options.

Like, Amazon was telling me that I could have food delivered from restaurants in downtown Seattle, which is the kind of trip that will take over 40 minutes in rush hour. It was telling me that I could have breakfast or brunch delivered from restaurants that make you wait 40 minutes before you even get a table.

I ended up choosing a Thai restaurant that was nearly five miles away from my apartment (gasp!) but didn’t require crossing any bridges or getting stuck in downtown traffic.

Amazon got me my food in 29 minutes. I know, because it sent me a very proud email with the subject line “We delivered your food in 29 minutes.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. On the occasions when I do order delivery, I generally pick a Thai restaurant that’s within a mile of my apartment and use one of the big-name delivery apps (it doesn’t matter which one, half of them have merged into each other by now). It takes an hour for my food to arrive, and that’s fine.

So how did Amazon get me food in 29 minutes, from a restaurant five miles away, when Google says the drive time during rush hour is “typically 14–24 minutes?”

Do Amazon Restaurant orders jump the queue? I can’t really imagine a situation where an Amazon Restaurant order would be more important to fulfill than an Eat24 or GrubHub order, not to mention any diners already in the restaurant, but… seriously… how did this happen?

Now let’s talk about tips, because Billfolders love talking about tips:

The tip, in this case, goes to the courier, not the server who might have plated and packed my delivery order. (I’ve worked in restaurants, and I know that this kind of work is sometimes done by servers and sometimes done by line cooks, and if it’s servers then they’re spending time away from tables with patrons who can tip, etc. etc. etc.)

Also, it’s fascinating to see how quickly a “free meal” can turn into an $11.30 meal.

After testing Amazon Restaurants I’m very much “yeah, this is better than any of my other options,” from the interface to the restaurants to the explanation of where my tip goes, which is nice. I’m very interested in seeing what happens when I try a more complicated food order: say, brunch on Saturday at noon. Will the pancakes be warm? Will we all start doing brunch in our apartments because it’s so much more efficient than going out and standing in a huddle for an hour, waiting to go into the overheated and overly-loud restaurant to try whatever new vegetable they’ve added to their eggs benny this week?

And sure, part of me is like “someone’s going to say that I shouldn’t do everything with Amazon, let’s list a hundred reasons why Amazon is terrible, why are you even watching Black Mirror if you aren’t making the comparison to your own behavior in an increasingly technological society where corporations want to turn that behavior into data and then use that data to influence future behavior,” and I’m aware of that. It’s in my head, right above the part that is eating the food Amazon brought me in 29 minutes.

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