How 'Bout Them Knockers: Domino's Pizza

Each week in 'Knockers' we order from a different delivery restaurant, assessing their efficiency and keeping a running score.
delivered from 4420 Gaston Ave.

Promised delivery time (implied): 30 minutes
Actual delivery time: 27 minutes

Scoring summary:
Money saved by online coupon (dollars): 1.11
Time wasted tinkering with interactive pizza order system (minutes): 15
Big pizza for less than a little one (the way it should be): 30
Order accuracy: A perfect 10
Sauce sweeter than a 7-Eleven cabernet: 2.8
Brooklyn-style foldability: 18.1
Pizza goes limp as a wet noodle in under 10 minutes, guaranteed: -14
Still wondering if "Richard" took a bite of my pizza, or if he exists at all: 2
Post-meal satisfaction (a measure of cramping): 4.5

Total: 69.51

Top Ten

See complete 2009 standings here

Quality really wasn't the point. I'll save you the suspense: my pizza from Domino's was greasy and paper-thin with sauce like Kool-Aid. The "Brooklyn" style crust and wide slices did, as advertised, make for a perfect pizza fold, but went hilariously, unappetizingly limp after 10 minutes on my kitchen counter.

If I wanted great pizza, of course I knew better. But it was pouring down rain last night, and I'd been in my car most of the day. It was getting late and I was out of food. Food delivery was probably invented on a night like this. KFC delivery drivers in China seed rainclouds to make nights like this. (Not true.)

Last week, Danny's order from Papa John's drew a comment from Mike, who mentioned the online pizza tracker at Domino's. After checking out the site, I wondered: are the interactive pizza builder, social media extras and real-time order tracking enough to put lipstick on their processed pig parts? Do the flashy online extras make it worth ordering from Domino's?

From the old 30-minute guarantee to the Heat Wave bag, Domino's has a track record of delivery methods more exciting than the thing they're carrying. (If that sounds like a term paper to you, 3,000 words on the subject can be yours for just $84.) Even last year's 9,000-mile Dallas-to-Mumbai Domino's delivery run probably left the driver better fed along the way than the guy who got the sandwich.

My usual pizza order is pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers, and after fifteen minutes noodling with topping combinations in Domino's interactive pizza preview, adding and subtracting strings of hot sauce, that's exactly where I ended up online. I fought off the impulse to recreate the infamous "none pizza, left beef," went with a large instead of a medium -- with an online coupon, the big pizza was a buck cheaper -- and fed the site my credit card number.

Then the moment I'd been waiting for: the appearance of the pizza tracker, which thanked me for the great order and gave me my first update: "Richard began custom-making your order at 7:01 PM."

It was a more pure remote-ordering system in a lot of ways -- no talking to a human on the phone -- and once they come up with a pizza delivery robot, you can get your Domino's greasball pie without needing to see a single person. But they also introduced "Richard" into the process -- how often do you get the name of the guy who answers the phone? -- and at 7:17 I learned he'd just "checked your order for deliciousness" too. How the hell did he do that? I want to see some video.

Meanwhile, as Richard helped himself to trying out my pizza, I took Domino's suggestion and posted news about my pizza order to Facebook. Maybe even my cousins in South Dakota were watching the moment "Josafat left the store with your order at 7:18."

While Josafat drove downtown from the Gaston Avenue Domino's, I played Connect Four against a cartoon Mr. Potato Head -- another questionable decision made on the suggestion of a link on the pizza tracker page. And it wasn't really even Connect Four. The online game was full of ridiculous rules and kept going long after you got four in a row. When the potato ended my game after just a few minutes, I was relieved.

Thankfully, it wasn't long before Josafat appeared at my door, rain-soaked but in good spirits, Heat Wave on his shoulder. He double-checked the pizza in the box against the order sticker printed on the box -- the pizza tracker never mentioned that extra touch -- and handed it over with a smile. We chatted about the weather while I signed the receipt, and I tried to get some inside perspective about Domino's online ordering extras.

"If it makes ordering any easier, then I say it's a good thing," was about all he had to say about the online ordering suite.

It wasn't much easier at all. I saved a dollar with an online coupon I wouldn't have known about otherwise, but took far more time building fake pizzas than I would have spent on a phone call. And I have my suspicions that none of my Facebook friends really cared when Richard double-checked my pizza.

For all their effort to innovate, Domino's has probably been hurt by social media more than any other pizza chain -- think of the video of  Domino's pizza makers going rogue, and an order code that mistakenly gave away 11,000 free pizzas.

Like Mike said in his comment last week, sure, between the build-a-pie feature, the pizza tracker and the game of "Are You Smarter Than a Potato?", it was a fun thing to try, once. I might even try it again sometime, so long as the pizza's going to somebody else.