Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Have you ever worked at a restaurant? And eaten that restaurant's food every day? Did you reach a point where it wasn't appetising anymore, and then push through and keep eating it, eventually reaching a point where the very smell of that restaurant made you nauseous?
Well, living in a hotel sort of has that effect. I am convinced that the kitchen here uses some unique chemical in all its food, maybe a special type of oil or some brant of salt. It's something that adds to the lustre of a fancy hotel for the first few days, then grows tiresome, and then eventually just makes me fill a bit ill.
My room has no cooking facilities, no hot water kettle and no microwave. So I depend on the hotel kitchen for all my food. Within a week or two I realised that if I was going to eat breakfast in the hotel, I couldn't eat dinner as well. Now nearing the end of Month Two, I've stopped eating breakfast too! The neighbourhood I'm in only has one restaurant, by the way.
Enter the very best website idea I have ever seen. This site deserves some kind of international award for brilliant innovative effectiveness. It's not only a good idea, but it works. The website is called Otlob.com - look it up if you want! You can choose your neighbourhood in any of Egypt's major cities, then your restaurant, then items off the menu, then click for delivery.
So one day I have Indian, another Chinese, another Italian, another hamburgers. Brilliant: the food is reasonably appetising, and of course I save loads of money because hotel food is absurdly priced. Still not the same as cooking my own food, but a big step up from this hotel whose food now brings to mind feelings of nausea even at this moment just because I'm writing about it. (I think I can handle their waffles or pancakes once or twice a week, as long as I limit myself to no more. :( )
Otlob.com has a high success rate in my book, but once in a while they miss it. The other evening I was tired late at night but hadn't eaten anything so I decided to go ahead and order a sub and a salad from Subway. I put in the order at 11pm, but there was a glitch on the site that delayed it by 15 minutes. No worries - the food would still be here by midnight maximum.
Midnight came and went and no food came. Otlob.com has this great link that says after the alloted time period, "Your food should arrive within a few minutes. If it doesn't come, click HERE." So I clicked and they said they were contacting the restaurant. This link actually works; once I was told that the restaurant had a backlog due to peak hours and the food would be here shortly. Information is gold.
The other night, however, it didn't work. Otlob never sent me an update. So I asked the hotel reception desk to reject the order if anyone from Subway showed up, then I found some crackers and cheese and an apple to tide me over to morning. At 12:30 a.m. Subway called me on my mobile saying they had the wrong address. They were on the right street but couldn't find it. (Yeah, they couldn't find the 5-star hotel next to the embassy on a 200-metre-long street. Whatever.) I said, "Please take the food back. You are too late." They hung up, but they called again 10 minutes later with the same question. I said "I want to go to sleep! No more food, stop bothering me!"
Then I registered a complaint email on Otlob.com. The next morning Otlob.com called me and said they had followed up with Subway and would do so again. Brilliant! It didn't fix my food problem that night, but at least I knew the website cares.
And, really, all my other ordering-food experiences have been hits. In fact, I'm going to go eat my sushi dinner right now.