Does Fried Chicken Taste Better When It’s Free?

I do not often have food delivered to my apartment. But a few weeks ago, a night came when I hadn’t been grocery shopping in awhile, and I had no desire to put on pants. Seamless don’t fail me now. I ordered a whole mess of “comfort food” from the diner near me. They claimed to have the best fried chicken in Brooklyn. I’d never had it, so I ordered it. 

It sucked. It sucked so much I was compelled to sign up for a Yelp account at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night just to be one of those assholes who posts a bitchy review. It was an exercise in futility and bitterness and poor writing. But I was filled with fuming, food-induced anger. I criticized the not-caramelly enough caramel milkshake. I criticized getting three drumsticks. I criticized the gravy. I threatened to never eat at the diner again. (An overreaction—the diner is two blocks away, a neighborhood hangout. It would be near impossible to avoid it.) But I was 100% positive I would never again eat their fried chicken. 

But the next night, the buzzer rang at 9:30 p.m. I figured it was a delivery for my roommate and buzzed up. But when I opened the door, there he was again— the same delivery guy from the night before—an unwashed Rivers Cuomo type in a bike helmet.

I told him that I hadn’t ordered anything. He said the order came through Seamless—a caramel milkshake and a fried chicken platter with gravy on the side. It was the exact order from before, exactly 24 hours after my original order had been delivered. He told me to keep it and work out the charges with Seamless, he couldn’t do a thing.

I took the food, set it down. I immediately looked at my order history on Seamless. Not there. Then I looked at my bank account online. No pending charge. I refreshed both pages a bit obsessively. I called Seamless and talked to a very confused operator. Nothing. The meal really was completely free.

So I ate a little bit of it. Just a nibble of cornbread, I thought. That turned into, just one chicken thigh. Then another chicken thigh. It didn’t taste bad! I actually sort of liked the herby flavor I had found overbearing the day before. It was not unlike roasted chicken.

Did I suddenly like it because it was free?

I stowed the meal away in the fridge, later to be eaten semi-drunkenly, and I set off for the night. I met up with a friend and told him about my mystery meal. “Wouldn’t it be funny if this meal haunted you forever?” he said. “Anywhere you move, this delivery guy shows up and brings you fried chicken at 9:30 every night. Even out of state.”

That actually didn’t sound completely awful.

I haven’t updated my Yelp review. I think part of why I enjoyed the mystery delivery more than my original order was because it felt like I was getting a value—all this fried chicken for the grand total of $0! Reconsidering the free meal on a site full of reviews from paying customers feels morally sticky to me.

And yet. When the buzzer rang at my apartment a little after 9 the next night, just for a second I thought, “the delivery guy is early tonight.” It was just my friend, and he didn’t have any fried chicken for me. I think he could hear the disappointment in my voice.


Jillian Mapes lives in Brooklyn and willingly trades words about music and pop culture for money. She enjoys a good Twitter beef and fries up some killer chicken. 


10 Comments / Post A Comment

MargaretMead (#2,229)

Maybe they saw the bad review but didn’t want to admit to comping you to help their Yelp ratings. Either way I don’t like the fried chicken there much at all.

Megano! (#124)

Sometimes it entirely depends on who is in the back too. One time my ex ordered falafel from this place, and it was AMAZING PERFECT FALAFEL AS IF MADE BY THE FALAFEL GODS. I ordered the same thing from the same place a week later, and it was terrible.

sally (#917)

Soo, this is what restaurants do, trying to mitigate terrible reviews. You hit a bad night, they asked for a second chance. If it really was better, it would be cool to change the review. Maybe without saying “and they offer a free-food-for-shitty-reviews deal.” If you receive their gift and don’t fix the review and ever eat there again, expect to consume some spit.

I’ve gotten phantom orders from Seamless as well! Not in response to a bad review, but it showed up the day after a previous order. I think it’s just a bug in their system.

wearitcounts (#772)

@forget it i quit that kind of makes me want to start using seamless.

@wearitcounts I kind of Robin Hood Seamless nowadays. My current job gives me $25 on Seamless if I work past 9pm. $25 of food is a lot of food so I just end up tipping the delivery guys $10.

wearitcounts (#772)

@forget it i quit you’re awesome.

kellyography (#250)

Being haunted by a delivery of fried chicken sounds like the best haunting ever.

glow bug (#1,606)

I left a 2-star yelp review for a mediterranean place by my work. a day or two later the manager emailed me offering me a $20 gift card to try the place again. i was tempted but i really didn’t want to eat there again. some time has passed and i’m kinda glad i didn’t give in because that review was really honest. i’d been there twice, i’d had shitty experiences both times, and that place was definitely just 2-star.

shannowhamo (#845)

@pigforker I do not care for pushy managers trying to just pay me off for better reviews! Address the problem, thank me for my feedback, ANYTHING but offer me free shit, that is fucked up! I mean, I love free stuff but not from places I don’t like!

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