Too Embarrassed to Order What We Actually Want

Do you feel more comfortable ordering food online than in person? Joshua Gans at Slate looked at a recent study looking at the role embarrassment plays in the way we make transactions, and the answer for some people if often yes.

Order online and you remove the need to talk to a human over the phone or at a counter. You might think that this change would merely be more convenient, but wouldn’t materially affect the food you order. Then I thought about what my typical “conversation” with a pizza website might sound like:

“Umm, ok I’d like one Margarita pizza and a BBQ Chicken with pineapple. Oh no scratch that, can I have half the BBQ Chicken with pineapple and the other half with peppers. And I’d like the Margarita pizza to have a thin crust and, wow, what is a four cheese mushroom pizza? I’ll have one of those but can you remove the goat’s cheese … wait, does that work with this coupon?”

Suffice it to say, something usually holds me back from making such a speech to a fellow human being. Apparently, I’m not alone. Despite the new website being fairly rudimentary (no search, no ratings, no recommendations, no saved orders), the researchers were able to compare the orders of the 6.7 percent of their customers now using the website to what they previously asked for over the phone. (The company kept good records.) They found that customers loaded on additional toppings, spending $0.61 more per order on goods that were 15 percent more complex (as measured by the number of instructions customers gave for each pizza in their order) compared to what they used to order offline. (With all of those extra toppings also came higher calorie counts—about 6 percent more than a base that was already pretty large; it is pizza after all.)

Ordering food online through places like Seamless certainly feels easier—you can take as much time as you want to decide what you’d like to eat, and then simply select those items and pay with a card—but I also have no problem ordering extra bacon in person if what I want is extra bacon (the heart wants what it wants).

Photo: Dick Uhne

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

Yes, this is totally me. I get really nervous when ordering and feel pressure to order quickly, and especially if the menu isn’t clear I just go with something simple out of panic. Ordering online gives me the time to thoroughly read the menu (which is usually laid out more clearly than one in-store is). Plus I have the added benefit of not worrying that they’ll misunderstand me or write it down wrong. It’s still possible to read the order wrong when making it, but it seems simpler on my end at least.

gl (#5,458)

@bgprincipessa Oh my god, I do the thing too where the menu is too complicated and I feel pressure to order and get something out of panic. This is why I have one Starbucks order and I never ever ever deviate. And even then I get panicky sometimes. (Why do they ask me what kind of milk I want?! JUST SURPRISE ME.)

bgprincipessa (#699)

@gl Oh my god, I usually just order one of the featured flavor lattes because I can’t understand anything else. A couple weeks ago I tried to deviate and the guy kept asking me what kind of sugar I wanted?? And I literally worked up the courage to be like “Um, I don’t know, what are my options” and then he couldn’t EVEN NAME THEM. He was like uhh.. regular sugar… Splenda….. and I was like “what is happening.” Seriously, I will solicit here: if anybody knows of a really good guide somewhere on the interwebs that explains all the options to ordering at Starbucks (or honestly any coffee house) I would love it. I always want to order coffees with flavor shots but then I get nervous that I will say it wrong and give up.

Nope, I do not care about this thing at all. I will order like a crazy person wherever I go.

eraserface (#1,628)

@Jake Reinhardt I totally agree! I always explain what I want, and I don’t care if it’s a little complex (usually isn’t) or takes me a while to decide. The seller is providing a service to you…shouldn’t you get exactly what you want, within what’s feasible?

I think this is a larger issue– some people just don’t enjoy small interactions with strangers. I suppose I can kind of understand that, except I totally do enjoy talking to strangers. It’s a survival skill on the bus.

gl (#5,458)

I try not to be self-conscious about what I eat and I usually succeed at that, but I’m a lady and I’m not a size zero, so, yeah, there are definitely times that I get the urge to order something else because I don’t want people to judge me/my body/what I am eating. (Even typing this I want to offer up totally irrelevant things like my BMI or the fact that I like eating kale as some kind of sacrifice for “no but really, I am HEALTHY and I THINK about my food choices and they are GOOD”.) It’s why I hate, for example, ordering first at a restaurant. It’s also why some of my friends are “safer” to eat out with. And why my mother is the least safe person to eat out with ever and why I’m constantly eating differently around her than I want to (despite the fact I never and will never live up to her eating expectations, which are pretty much: never eat).

BASICALLY. I wonder if this is a thing with a gender component. I mean, yeah, I hate the tongue-twisty awkward fumbling of modifying or changing an order in person because words are hard and people are harder, but I also hate ordering — AS A TOTALLY RANDOM EXAMPLE — two eggs on a roll with sausage and cheddar cheese, not only because if you go into a random place they might not have real cheddar cheese (SOB) but also because I just … feel … idek … like the world is judging me for having a breakfast sandwich every once in a while, despite the fact (and again, here I offer up unnecessary facts to the gods of Food Choices and Body Image and Snap Judgements) that I only get on once every month or two.

sea ermine (#122)

@gl Yeah I think there is a gender component here. I often get comments made on my food (I have a large appetite) and what I choose to order at a restaurant. If I order online no one can bother me when I want to eat whole pizza by myself.

AitchBee (#3,001)

@gl Yep, exactly. And THEN I get self-conscious about being self-conscious (I’M FAILING FEMINISM)

sherlock (#3,599)

@gl Yep. I have declined to leave a tip at a restaurant exactly once in my entire life, and it was because the (male) waiter commented rudely on the amount of carbs in the meals that I and my two female companions had ordered. He helpfully suggested that we should for a long walk afterwards to make up for it. Even thinking about it now, months later, makes me livid.

I often find that add-ons, substitutions and “can you make it half-X and half-Y?” requests get lost over the phone, especially if the connection is bad or there’s a language barrier. I’m way more likely to make those requests when ordering online, so there’s a paper trail.

Also when I was in college, the Domino’s website would tell you the name of the person making your pizza if you ordered online. Do they still do that? I used to hope & pray Muhammad would get my order… he was the best at distributing toppings.

milena (#3,288)

I think I may be one of the few people who prefer to deal with anything customer-servicey over the phone rather than online. If you’re looking to get around red tape, get that free overnight shipping you shouldn’t qualify for, or make a wacky request without dealing with the upcharge, it’s easier to get your way on the phone.

A particularly useful scenario I can recall is the many, many times I’ve had Saks salespeople track down hard-to-find clearance items in my size at another store across the country and have them shipped to me for free. Try doing that online and you’ll get nowhere.

(This, of course, hinges on you being a good customer who treats customer service reps/sales people like intelligent human beings deserving of respect.)

pizza (#599)

@milena I’m the same. I hardly ever order food, but when I do it’s always over the phone. I always feel like it’s going to get lost doing it on Internet or someone might not see it.

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