Thinking Pink

I had been meaning to try Pink Dot since I first heard of it: groceries and deli food, ordered online or over the phone, and delivered within half an hour. What convenience! What luxury! What a dangerous dream for a freelance writer -- another excuse never to leave the house.

By the time I got around to placing an order, though, something was a bit odd with Pink Dot. My friend Rex -- a regular Pink Dot user -- suggested it for dinner one night. We got on the computer and located the Web site, one deep-pink page with a round cartoon character announcing ”We‘re Back“ and giving an 800 number.

”Back from where?“ I wanted to know.

Rex explained. ”For a while, Pink Dot changed to PDQuick. But now it’s apparently back to Pink Dot.“

We found no menu on the Web site and nothing to click on for more information. So we called the 800 number and asked to have a menu faxed. When the menu didn‘t arrive in half an hour, we phoned back and ordered partly by guesswork (”Do you have a Reuben?“) and partly by having the woman on the other end read us the menu.

”Could you, uh, include a menu with our order?“ we asked.

”We’re out of menus,“ the woman said. ”We only have two of them here.“

”Will the Web site be up soon?“

”They don‘t tell us about the Web site,“ said the woman.

It would seem that Rex and I had wandered into a classic dot-com debacle -- a pink dot-com debacle.

The food arrived 40 minutes later, delivered by an older gentleman. Rex said, ”They used to guarantee half-hour-or-under delivery, and you’d get a coupon for free delivery if they were late.“ (The delivery fee is $2.99.) There was no mention of any coupon.

The food itself was, well, about what you‘d expect from a convenience-store deli -- pedestrian, unadorned, quintessential bachelor fare, a quick solution to the basic problem of having to eat.

The Reuben was a multigrain baguette filled with Swiss cheese, a very generic pastrami (rather than corned beef) and coleslaw (rather than sauerkraut), then heated to melt the cheese. The hot coleslaw hit a peculiar note. I liked a hot dog much better, a fat beef frank sliced lengthwise to fill a soft French baguette. Though I could have used another pack of relish. Add a Diet Coke, a bag of Tostitos, a carton of Haagen-Dazs chocolate sorbet, and dinner was shortly out of the way.

A few days later I called Pink Dot again, from my own home, for lunch, in the middle of the day. This time, a menu was faxed immediately upon request -- and I read it with fascination. Each faxed page was half food, half grocery items; sandwiches shared a page with antacids, ”anti-diarrhea“ caplets, cough medicine, laxatives. Pasta shared a page with light bulbs, newspapers, insect killer, stamps and L’eggs. Did I need an extension cord? A roll of duct tape?

I phoned back to place my order. The woman took my name, address, and phone and credit card numbers. ”You not working today, Michelle?“ she asked me.

”I work at home,“ I said.

”Oh,“ she said. ”You hiring?“

This time, another older gentleman delivered my largish order in about 25 minutes. He drove a white Cadillac. I was happy to find a catalogmenu in the bag, albeit a PDQuick menu dated early spring 2001. Unlike the faxed menu, these pages were properly organized with appetizing items on one page, unappetizing items on other pages. Interspersed throughout were humorous character sketches of housebound or supermarket-phobic customers: ”Carl, alone, faint-hearted and craving a BLT Baguette and a brewski, couldn‘t leave the house for at least six more hours, until he completed his esoteric, existential self-improvement exercise.“

The food in this delivery, again, was nothing special. The so-called BLT Baguette -- sourdough this time -- had shredded lettuce, thin tomato slices, crisp bacon and generous mayo. Not bad if you’re hungry. A Southwestern salad couldn‘t have been more ordinary: tendrils of yellow cheese, sliced canned olives, dry romaine lettuce, tortilla chips, with a quarter-cup of chili and some ranch dressing on the side. The only surprise was a good, chewy chocolate-chip cookie with big chunks of chocolate. Penne with meatballs and marinara sauce, on the other hand, was like the version you’d get in a college cafeteria -- and, as such, would explain why you ate nothing your junior year except PB&J and ice cream.

Luckily, you can order that PB&J and ice cream from the same place, along with that newspaper or bottle of glue, dog food or quart of vodka (yes, Pink Dot delivers booze).

Having finally initiated herself into the speed and luxury of deli and grocery delivery, Michelle set aside The Metaphysical Club for an in-depth study of the Pink Dot catalog.

Pink Dot, 1-800-PINKDOT. Open 9 a.m.--3 a.m. daily. No minimum order. Delivery fee $2.99. Sandwiches $2.99--$6.59.


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