You must have seen the video.
A food-delivery executive mooching off food meant for a customer, then cleanly resealing it, and setting off to work with the focus of an award-winning star employee.
When I searched for the video on YouTube, it was preceded by an ad by Zomato itself – asking me to order food that would get delivered in minutes. It’s the kind of video that makes you think back to all the orders that reached your doorstep decimated. Remember the time the salad looked like it had been ravaged by vultures? Or the laddoo that resembled a 5th day ball of a Baroda Test match? All of those memories come flashing back.
The case is even more interesting because the company in question usually has a funny retort on social media. Unfortunately on this occasion – and pardon the phrase – they have had to order humble pie.
We Indians have taken to food delivery apps quite well. Perhaps because the first instance of order-deliveries was of Hanuman delivering the Sanjeevani plant. We have an intrinsic faith in the food delivery system.
The video was also forwarded to me on WhatsApp groups, and it triggered active conversations. There were those who wanted that delivery personnel be provided better pay, food coupons, and lower targets. Conspiracy theorists, never too far away on a WhatsApp group, argued that it could be a ploy by Swiggy to get rid of their biggest competitor (since FoodPanda has begun to go extinct).
But the conspiracy theory sounds implausible when you see the actual video. It is done with the precision of an experienced hand, of a seasoned (for the lack of a better word) customer. In a way, I sympathised with the delivery executive. He looked stockily built, someone with a natural proclivity for food.
The video was shot in Madurai – a temple town with a rich variety of local foods. An average food-delivery person delivers about 20 orders a day. Imagine zipping through the city, the aroma of different cuisines wafting with you. When the food is so near, yet so far. Luckily for the employee, the video isn’t very clear.
It is also not the first time such a video shattered the faith of people. A few years ago, a video surfaced from Mumbai where a pani puri vendor decided to offer a new twist on the old favourite – Urea Puri.
Be warned: The video is not safe for work, home, jungle or the hills.
The video proves that in spite of apologies and warnings, any system that involves human beings is subject to tampering. In spite of best practices and quality ‘testing’, one can never really be sure.
It is only prudent therefore, to make a list of low-risk and high-risk food to order online.
At the low end of the low-risk spectrum stand South Indian food. It is impossible to take a bite out of an idli, vada, or dosa – without altering the shape. However, kindly do not enter the marshy territory of upma, pongal and sambar rice.
The look and feel of the food item is also crucial – a lasagne will be hard to break into. Pizzas are safe too, and in case of doubt, go for one with less toppings. Wraps are difficult to tamper with, and if someone scoops out the filling of a wrap carefully – they probably deserve the wrap more than you do.
If you are a biryani lover, you fall in the high-risk category. When they say ‘family pack’ biryani, they don’t specify how many members of a family. It isn’t hard for a bachelor to want to belong to your family.
Noodles and fried rice are high-risk too. Geo-politically, India and China might not be on Baloo-Bagheera terms, but Chinese food is considered quite accessible. Milk-shakes are a strict no-no. If it’s an ice cream thickshake, you wouldn’t even know that the quantity has reduced! Soups are out of question.
If you’re the suspicious kind, you could even do a test case on your deliveries to check if they have been tampered with.
For example, order Rasmalai and check if the delivery agent has a satisfied, benign smile on his face. Or order Chicken Teekha Mirch Kabab (select Extra Spicy option), and wait for the order.
If you notice the delivery agent puffing and panting, sweaty or fidgety, it might make sense to check your order.
It’s the least one can do in times like this. Of course, one could learn to cook for oneself. But why even go there?