Restaurants in Toronto worry about scams on food delivery apps
Restaurant owners and customers are claiming that food delivery drivers are stealing the food before it gets to the destination.
Zezafoun owner, Marcelle Dahdal, has been using various delivery apps since they opened up two years ago. But recently she noticed that in two of the apps there were several orders that were reported as missing items and the customers had been refunded their money.
This raised alarm bells for Dahdal. She alledged that there was no way there were missing items.
"Nowadays with what's happening we can't afford staff, I pack everything myself," she told blogTO in a telephone interview.
"What really annoyed me is that they refunded the customer without even talking to us. It's not right and it's not fair we're a very small family business."
Dahdal decided to post to a Facebook group to see if anyone else had a similar experience.
"I work in my restaurant and I pack every order and this week I noticed 3 refunds on DoorDash and UberEats to order error of missing items which I know very well that it was not missing. So it is either that the customers are not saying the truth or the drivers are taking from the orders." she wrote in the Facebook forum.
In the comment section below the post, customers and other restaurant owners shared similar stories of items going missing and order errors.
"[Two] DoorDash(es) in a row I've received 80% of my meal," said Dave Anderson in the comments.
"I’ve had that happen before and you can call support and tell them you’ve packed everything. Usually they give you a refund," wrote Diana Le-Huynh
"Some of the time, customers complain with said excuse to get a discount [...] Other times, the delivery driver take food," added F'Amelia chef Jason Van Nguyen.
And this isn't a new issue.
Johnathon Boville, who owns Stuttering John's Smokehouse, claims when he was using the apps it would happen relatively frequently.
"We noticed it enough but you wouldn't notice it without checking your monthly or weekly order reviews. They give out refunds and don't even tell you they're giving someone a refund," he said in a telephone interview.
There's also a Toronto reddit thread from 2019, which called out one UberEats driver for stealing food, details even more complaints and stories about how delivery drivers are scamming restaurants and customers alike.
And while it would be nice to think this is a one off, according to one survey conducted by US Foods in 2019, about one in four food delivery drivers admitted to eating food from a delivery they're responsible for.
There's also another online forum where an unnamed UberEats driver posted their tactics for stealing food.
According to a 2018 article published on The Takeout, UberEats has been aware of this situation for sometime.
In its delivery guidelines, UberEats states that the company will deactivate drivers’ accounts that are associated with fraudulent activity, including “claiming to complete a delivery without ever picking up the delivery item; and picking up a delivery item but not delivering it in full.”
Additionally an Uber spokesperson claimed: "We do take a number of steps to monitor and prevent any kind of theft or fraud on the app with both delivery partners and customers."
As for solutions, people in the Facebook thread comment section suggested taking photos of packaged items and packing up orders into a stapled bag so it's obvious if it's been tampered with.
Dahdal is considering starting her own app and delivery service as a way to avoid this and also the steep fees the delivery services charge to use their services. But currently, that's more of a long-term goal.
"We can't really afford it right now," she said. "Unless you have a good number of orders it won't really be worth it. [Right now], it's not busy enough to cover the expenses. There's no way I can just stop the app."
Boville gave up on the apps all together.
"You basically have no more control over your sales," he said, adding that the delivery drivers can be reckless and often mishandle the food.
Boville gave an example of one driver who "literally threw" the cooler bag into his trunk.
"Good thing I called the service and complained because when I checked a week later the customer complained about their order. Thankfully, I had called in the driver so they didn't penalise me."
Boville also added that the apps aren't financially viable in the long-term.
"They're predatory for restuarant owners. Restaurants [are] giving up 25 -30% of their margins. You're racing to the bottom, which will kill most of the restaurants. I would lose my profit and there's an unhappy customer," he said. "That's the biggest issue. There's a huge disconnect with the customers."
That being said, in the current pandemic food delivery services aren't going anywhere. However, tampering with food orders isn't just an inconvenience and a financial problem. Depending on the circumstances, such as snacking on a couple fries, it could put customer's health and safety at risk.
If you're worried your food has been tampered with contact Uber directly through the app.
"We do have a support team who looks into reports and will work with customers directly to help resolve any issues," UberEats spokesperson Kayla Whaling told blogTO.
Although, it's worth mentioning that customers also aren't completely blameless – they've been known get a free lunch by taking advantage of generous refund policies. There are multiple reddit threads dedicated to offering tips on how to scam the system.
However, food delivery companies do catch on if customers make a habit out of making complaints. Uber, for one, has been known to deactivate users accounts and even ban customers who take advantage.
"We do have fraud detection and measures in place. If we suspect someone of possible fraud, we will investigate and take action, which can include someone permanently losing access to the Uber platform," said Whaling.
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