Uber Eats doesn't think you're important enough to do right by you


Photo by Steven Eason.

Food at the click of a button, oh how the world has changed in such a short amount of time. When Uber first came to South African shores, it was very exciting. The concept was so simple and the convenience seemed fantastic. Uber has had its share of problems that are very well-documented. Still, I remained a user. When UberEats started operating, I thought it was fantastic. Of course, food delivery had graduated to include online orders and services developed their own standalone apps. None seemed as simple and as user-friendly to me as UberEats and since I'd had such great experiences with their lift service, I was very excited to try it out. 

It honestly started out great. I got fresh, hot, delicious food delivered to my door and because it worked so well, I used it more frequently. Burger & Lobster were a standout for me especially. Then something shifted. I began having more trouble than success with my orders. Changing delivery times, cold food and missing items had me perplexed. I thought these were one-off instances and wrote it down to that. I would take a break from delivery and cook more at home or use other delivery services to fill the gap after a couple of snafus. 

Fast forward to 2018 when Uber sent out a survey to gauge what they could improve and what restaurants their customers wanted on the app. I took the survey and recommended one of my favourite restaurants in Cape Town, Jerry's Burger Bar. I'm guessing other people asked for it too and there was demand enough for Jerry's to begin offering UberEats delivery. Jerry's was not featured on any other apps nor did they do delivery so you bet I was happy to see them on UberEats and I was placing orders. One of the first times I ordered with Jerry's, I got a call from the restaurant asking me if I could cancel my order or contact the driver because they couldn't locate him or contact him and the delivery time kept getting pushed back. I couldn't find a way to do either of these things and told them, they apologised profusely to me over the phone and told me they were disappointed because they had done everything that was in their power to do. 

The food did eventually arrive. It was very late and very cold but I had been concerned that something had happened to the driver because it was such a strange situation that I had never experienced. Sure, I'd had orders pushed back a little in the past, I'd had cold food and missing items but the missing items were refunded swiftly and the late times had never been anything to write home about. A restaurant contacting me and at a loss was a new experience for me. I again stepped back from the app but long story short, I assumed that because this was a new restaurant added to the roster, that perhaps my experience was a symptom of growing pains, and also, cheese bombs are life.

I had better experiences and continued using UberEats. My successes outweighed the troubles at the time however, in September when the winter cravings had not yet abated, SHIT GOT REAL. I ordered hangover food from McDonalds and multiple hashbrowns were missing. Ok no biggie, I got my refund though we all know I would have rather had those delicious potatoey angels to slay the alcohol-fueled headache dragon that had set up camp in the cave that was my cranium. Still, I persisted, stubbornly using UberEats that was clearly having some kind of issue. I don't know if it was all the new restaurants, the winter demands, the treatment of their employees or what but it seemed to me that they had bitten off more than they could chew. I'm so sorry for that pun. 

Silly me continued to use them because the refunds and apologies were given. Now let me talk to you about Jerry's. I love Jerry's. Their service is impeccable and goes above and beyond what I would expect. Once, when celebrating a special occasion, the waitress brought over free shots for our table to congratulate my boyfriend. Amazing. On Sunday night, we were too tired to cook after a day of walking my dog around in the hot sun and I placed an order.

The order came and after the driver was gone Sean opened the bag and find that the order only had the drinks, the burger and 1 packet of fries. We contacted UberEats on their live chat and help function. The in-app chat was as follows:

The live chat went as follows: 

So, they can't contact the driver, they can't answer my questions and it appears that refunds are given on good faith because the amount of refunds given to me now looks suspicious. So we call the restaurant and speak to a guy who personally packed the order. He remembered the order and told us he had written my name on the bag. We asked if he had perhaps put the order in more than one bag, "No", he said. We look at the bag and see my name written on it. So now, we understand that something shady has happened in transit and because Jerry's maintains that this is not an innocent mistake of forgetting a bag or giving it to someone else. UberEats doesn't respond to me. 

I would have been fine with just getting the damn cheese bombs, I don't need a refund. Let's talk to the driver. No dice. Hell, tell me you don't re-deliver wrong orders so I can start cooking. Anyway, since their representative has now essentially accused me of lying, I get pissed. I get online and ask for stories as well as tweeting Uber. I'm redirected to a guy, Rory, who lives nearby. Our area has a huge selection of restaurants and must be a hotbed for business. I'm not aware of another area having this many options. I've opened the app in a number of other areas to find the choices are significantly fewer. I was not surprised to hear where this guy lives because he had been having the exact same problems and gotten a similar response which he shared with me here:

They do not want to refund him because there's been too many issues and are insinuating that Rory, hungry normal guy Rory, is trying to take them for a ride because damn, what a lucrative business it must be to get R19 back here and there. So, what I'm understanding is that Uber has no way of knowing whether consumers are lying to them and trying to scam them out of money for orders that have been delivered but just decides this must be the case and flags a customer for basically having too much bad service. To say this is "atypical" is flat out WRONG. This is not atypical and I'm proof of that. This is a pattern. Not to mention the other people who told me they stopped using the app because they've had such shitty experiences as well. The stories were illuminating. They had also experienced terrible customer service when trying to resolve the problem. 

So I start digging even more and find articles, Reddit threads and even a forum, UberPeople, where Uber drivers are flat-out admitting to stealing food and trading tricks and tips on how to do this. I'm finding stories of using cutlery to steal fries and what to say to Uber so that Uber tells them to dispose of the food which they then keep and eat. I'm finding restaurants who work with multiple delivery services that require only their UberEats drivers to provide ID and sign something stating that they got the entire order. I'm finding stories of restaurants who staple their bags shut to prevent tampering or theft, discovering that drivers are re-stapling the bags after they remove items or does gods knows what else. Now, I understand why Burger & Lobster orders have worked out for me because what I once thought was strange ("Damn these staples are dangerous, what if it falls in my food while I'm opening the bag?") is actually a tamper-hindering method. 

This all begins to make sense to me. What doesn't make sense is why this seems to be a predominately UberEats problem. Of all the various delivery experiences with pizza guys and other services I've had, I have never experienced this amount of shitty service. Then I realize I'm being stupid, of course this is only an UberEats problem. I've heard enough to know about grievances their employees have with them. Clearly they are not treating their employees well. If this was a problem with their system, they could develop a better system and they should. From what I can understand, Uber cannot protect their consumers or themselves whether it's from drivers or restaurants messing up or whether it's from users who falsely claim they didn't get their orders. This is a huge problem, the likes of which can't be said for other services. Shit happens yes, but not on this scale. I read stories from drivers who say Uber makes it unclear whether they are delivering to an apartment because fewer drivers want to accept an order and lug food up stairs or search the buildings. I've personally heard from Uber drivers that the pay is terrible. I've had UberEats drivers call me and ask if they can leave the drink because they have no efficient way of delivering it. This is not the driver's fault and is costing Uber and customers money. Uber seems incapable of getting their business right. Now, one could say that this serves me right for using a company that has had so many problems and controversies. However, I am glad that I did because I can now add myself to the list of people not happy with them instead of being part of the problem.  

So after all of this digging (I love researching things), I've decided I'm writing about this and I go to sleep after screenshotting my experience and looking over my previous bank statements more carefully and seeing that when refunds were given, they were sometimes missing cents which no doubt, adds up for a company when you're giving out refunds. Cool. Another issue. I wake up to this message:

Wow, Ok. So now, Uber in fact decided to refund me? Not that it has reflected in my account as of this writing. Nevermind the incorrect currency, what on earth changed their tune? Was it me going on Twitter, talking about writing this? Was it Jerry's telling their side of the story? Was it just a random decision by an employee who didn't look over my records where I'm flagged as a scammer? Who knows. What pisses me off, to no end, are companies who treat me and consumers like shit, only to resolve some peoples' problems but not others. What about everyone else?! What the fuck does Rory get besides being charged for things he didn't get and then accused of absuing UberEats? 

Customer experience should be equal. I cannot tell you the amount of times I've had mind-blowingly different experiences with companies when I interact with them in-person versus online. Yes, there is more of a focus on customer service online but a friend of mine works in PR and told me about systems companies use which rank mentions due to how many followers a person has. I see the logic but I can also see the problem. She told me I popped up on there despite my very small following. If Uber thought refunding me would keep me quiet or keep me using their app, it won't. I'm done with UberEats. I don't want to contribute to a business that decides willy-nilly who is worth listening to. Thanks to everyone who gave me their stories and receipts. I'm extremely disappointed that Uber treats its customers and employees unfairly. 

The big picture for me now, going forward, is that I want to speak out when companies discriminate in unfair ways. I'm sure everyone has experienced being treated differently when someone decides you are now worth their time. From employees being rude to me until they see an owner greet me to people at parties mocking my voice and then contacting me on Facebook after and asking if I can promote their business because, "I didn't know you had followers". GROSS. This is so fucking shitty. I've even had a company offer me free products when I was looking into some seemingly shady stuff going on with them. I will not be bought or silenced. My integrity and the knowledge that other people might not have the same experience as me will not allow that. Be good to people no matter who they are. Be awesome. Be like Jerry's, except for the part where they use UberEats. 

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