Why did my Uber Eats order arrive by car when it said bike?

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The week’s come to an end and like hell you’re cooking. You fire up Uber Eats and place your order. The order’s taken, meal is confirmed and prepared and you see it’s despatched to you via bike rider. You track the rider through the app. Man, that dude is either Lance Armstrong on gear or something else is happening. Your order turns up. Turns up in a bodgie Mitsubishi Lancer that’s seen better days. Huh?

Recent media coverage has started to single out the food delivery giant – which according to section two of their terms and conditions reveals the company doesn’t even identify as providing transportation or logistics services or function as a transportation carrier –  for hefty commissions levied on restaurants and cafes and practices described by one cafe owner, who formerly used the service, as a “feudal system”. Ouch.

In what could be an effort to counter negative reportage, Uber Eats has rolled out a big bucks television campaign featuring no less than Naomi Watts who descends a spiral staircase to breathlessly declare, in seperate ads, that she’s ordering food deliveries in Fremantle, Rosalie, Surry Hills, and Collingwood. Uber Eats even used the same localisation strategy with Sophie Monk.

But back to old mate, Lance/r.

I’m a regular user of Uber Eats. I like it. Anecdotally speaking, however, over the past few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of bike riders despatched to drop off my order, but they almost always arrive by car (and not good cars). Before I go on, I am fully conscious that this is almost peak first world problem. But, when there’s a royal commission into the finance sector and failed Korean summits happening, I mean, someone has to do the journalism.

So I did. I contacted Uber to find out WTF is going on. Here’s what I asked:

  1. How many Uber Eats bicycle riders are currently registered and active in Australia?
  2. How many Uber Eats car drivers are currently registered and active in Australia?
  3. What are the different requirements for gaining registration as an Uber Eats rider as opposed to a driver?
  4. How many deliveries have been made by Uber Eats riders so far in 2018?
  5. How many deliveries have been made by Uber Eats drivers so far in 2018?
  6. How does Uber Eats monitor the performance of its riders and drivers?
  7. Is Uber Eats aware of cars being used when orders are showing deliveries have been assigned to riders?
  8. What concerns does Uber Eats have that this practice is taking place?
  9. What strategies or plans does Uber Eats have in place to deal with this practice?
  10. What should an Uber Eats customer do if their order has been delivered by car when the delivery had been assigned to a rider?

And here’s what an Uber Eats spokesperson came back with:

When Uber Eats delivery partners sign up to the app they must register with the type of vehicle intended for use – this can either be a car, scooter, motorbike or bicycle. Uber Eats educates delivery partners on the importance of correctly signing up to the app; the benefit of delivering with a motorised vehicle and the consequences if they are found to be delivering with a vehicle that is not registered to their account.

The Uber Eats app is designed to give users identifying information about delivery partners and their vehicles, like their name, vehicle type and license plate number, before the delivery begins. This helps ensure the correct delivery is taking place, along with the safety of our users. Inaccurate or outdated information creates confusion and can negatively impact the Uber Eats experience.

We have processes in place to monitor delivery partners who may be using a vehicle other than the one signed up with. When reports are made to us, we would investigate and require the delivery partner to update their records to ensure they are correct or risk losing access to the app.

In addition to this, we do encourage all of our customers to contact us through our 24/7 support centre should they have any issues or concerns. We rely on this feedback to improve the experience for all of our users and we work to ensure the proper safety standards are met by our partners.

Please visit our website to review the steps required to sign up as a delivery partner.  

I got answers to question 10 (but not how), kinda got answers to questions 8 and 9. It’s implied Uber Eats knows about the issue as identified in the carefully worded response to question 7 and was directed to their website for question 3 (I screenshot these for you and included below. Because journalism). Questions 1, 2, 4 and 5 were pretty much “let’s see if I can get an answer for LOLs” because Uber rarely talks figures.

But it’s the response to question 6 that seems most interesting about how Uber monitors the performance of its riders and drivers. And their answer again:

We have processes in place to monitor delivery partners who may be using a vehicle other than the one signed up with. When reports are made to us, we would investigate and require the delivery partner to update their records to ensure they are correct or risk losing access to the app.

The bits in bold stand out for a reason. It appears Uber Eats investigates only if the user – you – report that a car was used instead of a bike and, if they are caught they risk – possibly – losing access to the app. So, dear reader, it’s all on you.

So why is someone registering as a bike rider, but using a car? Let’s look at the requirements to register for each:

Car and scooter

Bike

Basically, a registered bike rider doesn’t need to show a licence or insurance. So when one arrives – and here’s the thing – how does Uber Eats, or you, know that person is even licensed to drive, let alone have insurance? Answer: you don’t.

When you walk out tonight to admire the athletic prowess of the clearly Olympic-trained bike rider dropping off your poke bowl, and you see that banged-up Lancer and old mate looking for your address, remember, you can either make a report and end this madness, or smile and take the paper bag and move on with your life. And onto your poke bowl.

Matt Mitchell

Matt is GRAM's editor. A journalist for more years than he cares to acknowledge, Matt took over as editor in January 2018. He's worked across magazines, television, newspapers, digital and radio. A master of roasting and a demolisher of wine, he hates the word 'foodie' with a passion. If you've got a story idea, pitch it.