Minimize Use of Standard Internet Food Delivery

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Epistemic Sta­tus: Public ser­vice an­nounce­ment. Con­fi­dent and not spon­sored.

To­day, I went to one of my fa­vorite lo­cal restau­rants to find it was closed.

This is not an un­com­mon oc­cur­rence. About a month prior, I lost per­haps my fa­vorite place in the world to go for a nice meal, BLT Prime. To­day, I learned I’d lost my fa­vorite In­dian place, Old Monk. The list goes on. This has be­come fre­quent enough that I’m go­ing to work on a list of places I’m afraid will close, so I can en­courage oth­ers to help them keep the lights on.

The best way to help keep ev­ery­one’s lights on is sim­ple. If you like the restau­rant and want those work­ing there to earn a liv­ing, and the place to con­tinue to ex­ist, do not or­der via on­line ser­vices like Seam­lessWeb, GrubHub, De­liv­ or Caviar, if there is an­other way to con­tact the restau­rant. Pe­riod.

This is be­cause they take mind­bog­glingly huge fees out of ev­ery or­der. We’re talk­ing on the or­der of 20%. I am not one to be­grudge a mid­dle man or mar­ket cre­ator their rea­son­able fee. This is not a rea­son­able fee.

But be­cause cus­tomers don’t know, and the store is forced to eat the en­tire cost or lose the or­der since cus­tomers have been trained by small con­ve­niences and bribes to use the apps and web­sites, the fees con­tinue to be col­lected, and the cy­cle con­tinues. The few places that pass the cost along look su­per greedy and lose busi­ness.

If you would cost your lo­cal place $5 to save the cost of a fif­teen sec­ond phone call, make no mis­take. You are defect­ing. You are play­ing zero-sum games with those who should be your al­lies. You are bad, and you should feel bad.

This is way, way, way worse than not tip­ping where tip­ping is ex­pected. Not tip­ping is shirk­ing on the price and pock­et­ing the money. Here you don’t even get the money.

If you are su­per rich and your time is that valuable, you can tip them 50% (or 500%) and make up for it. In that case, go for it. For the rest of us, seek out the restau­rant’s web­site or if nec­es­sary, at least once you know they’re le­git, pick up the damn phone. Talk­ing to a hu­man is a small price to pay to sup­port what you get value from.

That’s why the pro­mo­tions they bom­bard me with are so rich. How can they give me such deep dis­counts on al­most ev­ery or­der I make? Now I know. They aren’t even always los­ing money on those or­ders. The bas­tards.

In New York City, the pizza places are fight­ing back us­ing an app called Slice. Slice is es­sen­tially the same as the other apps, ex­cept it is run by and for pizza places. Thus it only offers lo­cal pizza and not other cuisines, but it al­lows pizza places to avoid the gi­ant fees. As a bonus, they ex­clude hor­rible chains from your de­liv­ery op­tions. They once sent me a hilar­i­ous pro­mo­tion ac­cus­ing (very, very guilty) chain pizza stores of ‘crimes against pizza.’

If you can, use Slice. I hope there’s more of these for other types of places in the fu­ture. Or bet­ter yet, I hope they already ex­ist, in which case tell me in the com­ments and I’ll up­date the post.

There are larger prin­ci­ples in play. They are im­por­tant. But first, be con­crete. Start here.