I Paid How Much for this Burger?

Why Food Delivery Sucks Now

It's not an exaggeration or hyperbole to say that COVID changed many ways we do things. People spent a lot of time at home, avoiding the world, and they meant more time teleworking, more time streaming, and more time ordering food from places and having it delivered. That last bit is, of course, key to our discussion today because COVID was the time when DoorDash and Uber Eats and all of those services really took off. It wasn't when they launched -- most food delivery apps were around long before the time of COVID -- but it is when, for many people, they became a default way of getting dinner out.

When they first started up, food delivery services were kind of a boon. The company had their apps, you'd place your order from a restaurant through that app, and then one of the drivers from the company would go off, pick up the food, and bring it to you, all for a nominal fee. You didn't have to leave the house, someone got paid for their service to you, and then they got a nice tip for helping you out in your time of "man, I just do not want to leave the house today." Before COVID hit I used the apps a couple of times and they weren't bad... at first.

There is something nice, convenient even, about just being able to go to a site and order up some food without having to worry about talking to someone or going out of your house to get the grub. Want Chinese tonight? Pop on a site, order up the food, and trust that 40 minutes later the food will be at your door. That's the big selling point of these apps: no matter what you're doing, what you're up to, why you felt like ordering the food, it can be right to you with no fuss and judgment.

Frankly, the not talking to people part of the equation was my favorite aspect. I'm not a social creature, I don't do well with talking to people, especially over the phone. Most restaurants, before these apps came along, required you to call them because they didn't have websites set up for it. Sure, pizza joints have had websites for years where you could order their food and get it delivered, but pizza joints have also been ahead of the curve for decades here. They pioneered the food delivery aspect, and once websites became de regure, pizza shops all had their's setup for Online ordering. Everyone else, thanks to the apps, just caught up.

The problem was that once the apps took off and everyone started using them, the prices for the service started going up. This is actually all part of the normal tech world plan, the so called "enshittification" of services. Get people in when the service is cheap, selling them on how good things are if you just use the app and can get whatever you want... and then slowly things get worse. The prices go up, the fees go up, the service gets worse, but you're already hooked on the concept and don't want to quit. It's the same strategy the streaming giants are using now to help paper over all their massive monetary losses when they launched.

The most obvious cost increases are with the fees. It used to be (and this is just three or so years ago) that you'd order food on an app, say DoorDash, and the price would include a small fee, maybe a couple of three bucks, to pay the company for their time and people. But then those fees went up, and they added on a delivery fee along with the service fee. People Online often go, "if I'm paying a fee for the delivery what the hell is the service fee?" That's the cost of just having the app and using the website. The company exists, so you have to pay for the luxury of its existence.

When you total up the costs -- the fees, taxes, and tip for the driver (and, yes, you should always tip because these people live on their tips), you often end up up with food that's twice the price of what you thought you were ordering. Sure, the base price of your meal is fifteen bucks, but here's another fifteen in taxes and fees, meaning your cheap meal isn't in any way as cheap as you thought. Enjoy getting screwed by the company just for wanting food, suckers.

What's worse, though, is the hidden cost they don't even let you know about: the food is more expensive by default on the app. If you go to a restaurant you like and look at their Online menu (on their site, not on a delivery app) and check prices you'll invariably find things for a couple of bucks cheaper than on the app. A twelve dollar plate of food on their menu will be fourteen or fifteen bucks in the app. DoorDash and the like won't tell you that up front. The price is the price, right? You think you're just ordering from the restaurant and paying fess on top. But the fees get backed into the price on top of all the other fees you do see.

I've seen people say, "I ordered from McDonald's and the price was 25 bucks for a couple of sandwiches." Now, Mickey D's isn't as cheap as they used to be, and most restaurants have had to raise their prices slightly over the last couple of years as food prices have gone up for them. But when you consider a McDouble is usually around two-fifty and a big mac meal might cost you eight, a person ordering those (as I've seen) paying 25 bucks for that is extreme. It's stupid. That's price gouging.

Now, the argument from people would be, "if you don't like the prices, don't use the service." And I don't. I stopped using DoorDash a couple of years ago when I started seeing just how high the prices were getting. But I do still scroll through Reddit and see the stories from people confirming the services haven't gotten any better. They haven't. These companies overcharge and, in general, under-deliver for food you could probably go out and get yourself.

So I say do it. Go out and get the food yourself. Because of these apps most restaurants now have their own Online ordering services as well, just to keep up. Order your food Online and get in the car to go get it. You'll save a bunch of money over using the apps. That is always nice.