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Food delivery services: A look into reports of theft and tampering

By Nakisha Rigley, KSL.com | Posted - Apr. 10, 2019 at 10:31 a.m.



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More and more people are turning to delivery apps for food. In Part 1 we looked at the requirements to deliver for Doordash. In part 2 of our series, we’ll take a closer look at what it takes to drive for Uber Eats, and into possible food theft and tampering. SALT LAKE CITY — Uber Eats is unique because it branched out from the company's rideshare service when it got in on the delivery craze in 2016. Now, Uber Technologies Inc. is valued at $72 billion and is also on CB Insights' list of unicorn companies.

Despite being only a few years old, Uber Eats has expanded internationally, with locations in over 200 cities in six continents, including North America, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Asia and Africa, according to its website.

What we know about its drivers

All Uber Eats delivery drivers need to meet the minimum age requirement to drive in the city they reside in, have a valid driver’s license and have at least a year of driving experience, according to its website.

Drivers must also undergo a screening process before being able to access the app, including a criminal history background check and MVR or Motor Vehicle Report.

Uber Eats specifies limited requirements a car must meet. The car must have two or four doors and can’t be older than 1998. Drivers do have the option of riding a bike or a scooter if they don’t have a car, but if they do, food temperature and quality are likely harder to control depending on the trip length.

Upon signing up, drivers receive an introduction to the app that includes information about things like food safety and interacting with customers.

Its website states that no vehicle inspection is required prior to delivering for them in Utah, but each state has its own requirements for Uber Eats drivers.

Uber Eats has some community guidelines on its website listing behavior like respect and safety that are expected from customers, drivers and delivery partners.

How they keep your food warm

The average total delivery time is 35 minutes, which consists mostly of the restaurant accepting the order and preparing the food, according to an Uber Eats representative.

Uber Eats does not state on its website that it has a rule requiring an insulated delivery bag, although it does have a Delivery Gear Ideas page where it explains that having one makes the job easier. It's Uberhelp site also notes that the insulated bag is a "recommendation."

The USDA website explains that in order for hot food to stay safe, it needs to stay at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, and cold food must be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Food starts to become unsafe when left at room temperature for longer than two hours or one hour in air temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Using insulated delivery bags can help keep these foods at the correct temperatures.

Most delivery partners use insulated bags, according to an Uber Eats representative; however, Uber Eats did not respond to our request for clarification about whether they require the use of these bags.

Another potential risk with food delivery is possible theft or tampering. According to The Takeout, and reported by 2018 ABC Tampa, a woman claimed that her food was stolen by her Uber Eats driver.

The loophole that makes theft of delivered food possible works like this: A driver can pick up the food from a restaurant, drive it to the address they’re given, mark it as delivered, and drive away.

They could also claim the customer was unavailable when they showed up, and leave with the food.

While it may not happen often, there are some disgruntled customers who are turning to online forums like Reddit to discuss their food being tampered with or missing when using a food delivery service.

There is also an online forum called Uberpeople, in which the commenters claim they are Uber Eats delivery drivers. One user mentions they’ve “stolen food legitimately once” because they wanted to try out the restaurant and said a customer did not leave a number for their apartment.

When The Takeout asked an Uber spokesperson to clarify how they deal with such situations, they responded with this in an email:

“Though there are instances where the driver partner encounters situations where no one is there to retrieve the order, 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."

Their rating system and technology are meant to ensure accountability among drivers, according to an Uber Eats official. If they receive a report of food not being delivered, they say they will investigate and the delivery partner could lose access to the app.

What customers are saying

The BBB gives Uber Technologies, which includes its rideshare services and Uber Eats, an F rating with 3,855 complaints against them as of Tuesday; of those, 3,584 were unanswered and 2,124 fell under the category of “problems with a product or service."

Tune in next time for our final part of our series, when we dive into Grubhub and the impact of delivery services on the economy.

Nakisha Rigley

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