Uber to list taxi services in app in NYC

Is Uber teaming up with NYC taxis? What’s going on with Washington D.C. suing Grubhub? Keep reading to find out more in this week’s roundup with senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins.

DC sues Grubhub, claiming its app is full of hidden fees and jacked-up prices (The Verge)

Summary: District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine is suing Grubhub for deceptive business practices, saying its food delivery app covertly inflates prices for diners who order through it. The suit demands an end to a laundry list of allegedly illegal practices as well as financial restitution and civil penalties.

The newly filed lawsuit argues that Grubhub’s promises of “free” online orders — and “unlimited free delivery” for Grubhub Plus — are misleading. While customers can make pickup orders for free, the company charges delivery and service fees for standard orders and service fees for Grubhub Plus orders, displaying the service fee until recently as part of a single line with sales taxes. “Grubhub misled District residents and took advantage of local restaurants to boost its own profits, even as District consumers and small businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Racine in a statement. “Grubhub charged hidden fees and used bait-and-switch advertising tactics — which are illegal.”

The complaint says Grubhub orders often cost more than ordering the same item at a restaurant and argues that the company fails to reasonably disclose this to consumers. “Because Grubhub already charges consumers several different types of fees for its services … consumers expect that the menu prices listed on Grubhub are the same prices offered at the restaurant or on the restaurant’s website,” it says….

My Take: Let’s start with a comment that stood out to me on Reddit:

“We can do that?! Put Doordash on notice too!”

On RSG’s Facebook page, reader Don R. said, “Like that will stop them and the others. Like the airlines, they will just come up with various methods to hide over their fees while the backbones (drivers) make a pittance.”

With the relative newness of these companies and lack of regulations, the businesses are going to push the envelope. They are going to see what they can get away with.

And, like Don pointed out, these aren’t the only businesses doing this. There are hidden fees all over the place. On the Reddit thread, there’s a whole offshoot devoted to the shady fees attached to Ticketmaster.

Whenever “fees” are added to a service and are vague or unclear, it’s always a bit of a red flag. What is that money actually going toward? What is the purpose of the fee? How is it possible that $20 worth of food turns into $38 once you pay for the delivery service and all the fees attached to it? And that’s not even including a tip for the driver.

Uber Reaches Deal to List All New York City Taxis on Its App (Wall Street Journal)

Summary: Uber Technologies Inc. is becoming friends with a former foe.

The company has reached an agreement to list all New York City taxis on its app, an alliance that could ease the ride-hailing giant’s driver shortage and temper high fares while directing more business to cabdrivers, whose livelihoods were affected by the emergence of car-sharing apps and the pandemic.

While Uber has formed partnerships with some taxi operators overseas, and riders in several U.S. cities can use its app to book taxis if cabdrivers choose to be listed there, the New York City alliance is its first citywide partnership in the U.S. New York, one of Uber’s most lucrative markets, has been a battlefield for the company and the city’s iconic yellow taxis for years.

“It’s bigger and bolder than anything we’ve done,” said Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s global mobility chief. The company expects to launch the offering to riders later this spring….

My Take: Personally, I feel like this is an unexpected development. Since the dawn of rideshare, it’s been the nemesis of taxis. They are competitors, but not in the way that, say, Uber and Lyft are competitors. Obviously, taxis and Ubers are similar, but certainly not the same beast.

Is this one of those instances where it’s better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer?

On Reddit, one poster stated, “I think this will hurt Uber in a way they don’t understand. We have guys here in New Orleans who are using their old taxi and haven’t changed the way it looks. And people are disappointed when they’re picked up by a taxi.”

Will this actually backfire? Will it draw more people back to just ordering or hailing taxis in NYC as opposed to booking an Uber?

Travel Destinations Turn To City Curbs For Drop-Offs, Delivery And Dining (Forbes)

Summary: As we move into the post-COVID era, many cities wonder if their costly office towers will ever be full again. Perhaps they are asking the wrong question, as the humble street curb is becoming the hub of commerce around the world.

Curbivore, a recent conference in Los Angeles discussed the amazing transformation of the curb in cities around the world. The conference was co-founded by ride-share and delivery expert Harry Campbell, aka The Rideshare Guide.

Curbivore participants included Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, leading companies like Uber, Uber Eats and Alto, startups like instant delivery app JOKR, which recently raised $260 million, academic experts and business leaders, and a big gaggle of delivery robots.

The premise of Curbivore is that in cities around the world, a battle is being waged for use of the curb lane. Will it just be metered parking for cars, or will it remain as reimagined during COVID, as a place for outside dining, food, grocery and pick-up of ‘vice’ products like alcohol, cannabis and nicotine?

Curbivore defined itself as “not just the act of eating or drinking on the street or sidewalk, but a reflection that curb space is limited, and cities and businesses must work together to equitably share these prized pieces of real estate.”…

My Take: What do you think of curb real estate? Did it change in your city? In small towns near me, it wasn’t necessarily curbs (as those are hard to come by), but parking lots started hosting food trucks, most especially in response to the State Fair being canceled. But the new tradition ran far beyond the usual timing of the fair, and continues to this day.

There’s even a “Fair Food Finder” group on Facebook where food truck vendors will post where they will be on any given day or week so customers know where to find them.

Also in the news…

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber Recap: Mardi Gras (Vulture)

Thoughts: Have you seen Super Pumped? If so, what do you think of it? Is it negatively affecting Uber’s reputation? Or is it something that can be viewed separately from their current establishment since it’s a different CEO?

See what RSG contributor Chris has to say about the series so far in his Episode 1 and Episode 2 breakdown analysis videos.

Lyft brings Spin scooter rentals to its app (Engadget)

Thoughts: Scooters are back. I feel like scooters got a bit on the back burner with the pandemic, but they are back in force now that the weather is getting warm and restrictions are lifting all over the country.

You can learn more about Scooter with Harry’s podcast RSG095: Euwyn Poon on How Spin is Looking to Storm the Scooter Market.

California’s Plan to Electrify Uber and Lyft Doesn’t Add Up (Wired)

Thoughts: RSG contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin shared his electric vehicle ridesharing experience with Wired in this article. What is the future of electric vehicles? What are the plans for the coming years? Learn more about drivers who are ditching gas guzzlers for EVs.

Have you made the switch to an EV? Is it a worthwhile investment?

-Paula @ RSG