Uber now delivers FOOD

Automologist, LING, finally downloads an Uber app…because she is a glutton.

I have to confess that I have never used Uber, although I have read/written extensively about it. My app of choice is Grab, which is Uber’s South East Asian rival dominating this region, including Malaysia. But today, I cheated on Grab with Uber…all because of my love for food.

So, Uber has just launched UberEats. Not the most creative name, mind you, but catchy enough to catch on. I eagerly sought it out in the Google Play store, hit the install button, keyed in my details and credit card number, only to be disappointed that it has yet to be made available in my neck of the woods.

UberEats is currently in 16 cities (NONE OF THEM MINE) including New York, London, Amsterdam and Johannesburg. Not content with having fierce rivals in the ride-hailing space, it now contends with the likes of Deliveroo, a British-based food delivery company that operates worldwide and regional players like Food Panda (funded by the infamous Rocket Internet) and Room Service.

I have joined the group of increasing reclusive people who are too lazy to venture out even to forage for food. Food Panda charges from RM5 to RM15 for each delivery (about US$1 to US$4), which I think considering the cost of petrol, parking, time and convenience combined if I had to drive out to eat, is cheap. In some places, like London, the UberEats service is still free, and in others, like Toronto, it costs CAN$3.99 flat.

The service was initially offered as an additional function in the Uber app. It was only a day or two ago, depending on where you are, that the standalone UberEats app became available. You can log into UberEats using your Uber account (or like me, just sign up with UberEats).

But where Uber goes, scandal follows. When the food delivery service was still a mere tab in the Uber app back in late August, scooters and bicycle couriers held a strike at Uber’s London office, demanding fair pay. They claimed that they were wooed with fees of up to £20 an hour when the service was launched, but that had since dwindled to below the national living wage of £7.20 hourly. UberEats’ side of the story is that drivers get a base fee of £3.30 per delivery, and an additional £1 per mile driven for the delivery, plus a “reward” of £3 (off-peak) or £4 (peak) delivery. According to Uber’s calculations, this comes up to at least £13 per hour, if the driver makes two deliveries an hour.

The Guardian reported receiving pay records that appear to support the drivers’ claim. One courier’s records showed that he earned only £5.72 an hour. Perhaps the salt in the wound is that Uber reported losses of US$1.2 billion in the first half of 2016, and blamed most of it on driver subsidies.

As to whether Uber can make it in the food business, I’ll be the judge of that…as soon as it is made available here.

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