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Uber will deliver your food, if you can afford it

It might prove cheaper to get yourself Ubered to the restaurant and back.

Underbelly ramen arrives with zero spillage
Underbelly ramen arrives with zero spillage

In keeping with my ongoing exploration of smart phone food delivery apps, I had to make my way to Postmates, a service that picks up where Uber leaves off — imagine a fleet of Uber drivers are out there waiting for you to order dinner from a restaurant and then rush it to you once it’s ready.

I initially struggled with the visual interface of the app because it seemed like every time I navigated back to the main menu, the list of restaurant options in my area changed. It took me a while to realize that’s because there’s virtually no limit to my restaurant options. In kind of a weird or ingenious twist, this app equips its drivers with both a smart phone and a prepaid credit card, so it doesn’t matter where you order from — you’ll pay the app, and your driver will actually pay the restaurant separately when he or she picks up your meal.

To that end, it doesn’t have to be a restaurant, as the service’s FAQ explains you may order something from any retail shop and in some cases even have your driver pick up craigslist purchases. And it doesn’t have to be dinner time either. The app claims to operate 24/7, so in theory you might order a 3 a.m. California burrito delivered while you are drunk and the following morning donuts and ibuprofen to help with your hangover.

The cost of doing Postmates business

I point out these scenarios because being unable to get your own food or medicine might be the only thing that would convince me to fork over the kind of delivery charges at play here. I ordered ramen from Underbelly on a rainy Saturday night and paid a total of $11.83 for the delivery — $9.50 based on distance to the restaurant (three miles) and a 9% “service fee.” The actual order — two ramens with oxtail dumplings — cost 12 bucks each before tax. And that’s not including tip.

Granted, as with Uber, Postmates says that a tip is not necessary. It also forbids you from tipping in cash, insisting that if you do tip, you should do so through the app. On the first point: I would like to feel like this is true, but sending someone away from my doorstep in the rain without a tip would require me to be some high level of jerk. On the second point, let’s just say there’s no record on whether or not I am such a jerk.

Ultimately, the app worked as promised. I stayed dry, watched some playoff basketball uninterrupted, received my ramen with no spillage whatsoever, and was able to order everything with a few simple movements of my thumb. Were I rich and lazy, I might actually overuse this service: morning coffee, charcuterie plates, bags of ice, Q-tips, and a jar of pickles might all be rushed to my door within an hour of requesting it, thanks to the gopher-on-demand service.

As it turns out, I’m just lazy, and therefore priced out. Especially if I encountered another Uber-ism: surge pricing. I hate to think what those three miles of driving would cost early on a Friday evening. At some point, it might prove cheaper to Uber myself to the restaurant and back.

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Underbelly ramen arrives with zero spillage
Underbelly ramen arrives with zero spillage

In keeping with my ongoing exploration of smart phone food delivery apps, I had to make my way to Postmates, a service that picks up where Uber leaves off — imagine a fleet of Uber drivers are out there waiting for you to order dinner from a restaurant and then rush it to you once it’s ready.

I initially struggled with the visual interface of the app because it seemed like every time I navigated back to the main menu, the list of restaurant options in my area changed. It took me a while to realize that’s because there’s virtually no limit to my restaurant options. In kind of a weird or ingenious twist, this app equips its drivers with both a smart phone and a prepaid credit card, so it doesn’t matter where you order from — you’ll pay the app, and your driver will actually pay the restaurant separately when he or she picks up your meal.

To that end, it doesn’t have to be a restaurant, as the service’s FAQ explains you may order something from any retail shop and in some cases even have your driver pick up craigslist purchases. And it doesn’t have to be dinner time either. The app claims to operate 24/7, so in theory you might order a 3 a.m. California burrito delivered while you are drunk and the following morning donuts and ibuprofen to help with your hangover.

The cost of doing Postmates business

I point out these scenarios because being unable to get your own food or medicine might be the only thing that would convince me to fork over the kind of delivery charges at play here. I ordered ramen from Underbelly on a rainy Saturday night and paid a total of $11.83 for the delivery — $9.50 based on distance to the restaurant (three miles) and a 9% “service fee.” The actual order — two ramens with oxtail dumplings — cost 12 bucks each before tax. And that’s not including tip.

Granted, as with Uber, Postmates says that a tip is not necessary. It also forbids you from tipping in cash, insisting that if you do tip, you should do so through the app. On the first point: I would like to feel like this is true, but sending someone away from my doorstep in the rain without a tip would require me to be some high level of jerk. On the second point, let’s just say there’s no record on whether or not I am such a jerk.

Ultimately, the app worked as promised. I stayed dry, watched some playoff basketball uninterrupted, received my ramen with no spillage whatsoever, and was able to order everything with a few simple movements of my thumb. Were I rich and lazy, I might actually overuse this service: morning coffee, charcuterie plates, bags of ice, Q-tips, and a jar of pickles might all be rushed to my door within an hour of requesting it, thanks to the gopher-on-demand service.

As it turns out, I’m just lazy, and therefore priced out. Especially if I encountered another Uber-ism: surge pricing. I hate to think what those three miles of driving would cost early on a Friday evening. At some point, it might prove cheaper to Uber myself to the restaurant and back.

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Comments
1

Don't be such a hater. This is a service. I'm sure, like me, you don't send your dirty clothes out for a laundry company to do. I'm also sure you haven't written about that service and trashed it for the price. Same with: valet parking (I can park for free vs pay for the service), first class, toll roads, movie theaters with wait staff, etc. We are in a brave new world. Embrace it!

May 17, 2015

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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