A Bizarre Story About Getting a “Claimable” Delivery App Menu Listing Taken Down

This will not be the first time I’ve gone off on predatory delivery app behavior and I doubt it will be the last.

If anything, since working with more restaurants as my tech company has expanded (something I’m immensely grateful for!) I’ve only tangled with these companies more and more, and the experience is not often a positive one. If anything, COVID seems to have prompted worse behavior from these companies, as restaurants grew more dependent on them during lockdowns and capacity limits.

One of the topics I’ve broached before was the issue of delivery apps setting up “claimable” online menus. Food delivery services of all kinds routinely set up “claimable” menu pages scrapped from menus on the restaurant website itself. These menus are generally meant to be claimed in order to set up an online delivery account with the food delivery service. They often advertise it as a convenience: Look, we’ve set up your profile so you don’t have to!

What almost always happens instead is the restaurant – and I’ve had to do this often on behalf of clients – will need to “claim” the link in order to take it down due to not having any interest in working with that food delivery company. Unfortunately this process can often be difficult, frustrating and convoluted. It’s also not helpful that this data is often out of data which may confuse customers and even get them angry at the restaurant itself despite them having had nothing to do with these links being set up.

Stories of this are rampant and routine and there seems to be no easy solution rather than just trying to get through to a human whenever it happens. So it went that I discovered an unwanted page for a client I will refer to as Y Restaurant from a delivery app that I will henceforth refer to as Food App. The client was understandably upset and was discussing contacting their attorney. I convinced them to not go that far but it did give both of us an idea.

I fully understand that one can only take my word on the authenticity of this exchange, but I also think it’s fair to say that this sort of behavior by delivery apps is so happens so often that I deserve some benefit of the doubt. I also just want to keep Y Restaurant anonymous because restaurants often genuinely fear retaliation from delivery apps who definitely just want to help local restaurants, honest. As such I am not pointing the finger at any specific company. Bear that in mind, both readers and lawyers.

So when I called Food App, after the usual 20 minute wait period I was lucky enough to get connected with a service representative whom I will refer to as John in the interests of anonymity. The following exchange took place:

John: Thank you for calling Food App, how may I help you today?

Me: Hello, I’m calling from Y Restaurant. You have posted a “claimable” online menu listing without their permission which also has out of date information and which they don’t want. Can we please have that taken down?

John: But if you have the listing taken down you won’t be able to take advantage of our pickup and delivery services.

Author’s Note: So far, so typical. I can say for a fact that this is done intentionally as part of a sales funnel. I always remind people to not yell at ground level employees who aren’t decision makers. It’s not their fault, as aggravating and infuriating as it is.

Me: We’re still not interested. Can you please have it taken down?

John: I’m sorry sir, we actually can’t remove the listing because it’s an automated process and part of our system.

Me: Wait, so you can’t remove it, or you won’t remove it?

John: Can’t remove it. I’m sorry sir. That’s a system we have no control over and your listing is abides by our terms and conditions.

Me: So can I ask you something?

John: Yeah, sure.

Me: Okay, so let me understand something here and I’d like you to say something for the record and for the benefit of the client’s legal advisor. You are saying, right here and now, that you physically and literally cannot remove a listing that they never wanted, asked for, or consented to? This being despite the fact that this client never once reached out to you or offered to do business with you?

(Brief pause)

John: Actually, can I place you on a brief hold?

Author’s Note: Wait for it.

John: Thank you sir, sorry for waiting, we actually do have some good news, we were able to get an exception to the rule so we’ll take that listing down.

Me: Okay, that’s great, and I’m not complaining at all, but didn’t you say you couldn’t take it down?

John: The process is really complicated, we’re not usually given access to that system but given the unique situation we were able to get authorization.

Author’s Note: “Authorization.”

Me: Okay, great, so when can we see that listing gone?

John: Actually, sir you should pull up an error message when you try to access that listing now.

Me: I can confirm that the listing has been removed. Thanks for your time today, John.

That was it. In less than ten minutes minutes we went from “We literally cannot remove your listing from our database” to “We removed your listing from our database instantly.” All it took was a few awkward questions asked with the implication that the questions were for legal purposes.

Most of this is boilerplate and I’m sure that John was reading from a script. The important thing to keep in mind is that any call service representatives who deviate from their script or don’t adhere to specific protocols get written up or have their pay docked. So John is not the problem here – part of why I’m referring to him by a pseudonym is that he’s just a ground level worker taking orders from a company directive.

That being said, let’s unpack what happened over the course of this phone call. A delivery app representative declared that the company was literally unable – in those words! – to take down an unwanted, unauthorized, inaccurate business listing. The implication was that we’d have to claim it in order to update it so on some level, we would effectively be doing business with Food App even if we weren’t paying them because we’d be listed as an active user.

Then the instant we raised the stakes just slightly and asked them to stand by this in a legal context, Food App reverses course on a decision it had confirmed and then reconfirmed. John twice stated that Food App could not remove this listing as they don’t control access to their system before…proceeding to do exactly that.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Food App lied here. Because acting through John either they lied when they said that they could not remove the listing, or they lied when they said they got an “exception” to their rules and just wanted to get us off the phone. The only alternative would be that Food App’s internal systems are so haphazardly put together that there needs to to be escalation and legal discussion when the most basic of questions are posed.

I do not believe what happened here – or with any of the major food delivery apps, really – was an accident or mistake. These delivery apps know what they’re doing, which is why they get so evasive when called out on it. The intent is to make you completely reliant on these services with no way of any kind to opt out of them so that on some level you’re contributing to their bottom line.

Food App’s underlying message here was that they decided to put the onus on a restaurant that neither wanted nor had anything to do with them to pick up the phone and call them. Then when we took time out of our day we had to sit through an obligatory pitch.

Think of how insane this business model is. It would be like if I set up an office in the middle of some random small business, and upon being asked to leave I started telling them about my web hosting platform. If I reacted the way these delivery apps do when criticized, I’d be upset when the cops inevitably get called on me.

This is, as I’ve reminded people before, fully legal. None of these delivery apps are actually impersonating anybody and they’re careful to emphasize that they’re third party deliver platforms. Even so, it’s ridiculous behavior that creates a needlessly antagonistic relationship between service vendors and would be customers, and I don’t think it can sustain itself forever.

As for restaurants: Google yourself right now. See if there are any delivery apps in the results that you don’t recognize. Call them immediately. Do not let up until they agree to take these apps down. You’ve got enough problems; don’t let these companies give you more.