17-Apr-2020 (Fri) Wherein we got some press, and I have a few things to say about the delivery services.

Charles Lewis III wrote a very kind article about us in The Examiner today:

Keeping DNA Lounge on life support The legendary San Francisco nightclub was already struggling financially. Then COVID-19 happened.

"DNA Lounge is really a vortex for a lot of disparate Bay Area communities," said artist and journalist Larissa Archer. "It's one of the few places left in San Francisco where tech bros are outnumbered and are clearly not the target audience, yet DNA and its denizens welcome them and lets them be -- like we wish they'd do for us." [...]

Like the rest of the world, Zawinski isn't sure how things will play out once the pandemic ends. Nevertheless, local musicians remain optimistic that they'll grace a DNA stage again. Sophia Prise, who played the inaugural StarCRASH in January, is one such musician who isn't ready to see the Lounge disappear.

"The scene there is downright iconic: from the line wrapping around the club earlier on some nights to music fans of all stripes uniting at the adjoining pizza shop to get some late-night grub," she says. "We have had some of our brightest, most unpretentious music memories made there, and the culture isn't just novel; in my opinion, it's necessary."

We are fortunate that we are also a restaurant, so at least we have a tiny bit of income during the lockdown. Please help us out by ordering delivery from us! Pizza, sandwiches, liquor and delicious pre-mixed cocktails...


Speaking of which:

San Francisco Caps Commissions for Food Delivery Apps at 15 Percent:

Amid the pandemic lockdown, food delivery apps have been raking it in. But seeing San Francisco restaurants laying off workers and struggling to stay even barely afloat, Mayor London Breed -- at the urging of the Board of Supervisors -- has passed an emergency order that temporarily limits how much these apps can take from restaurants in commissions.

Commissions from delivery apps range from 10 to 30 percent, potentially wiping out any profit that a restaurant might make from a delivery order. And with less than half of San Francisco's restaurants remaining open for takeout and delivery, this means that many of the orders local residents are making in the hope of supporting local businesses are actually lining the coffers of companies like GrubHub and DoorDash. [...]

Some of the delivery companies, in order to encourage more food ordering, having been waiving delivery fees on the customer side. But they've been able to afford to do this by continuing to charge commissions to struggling restaurants -- which they charge even when customers place orders through the apps for pickup. [...]

GrubHub made an announcement as the lockdowns began that it was waiving commission fees paid by restaurants up to $100 million -- though the company later clarified, in arguably shady fashion, that the fees weren't so much being waived as they were being deferred, to be still owed at a later date.
I really have my doubts about whether this 15% cap is actually going to work, though, because these companies are excellent at obfuscating their fees and finding loopholes.

For example, looking at our latest invoice from GrubHub, they charged us: 17.5% "commission", 7.7% "delivery commission", and 3.24% "processing fee". And on top of that, we discovered that nobody was able to even find us on their site unless we also spent a few hundred bucks on "targetted promotions". Without that, you don't even show up in the search results.

So what do you want to bet they interpret that 15% cap as applying only to the 17.5% part? And then the 7.7% part goes up by 2.5%.

One of the bullshit things they did recently was push some "savings for supper" program where they encouraged you to agree to give people $10 off an order of $30 or more. But if you read the fine print, they didn't split the cost: it was just an amazing deal where the restaurant got to unilaterally give up another $10 off their already super-slim margins. What a bargain!

And also:

Lawsuit Claims Delivery Apps Cause Artificially Inflated Prices For Meals:

A proposed class action lawsuit filed Monday in New York claims that diners have been paying too much for meals delivered by Bay Area-based apps like DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats. The suit contends that the companies are engaging in "anticompetitive conduct" and are acting as "monopolies" that could eventually kill the restaurant industry as we know it.

According to the suit [the food delivery apps] charge customers and restaurants fees that "are shocking when one considers how little value [they] provide to restaurants and consumers" as they "merely offer a list of local restaurants that can easily be found on Google or Yelp for free."

The best way for all of us, customers and restaurants alike, to avoid being gouged by those companies is for you to call us on the phone (415-626-0166) and place an order for pick-up. Not that I really expect people to do that... Nobody hates talking on the phone more than I do!

In other pandemic klept news: TicketBastard gonna TicketBastard: "Ticketmaster has quietly changed its refund policy to cover only canceled events -- not the many functions that promoters have indefinitely 'postponed' or rescheduled to a date/time that some ticketholders cannot make."

13 Responses:

  1. Elusis says:

    Yep, saw that Ticketbastard thing, which is so exciting given that I'm going to move in June, so all the tickets for stuff that will be rescheduled "someday" are going to be useless to me. Meanwhile they get to enjoy the free use of my sweet, sweet money.

    Goldstar was trying the same thing, only the production they sold me tickets to was cancelled, not rescheduled. They promised me I could use the "credit" on something in the future. I had to call them out on Twitter to get a refund, because who the fuck knows when any live entertainment is going to be happening again?

  2. Hot Turkey says:

    We don't trust the delivery services not to find a way to screw the restaurants and the employees, so we just drive down and pick up our pizzas and cocktails. We've been watching some of the streaming events, and when we do we make our own drinks at home, but for every drink, we make a donation of about what we would have paid at the club. Seems like the obvious right thing to do.

  3. Dave Polaschek says:

    You’re not the only one hating the delivery services. There are a few local delivery services started here in Santa Fe, and a scrappy restaurant owner had a nice letter to grubhub. Got press in the local alt-weekly.

    Hang in there.

  4. Zach says:

    The best way for all of us, customers and restaurants alike, to avoid being gouged by those companies is for you to call us on the phone (415-626-0166) and place an order for pick-up. Not that I really expect people to do that... Nobody hates talking on the phone more than I do!

    I've been struggling with this a bit with some businesses where I've ordered for pick-up, because I usually try to order directly and not pay useless middlemen for the privilege of taking my order, but I've also been tempted by the zero-contact nature of ordering and paying through a service.

    I wish there was a service for pick-up orders that charged restaurants a reasonable fixed price and that was it, but then nobody could 10X their investment. I think some of them maybe claimed to have no or low commissions on pick-up orders if you clicked through directly with a special link from the restaurant's website. Is that still true?

  5. Nick Lamb says:

    I think the only way you had any shot to get a healthier attitude to such surcharges, fees and commission would have started with President Warren.

    As a consumer the situation in Europe is better because the Powers That Be demand that advertised price and price paid are the same and are willing to "go to war" over it. After years of this customers are outraged if you try to find a way to charge them more than the advertised price, so that the Authorities don't need to work as hard because the consumer backlash will often get the job done anyway.

    But of course while this protects consumers it wouldn't (and doesn't) stop them carving into the margins to other businesses. The people I ordinarily buy pizza from shut their entire operation and now for some reason just periodically tease us on Facebook with "Here's what you could have won" photos of them eating pizza at home. Why aren't they offering delivery? Because the delivery firms will expect a huge discount on their advertised price, so it just isn't worth it.

    The grocery stores are the same, it'd be illegal for them to tell me a litre of milk costs £0.85 if they aren't actually willing to part with it without an extra 5 pence "Milk surcharge" or something. But it's not illegal for them to "negotiate" with the farmer whose cows produce that milk that he gets £0.14 rather than £0.15 because their costs have gone up and he knows if he can't sell the milk he'll have to pay to dispose of it as waste.

  6. tfb says:

    So, n years (20? 25?) after the internet was meant to change everything, the best way to avoid being eaten from the inside out by the parasitic worms which have colonised it is to use the telephone to order food. And jwz, who probably knows, is telling us this.

    • Elusis says:

      "In the beginning, the [Internet] was created. This made a lot of people very angry, and has been widely regarded as a bad idea."

  7. J. Peterson says:

    The best way for all of us...to avoid being gouged by those companies is for you to call us on the phone (415-626-0166) and place an order...

    It seems like you are well qualified to come up with an on-line order placement system. Is there some reason this isn't feasible? You could keep your own "convenience" fees.

    • jwz says:

      In The Before Times, nobody was interested in online ordering that still required you to put on pants.

      • Zygo says:

        Today, placing online orders to pick up at my local restaurant is one of the very few remaining reasons I ever put on pants.

        Sometimes we just want to leave the house, and supporting a local restaurant's take-out business is one of the few remaining socially acceptable reasons to do that.

        Unfortunately, in The Before Times, the few places that were using off-brand online ordering also ended up getting their customer contact lists sold to spammers. I presume their defunct service providers were looking for that last bit of income when their contracts didn't get renewed, or the providers were just so bad at their jobs that the lists got stolen and then their contracts weren't renewed. One local pizza shop went through two or three ordering "solutions" before finally giving up and going with Uber Eats.

  8. Marcelo says:

    Man, I'd gladly have driven down for a pickup, but I'm almost sure the website mentioned "delivery only" last week. So I actually opened an account on an evil delivery site just to order from you.

    I see it now says pick-up too. Old Flame was amazing, though.

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