There are many things that don’t make sense about global capitalism that I enjoy anyway — the clearly inadvisable, venture-backed monstrosities like dockless scooters and ride-sharing that, in the before times, changed how I interacted with the places I went. The thing that doesn’t compute for me is how these companies continue to burn through a reality-warping amount of other people’s cash in a way that upends the basic economics of things like taxi service and food delivery and fail, intentionally, to turn a profit.
Yesterday, Ranjan Roy, a content strategist and writer, wrote about the latter in his newsletter The Margins; one of his friends who owns a few pizza restaurants suddenly got an influx of customers complaining about delivery when the restaurants didn’t offer delivery. “He realized that a delivery option had mysteriously appeared on their company’s Google Listing. The delivery option was created by Doordash,” Roy wrote.
Apparently, this is one way that DoorDash does customer acquisition — by bullying restaurants. But what’s funnier about Roy’s friend’s problem (and it was a real problem because of Yelp reviews and angry customers) is that DoorDash priced the pizzas incorrectly. “A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by Doordash,” emphasis Roy’s. And then: “My third thought: Cue the Wall Street trader in me…..ARBITRAGE!!!!”
And so the story unfolds. “If someone could pay Doordash $16 a pizza, and Doordash would pay his restaurant $24 a pizza, then he should clearly just order pizzas himself via Doordash, all day long. You’d net a clean $8 profit per pizza [insert nerdy economics joke about there is such a thing as a free lunch],” wrote Roy. They order 10 pizzas this way, and it worked! The money was free, a seamless transfer from SoftBank’s deep venture capital-lined pockets to Roy’s friend’s business bank account. Eventually, in another series of what Roy hilariously calls “trades,” they just ordered pizza dough through DoorDash for $75 in pure profit.
“So over a few weeks, almost to humor me, we did a few of these ‘trades’. I was genuinely curious if Doordash would catch on but they didn’t,” wrote Roy. “Was this a bit shady? Maybe, but fuck Doordash. Note: I did confirm with my friend that he was okay with me writing this, and we both agreed, fuck Doordash.” (I reached out to DoorDash for comment and will update this story if they reply.) – READ MORE
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