Is Uber using “software bugs” to steal money?

Preface

I sometimes order food from Uber Eats. It’s a pretty neat service. I especially like that I can see my food traveling through town to my door. Every delivery service should offer that. Tonight there was a huge problem tho.

Software “Bugs” or Fraud?

I visited the Uber Eats website and it offered me the option to rate past orders, those which I had not already submitted ratings for. I like to rate each order because the drivers get more business if they have 5 stars. I do not always tip. I used to, but this isn’t the place to explain why.

When using the Uber Eats website app to rate previous orders it takes you through a number of very simple screens. They ask for your rating for the driver, the food, and for an optional tip. They stress on the tip screen that it is optional. The tip screen only displays a number of pre-configured amounts, from $2 to $6, and does not offer a “custom amount” option. It also does not have a button for $0 or “Do Not Tip”. At the bottom of the screen are two links, “Skip” and “Continue”. Those exist on each page of this process.

It is very easy to click the wrong amount by mistake. There is no way to “unclick” the amount, you can change it but you can’t select $0 so if you did not intend to tip at all then it’s stuck. This happened to me on two orders. Naturally, I clicked ‘Skip’ at the bottom, which should have caused the selections to be ignored.

Instead, a few minutes after completing the rating review Uber sent me E-mail notifications “Thanking” me for my tips. I was mildly annoyed, and decided to E-mail their support people to have the tips refunded.

This is where it gets weird. I am going to provide the full details of my conversation with their support department, so you can see for yourself.

Sent by Simba L. on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 0:48:39 AM

I clicked ‘skip’ on the tipping screen and it applied a tip anyway. This happened on two different orders when all I was trying to do was record positive ratings. Please undo the tip on this order.


Sent by Athenna on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 7:32:39 AM

Happy to explain, Simba.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Sorry to hear about the difficulty that you encountered with the tipping option.

The easiest way to tip your delivery partner is through the app. Once your order is complete, you’ll be prompted to rate your delivery partner. Once you provide a rating, you’ll be given the option to add a tip.

You are free to tip and delivery partners are free to accept tips at any time. Giving cash directly to your delivery partner is also an option.

Unfortunately, we are unable to refund the tip amount once tipping is done since tipping is optional.

I understand how this situation caused a lot of trouble on your part. We want you to know that we have the details of the order and rest assured that we have properly documented everything. Please know that your feedback has been heard and this will surely help us in improving our overall UberEATS level of service.

You may also visit our help page at https://help.uber.com/en/eaters for more information.


Sent by Simba L. on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 8:16:08 AM

Hello. Because the tip was the result of a bug in your software you will refund it completely. I will be issuing a fraud charge back with the bank. If your looking to get hit by a class action you’re on the right path.


Sent by Athenna on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 8:26:07 AM

Hi Simba,

Thanks for writing in.

I understand the importance of getting your money back. However, once tipping is done, the tip automatically goes to the driver’s account and unfortunately, we do not have the means to get it back.

As much as we want to provide a refund for this tip, please be advised that we are bounded with policies that we need to follow. At this point, what we can do is to take note of your feedback for improvement.

Hope that you’ll give UberEATS another try. You may also visit our help page at https://help.uber.com/en/eaters for more information.


Intentional or not, that is fraud.

I told them in my next response to forward my request to their lawyers, and I then issued fraud charge-backs at the bank for both charges. I’m 100% sure I will get my money back, this isn’t about that.

They could have made different design choices in their web app. They could have recognized the issue in QA testing. It’s very easy to predict and re-produce. So it is not completely unreasonable for a person, especially someone with a background in web development, to conclude that they might have designed it that way on purpose.

That is shady on it’s own, to design an app so people will “accidentally” spend more money than they wanted, but to then refuse refunds when mistakes happen is absolutely fraud. The question is, was this an orchestrated effort by Uber to steal money, or was it the result of a poorly run corporation?

Buyer Beware

The Uber Eats app is pretty cool. It’s almost too cool not to use. But be alert for these things. This is actually the second incident I’ve witnessed of Uber stealing money, and each time getting a refund was like pulling teeth. If something like this happens to you, don’t let it slide because “it’s only 1 dollar” or whatever. Report every incident, and get your money back. Thievery has to be put to rest.

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