‘It’s quite a stitch-up’: How UberEats wiped out $30,000 with the press of a button

UberEats took $30,000 from James Townend with the press of a button — and it says the move, which could cost him $120,000 this year, is “standard policy”.

A Sydney restaurant owner has accused UberEats of wiping $30,000 from his business overnight with the press of a button — a move that could cost him up to $120,000 this year alone.

Former advertising executive James Townend, 34, purchased the popular Europan cafe and bakery in Rose Bay earlier this year after discovering a passion for baking.

But according to the Kiwi, what happened next highlights a little-known but “disheartening” double standard at the ride-sharing giant that hurts small operators at the expense of big corporates like McDonald’s and KFC.

“When I bought the business it was pretty standard stuff, but a decent part of the purchase price was tied up in goodwill,” said Mr Townend, who asked news.com.au not to reveal exactly how much he paid. “These days goodwill is not just customers walking through your door but also customers buying through UberEats.”

At the time, Europan was making around 10 to 15 per cent of its annual sales through UberEats, selling things like cakes and pastries, bacon-and-egg rolls and even coffees.

Unlike many restaurants that complain they struggle to make profit on delivery services like UberEats and Deliveroo, the previous owner described it as a “good earner” that helped “keep the doors open”.

Mr Townend estimates roughly $30,000 of the purchase price was goodwill attributed to annualised sales through UberEats. “I was looking forward to that, given my background in digital advertising, I thought I could grow (those sales),” he said.

But when he took over running the business at the start of July, he got his first taste of dealing with the US company. “All the transfers like the Google listing, Facebook pages, it was a really straightforward process,” he said. “One assigns the other as being the new owner and Bob’s your uncle, all those ratings sit with you.”

The process of transferring ownership with UberEats, by contrast, was “really convoluted, really dark, they don’t provide any information”. “I called them up, there’s no one there to help you, no information, you get passed through different departments,” he said.

Eventually, Mr Townend was provided with an online form to change the restaurant’s ABN and bank account details — and immediately his sales plummeted.

…UberEats, he says, told him it was a data privacy issue and “standard policy” — but if he were to buy a McDonald’s franchise “they have a completely different set of rules”.

“Even though the process is the same, just transferring the ABN and bank account details, they transfer all the data as well,” Mr Townend said. “They’re doing a different set of things for McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Oporto, whoever, but when it comes to the small guy, Uber puts the boot in.”

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