Although food delivery platforms were initially hailed as lifesavers by food vendors and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality for some is that the effort is costing them too much money.
Some vendors have been complaining of fees and charges they allege were not clearly explained.
And some have taken to social media to vent their frustrations, with a vendor sharing a screenshot of her invoice on social media some weeks back which showed she had made just 24 sen from RM1,400 in sales.
The majority of her earnings had been taken up by the commission percentage as well as “fees and adjustments.”
Then there are updated policies that some vendors allege to be unfair and open to abuse.
One such vendor is Faizal Abdullah, 40, who resides in Damansara and sells nasi campur on a delivery platform.
“Four times a month they will make payment to vendors, based on their sales. Usually, vendors also have the option to take on any of the offers to promote their shops, so that it can be included in the top listings.
“I personally feel the pricing for the offers is prohibitive, as it can cost a vendor at least RM400 in my experience. But for those vendors who are making a tidy profit that pushes or surpasses five figures a month, it can be worth it,” he told Malay Mail.
Delivery platforms would charge vendors for marketing costs, which Faisal said some vendors might not be fully aware of when they sign up for the promotions.
“I think it is more of an issue where vendors do not realise how much exactly it will cost them, or have been persuaded by the promos claiming it will boost their customer numbers.
“Marketing is a necessity for vendors using the platform, but it would be better if the company takes the time to clearly explain to us what the entailed costs are when signing up for their promo offers, so that we will not be taken by surprise when the invoices come in,” he said.
Burger seller Trish D’Cruz, 36, said her main concern is the change to the refund policy for vendors, in the event a customer cancels an order.
“Prior to the start of the month, any cancellations of orders would result in the entire amount being refunded to the vendor. However, this has changed to 40 per cent, which, to me, highlights the flaws in the system.
“While we get back 40 per cent of the money spent on making the order, the customer who cancelled the order still gets the food along with a voucher.”
D’Cruz shared suspicions that some customers could be intentionally abusing cancellations as a result, noting that the refund vouchers appeared to be available for sale online, but conceded that there was no proof of such abuse.
“Additionally in my invoices I get charged every week for things like SIM card and Internet usage. I did not even get the SIM card from the platform, and I use my own WiFi only,” she said.
The Puchong resident uses two food delivery platforms, and said one is less problematic than the other.
“It is very transparent, which I am happy with. I am aware that big corporate companies will always have hidden charges and fine print.
“Look, to be frank, I think all of this is very unnecessary, but we live in a capitalist world, so what to do? We kind of need them and they take advantage of that, so we just get stuck in the system,” she said.
D’Cruz added that she is in a difficult position as she did not have much choice but to keep using the two most popular food delivery platforms in the country.
“I have had no job for almost two years now, so I had to do something to make ends’ meet. I cannot make my own deliveries because of so many restrictions.
“To even get a letter from the authorities and permission from the relevant bodies is a futile process, with dead ends everywhere. So these platforms help in a way, and I can only hope they improve the situation so that we can all continue to make a living,” she said.
Malay food seller Alia Haryana Bahar, 40, who lives in KL, said the refund policy for vendors from the platform she signed up with has had the biggest effect on her earnings.
“It is already bad that they only refund 40 per cent of the order’s value when it’s cancelled. But when a patron complains to customer service, it is taken at face value without any investigation. We are given no opportunity to explain our side of the story.
“I will not deny the platform has been a great help to my sales in the three years that I have been using the platform, but things are becoming unbearable as it is. And there is also the issue of performance fees,” she said.
According to Alia, performance fees are when the platform makes a fixed deduction from a vendor’s revenue once they have made or surpassed a certain level of profit when using the platform. If a vendor makes RM1,000 in sales, then RM25 will be taken, and if they make RM5,000 in sales, RM75 is deducted as a result.
“It seems to me that the more we make, the more in performance fees they will charge us. I do not understand the need for there to be such fees to begin with.
“I use five different platforms to take orders from customers, of which two are the most efficient. One of them is relatively faster with payments daily instead of several times a month, making it easier for me to get my ingredients and supplies,” Alia said.
“Those who are just starting out really need to have petty cash on hand. I can only imagine the difficulties they must be facing.”