Do You Trust That Food App?

(WSVN) - Food apps have become popular in the restaurant business. Convenient for customers and great for restaurant owners — but can an app list your restaurant without the business owner’s permission? It’s why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Sergey’s life in the U.S. sounds like a fictional rags-to-riches story.

Sergey: “I came to the United States with a quarter in my pocket. So when I need to make a phone call, I still don’t know how to use the phone, because in Third World countries, we don’t have phones like that.”

He came from the Ukraine in 1997 and went straight to work.

Sergey: “I started bussing tables. Then I was a dishwasher.”

His hard work paid off four years ago, when he opened his own restaurant, JJ Cafe in Fort Lauderdale.

Sergey: “I’ve become a businessman. That was my dream.”

As a businessman, Sergey is always looking for new ways to increase his sales. When he signed up for a couple of food apps, it did exactly that.

Sergey: “I spoke with the Uber people, then I went to the Postmates. I went with the Grubhub. Of course, they charge a fee, but you’re making sales, and that’s the most important thing.”

The apps Sergey signed up for provided him with a tablet to take the orders smoothly. Until one day a customer ordered food through an app he had never heard about before.

Sergey: “He placed the order through this web app, which is called BringMeThat.com. He placed the order through those guys.”

Other food apps Sergey was familiar with would have the food delivered by themselves, but BringMeThat got the customer’s credit card information and called in the order to JJ Cafe. Then a driver from the restaurant delivered the food, but the app didn’t turn in the $40 to JJ Cafe.

Sergey contacted the company.

Sergey: “Yes, I did. ‘Give me my money. I’m really not interested in any stories. I never got the money.'”

He told the app to remove his restaurant from their list and reported the alleged theft to the police, but JJ Cafe is still listed on the app. When Sergey reached out to other business owners about his situation, they say they never gave the app permission to list their restaurants either.

Sergey: “I didn’t give you any permission, first of all, to use my restaurant. I just feel like somebody put their arm in my pocket and ripped my money out of my pocket. That’s how I feel.”

Well, Howard, obviously an app has to turn over money for food delivered, but can an app list your restaurant without your permission?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The internet is like the Wild West in this legal area. The courts have not determined whether or not they need the restaurant’s permission to list them, but they do have to disclose they do not have a relationship with the business. Also, the courts have not determined if a restaurant can stop them from listing them, but I think if a judge ruled, they would order the app to stop listing the restaurant if the request is made.”

We tried contacting BringMeThat headquarters, but they did not respond to our emails.

The number that is listed on their website is no longer working. We tried tracking down the creators of the website, but again, got nowhere.

There are a lot of complaints about BringMeThat online, which brings up another question, Howard: How does a customer know an app is going to deliver the food to them and pay the restaurant?

Howard Finkelstein: “At this point, go online and look at the reviews. Go to the Better Business Bureau website. Sometimes that will tell you everything you need to know.”

Sergey: “I just try to make a living like everybody else.”

Sergey wants everyone to be careful when ordering food through apps, just like how careful he is with his customers.

Sergey: “It makes me happy when people come back to me on a daily basis and they’re happy.”

Running a restaurant is tough, and remember, you have to pay the app to deliver the food. If you call the restaurant, some deliver for free, an old-fashioned option.

Ordered a product and got a problem delivered? Ready to take a bite out of it? You don’t need an app for that. Just contact us.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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