The curious and questionable case of Lime and DoorDash in Reno (opinion)
September 21, 2018
RENO, Nev. — In recent weeks, Reno has been the setting for a pair of curious instances in which outside companies have launched a product or service within the community — apparently without practicing some good old-fashioned due diligence ahead of time.
First, back on July 31, Bay Area-based tech company DoorDash announced it was expanding the next day into Reno-Sparks by "offering delivery from more than 800 local restaurants." At first blush, it seemed like a win-win — delivery services from basically any restaurant in the region? How convenient!
But, as the news spread, it was quickly determined not all of those restaurants were on board with being listed on the company's website and mobile app.
The main concern, according to the Reno Gazette Journal and other media reports, is if DoorDash provides a poor customer experience, or fails to even complete a delivery, customers may blame the restaurant for their perceived poor service — thus negatively impacting the restaurant with poor reviews or bad word-of-mouth. This is especially complicated if said restaurant isn't even aware it's listed as a delivery option.
Some Reno businesses took to social media and other platforms to publicly lambaste DoorDash, leading to the company issuing a statement that explained, in part, that while "the majority" of merchants have no issues, "for those not interested in being on DoorDash for any reason, we immediately remove them from the platform upon their request."
In other words, the startup company — which as of August was valued at $4 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal — isn't worrying itself with asking permission first.
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Is it illegal? Likely not (unless Doordash uses a trademarked logo). But is it ethically questionable? I'd say so.
Then, just this week, the second instance made swift shock waves when bike-share company Lime launched e-scooters in Reno on 7 a.m. Sept. 18 after notifying city officials at 10 p.m. the night prior.
As has been widely reported, local governments quickly took action. The city of Reno sent a cease and desist letter to Lime, and the city of Sparks, Washoe County and UNR all chastised the company for a "premature" and "irresponsible" launch.
In a nutshell, officials want legal clarification if Lime Scooters should be classified as mopeds, which require DMV registration. Even though the DMV says the scooters are not mopeds (and Lime feels its launch was legal), officials want more discussions to get governments on the same page.
Whether or not the 15-mph-max scooters should be banned is a different topic altogether. But, regarding my views in this column, what interests me is that Lime issued a reactive statement after Reno's cease and desist, saying, "We hear the city's request to cease and desist and will not deploy."
As Mike Higdon of the RGJ wrote this week, "launching prematurely and asking forgiveness later is not an unusual strategy for scooter- and bike-share companies and comes directly from Uber's business strategy."
Sounds awfully similar to the DoorDash debate. Sure enough, Lime (these days valued at over $1 billion) is quite familiar with cease and desist letters, having received them from cities like Miami, San Francisco and Indianapolis in recent months for the same concerns Reno shares.
While both these examples have differences, the basic premise is the same — big-money companies rolling into town with their own interests at mind first, and worrying about collateral damage second.
For me, speaking from an ethical standpoint, it boils down to a pretty basic point: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.
Of course, that would mean businesses not putting profits first. And we can’t have that, can we?
Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business View. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.