Why is GrubHub buying thousands of urls similar to restaurant names, and launching 'shadow sites'?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/28/why-is-grubhub-buying-thousand.html


Grubby. ,


that sounds bad faith to me


I stopped using GrubHub and went back to just picking up my own food when I realized that GrubHub inflates item prices and doesn’t disclose it. The cost of my usual order at a local Mexican food restaurant is $19.50 when I call and pick it up myself. GrubHub sets the price for the same order at $22 or $23 just for the food, before fees and tip.


For a second I thought maybe GrubHub was f’ing with New Food Economy too:


Grubhub’s business model is outright parasitic to restaurants.

Their “take” is anywhere from a mild 15% (Which is enough to break a struggling restaurant) to market mass murdering 30%. The site itself doesn’t list restaurants in terms of proximity as much as it lists people who have paid them more.

They kill restaurants.


Save your restaurant, kill a coder.


“Where were you out so late last evening?”

“I have never robbed the Savings and Loan on the corner of 5th and Palm and I RESENT THE ACCUSATION!!!”


More seriously:
Save your restaurant, call in your orders


What pisses me off about this – over and above the baseline squalid crime-adjacency of all gig-economy businesses – is that DNS, despite its obvious fragility, has somehow survived as a key enabler of the open internet, and these shit-eating truck-stop glory holes show up and decide to just turn a flamethrower on the whole thing in hopes of gleaning a few pennies. I really wish ICANN or local regulators had some power to drive them out of business.

If small businesses can’t get a useful domain name for under $50/year, then they cannot have an internet presence independently of some gatekeeper like Grubhub or Facebook. Generic dragnet squatting is bad, but this kind of targeted land grab has the potential to snuff out whole swathes of the open internet forever. Even after Grubhub deservedly implodes, someone will buy this weaponised domain-name portfolio from the liquidators; the targeted restaurants will never be allowed back into the internet, unless all the registrations are summarily cancelled without compensation.


Let them try this with McDonald’s. The lawyers will have GrubHub out of business by the weekend.


But where do you find the number?

As was mentioned in the article, many of these shadow sites look legit, and the number is answered by the restaurant. Who GrubHub then dings. The caller doesn’t know they phoned a false number and got re-directed. How this doesn’t qualify as fraud, I don’t know.


All these restaurants chafe at the vagaries of using Grubhub. They all look for ways around using them. Since these websites are set up to deceive, next time you call them, ask for a menu so you can get a direct number. I know its a bit old school, but they love to find new ways to reduce their dependence on Grubhub.


Sometimes the easiest way for me is to go on yelp, search among the crowd sourced pictures, and find one of the menu. Has the real phone and menu. Slice seems to be doing something similar to Grubhub, but they get more positive press about working with local places over chains. But here they are, working with or possibly parasitizing a chain:


I was wondering if maybe Martin Shkreli had a sibling or cousin or something.


What a racket!

[insert whichever late-stage-capitalism meme is appropriate here]


i misread this headline as “why is Grubhub buying thousands of urinals”.

reality is disappointing


It’s worth noting that a trademark is established anytime someone does business. It doesn’t have to be registered (though that does help for protection). So this is an outright lie. Maybe GrubHub is claiming it’s not bad faith because they’re helping these restaurants establish an online presence, but the fact that they publish false phone numbers undercuts that argument.

BTW an earlier article I read said that GrubHub doesn’t actually monitor calls, but just charges a service fee for calls connected, with that fee based on an estimate of what is usually ordered. So if someone calls but doesn’t order anything (like just to make a reservation), the restaurant still gets charged.


What would help put a stop to this is an OSS take-out management platform (think WordPress for restaurants) that any Mom&Pop shop can throw on a DigitalOcean VPS. The largest barrier to entry is not actually the domain name, it’s the backend stuff that requires a competent programmer to build from scratch.


Not defending Grubhub’s actual actions, but I read this differently–I think what they’re claiming here is that they don’t engage in registering domain names that infringe on another’s trademark.

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What I’m saying is that if they register any name that is similar to a restaurant’s name, it’s infringement. The standard for that is “confusion in the marketplace” which not only seems to be the effect, but the actual intent of GrubHub.

I’d like to see the AsG of New York and California sue the shit out of these guys, force them to give up the domains and impose huge penalties. Run them out of the state.