Monday, January 04, 2010

Scam Watch: No Change No Problem

There’s a new scam circulating right in front of our noses – or more likely knocking at our front doors. Even worse, we’re letting these scammers into our homes without even suspecting them.

Fast food delivery men and women show up at your door, with your piping hot pizza, Chinese food, fried chicken, or whatever else it is you ordered, and when you promptly offer to pay, they suddenly exclaim that they are sorry, but they don’t have any change.

This scam almost made my pizza dinner last week of $23.40 cost me $40. All I had were twenty dollar bills, and the Dominoes Pizza delivery man at the door apologizJustify Fulled, but said he hadn’t any change. I offered to put it on my credit card, but he said he couldn’t do it, because it had originally been ordered as a cash delivery.

The delivery driver then asks for the $40, and says he’ll go and get change – but you never hear or see from him again. Sure, you have your fast food, but you just gave the delivery driver a $16.60 tip (that’s a tip of 41.5 percent!), because when you call the pizza place and complain, they inform you that the delivery driver denies it all, and shows from his returned receipts that you paid the exact amount. Now it’s your word against the delivery driver, and the fast food company – having been paid for their products and services – stands behind their employee.

An alternative play on this scam, is the delivery driver takes your $40, and tells you next time you call, they will credit your next order the outstanding amount owing to you. But again, when you call and place your order, requesting this “credit” you find out that there is no credit, not even a record of what was said between you and the delivery driver. Again you are out $16.60 (using our numbers from above, but if you ordered more or less your numbers would differ).

This isn’t the first time I was made a victim to this scam, so I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Last time I lost $10 on a pizza order with another pizza place.
This time, I simply gave the driver the $20, and told him when he brought change for the other $20 (for $40 in total) I’d give him the remainder. At first he was adamant that I overpay him – because that is the whole nature of this scam – but once burned, twice shy, so the saying goes.

Begrudgingly, he took off with the $20, and surprisingly within five-minutes he came back with the change for a $40 payment. So I gave him the second $20 and took the change he provided.

Delivering fast food isn’t the most glamorous of gigs, and usually I tip my fast food delivery drivers for their time and effort. But when they pull scams like this, they’ll be lucky if I don’t call the police.

Though the cops can’t help much in these scams. Again, it is all based on a quick conversation at your front door between you and the delivery driver. All the police can do, is advise you to talk to a lawyer – and with the average lawyer costing about $100/hour, you’d lose more money doing just that. Even small claims court usually has a filing fee above $50 in most Canadian provinces, not worth the investment for a loss of under $20.

Quite the clever scam, but we’re on to you Mr. and Ms. Fast Food Delivery Person.
Problem is, from our research, this scam isn’t that uncommon. Others have fallen victim to this fast food delivery scam, happily giving the scammers several times more money than their orders cost, with a promise of either receiving the change soon, or a credit on their next order, only to find that neither promise will ever be fulfilled.

One could argue that there probably are instances where delivery drivers legitimately are out of change; however, delivering your fast food quickly is only part of the job. Being able to make change for common denominations is just as important as getting that food to you. And when they really can’t, honesty goes a long way towards keeping loyal customers coming back, or leaving for the competition.

From now on, despite the ease of home delivery, it may be best to go and pick up fast food yourself, or if you must order take-out, put it on a credit card.

NEVER give a delivery driver more than you intend to pay for your order unless they can provide the change immediately -- no matter what they say -- because if you do, you just kissed that money good-bye.

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