Fresh food-delivery shenanigans


January 28, 2020

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Five-star hotels are out, and 8-bit accommodations are apparently in. The ’70s-era gaming company Atari announced yesterday that it’s building video-game themed getaways in major cities across the US. If throwbacks aren’t your thing, today:

  • A chef exposes food-business fraud
  • Spirit’s success story borders on odd
  • Diamond miners try to rule the sod
The Hustle Daily Email

A chef cracks a case of food-delivery funny business

Pim Techamuanvivit had a weird weekend.

The San Francisco restaurateur went viral in foodie circles when she tweeted about an unusual interaction with a customer. He had called to ask about his delivery order.

But her restaurant doesn’t do delivery

Techamuanvivit did some digging and discovered something alarming.

Someone had used the name of Kin Khao, her Michelin-starred restaurant, to build fake Seamless, Grubhub, and Yelp pages. They all hawked delivery options that don’t actually exist.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, even the menus were fake. They advertised dishes like Vietnamese pho — when Techamuanvivit’s restaurant specializes in regional Thai cuisine.

Smells like shenanigans

Culinary-minded journalists have uncovered lots of shady practices in the food-delivery biz:

  • Grubhub gobbled up thousands of restaurant web domains, and sometimes published them without the real owners’ permission.
  • Yelp even replaced restaurants’ phone numbers — then billed them for a marketing fee.

So how did these faux delivery sites end up online in the first place?

Grubub began adding high-demand restaurants to its platform months ago to give restaurant owners a shot at earning more revenue. But it never actually asked the owners first.

Grubhub said restaurant owners can contact the company to be removed from its platform. Techamuanvivit said she’d be calling her lawyer instead.

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An anti-virus program keeps your computer clean. It sells your data, too

An offshoot of the cybersecurity titan Avast Antivirus sells its users’ web-browsing data to some of the world’s biggest companies, according to an investigation by Motherboard and PCMag.

What kind of data? Practically everything. Keywords people punch into Google, YouTube clips they watch, and, um, X-rated videos they ogle.

Nervous yet? Don’t go scrubbing that Chrome history

The data doesn’t include personal information, so users can’t be identified by name. Even so, the market for the data is sprawling, and corporate America wants a piece of the pie.

  • Avast claims to have 435m+ active users per month
  • The subsidiary that collects the data, Jumpshot, says it has information from 100m+ devices.
  • Google, Pepsi, Sephora, and Home Depot are all past, present, or potential clients.

Here’s why it’s important: Jumpshot’s data may not be totally anonymous — in fact, it’s hard to completely de-identify any data. 

In the big picture, the investigation is just more evidence of how huge tech companies are making money off your digital footprints. As Jumpshot itself once boasted: “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.”

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Spirit Airlines airplane image

Spirit’s reputation sucks. Here’s why it’s successful anyway

Everybody has a story about an airplane flight from hell. But for some reason, the internet’s true tales of flying Spirit Airlines are usually the weirdest. Consider:

  • The bat that was flying around in the cabin. 
  • The pet hamster that was flushed down an airport toilet. 
  • The mysterious stench that forced the plane to land.

These are just a few reasons why the budget-conscious carrier is such a popular punching bag. 

A recent analysis of major airlines’ positive and negative Twitter mentions found that 69% of tweets about Spirit were negative — a higher share than any other major carrier.

But the company keeps making money. How?

The short answer: It’s all about unbundling. Travelers complain about Spirit’s nickel-and-dime pricing. But as Rob Walker writes for Medium, the company’s innovative approach may have been ahead of its time:

  • Spirit’s no-frills fares put pressure on its competitors. Those “basic economy” tickets you see everywhere else? Thank Spirit for them.
  • It succeeds because it has a clear value proposition. “Spirit has delivered on what it actually promises,” Walker writes: cheap flights. For many customers, the price tag is all that matters.
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diamond image

Meet the company that upended the world’s diamond economy

As the old saying goes, diamonds are forever. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be disrupted.

A Canadian company called Lucara figured out how to do it. The company is known for unearthing some truly gigantic gems. A diamond known as the Sewelô was discovered at a Lucara mine in Botswana last year. 

  • The Sewelô weighs 1,700+ carats. (!)
  • That’s about as big as a tennis ball.
  • One expert estimated that the stone is worth $6.5m to $19.6m.
  • Louis Vuitton actually bought a stake in it.

The New Yorker’s fascinating story of the company’s rise sounds a little like the way diamonds are formed — it took pressure, time, and geographic good luck.

People worry that diamonds are dirty, but demand is soaring

There are only a few dozen big diamond mines operating across the world. But 150m+ carats of rough diamonds were produced in 2017 — one of the highest-volume years on record. 

Um, what about those blood diamonds?

Everybody’s asking. So mining companies have had to get creative.

Enter Lucara, diamond-disruptor extraordinaire

Here are three ways Lucara shook things up:

  1. It looked in new places. The frozen reaches of northern Canada are a hot source of diamonds. Lucara’s CEO made some big discoveries there, back when she worked for her father’s company.
  2. It looked to other industries. Lucara used X-ray transmission technology, which is more commonly used in recycling, to better locate diamonds without damaging them.
  3. It created a new market. The company’s blockchain-secured platform, Clara, makes it easier to sell rough diamonds individually to retailers.

For all the company’s success, its outlook isn’t all diamonds and pearls. Canadian mines are relatively young, but they might soon be tapped out.

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Snippets

🏈 Fumble! The Twitter accounts of a bunch of NFL teams got hacked.

📱Is secondhand screen time as dangerous to kids as secondhand smoke?

🚂 Overnight-rail travel is on the rise. “Flight shame” might be the cause.

🔬Video-game company to players: Don’t use our game to model coronavirus.

🏀 Kobe Bryant has an enduring legacy among gamers. Here’s why.

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