Food delivery service under construction for Washington

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Washington resident Lane Wyrick hopes to have Snap Delivery food delivery service in the area by September 19. (Kalen McCain/The Union)

A map of Snap Delivered communities, according to the company’s website. Blue markers are where the app is online, white markers are where it’s “coming soon”.

Paul Mikel, CEO of Snap Delivered. (photo sent)

WASHINGTON — Washington resident Lane Wyrick hopes to launch Snap Delivered services in Washington by September 19. The app bills itself as a cheaper, less corporate alternative to platforms like Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Wyrick said food delivery options were lacking in Washington.

“Big apps don’t come to cities our size,” he said. “I want Washington, Iowa to be a model for what’s possible in small towns.”

Snap Delivered sets itself apart from other restaurant delivery apps by charging a flat rate rather than a percentage of the cost of an order. Each order charges the user a delivery charge of $5 (waived for those who pay a membership fee), a minimum fuel charge of $3.50, a mandatory 10% gratuity to the driver, and a $2 charge to the restaurant itself, according to Wyrick.

For Wyrick, a medical videographer who travels the world, the project is a side job. Although he is technically not an employee of the company (his official title is “independent business owner”), the company is designed to be involved by independent contractors who earn a small percentage on orders involving people, drivers or restaurants they recommend.

“I’m managing the Snap Delivered rollout here, I’m not hired by them, I’m just giving them the opportunity,” he said. “Anyone could have done it, but…I was just standing there on the ground floor, noticing the opportunity.”

Much of the work is therefore done by Wyrick, with limited support from the company itself. Although the app is theoretically self-contained once it launches, the challenge is to get it there.

Wyrick builds the plane while he flies it. The preparation process has involved working with restaurants on logistical hurdles such as ways to print orders, verify menus and keep food warm. While he’s recently recruited a handful of interested delivery drivers, Wyrick writes their orientation material himself.

“A lot of it is, I wake up, I think, ‘OK, here are the things I need to do to make this work,'” he said. “It’s a bit like the Wild West right now, it’s open to everyone, someone in another town is offering different things. They want us to do our best, but there’s no not a lot of concrete instructions.”

The company uses a multi-level marketing (MLM) model. The controversial business tactic involves a sales force earning commissions on their own sales, as well as those of people they refer. Another feature of the model is that affiliates personally plug the product, often on social media, rather than spending company funds on advertising and recruiting.

Although this practice is legal, it has been compared to pyramid schemes, which earn money exclusively from referrals and not from the sale of products.

Snap Delivered was one of more than 1,100 companies to file a notice of criminal offenses for profit-making opportunities with the FTC last year. While the agency said the notice “in no way suggests he engaged in deceptive or unfair conduct,” it serves as a warning about plans to bring civil action against the company if evidence is revealed.

Snap Delivered CEO Paul Mikel said the company seeks to avoid the ethical issues often associated with an MLM structure.

“We use structure, absolutely, because it’s one of the best ways to get the word out,” he said. “But that’s where it ends. Nobody has anything to buy. No one gets paid in our business unless someone places an order.

Mikel said the food delivery service doesn’t require affiliates to pay to get involved, a defining feature of many MLMs that have turned out to be scams. Affiliate ranks are instead based on referral commissions, not directly on the number of referrals alone.

“The only way to progress in the business is through production,” he said. “If I recruit a group of people and no one ever orders anything, it really doesn’t matter…we don’t own the product, it’s the end result.”

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