Opinion: The Starship delivery robots are a bit overrated

John Mauceri and John Mauceri

After getting my sixth order in a row delayed by the Starship Robots, I started to ask myself whether or not other people were having the same experience as me. According to Starship’s about page, they are, “A new kind of business. With a combination of mobile technology, autonomous robots and partnerships with stores and restaurants, making local delivery faster, smarter and more cost-efficient.” 

As a student at BGSU who lives on campus, I think there is an argument to be made that Starship is actually not the faster and smarter solution at times. Using the anonymous local message board of the community, YikYak, I asked users in the past week whether or not their order had been delayed at least once. I indicated in the message to upvote it if this had happened to them, and in less than an hour it was upvoted over 25 times. 

To many, using an app like YikYak for logical opinions may seem a bit unreliable, but I think it is a perfect way to grasp the true thoughts of the local community. Many people on YikYak agree with my opinion that the robots can be a bit overrated at times. Just this past week, I had ordered a couple of chicken sandwiches for a friend and I from Kreischer Late Night, and after it was delayed for a half an hour, we received a cold burger and soggy curly fries. The order was eventually refunded, but by that time it was past 10:30 p.m. and all the stores on campus had been closed.

To gain a further opinion from the BGSU community, Dylan Reeves, a second year Film Production student, explained his experiences to be less than fast and smart.

 “The most inconvenient thing about the app is the lack of options… we can’t even order from every place in the union,” Reeves said. 

It is true that not every place in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union delivers with Starship. This goes into the deeper opinion I have about the system as a whole. I, like many other students, rely on these robots to feed us everyday, and for the majority of that day students are faced with the dreaded, “Temporarily closed for orders” message on their app. This message means the user is unable to order from that specific store because the robots are too busy. 

“At least twice out of five orders you can expect the robots to be delayed (from Starship)… it may be five dollars more to order from Grubhub, but at least I will get my order thirty minutes quicker,” Reeves said. 

I think this is a fair thing to consider for students like me, who are tired of being let down by on-campus services that feel a bit faceless. Why support a robot service that is hit or miss at best, when you can support human delivery drivers from GrubHub or UberEats? I think the extra five dollars is worth it for the less amount of stress knowing that your order will get to you on time. 

The main argument I have heard against my opinion is that the robots are part of the BGSU family and that they are cute. This argument, as true as it may be, does not change the fact that students around campus are not able to completely rely on the robots to get them their food on time or sometimes at all.

After speculation on why orders from Starship get delayed so frequently, the main consensus I came to was that there either isn’t enough robots for the amount of activity of orders on campus or the robots are simply too slow to keep up with the rising need for delivered food at the university. 

The way this semester has started off with a parade of delayed and canceled orders, I along with other students would appreciate Starship improving its services. If not, I could see these mistakes leading to more and more frustration within the campus community of BGSU, and I think students who live on campus will look for better and more reliable delivery solutions in the future.