How a group of friends terrorized Scoobi, Pittsburgh’s new scooter ride-share service

“At first I was questioning humanity a little bit,” said the company’s CEO, “and then I realized it was just a small group of people.”

Scoobi scooter

Roughly a week after launching its on-demand scooter service in Pittsburgh, Scoobi has cut its hours of operation citing low late-night demand but also a reign of terror imposed by one persistent and  ethically challenged group of friends.

In an Instagram post Tuesday, the company wrote: “We have new hours of operation. Scoobi will now only be available from 5am-12am. Unfortunately, too many riders were abusing our services late at night.”

In a followup call, CEO Mike Moran told The Incline the company wasn’t making enough money past midnight to justify having longer hours of operation.

As for the “abuse” cited in the IG post, Moran linked it directly to a group of friends who used prepaid credit cards to rack up charges the company then couldn’t get paid off.

Here’s how it worked: The individuals paid $25 from prepaid credit cards to rent Scoobi bikes and then kept the bikes well past the allotted time. (Renting a Scoobi costs $5 for the first 15 minutes and $0.25 per minute after that, according to the company’s website.) They also stole the helmets contained in a mini-trunk attached to the bikes. When the company tried to recoup the added costs, the prepaid cards were out of funds and dead ends.

“We have all of their names, so I’m not quite sure what they thought they were getting away with,” Moran added. Users register through an app.

He continued: “I gave a kid a break, and he took extreme advantage and told his friends [how to bilk the system]. He was using prepaid cards, and he called us multiple times, and we came out to help because he wasn’t watching the videos or paying attention, and we said, ‘You can’t use it again till you get a real credit card’ and he continued using them until we banned him, and then he told his friends about it.”

Moran declined to identify the individuals involved and said no criminal charges are being pursued, though he said the company is working to recover costs. The helmets were never recovered. Moran said the incidents occurred at various locations.

The entire group of friends, meanwhile, has been banned from the service, as have prepaid credit cards themselves. Moran acknowledged the failure to do so sooner was an oversight.

Before Scoobi launched here, Moran told WTAE he was “somewhat worried” about theft and vandalism but said he believed that would be a concern “with any business.” Moran said he believed GPS monitors on the scooters could “help to dissuade any thieves or at least track them down.”

Pittsburgh’s Healthy Ride bike-share program, a similar concept to Scoobi’s, has experienced theft and vandalism but on a much smaller scale than similar programs in other cities.

“Every bike-share system experiences some theft and vandalism, such is the nature of operating in the public space,” Erin Potts, Healthy Ride’s director of marketing and community outreach, told The Incline in October.

Compared to the hundreds of bike-share thefts reported in other U.S. cities, Healthy Ride said at the time that it had seen only 10 thefts and “minimal vandalism” since launching two years prior. That’s 10 out of 500 total bikes.

“I’d also like to attribute the lack of issues to the fact that Pittsburgh is simply full of kind, excellent people,” Potts said.

But Moran said the issues encountered by his program left him a bit more disillusioned.

“At first I was questioning humanity a little bit and then I realized it was just a small group of people. Everyone else has been great,” he explained. “It was really just three people and we took care of it. It was just growing pains.”

In response to Scoobi’s IG post about new hours of operation and “abuse” of the system, one commenter said he’d found two Scoobis that were “vandalized overnight Sunday,” adding, “such a shame.”

A spokesperon for Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Safety said he was aware of no police reports involving Scoobi scooters in the last week.

But Moran told The Incline on Thursday that aside from the troubles with that group of friends, the rollout has gone well. Moran said there hasn’t been an issue since the system was updated to no longer accept prepaid cards. Other security measures have been added as well. And Moran didn’t rule out extending hours of operation in the future.

“For the most part people were respectful,” he said of the rollout. “It was really about that one group of friends.”