5 Things DoorDash Drivers Want You To Know

Ryan Fan

In the past few months, I started doing some DoorDash deliveries on the side. I don’t do it that often, but I did need some extra cash just before my wife and I got married due to all the expenses from the wedding. I get DoorDash deliveries a lot, and it was illuminating to see what it’s like on the other side.

Sometimes, I make up to $30–40 per hour. But sometimes, I make only $8 an hour, and neither calculation really factored in gas. There are times it’s really not worth doing, and I would absolutely hate to rely on DoorDash or GrubHub driving as my main source of income. I’ve gotten a lot smarter and more strategic about when I drive, what orders I take, what restaurants I go to or don’t go to at certain times, but I still get roped into spending 30 minutes at the McDonald’s drive-thru and not making any money in the process.

That’s why policies like New York City setting the minimum pay of $17.96 per hour are so important. In the gig economy, there’s often no security net.

Since doing deliveries every few days in my free time, I have doubled down on my commitment to tip drivers well, and although every consumer can do what they want, here’s what DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats drivers and delivery workers want you to know:

1. We want to get you your food as soon as possible because it’s our time too

If you ever feel like your food isn’t coming fast enough, trust me — the pressure on the driver is there to get you your food as possible. The driver wants to get you your food as fast as possible, too. There’s an incentivizing metric on DoorDash called “on time or early deliveries” that you want to be high, but the biggest reason drivers want to get you your food quickly is that they make more money by doing so.

We can take more orders. We open ourselves up to other good deliveries sooner. Even if you don’t tip well and the driver doesn’t like your order, they would rather not just sit around, drive slow, or make you wait long on food because that also cuts into our ability to stop and go home or make more money taking other people’s orders.

2. The restaurant taking a long time to make your food frustrates us as much as it frustrates you

While on a peak pay period where $2 was added to every order, I took an order that led me to Popeye’s. It seemed like a good order — I was going to make $6 for only driving two miles. When I got to Popeye’s, the food was not ready. And the five customers in front of me did not have their food ready either, and some of them seemed like they were waiting a long time.

I waited 30 minutes at the restaurant. The workers at the Popeye’s seemed very overwhelmed and started informing people they ran out of chicken wings, among other items. A few women started cussing a cashier out for ringing them up when the store didn’t have the necessary item. I felt very bad, but I was frustrated at having to wait that long, too, even if I didn’t voice that frustration.

Fortunately, the customer was very understanding. But it sucks for us as much as it sucks for the customer. In fact, it feels like a slap in the face when the restaurant keeps six or seven drivers waiting for 10 minutes or more, even if the restaurant is clearly very overwhelmed.

3. We don’t get paid waiting at the restaurant for your food

That’s right — the DoorDash app does not pay you for the time you spend waiting at a restaurant preparing food. The $6 order that I spent 45 minutes driving for and then waiting for only made me $6. If you extrapolate that for an hour, that means I was making $8 that hour, mostly due to how swamped and overwhelmed that Popeye’s was.

That night, I encountered similar substantial wait times at drive-thrus everywhere, since the inside parts of restaurants were largely closed. I decided it really wasn’t worth it and I should just do something else with my time than make $8 an hour even when it was supposed to be a “peak pay” period.

This is why I resolved not to do deliveries past 11 at night anymore. It’s not that it’s unsafe, it’s just that your wait time at restaurants becomes somewhat substantial, especially when you can only get the food through the drive-thru. Any time I’m asked to take an order at McDonald’s or Taco Bell after 11 p.m. (when only the drive-thru is open), it’s time to go home. No matter how much I’m making from that order, the chance that I’m waiting 20 or more minutes at the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant makes the cons of taking the order outweigh the pros.

To their credit, the pizza joints like Pizza Hut and Papa John’s in my area have never kept me waiting, no matter what time I’m taking the order, so they’re never on my “do not accept” list.

4. No one wants to take your order if you don’t tip

There was a time I thought you had to accept every single delivery that came your way, especially the incredibly shitty ones where you had to drive 15 miles to make $13, or 3 miles to make $3. Not only did I have to drive really far to make a very minimal amount of money, but I felt like it was a waste of my time when I got resentful at both the consumer and the app.

I learned you could just say no and decline after a couple days. I talked to my friend who also drove DoorDash and he told me he has a rule: if it’s not at least $2 for each mile you drive, then he doesn’t take it.

Drivers can see how much they’re going to make before taking the order. There are times the app doesn’t reveal this information, especially when the customer pays in cash. As a general rule, I usually take cash orders because sometimes it’s an older person who tips a lot. Sometimes it’s someone who just prefers to pay in cash and tips nothing.

Either way, I try to chance it on the fact that the person tips a lot in cash orders because the one person who tips substantially usually makes up for all the cash orders that don’t, but for orders where you can see there’s no tip attached, that’s a no, and the vast majority of drivers are going to see it and decline too.

So if you want to get your food faster, tip reasonably.

5. If it’s not easy to find your house or apartment, please give good directions

Most houses have been reasonably easy to find. The biggest challenge, for me, is trying to figure out whether the house is on the left or the right side of the street and when house numbers are difficult to see.

But for apartment complexes that are like mazes to find the apartment, I sometimes wish the customer gave good directions on where to go. I have occasionally wandered around a complex for five minutes trying to find the right apartment, only to realize I was completely in the wrong place.

Of course, part of that is on me not calling to ask the customer where their apartment is sooner. And at my wife’s old apartment complex, delivery drivers often went through not being able to find the apartment too, so I started to wait outside to make their lives a bit easier.

Regardless, it’s in everyone’s interest for the customer to receive their food as fast as possible.

Takeaways

I’m speaking as someone who has only done deliveries for a couple months and who has the luxury of a full-time, white collar job in the school system I can always fall back on. So I do speak from a place of relative privilege every time I say “there’s no way I’m taking that order.”

Every driver has their rules for what they’ll take or not take. I ran into a driver at a wing shop that said he refused any order where he makes less than $6. I thought that was pretty smart, but the reality is how much you make every day can vacillate a lot depending on what orders you get and how much people tip. You have to get really lucky, sometimes, to make it really worth doing and make more than $20/hour.

Plus, gas and operating costs with bikes will always be a major impediment, too.

It’s not easy and the gig can do with a lot more compassion and understanding, from customers but also from the companies themselves. To me, it’s absolutely ridiculous that drivers and delivery workers don’t make any money when they’re waiting an extended amount of time at a restaurant. And if a driver doesn’t complete the order, the “completion rate” suffers as a result.

Drivers will always try to find ways to make the system work for themselves. And I will say that I, personally, have worked it a lot better after I learned you don’t have to take every order. Inevitably, however, the system works the driver a lot more.

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Believer, Baltimore City IEP Chair, and 2:39 marathon runner. Diehard fan of "The Wire"

Baltimore, MD
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