Food Delivery Apps Need “People” Updates

11 Feb


A Good Tech Idea That Forgot About People

After I published  How’s That Food App Working For You? , I heard from quite a few food delivery drivers working for DoorDash and PostMates. I also heard from customers and merchants–none of them very satisfied. The customers were especially upset since their food was often late, cold or compromised. They like the idea but the companies take no responsibility for apps that don’t perform, the drivers get sub-prime wages and zero respect, and the customers are hangry (hungry and pissed).

Why They Should Be Held Accountable

It’s worse than ever. These companies take advantage of everyone–the merchant, the driver, and the customer. They need to be regulated before somebody gets hurt. They may not be in business much longer. They may have jumped in to make big bucks and plan to get out before it all crumbles. One analyst commented that their business model(s) is strictly a BETA test for driverless cars. Sounds about right.

They Lie

DoorDash and PostMates will advertise that drivers can make up to $20 an hour. Uh, a resounding NO on that.  Both companies usually offer a minimum of, say $5 per delivery plus a tip. But after the driver uses his own car, pays for his own gasoline, pays for parking meter (if she can find one) and drives three miles to pick up the item, then three more miles to deliver it, it’s a wash.  In fact, the driver has lost money. And too bad if he parks in a loading zone even for five minutes. The meter police are on the hunt and chances are that driver will find a big $40 surprise, maybe $60 (in California)  slapped under the windshield.

Sometimes the driver gets a $100 (or more) order from an upscale restaurant and thinks the size of the order indicates a sizable tip. It depends. Neither company asks the customer to tip or builds a tip into the cost, so the driver may get zero.

They Skim

DoorDash and PostMates drivers depend on tips but most seldom or never see one. Why? Because customers who do tip (and that number is dwindling) usually tip on their credit card when they call in their order. It goes on the app just like it would if you were eating in a restaurant. Except the driver never sees the scope of info so they have no idea whether the customer tipped or not. That leaves the decision to pass the tip along up to the company.

It’s better to just tip the driver directly. Obviously, you need to keep a cash stash somewhere. These companies allow customers to order a $5 latte and charge them a $5 delivery fee. Not too many customers are going to throw in a tip on an order that already cost them twice the price.

We tested their strategy and discovered the company sometimes pockets all or part of the tip. That’s why the companies don’t notify the driver right away how much he’s made in tips. They have to first figure out how much their costs are. Then they decide whether they can “afford” to give the driver a small bite. This is too bad because the driver thinks the customer didn’t tip him and the customer wonders why the driver is so ungrateful.

They Are Inconsistent

PostMates usually pays its drivers a minimum delivery reimbursement and ten to twelve  cents a minute for wait-in-line-time plus a mileage reimbursement. Door Dash usually offers a slightly higher minimum and no wait time cash (which has been as long as half an hour) and no mileage. But both companies have been known to change their rules from one day to the next.

Often, the driver doesn’t realize he’s making a lot less today than he did yesterday until the end of his shift.  Or he makes a successful delivery and does not get credit for it so he never gets paid. Or he used to know up front the total distance of his trip and now that information doesn’t show up until after he’s accepted the order. We know drivers who pick up an order and drive it five miles away but every other block is a traffic light. It may take ten minutes to drive that distance or it could take forty five minutes to an hour.

Every city has different rates so it may be as much as fifty cents difference between Los Angeles and Chicago. Time is money.

They Put Drivers In Danger

The biggest complaint I hear from drivers besides the paltry wages, is that there is no way to reach the company when there’s an emergency. There is usually a chat button but then you have to either wait for someone to get back to you, or wait your turn and keep checking your phone screen. This obviously causes drivers to take their eyes off the road which means danger for them and all the drivers around them. They get into fender benders or worse. They miss exits. They can’t go anywhere until they have clarification from the company (wrong address, wrong directions) They have to speed to make the delivery time the company promised the customer.

The companies used to equip their drivers with dashboard mounts but the mounts fit an Android and not an IOS or vice versa and they break after a few uses. Now, drivers have to purchase these tools of the trade including logo bags to carry the food.

Their Maps and Directions Suck

These companies operate inefficiently on so many levels. They usually use Apple Maps or Google maps for turn-by-turn directions but if too many people are using the same app at the same time, the app is going to shut down or freeze, or worse, send you five or ten minutes out of your way.  Either way, if you if you don’t hit that “Accept” button in time (while you’re trying to drive) it will be your fault and you’ll get a snarky little text from the company to let you know you’re in danger of being cut off because you did not accept the order. Sometimes, you start out at the corner of Happy and Healthy, drive ten minutes to a hot spot (places to go where you’re most likely to get a call for a pickup) and then you get an order that’s back where you started.

About That Car Insurance

They won’t tell you this but if you’re a driver, pray you don’t have an accident while you’re on duty because insurance companies will not pay for repairs if your accident occurs while you are picking up or making a food delivery. Full stop.

They Don’t Screen Their Drivers

Some drivers who take pride in their work and appearance, have told me they are embarrassed to see other drivers who are waiting at the same location for a different customer. They are not hygienic looking. Their hair and hands are dirty (and every driver is responsible for physically checking the order to make sure all items are there. Ugh.)  They place items in their bags improperly, causing the food to spill.

They may load up items in the back seat of their car where they are also carrying a dog or two. It seems these two companies will accept just about anyone who is desperate enough to work for much less than minimum wage, with no insurance benefits, no breaks, and no overtime pay. They get away with it because they are unregulated. This is not work for hire. This is a form of indentured servitude.

And you want to know why unions were started? This is an issue that will only get worse and will not be resolved until someone becomes ill or injured. Or someone dies. What are they waiting for?

We recommend Amazon, Uber Eats or Grub Hub.




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