More deliveries without more payment messages

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Drivers for third-party delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and GrubHub saw a spate of orders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic as restaurants closed for personal meals and customers largely determined to enjoy their meals at home.

Carryout and delivery orders have increased, but the surge in demand for their services hasn’t turned out to be a godsend, the drivers said.

More orders initially meant higher pay for many, but as more drivers joined the apps, competition increased and customers seemed less willing to sign a tip, drivers said. Services pay commissions based on the cost of an order, but drivers said that many orders are not worth taking without a tip.

DoorDash added 1.9 million new drivers between mid-March and September last year, a spokesman said.

“I feel like the people signing up for these services have seen quite a boost,” said Nate Vanderhoof, a 42-year-old Uber Eats driver from Columbus, Ohio. “It’s pretty easy to make money. You go out and drive when you want, stop when you want. There is no set schedule. “

Drivers said that despite a surge in business, they are making as much money as they were before the pandemic.

“It was better and worse,” said Alyssa Jones, 26, of Ashville, Ohio. Drivers get “more offers, but nobody wants to tip.”

Tips are crucial

Drivers for the delivery of food for third-party delivery apps are independent contractors who are paid per delivery and whose salaries depend more on the delivery volume – and tips – than on the hours worked.

“I’m on some of Uber’s Facebook pages, and that’s one of the complaints that there are a lot of ridesharing riders,” Vanderhoof said. “They’re talking about the good old days when there weren’t that many drivers, they were a lot busier and they’d make more money.”

The apps stated that the total number of tips received for drivers increased in 2020, according to statistics. At GrubHub and GrubHub’s own Seamless, customers tipped an average of 15% more, said company spokesman Grant Klinzman.

“If a diner previously tipped 20%, it would have tipped over 22% during the pandemic,” he said in an email.

Order sizes, which usually also mean higher peaks, have also increased after the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

Klinzman said the company does not release information about its wage rates, but stressed that GrubHub is helping drivers calculate their wage rate through its website.

Pay the bills

Most of the drivers contacted about this story said they work part-time and supplement income from other jobs. A minority said they rely on third-party delivery services to pay their bills. These are the drivers who said they fight the most.

Jones said she started shipping for GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash after her daughter was diagnosed with autism. Frequent and irregularly scheduled doctor’s appointments made full-time employment with traditional working hours impossible.

“I couldn’t have a full-time job with her appointments and she needed extra help at home,” she said.

Third-party delivery services gave her the ability to work on her own schedule. When asked if she made enough to pay her bills, Jones said, “It depends on the tips, but most of the time it doesn’t.”

Jones said she often has to work long hours because customers are less generous and that she is pushing for bigger deliveries and bigger tips to make ends meet.

Vanderhoof drives for Uber and Uber Eats to supplement the income from his main job. But when he was unemployed for several months at the height of the pandemic, the apps were his only income.

“My goal in an eight-hour shift would be to make at least $ 100,” he said. But to do that, I would normally leave eight hours behind me.

Vanderhoof made enough to pay his bills, but it was tight.

“I’ve learned how to budget pretty well,” he said. “If I had big bills, I knew I had to drive more, stay outside longer and drive at the best times.”

Even so, Vanderhoof said he likes the work and feels that the money he makes more than makes up for the cost of gasoline and car maintenance. The service pays a commission for every delivery, but drivers are responsible for gasoline, car repairs and maintenance, and insurance.

Track expenses

Sarah Dygert, 36, of Columbus, said she could make ends meet by devising a complicated system to drive all day for DoorDash. She keeps track of the place and hours she’s worked, as well as the assignments she’s received, to help identify the best times and places to work.

“When you’re ready to get the job done and keep going and taking orders, it all depends on when you want to work,” she said.

Dygert worked as the bartender and server for the District Pourhouse in the Gateway District near the Ohio State University campus. But the bar and restaurant closed when Governor Mike DeWine closed most of the non-essential businesses in mid-March and Dygert became unemployed.

She said the money she made from delivering meals completely replaced her salary and district pourhouse tips, and helped her pay her bills and save a small amount of money once her commitments were met.

Richard Figley, 68, of Clintonville, Ohio, delivered grocery apps to complement his social security checks prior to the pandemic. He’s one of the few drivers who said they deducted the cost of gas and car repairs from his total income, and he was unimpressed with the results.

Figley is an Air Force veteran working as a marketing advisor.

“If you factor in the wear and tear on your car and everything else that goes with it, you make about $ 10 an hour,” he said. “It looks good because you have a lot of money, but when you paste it into an Excel spreadsheet (compare expenses with income) you quickly find out that you are not making any money.”

Volume vs. Quality

The commission associated with a delivery depends on the size of the order, and drivers said they are now seeing more orders for inexpensive fast food meals as Ohioans stay at home for the most part.

Drivers have different philosophies when it comes to small jobs. Some take as many deliveries as possible, others hold on to the most expensive meals.

“Every opportunity is a good opportunity for me,” said Vanderhoof. “Sometimes it’s a super short drive that only takes me $ 3 for a few miles. For me that means that it was quick and I can move on to the next trip. “

Cassandra Flore, 36, of Gahanna, Ohio, takes a different approach that she gradually honed in her nearly three years as a driver for DoorDash and UberEats.

“I’m a single mom and I needed a second job where I could work when it suits me,” she said.

Finding a side appearance led her to Uber, a ride-sharing service that pays drivers a commission for every trip. The service introduced them to UberEats a few years ago.

“I hated it at first, but then I really got into it,” she said.

“I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve learned tricks of the trade,” she said. “When I started I thought you had to accept everything they sent you. Like a year later, I realized that denied trips are not really punishing you. “

The services incentivize drivers to take every order and offer perks for those who do not refuse deliveries. But drivers overwhelmingly said these perks weren’t worth it.

DoorDash, for example, gives those who take the most orders the “Top Dasher” status. This service prevents drivers from receiving deliveries in certain parts of the city with too many active drivers. However, a “Top Dasher” can deliver anywhere.

However, Columbus is so busy that neighborhoods are rarely closed for long, Flore said.

“The utility is not good enough,” she said.

Customer complaints appear to have increased along with grocery orders, drivers said. While drivers are not financially liable if a customer says their food was cold or didn’t arrive on time and asks for money back, too many complaints can result in a driver being kicked off the platform.

To ensure fast delivery, driver Jennifer Nelson, who delivers for UberEats and DoorDash, said the apps give drivers a strict schedule.

“When you receive an order, you are given a time to pick up and then a time to need a drop-off,” she said. “So both Uber and DoorDash pretty much control the timing of everything.”

Despite expanding the number of third-party delivery drivers, the apps aren’t an option for everyone.

For example, Figley decided that the likelihood of developing coronavirus was too high a risk and stopped driving shortly before the pandemic began.

“I have some health problems and if I got COVID it would be really problematic,” he said.

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