My first experience delivering in the gig economy was with Uber Eats. My expectations at the time were that at least tips would be better in snowy weather. You know, you’d expect that they were more thankful that they didn’t have to go out, and thankful that we would put up with the crappy weather to bring food to them.
Boy, was I wrong. I was blown away, not only was I not getting more tips, I was actually getting less. I thought, what a bunch of ungrateful inconsiderate… okay, if you’ve been there you probably have your own list of words to describe people who were not showing the gratitude you would expect when you’re busting your butt in bad weather so they don’t have to.
I really expected better pay due to the weather, and it was worse. It took longer to get place to place, and the customers didn’t seem to care.
Since then, I’ve delivered for other platforms and found the opposite to be true. Things were busy, payouts were good. Why the difference?
Uber Eats handles increased demand differently with its drivers.
Let me start with a disclaimer: This comes from my observations and things I’ve heard from other drivers in other areas. Other drivers may have noticed things differently.
It seems to me that Doordash and Grubhub are better at adjusting on the fly when there is an unexpected increase in demand such as from weather that was worse than originally forecast. They send out communications to encourage drivers to get out. Doordash in particular seems to be able to add or increase per-delivery bonuses.
Ubereats does not seem to be able to adjust on the fly for some reason. They rely heavily on their promotions as a way to make sure they have enough drivers to handle the demand, but it seems those promotions have to be scheduled and loaded into their system ahead of time. I’ve never seen them change, add or increase promotions real time. And I’ve never received any communication advertising drivers are needed.
The way that Uber Eats seems to adjust then is to use their delivery fees that they carge their customers as a way to manage the demand. When weather is bad, I’ve noticed that delivery fees that are normally around $4.99 are suddenly up to $14.99.
However, Houston, there is a problem for drivers.
The combination of higher fees and inability (or unwillingness) to increase promotions for drivers leads to an inequitable situation for drivers.
Customers are paying $10 more for deliveries, but that is not going to the drivers.
On the picture above, when I saw the delivery fees I pulled up my Uber Eats app to see it there was anything additional in promotions. Nothing. It was a 1.3 boost, the same as was normal for that time of day. So customers are paying more, but drivers aren’t seeing any of that.
How does this lead to decreased pay for drivers?
Okay, tips have never been a bright spot on Uber Eats. I wrote here though about how adding tipping at the point of order could be a real game changer with Uber Eats. And it seems that with Doordash and Grubhub, who already encourage tipping at the point of order, that tips tend to be higher in bad weather. So you’d think that would be the case even more with Uber Eats, right?
The problem is that when the customer is now paying jacked up delivery fees, they tend to expect that the driver is getting at least some of that. And when they now have to pay $15 to $20 (maybe more in really bad weather) to have food delivered, they are less likely to shell out more in tips to the driver, especially on a platform that has had a history of telling customers they pay their drivers well enough that tipping isn’t necessary.
So you start out with often having to take more time between deliveries because of conditions. Add to that now that the customer has been charged so much more in delivery fees that you are even less likely to get a tip than normal (and that’s pretty bad).
So should I deliver for Uber Eats in bad weather?
Maybe. Maybe not. I personally wouldn’t make that my primary option in bad weather, my experience is it’s a lot better with other options. However, I never rule out the possibility. Here are a few thoughts on how to look at UE offers:
- If you don’t have the Uber Eats for customers app, get it. Open the app and look at the options, see if delivery fees are abnormally high. This will help you determine if tips are likely to decrease
- When fees are high, assume there will be no tip. Every once in awhile someone might get really generous, but that seems rarer, at least in my experience
- The good thing about Uber not increasing promotions on the fly is that you don’t have the glut of drivers flooding the market like when promotions are higher.
- Busier deliveries without the increase in pay can mean more frequent delivery offers and better ability to be selective.
- Be selective. You can afford to be more selective when it gets busy. In bad driving conditions, shorten the amount of time away that you will accept.
- You are far more likely to get an order very close to you – five minutes or less, and the food is more likely to be ready when you arrive. This means you do have the opportunity to have very quick deliveries, and that in my experience is almost always worth more than higher paying deliveries that are further away and that have wait time.
- I may have said this before. Okay, I did. Be. Selective.
Obviously, what works best for me doesn’t always work for someone else. I have found that I am less likely to do Uber Eats because other options are more lucrative. And bad weather usually means the same thing for other platforms: Shorter drives, less wait time. But I have found that from time to time when the weather stinks, I can squeeze an Uber Eats order in between orders on other platforms because I do have the shorter drive and less wait time.
In the end, my opinion is that it stinks that they jack up the prices to the customer and don’t pass that on. When customers are less likely to tip as a result, that takes money out of my pocket. Having said that, my disagreement with Uber Eats in how they handle things doesn’t mean there cannot still be opportunities here and there. Like you should with every other offer you get from any platform – be selective. I know, broken record, right? Measure where hte order is, how soon you think the food will be ready, and is there a potential of decent pay per hour even if there is no tip? I think bad weather needs to make your criteria even tighter for evaluating an offer, but at the same time it can increase the chances of getting orders that fit that tighter window.