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Grubhub Offered Me $4 Per Delivery Extra to Accept Every Offer. Was it Worth it?

So I got this special offer from Grubhub this weekend. Accept every offer and get a $4 bonus for every completed delivery during the dinner rush.

I've learned that high acceptance rate = low profit and lots of miles, especially with Grubhub. But four bucks a delivery extra? At two deliveries per hour, that's an extra $8 per hour. All profit.

Might as well give it a try, right?

But, was it worth it?

Grubhub dangled a $4/delivery carrot in front of me. Was it worth chasing, or would it take me over the edge?
Grubhub dangled a $4/delivery carrot in front of me. Was it worth chasing, or would it take me over the edge?

The offer

So I get this email, offering a way to earn more. Of course there are strings attached. Is it worth it? Will the strings cost more than the bonus?

Earn more on every order this weekend.

We see you on the road during the week hustling to deliver hungry customers their food. That's why we want to keep the cash flowing your way this weekend with a special bonus opportunity.

Grubhub email announcing weekend bonus in my area

Extra money? I'm good with that.

The strings

The strings are pretty simple. Accept everything.

In particular, you have to maintain a high acceptance rate, and if you do, you get a per delivery bonus.

  • 95% or better acceptance rate: $4 bonus per delivery
  • 85% or better acceptance rate: $3 bonus per delivery
  • 75% or better acceptance rate: $2 bonus per delivery
Screen shot of the bonus offer from Grubhub
Screen shot of the bonus offer from Grubhub

The fine print

Of course they have to put in some fine print, right?

The fine print on the bonus offer. Kinda straight forward, kinda not.
The fine print on the bonus offer. Kinda straight forward, kinda not.

The offer applies to deliveries completed between 5 and 11 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

It also goes into a little detail about the acceptance rate. You need to maintain the acceptance rate during the bonus period to earn the bonus. And finally, the bonus will be paid out within the next two pay periods of the end of the bonus period.

What exactly does that mean?

What exactly is the bonus period?

As you read this, it definitely implies that you want to accept every offer during the 5 to 11 PM time frame.

But what if you reject a delivery outside that time frame? Say you work the lunch rush and you reject some offers. Will that disqualify you from receiving the bonus?

Yes. Almost definitely.

Here's the wording where they kinda sorta define the bonus period: “Must complete deliveries between 5:00 to 11:00 from Friday, June 26, 2020 through Sunday, June 28, 2020 at the market close (the “Bonus Period”) to earn the bonus offer.

So that means the bonus period is 5 to 11 each night, right?

It's not totally clear. It's not well worded. On appearance, that's what it looks like. But notice this little tidbit: “at the market close.”

My market closes at 1 AM. Why would they include that “market close” piece if they meant the bonus period to only include the 5 to 11 time frame?

A lesson from the Grubhub Contribution practice

In some markets, Grubhub will offer a minimum hourly guarantee. In Denver it's $12 per hour. If you earn less than $12/hr on your blocks, Grubhub makes up the difference.

Except it's not that straight forward.

Here's their wording: “if you are delivering during a block and you make less than $12 per hour for that day Grubhub will contribute pay so that you receive a minimum of $12 per hour during your block. Translation: They calculate what you made hourly by dividing total earnings for the day divided by SCHEDULED hours. You can make less than $12 per hour while scheduled but say you keep taking orders after your block ends – those earnings will negate your contribution.

They also say you must accept 90% (may vary by market) of offers you receive THAT DAY to qualify. If your block ends at 9:00 and you get an offer at 9:01 that you reject, you just forfeited your contribution.

It's this kind of mincing of words that tells you, Grubhub isn't straight up with how they do things.

Why doesn't Grubhub use clearer language?

I truly believe that Grubhub intentionally uses misleading language in their offers to manipulate drivers into forfeiting the bonuses
I truly believe that Grubhub intentionally uses misleading language in their offers to manipulate drivers into forfeiting the bonuses

It wouldn't be that hard for them to make it clear.

“The bonus period is from Friday through the close of your market on Sunday.”

Or how about “Any offers rejected at any time Friday, Saturday, or Sunday will count against your acceptance rate.”?

It's not that hard to make it really clear.

It's because they don't want it to be clear. Grubhub WANTS you to believe you can reject offers outside the 5 to 11 time period.

I can't prove it but I truly believe it!

They don't want to pay out. They want you to go out and accept everything without having to pay you what you were chasing. The language isn't clear because they don't want it to be clear. If you go out there believing you can reject orders during the lunch period, they don't have to pay you the $4 per delivery.

This kind of practice is typical of Grubhub. They dangle offers all the time that are deceptively worded. This is not, in my view, an ethical company.

Bottom line: Read these promises carefully before chasing them.

Okay, enough of all that. How did it go?

You would think that Grubhub would have been more attractive to me lately. In my market, the minimum offer these past few weeks has been $9. I'll give them credit for that, though I don't know how long it would last.

However, the dispatching has been so inneficient that the offers just aren't as attractive. I've been doing a lot more deliveries on other platforms. I was a bit hesitant, and honestly the only reason I decided to go after this was so I could write about it.

And maybe they would surprise me. I chased after some Uber Eats promotions awhile back for the same reason – I wanted to write about the experience. In that instance, Uber Eats surprised me in a big way. Would Grubhub do the same?

I live tweeted my experience, updating each of the deliveries in the comments.

I decided to do ten deliveries. No rejections, I'm taking everything.

Getting started wasn't bad.

It started out not too bad. I had a couple of marginal offers to begin with. I use a 40 cent rule, they need to pay 40 cents a minute to be worth taking (more recently it's been 50 cents a minute for me). Normally they'd have paid about $18 profit per hour, but the $4 bonus put them closer to $28. That's close enough to how I've been doing to be acceptable.

There was only one delivery out of the ten that I took, the fourth one of the night, that I would take under normal circumstances. It was a 26 minute, 7 mile delivery that paid $17. With the bonus, it actually came out to $44.54 profit per hour.

Five deliveries in, I was at $56. That's $76 with the bonus, 36 miles, in 2 hours and 20 minutes. $28.80 profit per hour after the bonus. Still pretty acceptable.

And then it's as if Grubhub figured out that I was taking everything.

It got worse from there.

I know a lot of drivers out there believe that if you take all your offers, Grubhub (or any platform) will reward you by throwing a bone every once in awhile. You know, they'll reward you with better deliveries as an incentive, right?

I really believe the opposite will happen. Their algorithm is set up to get orders fulfilled. There are just those orders that most drivers won't take. Well, guess who they're going to send them to? The drivers they know will accept them.

I really believe that's what happened next.

The first five deliveries, I averaged 7 miles per delivery (which is already too far). The last five were 11, 8, 12, 6 and 8 miles. And of course it wrapped up with a Taco Bell, 7 miles from where I dropped off, that had a good 20 minute wait at the drive through.

It almost felt like Grubhub was intentionally trying to throw whatever they could at me to see if I would break and decline.

The final results

Ten deliveries. Done. No rejections. That's small miracle.

For me, the results based on the normal pay would be best described as horrible.

My earnings spreadsheet based on the offer amounts for the ten Grubhub deliveries
My earnings spreadsheet based on the offer amounts for the ten Grubhub deliveries

I believe the three most important statistics when it comes to evaluating your deliveries are: Deliveries Per Hour, Dollars Per Mile, and most important: Profit per hour. So let's look at those:

  • Deliveries per hour: 2.05. I'm usually not happy with anything less than 2.4
  • Dollars per mile: $1.30. Anything under 2 for me is a bad night.
  • Profit per hour: $17.63. This month I've been averaging $30.83.

If not for the bonus, it would have been my worst night of the year. $17.63 per hour after car expenses (not just gas – I figure my car costs around 25 cents a gallon) isn't a bad amount at all. But compared to what I've been able to do, I wouldn't be happy.

But how about with the $4 per delivery?

The earnings spreadsheet updated with the additional $4 per delivery

This is what it would look like IF Grubhub follows through on the promise (can you tell by that “IF” that I don't trust them?).

  • $25.82 profit per hour
  • $1.81 per mile
  • 2.02 deliveries per hour.

Once you add in the extra $40, it's not a bad night. It's not a great night but not one I'd see as a total failure.

Is it worth taking every offer to get the bonus?

I don't think ten deliveries are enough to say one way or the other.

In the end, I didn't make more by going this route. I didn't make dramatically less either. I'd say it was a wash.

For me, it wasn't enough to convince me to do this again. If I ever do it again, it would be like it was this time: doing it so I could write about it.

Here are some takeaways and thoughts I had after this experience:

I will give Grubhub credit – the food was ready much more consistently than I've been used to.

There is one thing that I have noticed some improvements on with Grubhub. I'd noticed this before, but it really stood out when taking every order: The wait times have reduced. My experience in the past was that they were the worst of all the platforms at getting us there well before the food was ready.

It's still bad from time to time.

I've noticed that Grubhub has been really pushing to get drivers to go immediately to the restaurant. They've been restricting schedule access for drivers who have delayed their deliveries too long. Grubhub recently started the practice of removing deliveries from drivers who did not head directly to the restaurant.

The thing is, if they are punishing drivers for not getting there right away, but then the drivers still have to wait a long time for the food, that more or less amounts to controlling the work of the driver. In a way that kind of forces Grubhub improving the wait times.

Grubhub still is horribly inefficient with their dispatching.

As part of their emphasis on having drivers head immediately to the restaurant, Grubhub had also promised to shorten the drive distances to the restaurants. They haven't done that. It's absurd to send me seven miles to a restaurant when there are dozens of restaurants within a mile of where I am.

I've been averaging 2.86 deliveries per hour this month. The longer distances on the Grubhub offers brought me to just over 2.

I think part of what's happening is that Grubhub is trying to time our arrival with when food is ready. Here's how it works:

  • The order comes in
  • The restaurant estimates it will take 20 minutes to prepare.
  • Grubhub sends the offer to a driver that's 20 minutes away.

Instead they could wait fifteen minutes and send the offer to a driver that's five minutes away. In their defense, if drivers are rejecting the offer there's less time to recover and find someone else who will take it.

Personally, I'm more likely to take $6 offers that are shorter distance than I would $10 offers that involve a long drive. Maybe there aren't enough drivers out there who think that way.

I have to think that this kind of thing could hurt Grubhub more than it helps them.

Two things come to mind here.

One: A driver sees the offer and thinks they're getting the bonus. Nothing shows up, and it turns out that it's because the driver had rejected some offers during the daytime. Grubhub has every legal right to not pay up. They worded it just right, and they can weasel out. They save money. And the driver doesn't trust them.

Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?

Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf?

The flip side of the coin is the drivers who know how Grubhub works. I wouldn't even turn on the app earlier in the day. I waited until precisely 5:00 before going available with Grubhub.

Why?

I still have to accept everything. But those mid day deliveries? There's no bonus.

And that leads me to the next point:

High acceptance rate is expensive.

I've been averaging $30 profit per hour this month. Even with the bonus, I profited $5 per hour less than my average.

If there hadn't been a bonus? I'd have been making $13 per hour LESS than my average.

THIRTEEN. DOLLARS. PER. HOUR. LESS.

And what makes it worse? It was a Saturday night. Saturday night is the second most profitable time to deliver for me (slightly behind Friday).

Again, that's all based on ten deliveries. Maybe it's an anomaly.

Maybe. But if it is, there's a good chance that it normally would be even LOWER. In fact, three of those deliveries normally would have been $6 or less if not for the $9 minimum going on right now.

*sigh*

This has me thinking I need a bigger experiment. Spend a whole week taking everything. It would give me a better picture. Just not sure if I can stomach a whole week.

It was a miserable experience for me.

There was just something that felt incredibly out of control the whole night. I was completely at the mercy of the Grubhub computer.

Early in the year, I'd been earning about 70% of my money from Grubhub. When I took on the Uber Eats experiment I found that I was enjoying it more. There was just a greater sense of freedom.

My biggest complaint with Grubhub has always been that they try way too hard to control the drivers. There's a lot of manipulation through their deactivations and the way they use their scheduling blocks and Premier program. To move away from all the pressure that goes around acceptance rates etc. was a breath of fresh air. It was hard to give up that sense of freedom.

I was constantly worried about missing an offer.

I actually took screenshots of my order history at the end of the night. If they were to come back later and claim I missed an offer, I wanted documentation.

You know what I was saying earlier about not trusting Grubhub? Yeah, that…

One thing I've noticed lately, the Grubhub app doesn't always kick out a chime to let me know there's an offer. If I don't catch the little popup on the top of my phone I might not know there's an offer.

I kept the podcasts and the streaming music off. It was important to stay on top of what was going on in that app so I didn't miss anything. I almost missed one as it was.

Bottom line: is a promotion like that worth it?

I can't say what is worthwhile for you. It really depends on you.

If you're concerned at all about acceptance rate, this is at least a good way to get compensated for improving that rating.

Maybe it's worthwhile because the experience will hep you get a better feel for whether it's actually worth accepting more orders. Personally, I've always felt like a high acceptance rate would cost me about $10 per hour. I've never actually tried to quantify it. Last night, it cost me $13.

With any promotion, you just have to ask: Does it pay more than it costs? Are the bonuses that are being promised worth whatever it costs you.

Personally, I didn't take a big hit by doing this. I didn't make extra money. My own feeling is, it wasn't worth it. I was more wound up, more worried about missing an offer. Even if it pays a little more, it's not worth that to me.

In some markets, it might be more profitable. Maybe it's not as stressful for you. In the end, it's up to you and all based on what works for you. Every once in awhile, it's not a bad idea to experiment.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.