If you rely much at all on the income for your delivery business, you want to stay on top of how to avoid deactivation from your contracts with delivery gigs like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates, and others.
How do you avoid deactivation from Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and others? Look at this as though you're running a business, and that these gig delivery apps are your customers. Think about how a business keeps its customers.
Read ahead for seven things you can do to protect yourself. Remember that we contracted with these companies in a business to business relationship, not an employee/boss relationship. Unfortunately, a business cannot guarantee they will keep their customers.
Lately, a lot of these companies have been cutting ties a lot with couriers. How much of it is they need to weed out a lot of bad drivers, and how much of it is they have too many drivers, period, now that business is down with stimulus money dried up?
Whatever the reason, there are a lot of people being deactivated. How do you avoid being one of those?
Why do couriers get deactivated from Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, and Postmates?
There are a variety of causes. They range from violation of contract to altercations with customers or restaurants to unexplained violations that are nebulously described as fradulent activity.
Gridwise has a good article on this topic that goes into more depth on this topic. It's worth the read.
I'm critical of Doordash on a lot of things, but I'll give them credit for being more transparent about their deactivation policy than anyone else. Their information is far more specific about the things that can lead to deactivation than any of the other platforms.
Doordash has two specific metrics that are grounds for termination: Low customer rating (less than 4.2 on a 5 star scale) and low completion rate (cancelling or not completing 20% of orders that you accept). In my opinion, both metrics leave a wide amount of room for error.
Lately, Doordash has also been documenting what they call contract violations. These generally boil down to either extremely late deliveries or food that was not delivered when the delivery was marked as complete.
The fraudulent activity copout
Uber Eats and Grubhub in particular have gravitated lately towards using the term “fraudulent activity” to describe reasons for termination. Rather than describing what exactly WAS fraudulent, they just use this term.
Two weeks ago on Episode 94 of the podcast, Bryant Greenling from LegalRideshare and I talked about this issue:
I think that’s one thing that would be maybe a little more helpful on the part of the companies is if they were more forthcoming to begin with on what incident was it? I think that’s the thing as I read a lot of forums is that people can’t get an answer as to where did it happen? What exactly was it? It would help, I would think, if they knew. I kind of wonder if part of the reason they’re not as forthcoming (and this is just the conspiracy theory tin hat wearing guy in me here) is that if they start giving a lot of specifics then they’re kind of putting themselves at risk of being more controlling. Part of that whole misclassification thing.
Yeah, I think that that’s certainly part of it. I also think that it’s quicker to just write the word fraud. So often there’s a lack of a human element, a humanity to how the companies treat their workers, that I think they don’t in a lot of regards care whether they’re providing closure to a driver but rather they’re just kicking them out the door.
That’s why so many drivers get frustrated, and that’s why the letters that we’re writing with Kover are helpful. One, they might get the driver’s account back on and two, they might just get the explanation that they need.
Some common causes for deactivation
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The different things that I've seen seem to fall under three different things:
Delivery Issues and Contract Violations.
- Accepting offers and then cancelling out of them too often can be an issue. If this happens too frequently, it can regularly cause orders to be extremely late as it delays someone else from being able to take it.
- Extremely late deliveries that are your fault
- Eating or tampering with the food
- Not delivering the food to the customer or stealing the food
- Not keeping the food in the good condition during the delivery
- Poor customer service record
As implied in the conversation with Bryant, I do believe that apps sometimes use “fraudulent activity” as a mask or an excuse to deactivate people for things that they are not really allowed to deactivate you for. However, there are many things that are fraudulent that can lead to deactivation
- Attempting to use payment cards for your own purposes
- Multiple driver accounts
- Gaming the referral system (fake referrals)
- Letting someone else use your account
- Masking or faking your location on the GPS
Behavior and Safety Issues
- Failure to pass a background check
- Unsafe behavior while delivering or while driving
- Unprofessional or threatening behavior with restaurant staff
- Unprofessional or threatening behavior with the customers
Are these legitimate causes for deactivation from Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates and others?
In normal situations, I don't have much of an argument with any of these things.
There are times where the situation isn't normal. Many of those situations though do provide some wiggle room. There are situations where the restaurant wait is going to be too long or there are other reasons you don't feel comfortable completing a delivery. Most apps provide a wide enough margin for error to allow for those situations.
Sometimes they don't. If Grubhub dispatches you to a restaurant the moment they receive the order, and you have a half hour wait at the restaurant, but they penalize you for “intentionally delaying the order” if you don't go immediately to the restaurant, there's a problem.
If Postmates stacks a second, third or maybe fourth order onto your queue without giving you the opportunity to turn that order down, and then deactivate you for cancelling too many orders, there's a problem.
Is acceptance rate a legitimate cause for deactivation?
I found it interesting that the Gridwise article I referenced above mentioned that with Grubhub, accepting too few orders while on a block can get you deactivated. I hear of people who were told that. But you'll never see it in writing.
Requiring someone to accept a certain percentage of orders is a clear sign of controlling the work of the contractor. It's a great way to lose a misclassification lawsuit. Some of these companies will try to bully you into accepting offers, but they cannot legally require you to do so.
Is multi apping a legitimate cause for deactivation?
I know that's a prominent theory that's out there right now, that these apps are cracking down on multi-apping. I can't prove one way or the other, my theory is that they are cracking down on the effects of multi apping.
A company cannot prevent you from delivering for more than one company. They cannot even prevent you from having apps on with other companies at the same time.
Can you deliver for more than one company at the same time? If you get offers from Doordash and Grubhub that pick up at the same restaurant, can you take them both?
Technically, you cannot be prevented from doing so.
However, if your decision to take a Grubhub order makes you extremely late in delivering an offer you picked up for Doordash, you've broken your agreement to deliver in a timely manner. That is a legitimate reason for deactivation.
Seven ways to protect yourself and avoid being deactivated by Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, Postmates and other delivery apps
With the way they do their deactivations, there are no guarantees. However, the following steps you can take will help protect you and help avoid deactivation from gig delivery apps like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates.
Step 1: Get the right perspective.
Remember that they're not approaching this as an employer firing their employees. This is all about a business contract. You're the business, they're your customer.
The most important thing you have to do here is understand that relationship. There are two crucial mindsets you need here:
Mindset #1: Develop a Business Attitude
You are running a business. You are not an employee.
That's a good thing and not so good. You need to understand both.
The good is, you're the boss. You get to make your own rules and decide how to run your business.
The bad news is, if you don't run your business well, there are consequences. You have no guarantees and no safety net.
Okay, there is one guarantee – these gig companies will try to take advantage of you. But that's true of almost any business – customers try to figure out how to screw you.
That doesn't make it right and it doesn't excuse their behavior. But if you understand this, and actually embrace it, that my friends is a difference maker.
Because that allows you to take control. You get to make decisions. When does it make sense to do what they want you to do? When does it not? Is there a time it's best to assert your rights, and when is it better to play the ‘the customer is always right' card?
Everything is your fault. That's a good thing. It means you're in control.Gary Veynerchuk
When you take accountability and responsibility for running your business, you win. You can't be victimized when it's up to you. Instead, you adapt. You make decisions.
You take control.
Mindset #2: Think in terms of a customer relationship
Who's your customer? The one you contracted with, the one who sends you your payments.
Doordash. Grubhub. Uber Eats. Posmates.
You can't force your customers to buy from you. You can't even force them to be fair. Nor can you control what they're going to do.
But you can control what you will do. If your relationship with the customer is profitable, you can conduct business in a manner that encourages them to continue doing business with you.
Is the customer a jerk? Welcome to the business world.
Do you still want them as a customer? If so, you have to learn how to work around the customer being a jerk.
And then you need to look through the eyes of the customer. What do they need?
The customer needs the food delivered quickly and in good condition.
They need it delivered in a way that protects their relationship with the restaurants and the diners.
You can't control what the customer does. But you can look through their eyes, and control how you adapt to the customer. That gives you incredible power.
Step 2: Do What You Agreed to Do.
Too many couriers think independent contractor means you can do whatever the hell you want. They think it means no consequences.
That's not an independent contractor. Independent contractor means you're running a business, and running a business means there are a lot of consequences. There are especially consequences when you don't do very well at what you promised to do.
What did you agree to do?
You agreed to get the food from the restaurant to the customer in a timely manner. You agreed to get it to them in reasonable condition and in a reasonable manner. The very things I just mentioned the customer needs.
If you take your integrity seriously, if you are serious about the fact that you're going to do what you agreed to do, you eliminate most of those issues we mentioned above.
One thing I'm going to point out: You did not agree to accept every offer. If you think doing so helps your relationship with your customer, that's your choice to make.
But remember this: Your agreement is on a delivery by delivery basis. It begins when you accept an offer and ends when you complete it. It's during those moments that you should be awesome at what you agreed to do.
Step 3: Don't Do Stupid Stuff
Most of the legitimate causes for deactivation that don't fall under Step 2 will definitely fall under Step 3. Some do both.
Don't eat the food. That's pretty obvious, right?
Don't get into arguments at the restaurant. I know how frustrating it is when they seem slow or incompetent, but don't throw your business away because of your impatience.
I don't care how insulting that tip or lack of tip is. Getting into a fight with the customer over it is dumb as dumb can be. If the pay wasn't enough, why did you even take the offer in the first place?
I can go on and on here. Maybe the best way to put it is, use common sense.
Step 4: Be Aware of Traps
There are times where you did everything you should have done, and something sneaks up on you.
The customer said they didn't get the food. The restaurant missed some of the order and you get blamed for stealing it.
Be aware of situations that could create an issue.
Pay attention to what the order is supposed to be. Now that most restaurants are sealing the orders up, checkign off all the items is impractical. But when you see a dozen items (and I'm not talking about hot sauces at Taco Bell) and you got a small bag? You should be aware of that kind of thing.
Did you take a low tip order or have indications that the customer is extremely picky? Pay attention to where there's a probability that the customer could complain that you didn't deliver.
Here's one you might not have thought of. You arrive and the restaurant says someone else took the order. Rather than waste time with support, you cancel out and move on your way. The next driver arrives, gets the same report. Guess who was at the restaurant last? Guess who gets blamed now for picking up that order?
Step 5: Document, Document, Document
If you have a record of what you have done, and evidence that you did no wrong, you have a stronger chance of overcoming deactivation for things you did not do wrong.
Whenever you see any situation that could possibly be an issue, make sure you've got a record of everything you did.
I've had multiple times that I'll arrive, can't find the customer, and the phone number they give me is bad. I'll send a text, even when I know the phone number is bad. Why? It's a written record. Usually the apps have a record of that, and you have a record on your phone.
Any time you think something seems off about a delivery, make a note somewhere. If it seems like a possible trap situation, make a note somewhere. Keep a list of situations that seem off because many times, if you get a notice, you don't know the specifics.
Record your activity.
If there's ever any question in your mind that something seems off, find a way to record what you're doing.
Get a dash cam. If you rely on this income much, it's become a must have. last two episodes, our guests, Bryant with LegalRideshare and Leah with Kover.ai, BOTH said that one of the most important things you should have is a dash cam.
I've got a Rexing V2 Pro. It's got two cameras. One points forward and one into the passenger compartment. I have a GPS attachment and this particular camera has adjustable lenses. I can point a lens towards the customer's house so it's recording me delivering the food.
Some drivers get a body cam. That gives you a more up close recording of the transactions. It may risk people being uncomfortable, that's a decision you have to make.
Some drivers use a timestamp app that shows GPS information when you drop off an order. GPS doesn't always get the address right, so I'm not as comfortable with that.
Personally, in conjunction with the dashcam, I have the XRecorder screen recording app. It's a free app on Android, I don't know about if it's on Apple. There's a ton of these kind of apps. It records all the activity on my phone screen so I've got a record of offer details, customer instructions, my progress on the GPS. And it records sound, so you can hear the customer when they come out and get the food. If I have the camera on, it records it like it's a video.
I talk to my dashcam and screen recorder any time I think anything is off and explain what's going on.
Document, document, document.
Step 6: Evaluate the Relationship With the Customer
There's a point where you have to ask, is it worth it?
These apps aren't supposed to control you. But they try.
Do they deactivate people for things they're not supposed to? Absolutely. I don't hide the frustration I have with Postmates and their practice of stacking orders without your acceptance. But when they do that, you can't cancel just one, it's all of them. Now you're in danger of deactivation if that happens.
Income protection from Kover
Kover.AI provides income and legal protection for delivery contractors who are deactivated from gig apps like Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats etc. Using this special link you can get the first month free, with no commitment.
Where's the point that you put up with it, and where's the point where it's not worth it any more? I quit doing Postmates for that reason.
Does Grubhub drop people for too many rejections? They're not allowed to, but if they just call it fraud, how do you prove they did? Where's the point where you accept more offers because of it? Or, do you decide that if you do that, you'd make more money with Doordash or Uber Eats?
Always keep evaluating those relationships. Always evaluate the delivery gig business overall. Does it make sense if you do things the way they want you to? There are times I'm pretty sure I've pushed the limits with some of these especially when it comes to acceptance.
Step 7: Have a Backup Plan
No matter what you do, there is always the possibility of a deactivation for something you didn't do. Someone lied so they could get free food. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time and maybe the restaurant worker thought you were someone else.
You did nothing wrong but you still got that letter. What do you do now?
Don't wait til it happens. Here are the things I would encourage you to consider:
Keep your options open.
We were just talking about these companies as your customers. Don't rely on one customer. That's dangerous in just about any business you can think of. If you lose that customer, where does that leave you?
Get signed up with multiple delivery apps. Even if you want focus on just one, take a delivery every now and then with the others to keep the account active and to know what's going on with them. If anything happens to your primary, you have a backup.
Episode 95: Keeping Your Options Open
In Episode 95, I spoke with Leah Chasser of Kover.AI. They provide income protection for independent contractors who get deactivated (more on that in a moment) so I asked her about her experience and what she recommends for drivers who were deactivated. Her best advice was to make sure you have other options available that you can fall back on.
Have income protection
There is a benefits program for independent contractors to help them protect their income.
We just had the snippet from Leah with Kover.AI. You want to listen to episode 95. Check out the program Kover has.
If you are deactivated, there are two things a membership with Kover will give you:
- They have a partnership with LegalRideshare, who will provide a consultation with you at no additional cost. They'll take the information you have, find out what kind of documentation you have (see Step 5) and write a legal letter on your behalf. There is no guarantee, but they've been happy with the results they've seen so far.
- Their income protection program will provide income replacement for you based on your program level. They have three program levels, from $7 to $49 per month. If you sign up through my affiliate link, you'll get the first month of membership for free.
I've signed up for Kover, and really recommend you check them out.
Have an exit plan
As I write and record this today, California is deciding on Prop 22. We're waiting for results on that as well as the presidential election. The results from today could have ramifications on our ability to continue being independent contractors.
I've been doing this two and a half years. I don't know how long I'll keep doing it. That's pretty long term either way. But if it all went away tomorrow, I've got a backup plan.
Ask yourself these questions: What would you do next? Is there something you want to do with your life? Think through these things. Start figuring out where to go next, and start putting together your exit plan.
One last thing about deactivation:
I think a lot of people are freaked out. What happens if I'm deactivated?
I've said a few things about companies controlling us. I think they WANT us to be freaked out. The more freaked out you are, the more likely you are to act like a good little employee.
They're not the boss here. You are.
If in your eyes doing a bit more makes sense for your business, then do it. If it doesn't, then don't. Don't let the threats and the fear keep you from running your business.
Take the steps. The first two are most important. Do what you agreed to do and avoid the stupid stuff, and most people who do this are going to avoid deactivation. The rest of the steps are proactive things you can do.
Because you're in control. That's a good thing.
- Think business/customer, not employee/boss. You're running a business, and this is a contract situation, not an employment one.
- Do what you agreed to do. You run a business - be excellent at it.
- Don't do stupid stuff. Use common sense. Don't steal food, don't get in fights with customers and restaurants.
- Watch out for traps. Keep an eye out for situations that could get you in trouble (where would a customer lie about not getting their food?)
- Document, Document, Document! Get a dashcam! Keep a record of what happens in sketchy situations.
- Evaluate the Customer Relationship. Know when to say when. Does a "customer's always right" approach make sense here?
- Have a backup plan. Know now what you will do when the unthinkable happens. Get income protection from Kover.