Grubhub Driver Specialists (you know, those supervisors who aren't called supervisors because Independent Contractors aren't supposed to have supervisors by law?) recently sent out an email to drivers. They were reminding everyone that our contract requires the use of insulated bags.
And they threw in the comment that drivers can be terminated for not using one.
Grubhub has cracked down a lot lately on different behaviors. They've blocked access to schedules. Drivers have had their contract terminated.
But the crazy thing is, Grubhub doesn't like to tell you what you can be terminated for. They word their things very carefully. If they get too precise with what they ‘don't allow' they can be accused of controlling our work. They cannot control the work of independent contractors.
So that's why this seems new. This is one practice they're drawing a line in the sand. For them to outright state what it is they will terminate a contract for is something to pay attention to.
Related: Episode 55 of the Deliver on Your Business discusses many of the best options for delivery bags.
So this brings up a couple of questions we have to ask ourselves as business owners. Are you required to use a delivery bag? Should you use a delivery bag?
The Grubhub contract does require delivery bags be used. Sort of.
We'll just skip right to the contract.
Delivery Partner agrees to maintain and utilize all equipment necessary and advisable to provide Delivery Services. Delivery Partner acknowledges that without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following equipment is necessary to provide Delivery Services…Section 4, subsection vii of Grubhub's Independent Contractor Agreement as of June 2019
Insulated delivery bags. Delivery Partner may but need not opt to lease insulated delivery bags from GrubHub pursuant to a separate arrangement with GrubHub.
So there, it's in the contract. It's cut and dried, isn't it?
The contract actually doesn't explicitly state that a bag should be used on every single delivery.
There are times that a delivery bag is impractical. Some restaurant use packaging or boxes that don't fit into bags. I can think of a couple of Pho restaurants that love to use large boxes.
Is a Delivery Company Allowed to Require Independent Contractors to Use Insulated Bags?
I'll start with this. Simply because they put it in the contract, it does not mean it's legal.
If the agreement banned delivery to a particular ethnicity, does the existence of that clause make it legal? That's an extreme example. It points out that simply including a clause in a contract doesn't make it legal to add that clause.
Something like this is a grey enough area that Grubhub was apparently willing to take a chance.
Let me state this right up front. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play a lawyer on TV or anywhere else. I would love to get the input of people actually involved in employment law, but here's my take on the whole thing.
My gut instinct is to say, no, they technically cannot make such a requirement. A business cannot control the work of the independent contractor. They also cannot dictate the tools that you use. Those are the kinds of things that can quickly lose a misclassification lawsuit.
In fact I had an Uber employee explain that this is why they don't even give out delivery bags. It's too risky.
Update, March 2021: It should be worth noting that the current agreement, implemented January 2020, has no mention of delivery bags. I have to think that change is related to what we're talking about.
You could call this a grey area. Grubhub might argue it's a quality control thing. Our agreement does require quality of service. However, that's an agreement to provide an end result. How we achieve that is up to us.
SHOULD You Use Insulated Bags?
In my view, not using delivery bags is bad business, whether it's the Grubhub bags or any others.
I can see both sides of the argument on the contract side of things. I already questioned whether they can legally require it.
As a customer, I can understand why they would want to require it.
This is my new favorite delivery bag:
Rubbermaid Commercial Insulated Pizza and Food
Delivery bag, available from Amazon.
I order food myself from time to time. Food often arrives cold. I don't know if that's the driver's fault but I don't think it's a coincidence that every time it happens, the driver isn't using a bag.
Here's the deal on the independent contractor thing: Your agreement with the delivery company is on a delivery by delivery basis. Grubhub can't control how you complete it.
That said, when you do accept an offer, you have a contractual and ethical obligation to get the food to the customer in the best possible condition that you can get it to them.
How you do that is up to you. Failure to do so is you not doing what you agreed to do.
Too many drivers take the “you can't control me” thing too far and use that as an excuse for really crappy customer service. A normal business that takes that approach would struggle to stay in business.
I think there are a couple of other reasons to use the bags, which just make doing so a good business decision.
Using a delivery bag helps with efficiency
I never walk into a restaurant without a bag. Ever. Every once in awhile I'll have a Postmates order to pick up an order at 7-Eleven that I know would not use a bag, and I'll take a bag anyway. For one reason.
The bag gets attention.
One of the biggest challenges to getting in and out of a restaurant is that you often have customers waiting in line. When you walk in without a bag, for all anyone knows, you are another customer.
I walk in the door and I hold the bag up immediately because even if they don't notice me, employees notice the bag. And it works.
Belleford Insulated Food Delivery Bag XXL
and Cup Carrier Combo
Available from Amazon
The funny thing is that I've often done that, a restaurant employee is immediately asking me who my order is for, and it turns out there's someone else there who's been waiting to get attention who is also there for a delivery. The bag makes a difference.
Time is money. I refer often to the 40 cent rule – every minute I lose is costing me 40 cents or more. We lose money when we have to wait longer because of the fact that restaurant workers don't realize we're not just another customer.
Using a delivery bag helps the bottom line
Delivery bags impact how much you get in tips, because the quality of the food when it arrives makes a difference to the customer. When tips are often more than half of our total earnings, that is significant.
It may not make a difference on a particular delivery with Grubhub or Doordash, where the tip is made at the point of order. Even then, it makes a difference in the long term.
We complain that customers are getting cheap and not tipping as well. Is it possible that it's not because they're cheap? I'll guarantee that for many customers, it's because they've tipped well in the past and have been burned by really crappy service.
You may never deliver to the same customer ever again. However, the more you contribute to a culture of bad service, the more you contribute to a culture of lower tips.
Ultimately, your good service plays a role in tips improving over time, and with companies dropping delivery rates, that becomes more and more important.
Final Thoughts on using insulated delivery bags for Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, Postmates, Caviar, Bitesquad, etc. etc.
As a business owner and from a profitability standpoint, I absolutely encourage you to use a delivery bag.
You agreed to get the food to the customer in the best condition possible. Doing what you agreed to do is just part of running a business.
I'm sorry, but you can't play the “you can't control me” card here. They can't control because you're running a business. Running a business requires doing what you agreed to do.
I think it's fair to make the case that you didn't agree to use a bag. Fair enough. I think that Grubhub crossed the line with their emails and it's interesting that clause has since disappeared.
But that doesn't change the nature of your agreement. However you choose to do it, you have an obligation to protect the food.
Even if I'm only taking the delivery across the street, something where it won't make a bit of difference. I use the bag. because it just makes good business sense. The efficiency and communication that go with carrying a delivery bag (whether it's the Grubhub bag or something I got somewhere else) is worth it.
Take care of the customer. Take care of their food. And take care of your profits. Use the bag.