What if you knew how much money Doordash was really offering on a delivery order? No more hidden tip, no more “may be more.”?
The Para App has made quite a splash on the Doordash delivery scene, offering to reveal the full amount of a Doordash delivery offer.
The reaction to the app seems to be either hot or cold. One side will tell you they make a lot more money because of it. The other side will tell you that you can be deactivated, because it violates the terms and conditions of the Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement.
Which one is it? Is Tip Transparency a game changer for Dashers? Or is it a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up your ability to deliver for Doordash?
Let's take a look at the Para and how Tip Transparency works. Then you can make your own decisions as to whether it makes sense for you. We'll look at:
- What is the Para app and how does it work?
- Does the Para app help you make more money?
- Can the Para app get your contractor agreement deactivated?
- How do you decide whether to use Para?
Here's a spoiler: I'm not going to recommend the app. I'm also not going to discourage you from using the app. I think the Para app can be great for some. However, the risk is unknown at best, and if you're queasy about that, you might proceed with caution.
What I'll do instead is talk through as much as I know and understand about both the risk and rewards and let you use all that to make your own decisions.
1. What is the Para app and how does it work?
Para is a startup that is intent on using data to help delivery contractors improve their businesses. David Pickerell, CEO, is also an active delivery contractor with Doordash (and I believe some other apps) who continues to go out in the field on deliveries in order to understand the real life experience of independent contractors.
Update: About mid July, 2021, Para's Tip Transparency quit working when Doordash changed how they send delivery offer data to the phone. Is this the end for Para? Read more here.
I'll be up front here: I know the guys at Para and I consider them to be friends. David was a guest on the podcast in December. I've talked with them several times and have always enjoyed the conversations as we talk about all things delivery and being an independent contractor.
I promise to do my best at being objective about this app and all that's going on. I feel that's my responsibility to you. That's why it's important for me to point out that there is a relationship there. But I also think it helps to hear from someone who knows these guys, that I've observed that they really care about contractors and about making it easier to be an independent contractor with delivery apps like Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub.
I've talked with them often as they've explored what features and capabilities they could provide, and it's been fun to see the evolution of their app. They've explored a number of ideas, and I don't think they're done.
The Growth of the Para App
The Para app itself connects to your driver accounts by having you log into your account through their app. They also use a third provider called Argyle to pull your earnings history. Argyle is used by several other third party apps including Gridwise ,Kover, and Moves Financial.
The first version of the Para app, as I recall, could add up your earnings from different delivery apps and give you an overview of your earnings and how much you made per hour. As the team at Para discovered that Doordash and Grubhub in particular do not provide updated annual totals, they added the ability to provide weekly, monthly and annual earnings totals.
Seeing that annual total is huge for Grubhub and Doordash contractors in particular. Neither app gives you a running total of your earnings anywhere. The best you can hope for is getting your 1099 at the end of the year.
Unfortunately, both Doordash and Grubhub have a history of screwing up the 1099 process (Grubhub was really bad at that for the 2020 1099-NEC's – I finally received mine May 18, the day after tax day). The Para app was the first resource I was aware of that could let contractors know how much they actually made with Doordash.
Then the team set out to solve another problem. They created a mileage tool that used delivery data to provide an IRS compatible mileage log for people who forgot to track miles. As of the writing of this article, they appear to have temporarily put that tool on hold. I think this was to let them build the tip transparency feature. My understanding is they plan to reintroduce that feature down the line.
Tip Transparency: Knowing what Doordash will pay on all deliveries.
The part that is catching everyone's attention is Para's latest feature:
Para can now show you the total amount of money you would receive on a Doordash offer.
I'm guessing you know that Doordash has a way of hiding some of the tip on larger delivery offers. For example, a delivery may offer $8.50 but when you complete it, the actual pay is $15.
This is kind of a hold over from the old Doordash pay model. Back then Doordash would only offer a minimum guarantee. It's a manipulative tactic to make Dashers think that any delivery could pay more than what they are displaying. If you got more on that $8 offer, maybe that means you could get more on that $3 offer.
However, when you get a delivery offer, the data sent to your phone actually includes the total amount. Doordash disguises the higher paying amounts. Para figured out how to pull that information, and then provide you a notification that tells how much the delivery actually pays. That notification reveals any hidden tip, giving you a more accurate picture of what you'll receive.
When they first started testing the feature, they used text notifications to let you know what you received. Using a third party text platform wasn't always reliable or timely, so Para has updated their app to be able to provide real time totals. You can now see the total amount on a notification that pops up with each offer or find it in the Para app.
2. Does the Para App Help You Make More Money?
That really depends on how you choose to evaluate delivery offers.
Nothing in and of the app itself actually makes more money for you. What the app gives you is information.
The ability to make more money is tied to how you use that information.
Where the Para app could make more money for you is when it reveals higher pay on a delivery you might reject as offered by Doordash. If the offer isn't enough as displayed, but you see it pays quite a bit more, you are able to make more because you didn't reject what would have been a higher paying order.
Para helps you avoid missing those hidden higher paying deliveries.
If you are selective with what deliveries you offer, Para MAY help you earn more. (I'll get into that “may” a bit more shortly)
However, if you are less selective, or if a $7 or $8 delivery offer is one you would normally accept, Para may not make much difference in whether you take the offer. I say that because most times that the tip is hidden, the offer is already at or above that amount.
There are some rare instances where Doordash has a hidden extra on lower offers, such as when they only offer $3 for a delivery. I find those to be very rare. However, if it's something you would normally decline, and then you find out it actually pays $15 or $20, that information is obviously going to help you earn more money.
3. Can the Para app get you deactivated?
Here's the controversial part.
Some will tell you that the Para app is against the terms of service with Doordash. That could leave you open for deactivation. In fact, Para even states that on their website and FAQ:
We try to be very upfront and tell everybody that using this tool is in clear violation of DoorDash’s terms of servie, and anything in violation of their Terms of Service can be grounds for deactivation. However, we don’t believe that this is likely. And we believe that you have the right to make an informed decision and know full trip context as an independent contractor.PARA FAQ answer to if you can be deactivated
Personally looking at the language, I'm not convinced it's clearly against their terms of service. Doordash has never explicitly said this type of use wasn't allowed, and the language in their policies is fuzzy at best. However, it's enough of a possibility that it should be taken seriously.
At issue here is that in their December update to the independent contractor agreement, Doordash added a whole section (Section XII Proprietary rights and licenses) that includes information about the use of the Doordash app. Doordash also has a section in their Deactivation policy that identifies “Scraping” as cause for termination.
There is a possibility that Doordash could deactivate you as a Dasher. I don't know how great the possibility is. Right now, that's one of the great unknowns.
As I write this, I've noticed people who claimed to know someone who was deactivated for using the Para app. I have yet to see anyone say they were deactivated themselves or provide evidence that anyone was deactivated.
I can't tell you that you will be deactivated. Then again, I cannot say that you won't. Honestly, no one really knows if it will happen. All we can do is deal with the possibility.
Understanding various terms of service and agreements that are involved here.
Let's take a look at some of the language in the different policies that are involved. Some of it gets technical, and I'll do my best to keep this as plain-English as possible. I think it's important to understand what really is in our agreement with Doordash, and how other things are involved as well.
There are two documents from Doordash that you have to keep an eye on. One is the Independent Contractor Agreement. The other is their Deactivation policy.
Doordash can change either one at any time. As of their last update, Doordash doesn't even need your approval for any change. All they have to do is send you an email saying it's been changed.
That doesn't mean they will. I've noticed two changes to the Deactivation Policy where I never received such notification. As you can guess, I don't trust them to follow their own policy with the contractor agreement either.
In the past several months, Doordash has made some significant changes to both their Independent Contractor Agreement and the Deactivation policy. The changes are things that could impact third party apps like Para.
Additional Section to the Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement.
In mid December, Doordash made some big changes to their contractor agreement. One of the biggest was adding Section XIII: Proprietary Rights and Licenses.
Basically Doordash is asserting their rights to the platform. Part of that section reads as follows:
No portion of the Doordash platform may be reproduced in any form or by any means, except as expressly permitted in the terms of this Agreement.. Contractor agrees not to modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute or create derivative works based on the Doordash platform or any intellectual property rights therein in any manner, and Contractor shall not exploit the Doordash platform or any intellectual property rights therein in any unauthorized way whatsoever.
DOORDASH hereby grants CONTRACTOR a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable, revocable license to use the DOORDASH platform solely for their lawful use to perform the Contracted Services in accordance with these terms of this Agreement. DOORDASH retains all rights, title, and interest in and to the DOORDASH platform and its other intellectual property rights therein. Any such license shall terminate upon termination of this Agreement.Portion of Section XII of Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement
When I saw this change I wondered then how this would impact Para (and this was before Tip Transparency came out) and other third party apps. I wrote further that I wondered how it would impact the Driver's Utility Helper and other apps.
Things like “shall not exploit the Doordash platform or any intellectual property rights therein in any unauthorized way whatsoever” or saying you can't use the app except as expressly permitted” make me a bit nervous.
But how does Doordash allow you to use the app? “To perform contracted services.” Can't you claim that getting better information helps you perform contracted services?
The Doordash Deactivation Policy and Scraping.
Doordash added several sections to their Deactivation policy. Part of their policy included specific instances of “abusing the platform that in 2019 had four items. Sometime since then, four more items were added.
My non-lawyer self who nevertheless loves to parse words could make a case that the additional four items are not valid. More on that in a bit.
The new items include:
- Disrupting the Doordash Platform
- Unauthorized Access
- Third Party Rights.
My first thought was that “Unauthorized access” could be a problem. However, that's preventing Dashers from gaining unauthorized access to the platform. If you have a valid login, you're not violating this.
The big one here is “Scraping.”
Using any robot, spider, web crawler, extraction software, automated process and/or device to scrape, copy, index, frame, monitor, conduct any systematic retrieval of data or other content from any portion of DoorDash platform or its content.Doordash Deactivation policy, accessed May 31, 2021.
This is the part where there might be some risk. Might be.
What this is saying is you can't use any automated process to gather data or content from the Doordash platform. I'm not totally sure that the Para app is doing that. We'll get to that in a moment.
Para's Approach to this as evidenced in their Terms of Service.
I think it's really interesting how Para puts it in their own Terms of Service (as of May 31, 2021).
The way I understand it, they say they're accessing the information on our behalf. Here's the “Agency” section of their agreement as of the date of this article:
By using the Service, you expressly authorize and direct Para and our third-party service providers (including Argyle, Inc.), on your behalf, to electronically retrieve your account information maintained by third-party data sources with whom you have a contractual relationship (“Your Account Information”). You agree that when Para retrieves Your Account Information, Para is acting as your agent, and not as the agent of or on behalf of any third party. You agree that third-party account providers shall be entitled to rely on the foregoing authorization, agency and power of attorney granted by you. For purposes of this Agreement and solely to obtain and provide Your Account Information to you as part of the Service, you grant Para a limited power of attorney, and appoint Para as your attorney-in-fact and agent, to access third-party sites, servers, or documents, retrieve Your Account Information, and use Your Account Information.Para Terms of Service Agency section
Here's the interesting part:
You give Para limited power of attorney. What that means is, they're acting like they are you.
As they look at it, it's not that you are giving Para access to the information. You're letting them act on your behalf to obtain information that is already yours.
The involvement with Argyle.
If using third party apps is cause for deactivation, there's a larger problem than just the Para app. Because of Argyle's relationship with apps like Para, Gridwise, Kover, Moves, and some other financial apps, a lot of drivers are at risk. Using your delivery data through third party apps has become pretty wide spread.
The idea for Argyle is to provide an independent interface that protects your personal information and login. You may already be familiar with a similar kind of interface. You may have used it to connect to your bank for payment with some gig economy apps. That platform is called Plaid. Womply's Fast Lane PPP application form used Plaid as well.
Argyle and Plaid work in several ways. It's a protected way that different apps can access your information without you giving those apps the information directly. Plaid lets you log into your own bank account and tie it to different programs. Argyle does the same kind of thing, but instead letting you link apps and programs to your driver apps.
Para uses Argyle to compile earnings totals, however they created their own interface to identify the full payout on tips. But there's something about Argyle's approach here that is important to consider. Episode 158 of The Rideshare Guy Podcast featured Billy Marsden, CEO of Argyle. When talking about access to the data, Billy made the point that the data they are accessing already belongs to us.
That's important to understand when you look at Para's stance that I mentioned above. Para says they are accessing information on your behalf. Argyle says the information is already yours.
The important question is, what does Doordash think?
Why I'm not sure that “scraping” is an issue.
I'm not saying Doordash won't make it an issue. After all, they could just declare that using the Para app is scraping. If they do, then what?
I'll start off by suggesting that the Scraping section in the Deactivation Policy is illegitimate and non-binding according to Doordash's own Independent Contractor Agreement. Second, I'm not really sure that the Para app is scraping.
Why I don't think the Scraping clause in the Deactivation Policy is legal and binding.
Basically, it's a violation of the Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement.
In Doordash's independent contractor agreement that was in effect before the Scraping change that was made, Doordash said that “Doordash shall provide notice of any such changes (to the Deactivation policy) to CONTRACTOR via e-mail.”
In the revision from December 2020, they said it this way:
Changes to the Deactivation Policy shall be effective and binding on the parties upon CONTRACTOR’s continued use of the DOORDASH platform following DOORDASH’s e-mail notice of such modifications.Doordash Independent Contractor Agreement, from Section XIV Termination of Agreement.
I never received any email notifying me of this change. In fact, this is the second time that I've seen them make changes without sending notifications out. The fact that they haven't emailed notification of the changes means the provision isn't in force yet.
Why I'm not sure that Tip Transparency is a violation of the Scraping provision.
Here's the thing about scraping. It's about gathering and collecting data. Scraping is when you're pulling information from different sources. You're usually going to sell that data or do something with that collection of information. It's about a collection of information.
Trip transparency isn't collecting data. Tip Transparency is using information in real time. All it is doing is giving you information about the delivery offer you are receiving. That doesn't meet the definition of scraping.
The other side of it is, we're talking about information that's already being sent to your phone. That information shows itself when you're done with a delivery, so you could argue that it's not really accessing anything that's not already being provided to you.
And the thing is, that information will be provided to you once the delivery is completed. Nothing in the agreements or policies prohibits getting information sooner.
If you are compiling that information or gathering customer information or restaurant information or anything like that, that's scraping. Tip Transparency isn't doing any of that.
There may be a greater risk linking Para to Grubhub than to Doordash
Trip Transparency isn't really a factor with Grubhub, as they don't normally play the same tip-hiding games as Doordash.
However it's apparent that they've been concerned about these third party apps. They've been posting warnings like the following:
The language in Grubhub's contractor agreement includes the following:
You will not license, sell and/or otherwise provide access to and/or use of your Account or the Driver App to any third party (other than subcontractors, pursuant to your Partner Agreement), including without limitation to build a competitive product and/or service;Grubhub Independent Contractor Agreement as of June 1, 2021
If you're logging into your own account through a third party app, I'm not sure that's the same as giving access to someone else, especially the way that Argyle and these other apps have it structured. However, the notice that's in the screenshot from Grubhub seems to indicate that they interpret it that way.
It does seem that Grubhub is more explicit about such access than Doordash. At least according to my non-lawyer view of the language in the agreements.
I do think there's one lesson in the Grubhub approach that you should consider when looking at Doordash. I think you can make a case that using an app like Para doesn't violate the agreement. That doesn't mean that Doordash, Grubhub or any of the others will interpret it the same way.
This doesn't mean Doordash can't or won't deactivate you.
The thing is, Doordash can decide that this is an issue they want to crack down on. Who's going to stop them?
These delivery companies are notorious for deactivating you without any detail around why. From what I've seen, Doordash is more transparent about their reasons than the others, but that's not saying much. Doordash could just decide to deactivate people without even saying it's related to Para or Trip Transparency.
And if they do, how do you fight it?
It's one thing to make an argument on a blog post about whether it's scraping. However, if Doordash decides to deactivate someone over this, all this means nothing unless you can convince a judge or arbitration panel that it isn't scraping.
Who will fight them on this if it happens?
Say you use Para and get deactivated. How do you fight it?
First, do you have evidence that this is the reason they deactivated you? Or did they just give you a generic reason?
And then, what can you do? Rideshare Legal has a service where they'll write a letter on your behalf, but they don't really go any further than that. Do you file arbitration? Or just let it go? Is it worth the time and money to fight it?
Doordash can't control the work of independent contractors, but they have a history of trying to do so through threat od deactivation. I think they cross the line in doing this, but it doesn't really matter until they get challenged in court. But that's what Doordash is banking on: Who's got the time, money and resources to fight these deactivations?
The plus side of the involvement of third party apps would be if the app makers were willing to help take a legal stand. Because deactivation due to their use threatens the business model, does that make them more likely to fight for their own survival?
The idea here is that apps are supposedly acting on your behalf when they access what they believe is YOUR data. But since they're acting on your behalf, ultimately that still leaves you responsible (not them) for anything that happens.
Para originally asked users to lay low about the app. It was kind of like the first rule of Fight Club: Do not talk about Tip Transparency. But then after time, they started thinking that it was better to go all in on being public and building up an army of users.
I think the idea is, there's strength in numbers. Would Doordash deactivate 10,000 drivers?
Unfortunately, I think that underestimates how these gig companies work with deactivations. They don't go after everyone who's ‘guilty.' Instead, they make examples out of people. All they need to do is let a few drivers go, and word will spread.
It's more about intimidation than it is all out enforcement. They only need to deactivate a few to scare a lot. And that's where I'm afraid the ‘strength in numbers' may fade away.
4. How do you determine if Para Tip Transparency is worth using?
Ultimately it comes down to three questions:
- How much does it really help you?
- How much do you rely on your Doordash income?
- Is the reward greater than the risk in your eyes?
I've mentioned this in other places: When I was in sales we used to use a technology mission statement. We told clients that technology should help you be more profitable or more effective. If it doesn't do either, don't invest in the technology.
How much does Tip Transparency help you?
As I mentioned in point 2 above, that really depends on your philosophy.
I love knowing how much I'll receive. Does it really make a difference in what I earn? For me, that's debatable.
The crazy thing is, sometimes I was able to make more on Postmates (or on Uber Eats before they started including the expected tip in their offer) than I was making on platforms that told you what you earned. That tells me you don't have to know the total amount in order to do well.
Ultimately, this becomes a discussion about the best way to accept and reject delivery offers. My personal feeling is that too often we put too much emphasis on the delivery pay and don't pay enough attention to time and distance.
My philosophy is it's better to evaluate delivery orders based on how much a delivery can pay per minute (and thus an hourly rate) than any simplistic formula. Knowing what you will receive obviously help to make a good estimate. In that way, Tip Transparency can definitely help you.
But in the end, it really boils down to how much it really helps you in the way you do things.
My own observations:
I love the extra information. I have to be honest though, I don't think it's actually made a difference for me.
My experience is that I probably already would have taken any offers that actually would have paid out more than what Doordash offered.
In fact, I'm pretty sure I took some offers that didn't actually meet my criteria simply because the app told me I'd get more than what Doordash was offering. I simply assumed that it meant these were better offers, and I failed to pay attention to the time and distance.
Normally, for me, time and distance tend to tell me more about how well a delivery pays than the dollar amount.
I also found myself passing on some offers that I normally would have accepted because they didn't have an extra pay. So in some cases, I was making less per hour on deliveries than I would normally make if deciding without using the app.
That's not the fault of the app. It's completely my fault for changing my evaluation process and relying too heavily on if there was additional tip money.
One thing I've noticed as well: All of a sudden, Doordash is being more up front about what they're offering than what I've ever seen. That tells me they're definitely adjusting or experimenting.
My personal experience is that I'm not seeing a lot of difference. Your results of course will vary. For me, it hasn't been the game changer that I expected it would be.
How much do you rely on Doordash income?
Before going further: I strongly recommend that no one rely on just one delivery platform. A business should never have all their eggs in one basket or one customer.
That said, you have to ask yourself what happens if you lose your ability to Dash. If there's a risk that you could be deactivated, you have to ask what happens to you if that happens.
The reality is that with Doordash, you could be deactivated with no warning or for something that wasn't your fault to begin with. Unfortunately with them (and the others) there's no such thing as due process or fair treatment. It can just happen (which is why that first sentence in this paragraph is so important).
Are you willing to fight it if you get deactivated? Are you able to fight it? How devastating would deactivation be?
As much as I love the ability to know what's being offered, those are important questions that you have to ask yourself.
Weighing the reward verses the risk
Now you have to take those two questions and weigh them.
If you believe you will make a lot more money when knowing the tip amount, that means the reward is higher. That could make it worth using the app.
Something else to ask is, how much does NOT using it cost you? If you feel like you're not making enough on Doordash based on how they currently do things, deactivation may not be as devastating for you. That's kind of how I look at things like Top Dasher. I think there's a cost to accepting too many offers and a higher acceptance rate can equal much lower earnings. Is not using Para similar to this?
If the reward (higher earnings) is high and either you think the risk or consequences aren't a big deal, you may lean more towards using Tip Transparency.
But if you aren't willing to risk deactivation, that's a valid point of view. If it would be devastating at all to be deactivated, you probably want to at least wait until you know for sure the risk is low.
Knowing how Doordash operates, I can't sit here in good conscience and tell you there's no risk. If you use Para, you have to understand you could lose the ability to deliver at some point. It's important that you go into it eyes wide open.
This is why I can't, or won't, make a recommendation one way or the other. It really boils down to how you see that balance between risk and reward. Only you can make that decision.
I can't tell you. You're the boss here. In the end, it's your business decision.
Frequently asked questions about Para Tip Transparency
You can check them out at WithPara.com. This is not a sponsored link. Because of the possible risk, I made the decision not to use an affiliate link or receive compensation.
At this point, the team at Para has decided not to charge for the app. They're still in the early stages of developing features for drivers. I get the impression they are hesitant to charge for the app as long as the potential of deactivation is what it is.
I suppose there's always a risk of someone with a third party app going rogue. It's not likely to happen though when you know who you're dealing with. It would be kind of stupid for someone to start raiding Dasher accounts because it would be too easy to find out who it was.
It's debatable. Para warns that it is. Based on the language in the policy, I'm not sure it's clear. Doordash does not specifically forbid using third party apps. Their deactivation policy prohibits scraping, however because the Para app only uses pay information in real time, and there's no collection or gathering of information, it's debatable as to whether the app is considered scraping.
There is always a possibility that this can happen. Doordash can make their own interpretation of whether using the app violates their terms of service. As long that's the case, it's safest to assume that deactivation is a possibility.
That's unknown. In forums and Facebook groups, many have claimed to know someone who was deactivated. Every claim I've seen has been someone who says they know someone or know of someone. Many times someone will assume they were deactivated for something but never actually were told that was the reason. I have yet to see any emails or evidence that Doordash specifically deactivated someone for using this feature.