How much should I tip on Doordash? Is $5.00 enough? Is it too little?
Are Dashers expecting too much?
A video recently went viral when a Doordash driver cussed out a customer because their five dollar tip was too low. That has sparked a discussion about how much is enough and whether Dashers are too demanding.
How do you know what the right amount is to tip?
As someone who has delivered for companies like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and others for several years, I feel like there are actually two different conversations happening here. For the customer, it's a question of tipping. For the driver, it's a question of total compensation.
Customers and Dashers are getting mad at each other over the issue. But we're not the problem for each other. In the end, the delivery companies are the issue. It's a messed up system that's not fair to drivers like me. It's also unfair to you (assuming you're a customer).
Here's my brief take: From a traditional standpoint, a five-dollar tip for $20 worth of food is more than adequate. However, in the gig economy, that $5 tip often means the driver is terribly underpaid. I'm not sure that's the customer's fault. I'll explain more about where I'm coming from.
I won't tell you how you should tip or whether you should tip. That's a decision you need to make for yourself. What I will do is share some things about how Dashers are paid, and that can guide you in your decision-making process.
I'll share how driver pay works for companies like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and many other companies. Then I'll offer a formula you can use to determine how much to tip. Finally, I'll leave some final thoughts about tipping in the gig economy.
- 9 important factors about how a Doordash delivery works
- One way to use those factors to help you decide what to tip
- Some final thoughts on tipping, and how this whole thing is messed up for both you and I
9 Important factors involved when I deliver food to you on Doordash (or any other platform)
I'm not going to say I speak for all food delivery drivers. A lot of Dashers and delivery drivers will argue with me on some of these (especially the first part). But I hope these help you see how your tip works when it comes to driver pay with these nine things.
1. You don't have to tip at all.
You don't owe me a thing. Like I said earlier, I'm not entitled to anything.
See why I say a lot of delivery workers will disagree with me?
But here's the thing: I'm not going to be offended if you choose not to tip. How you decide to do things is completely up to you.
2. I don't have to deliver your order.
This is why I don't get offended: If the delivery doesn't pay enough for my time and expenses, I won't deliver it. Someone else may. They may not.
This isn't a threat. It's just a reality.
Doordash and others send me notification of a delivery opportunity. They show me how much I can expect to make. I have the right to accept or reject that delivery.
The driver in that video was wrong. For one, it's never acceptable to act as he did. But the other side of it is, if he doesn't think it pays enough, he should have just passed. Simple as that.
Now what this means for you is, if your delivery doesn't pay the driver enough to cover their time and expenses, it may not get picked up by a driver. That's not meant as a threat, but it's the reality in on-demand food delivery.
3. This isn't my job. It's my business.
I've seen more than a few people suggest: “just do your job.”
Thank you Josh McDaniels. (If you're not a football fan, you may not get the reference. My apologies.)
But the thing is, this is not a job.
Doordash uses independent contractors, not employees. They put it in our contract that we're providing a service as a business, not as an employee.
Ultimately, that puts us on the same footing as any other business. The IRS treats us like a business. As a result, I choose to treat this like a business.
SHOULD we be doing this as a business? There's a whole lot of discussion going on politically about whether these companies should be allowed to use independent contractors. That's another debate but for the time being, this is the nature of our relationship with Doordash and other gig companies.
4. This leaves us completely on our own.
Here's the thing about contracting with Doordash as a delivery driver: There are no guarantees.
There's no such thing as minimum wage for us. We could go out there for hours, not get a single delivery, and if that happens, too bad. We're out of luck.
We don't get reimbursed for using our own vehicles. This is the kind of work that can run your car into the ground. With wear and tear, loss of value from the extreme miles we put on our vehicles, it costs a lot more than just gas to get your food to you. And that all comes out of our own pocket.
It also means we have none of the protections that go with being an employee:
- There's no worker's comp. If we get hurt on the job, we're on our own.
- No minimum wage or overtime.
- We do not get any benefits.
- The companies do not insure us. In fact, most personal insurance policies exclude delivery work, meaning we may have to pay a lot extra to have the proper coverage.
- We pay double for Social Security and Medicare taxes because we're self-employed.
- There is no safety net. If for whatever reason, “Doordash arbitrarily says sorry, you're done here,” there's nothing we can do. You'd be amazed how often that happens. There's no due process for contractors nor is there unemployment coverage.
5. I'm not asking for pity. I choose to be an independent contractor.
It's just like starting any business. I made the decision that the benefits outweighed the risk. It's not any different than if I'd chosen to open a store or restaurant.
I choose to do this because it gives me incredible flexibility. The flexibility lets me can choose when and where to go out and work. I have more control over my profitability than you might expect.
In fact, I'm pretty sure I would opt out of doing this if I had to do so as an employee.
The reason for mentioning those things is, there's a certain amount of risk when doing this. As a result, we have to make decisions that allow us to continue running our businesses well.
6. My agreement with Doordash is on a delivery by delivery basis.
When a company like Doordash chooses to use contractors, they cannot control the work of the contractor like they can an employee.
That means they can't set our schedule. They can't tell us what deliveries we have to take. All they can do is offer us opportunities.
It's only when we accept a given opportunity that our agreement with them goes into effect.
Now, once I accept a delivery, I have a moral and contractual obligation to complete that delivery with excellence. Again, this is where I disagree with drivers who complain about the tip. When I accept a delivery, I've agreed to the terms and I said, that's enough pay for me. It's wrong for me to accept an offer and then demand more after it's done.
With that said, when I'm not on a delivery, I have no agreement or obligation that says I have to accept a delivery.
7. Each delivery offer from Doordash is a bid for my services.
Here's how it works: When I decide to go out and deliver, I turn on the Doordash app. This tells Doordash that I'm ready to receive delivery offers.
Once I do that, Doordash will send me an offer. It's like they're saying hey, I have this delivery available, and this is what it pays. Do you want it?
The offer screen will give us details such as the restaurant (or store), how far I can expect to drive, and how much the delivery will pay. While Doordash doesn't tell me how much the tip will be before the delivery is done, we have a pretty good idea.
It's not really any different than any business. I can't walk into a restaurant and tell them I'll give them five bucks for the prime rib dinner. They have no obligation to accept that offer and would probably laugh me out of the place.
Doordash doesn't guarantee a minimum pay. They don't have my back if I take offers that cost more for me to deliver than I get paid. Because I provide services as a business, I have to make a decision as to whether the amount offered is worth the time and expense.
8. Your tip is part of that bid.
In fact, it's a very significant part of the bid.
The offer I receive shows the total pay that goes with the order. The offer is the sum of Doordash's delivery fee and your tip.
90% of the time, the delivery fee is under three dollars. That means that if you choose not to tip, the driver who delivers that will likely get about $2.50 to $3.00. That's a small amount of money for what's typically a half hour's work.
9. We have to make a business decision based on what a delivery will pay compared to the time and expense of delivering that food.
The industry average for a delivery is about a half hour. That's because the driver has to drive to the restaurant, often wait for the food to be prepared, then drive the food to your place.
Sometimes we have to place the order for the food and wait for it.
Obviously, the time can vary. If I'm really close to the restaurant, the food's ready, and you're also very close to the restaurant, I can get that done in 10-15 minutes. Then again, if you're ten miles away from the restaurant, it can take a lot longer.
The first thing I do when I receive an offer is, I ask myself how long I think it will take. Then I evaluate that against the pay. Personally I try to break it down to pay per minute. It's my way of setting my price.
If the offer meets my pay per minute, cool, I'll take it. If not, I'll pass.
Think of it this way: If I were to ask you to do work for me, you have to pay expenses out of your own pocket, and oh, by the way I'm expecting you to do it for about $5 per hour, would you take that offer?
Because when you order from these companies, you're asking me to do that very thing. I don't expect you to pay a ton of money. At the same time, if you're not paying enough, I'll just pass on the offer.
How to use this information to determine what to tip.
Here's the thing: It's completely up to you how much you should tip your driver. Doordash and the others shouldn't put you in this position, to be honest. But they have.
If you want to use the traditional 20% or whatever, that's completely your choice. Just understand that a small tip will likely mean your driver was underpaid for their work.
The bottom line is: your tip IS the bottom line. Doordash usually pays only $2 to $2.50. That doesn't even cover the cost of driving the average of 5 miles per delivery. If I rely only on Doordash, I'm breaking even at best.
Your tip is my actual compensation. Doordash has put you in that position.
What that means is that when a driver is unhappy with a $5 tip, that's because the driver only really made five dollars for that half hour or whatever that it took for them to complete that work.
In other words, on average, a five dollar tip means the driver is getting ten bucks an hour.
Would you go out, drive your own car, running errands for a total stranger for ten bucks an hour or less?
If you want to make sure the driver is reasonably compensated for their time, double the amount you plan to tip and ask yourself if that's a reasonable enough amount for their time.
It's as simple as that.
This is why it really shouldn't be thought of as a tip. A tip is an extra, a thank you that goes on top of reasonable compensation. That's not what happens for delivery contractors. Your tip is our pay.
Is it unreasonable for you to have to pay that much extra, considering what these companies charge you already on top fo the cost of food? Yes, it is. That's something to take up with Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or any of these delivery companies.
Final thoughts: It's a messed up system.
The problem here is, tipping isn't just part of the pay model for food delivery apps. It IS the pay model. Delivery fees are so low that they barely cover the cost of operating.
When Doordash is charging you sometimes twenty bucks or more for food delivery, you shouldn't also have to shell out eight or ten dollars or whatever to make sure the driver is taken care of.
But the way they've structured things, they've pitted you and I against one another. You're unhappy because you shouldn't have to pay THAT much extra. I'm unhappy because, if I take that order that doesn't have a generous tip, I'm now working for sub-minimum wage.
Your order got canceled? Doordash blames me for not accepting the offer regardless of whether it paid enough to cover my costs. I didn't make enough? Doordash blames you for not tipping enough.
Drivers and customers get mad at each other when, in the end, Doordash is the one behind it all.
It's messed up because it changes the nature of tipping.
Tip money is supposed to be a gratuity. It's supposed to be a reward for good service. In a proper tipping environment, the worker is adequately compensated and the tip is an extra. However, gig economy companies have shifted that to where their contractors must rely almost exclusively on tips for their true earnings (what's left after expenses).
In the end, your tip is really just another delivery fee, on top of their main delivery fee and the 15% service charge and on top of any other fees. They make you think that the driver is getting reasonable pay.
It's messed up because it puts drivers in an awkward spot.
Doordash chose to use contractors. That was their business decision, so they wouldn't have to pay all the costs of employment.
That puts us in a position to make decisions. Our ability to actually make money depends on how well we choose what offers to accept or reject. There are a lot of deliveries that cost far more than the order will pay.
What that means is, if we're going to really make any money doing this, we have to say no to deliveries that don't pay enough.
The problem with that is, people think we're entitled jerks if we decide not to take a delivery. They think we're greedy.
Yet we'd never say that about someone who turns down a job that pays $5.00 per hour, would we?
I won't say there aren't a lot of entitled jerks in the driver community. Sometimes it's really bad. You may have dealt with that from other drivers. For that, I am sorry.
That said, we shouldn't have to look like the bad guys just because of the way Doordash structured this whole relationship.
It's messed up because it puts you in an awkward spot.
I mean, you pay $30 in service and delivery fees. You kind of expect the driver's being well taken care of, right? You should expect that.
But you add a few extra bucks. Or maybe things are tight and you weren't able to add anything.
And now the driver thinks you are a jerk. “Spend all that money on your food order and all you can do is throw a couple dollars our way?”
It's messed up because it's a model that creates exploitation.
To go back to what I said earlier, you don't have to tip me, but I don't have to deliver your food for you either. I think that's a reasonable arrangement.
While it's a messed up system, I make enough money to make it worth continuing to do this. That's because I'm selective, and there are enough people who tip well enough that it's worth my time.
If people quit tipping, that's their choice. I walked into being an independent contractor with eyes wide open and I understand it's just like if I run any other kind of business: No one has to pay what I think I'm worth.
And in the end, if not enough people pay what I feel like I'm worth, then it's time to close up shop and move on to something else.
In the end, I get to make the decisions. I can't be exploited by this system because I'm taking control for myself. I'm treating it like a business, and like any other business, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
Having said that, I believe strongly that Doordash exploits the independent contractor status. They want employees for the independent contractor price.
Unfortunately, there are too many Dashers who do everything Doordash tells them. They don't make decisions. They get stuck on deliveries that make them pay $4 in vehicle costs for an order that pays $2.
Those are the guys who are being exploited.
Now that you know how it works, what do you do with that?
The reality is, if you don't tip, your Dasher likely just delivered your food for free.
Are you okay with that?
If your tip was only a couple dollars, they were vastly underpaid for delivering you food.
If a driver delivers your order when there is a small tip or a very small tip, in all likelihood they've been exploited.
We know that Doordash is the one exploiting them. However, now that you know how it works, if the driver is exploited on your delivery, you're complicit. By continuing to order through a system that does this and not adding enough to your order to ensure the driver is taken care of, you've enabled the behavior.
I've owned a number of businesses. I never was able to demand that someone be my customer, or that they meet whatever my price was.
In the same way, I'll never demand a tip from you personally.
At the same time, I never had to do business with someone who wasn't willing to pay enough for me to do the work.
In the same way, you'll never be able to demand that I deliver your order regardless of the tip. If you won't pay enough, I won't do the work.
That's pretty much how business works.
I don't care what the tip is, to be honest. If Doordash pays enough and you don't tip anything, I don't care. If the total amount is enough, I'll take that order. The way I see it is, whoever pays what part of what I get is for you and Doordash to work out.
Having said all that, the system is what it is.
It sucks that Doordash charges as much as they do and still expects you to foot the bill for the driver to be compensated on top of those fees.
I think it's actually worse for you than it is for me. You're paying them and they're putting you in a spot where you're expected to pay even more.
In my eyes, it is what it is. I don't get militant about how Doordash should pay more because I look at what I do as a business. Doordash is my customer.
Whenever you run a business, you always have customers who try to screw you over, right? That's the nature of the beast. You learn to work around it.
But you're the one who's put in the worse spot. They put you in a position where they expect you to pay us completely for what we do on top of your fees, and if you don't, you're the one who looks like the heel.
I get that it shouldn't be that way.
But as long as you continue to order through them, that's the territory you choose to walk on.
Is there a way to change it? To get Doordash to do the right thing and come up with a new model? I don't know. Maybe it starts with people understanding how it works. I hope this has helped with that.