Doordash has a problem.
And they're cracking down.
I just wonder if their solution to their problem ends up creating a bigger problem for them in the long run.
Doordash has updated their deactivation policy and they've kinda taken on the Grubhub practice of bullying their drivers into submission. Drivers are scared of losing their income.
Why are they doing this? Are these justified changes? How can the independent delivery professional work within this updated Doordash deactivation environment?
Let's talk about this, especially from the perspective that we are running a business and that Doordash is our CUSTOMER, not our employer.
Why are they doing this?
I think it boils down to the huge spike in deliveries due to the pandemic has also created a spike in customer satisfaction issues. Customers aren't happy, restaurants aren't happy and Doordash is struggling like they never have before.
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Food is getting to the customer later, if it gets there at all. It's taking longer for the food to be picked up at the restaurants.
On top of that, Doordash has struggled with finding ways to provide support when call centers were pretty much shut down by stay at home orders.
My take has been one of the main reasons Doordash was able to overtake Grubhub is that they were better at just getting the stuff delivered and keeping customers happy.
I have to think they've been losing that edge and they're getting scared. So they followed Grubhub's lead and started cracking down on their employes.
Ummm, I mean, their contractors.
Changes in the Deactivation Policy.
Doordash has been doing a lot more communication to drivers with threats of deactivation than I've ever seen.
Somewhere along the line, they added a significant section to their deactivation policy. Here's a screenshot of their policy as of September 29, 2019 (thanks to the Google Wayback Archive Machine)
I don't know when it changed. The Wayback machine is great for seeing earlier versions of a web page, but somewhere along the line Doordash changed the page to something that couldn't register in the Wayback archives.
September 2019 is the latest that I could pull up. However, this is a screenshot of the current policy (as of May 26, 2020).
Did you ever receive notification of this change?
Notice that Doordash added a section to their policy entitled “Violating the Terms of Your Contract.” I don't know when that was added, and I cannot find any email telling me about that change in the policy. Did I just miss that?
If not, Doordash has broken their own contract.
That's a little ironic, isn't it? They add a section about violating the terms of the contract when they violated it themselves.
In the contractor agreement, section XIII, it says changes can be made to the deactivation policy, however that ” DOORDASH shall provide notice of any such changes to CONTRACTOR via e-mail.”
If you received notification that the policy had actually been changed, could you forward that to me? I cannot find such a notice.
They notified us of a change in the minimum completion rate, but nothing about this big section added to the policy. If someone has the notice I'm glad to update this article.
Three areas Doordash is cracking down
There are three specific things that I've seen where Doordash is really pushing the deactivation button.
Not delivering the food.
Especially with the advent of no-contact deliveries, I've started to see a flurry of posts on forums and social media where people said they were deactivated for not delivering food to the customers.
Doordash has recently updated the ratings screen to add a section that says “Orders Never Arrived.” (Update: in later versions, Doordash updated their app, changing the heading from “orders never arrived” to “contract violations.”)
Drivers have been reporting getting texts that state that customers stated that food was never delivered.
Notice that the screenshot below states that failure to deliver food can result in deactivation according to the Deactivation Policy. That brings me back to the question – when did they add that section and when/how did they notify us?
Showing up late to the restaurant or the customer.
Doordash has been sending messages out to Dashers informing them that they have been late to the restaurant or to the customer. The messages that I've seen like the one posted below don't specifically say you will be deactivated but it makes the implication with the reference to the Deactivation Policy.
Doordash has a Lateness Based Deacivations Explained page. On that page they state that “Dashers who consistently arrive at the merchant or customer significantly after estimated arrival times will be eligible for deactivation, as noted in our updated Deactivation Policy.”
(Editorial note, because I really feel the need to harp on this – a policy that was updated without informing Dashers of the update). The policy seems to imply that extremely late is 30 minutes late or longer.
Essentially it looks like you will send out a warning text which they say will have no consequence. After that, deactivation is a possibility.
The thing is, they don't provide any detail. Is it two strikes and you're out? Or maybe 3 or 4? How long does a violation stay on your record?
If you're extremely late and then a year later you're late again, can they just terminate you then? They don't tell us any of that.
Low completion rate.
I should be clear, this isn't the same as not delivering the food. Completion rate is determined by how many deliveries you do compared to how many you accepted.
If you accept an offer and then cancel out of it, that's considered an incompletion.
Doordash has long had it in your policy that not completing 30% of accepted offers is grounds for deactivation. On May 22, 2020 they upped that to 80%
Deactivation for completion percentage cannot be appealed, unlike the other issues. However, at least here you know what the threshold is and what your completion rate is so it's easier to know when you're in trouble.
That is, if the ratings system works properly. Doordash has a way of glitching where some of the stats will be frozen.
Are these policies unfair?
There are some things I don't like about what Doordash is doing. However, I mentioned I wanted to approach this as a business owner.
When you run a business and you agree to do something, you do it. That's good business.
Being on time and completing deliveries you agreed to complete are part of doing what we agreed to do.
On the surface, I really don't have a problem with Doordash's expectations. I've long said that our agreement is on a delivery by delivery basis and we make a commitment once we accept a delivery. It's fair for them to expect you to do what you promised your customer you would do.
However, if these policies can lead to deactivation for things outside our control, there's an issue. In most cases, I don't see that happening.
I do, however, see the potential for it. Doordash invests as little time as possible into investigating issues and tends to deactivate rather quickly. That's where this can be an issue.
Like most policies, these are a response to abuse.
The bottom line is, there are some terrible Dashers out there.
There are Dashers who are incredibly lazy. They won't get out of their car, or refuse to climb steps or exert even minimum effort to complete a delivery. Some don't take care of the food, or they keep the food in unsanitary conditions.
You will find some that work multiple applications, with those deliveries taking them all sorts of different directions without regard for how late that is making them.
There's a reason that Doordash has to insist that food be delivered in a safe manner, in that some customers don't feel safe. I look at how some people look when they're delivering and think, thank God they're not touching my food.
It makes sense they have to take some steps here.
Don't get me wrong. I have no sympathy for Doordash here.
They have no checks and balances, and there really isn't a hiring process. All you have to do is have a license and pass a background check. Part of that is because they really aren't allowed to do that much screening because they're using independent contractors.
Again though, no sympathy here. That's a decision DOORDASH made. And the thing is, when you do everything on the cheap, you get what you pay for.
These Policies Could Create Problems for Doordash
I think Doordash is walking into a minefield here. There are just a number of issues in how they're approaching this.
Policies are vague
A customer reported they didn't get the food.
Did they not get anything?
Or did they just report that their fries were missing?
Is one report enough for termination?
How big of an order does it have to be to be a problem?
What exactly is “extremely late?”
To their credit, Doordash does have a little bit of explanation that at least clarifies that things like waiting at the restaurant won't work against you. They kind of hint at 30 minutes as the amount, but they're not clear.
You can get a warning but is it two strikes and you're out? Or three?
There is no due process.
Doordash sends you a report that someone claimed they didn't get the food. You don't get any detail on what exactly is missing.
It's possible to reply to the report, but what do you reply to? You get accused but can't face your accuser or respond to the specific accusation.
You can take pictures, you can have dashcam footage. Then you keep screenshots of your apps. All this is evidence that you did what you promised to do. But when you reply to an accusation, there's no opportunity to send that evidence.
If Doordash deactivates for lateness or not delivering, you can appeal. But from what I've seen of people in forums, the appeal process is a joke. They get a box where they can write to support their reactivation request.
How do you fill that out when you don't have much information about the deactivation?
You have no chance to speak with anyone. And who exactly is evaluating the request? The same person who deactivated you in the first place?
Doordash didn't follow their own protocol in updating policy.
Have I mentioned that? I think I may have mentioned that.
Here's the problem: Doordash is in the right to expect people to follow what they agreed to do. I've stated that already.
I think all three of these areas fit within the parameters of not following through on what a Dasher agreed to do.
The thing is, Doordash loses the moral high ground when they don't follow the contract themselves. Doordash changed the policy without a proper notification.
(If I missed a notification and they did properly notify people of these changes, I'll gladly walk this back).
Doordash has to hope some lawyer isn't digging into this process, it could really hurt them.
Doordash is risking crossing the control line.
This is especially true with the completion rate factor. For most Dashers, this comes into play when you unassign a delivery due to an excessive wait time.
In other words, if you don't wait long periods of time because the restaurant is behind (and by the way, you get no compensation for that wait time), you can be terminated.
Doordash is facing an existential crisis where they use contractors and there are forces all over trying to force them into using employees.
- AB5 in California is law.
- Virginia just passed a law restricting contractor use.
- ProAct is national legislatin they're trying to push through (similar to AB5).
Controlling the work of your contractor is a common denominator in any interpretations of whether someone should be an employee.
Taking so many steps that political opponents could interpret as control is a really stupid move at this point in history, in my opinion.
Requiring completion on delayed deliveries is a breach of the agreement.
It starts with this: The delivery offer is a contract within a contract. You are given the terms of the agreement and you accept it or reject it. The terms include:
- Where you are picking up from
- Where the customer is
- How much you are being paid
- When you can expect the delivery to be done.
Pay attention to that last one: when you can expect the delivery to be done.
Doordash is giving you a deliver by time in the offer screen.
If Doordash can bind us to being done within a certain time frame, it seems only proper that we should take that ‘deliver by' as a reasonable expectation of when the delivery will be done.
If we accept an offer with a delivery by of 6 PM, only to find that the restaurant is so far behind or the wait line is so long that it's impossible to get the food delivered before 6:30, that means the terms of the agreement have changed.
Changing the terms of the agreement and still requiring it to be completed now crosses the line into controlling the work of a contractor.
This could work against Doordash in other areas.
Think about it.
You can be punished for unassigning. You cannot be punished for rejecting.
Acceptance rates are about to plummet. Dashers worried about being deactivating are going to get more selective. Orders from slow restaurants will go unfulfilled.
Is that a better alternative for Doordash?
With all of this clamping down on this policy and that, what should Dashers do to protect their earnings without having to go into employee mode? Here's a few thoughts:
a. Do what you agreed to do
I think most Dashers are going to find out that if they just do their best to deliver the food in the best condition possible once they have accepted a delivery, they're going to be fine.
Head to the restaurant promptly. Get to the customer promptly.
You're agreeing to get the food to the customer in the best condition possible. How can you delay and meet that commitment?
Confirm you're in the right place and make sure the customer has the food. These things are common sense and really, they're just smart business. If you do this much, you won't have issues.
b. Document Document Document.
If there are things outside your control, document everything you do.
The biggest issue here is when customers lie about not getting food. Here are some ideas that can combat the issue.
- Keep an electronic paper trail.
- Communicate by text.
- Take screenshots of communications.
- Take pictures,
- Get a screen shot of your map screen showing your'e at the customer.
- Sometimes I record video of myself leaving the food and then leaving if I feel this is a setup.
- Some have gone to the extreme of getting a body cam, I can't say I blame them.
- I've recently installed a dashcam and I use a screen recorder on my phone.
If you see anything that looks like it will cause you problems, find a way to document what's happening. Text the customer. Chat with Doordash support and screenshot the conversation. Take pictures of traffic. Create a record so you have support.
Take screenshots of your offer screens. That's the terms of your agreement.
c. Make smart business decisions.
Know your market. Know the restaurants that are slow.
My acceptance rate is going to drop faster than the stock market in March with these changes. I'm far more selective now with Doordash offers.
If I have any doubt that I can get out of a restaurant in a reasonable amount of time I'm not even going to try. In the end I'll probably end up doing more Grubhub and more Uber Eats, less Doordash.
I recently wrote about multi-apping. I emphasize that when you take multiple orders, make sure that one is not going to interfere with your ability to do that ont he other. Be even more careful about that on Doordash.
Bottom line: You're not an employee.
What it boils down to for me is, if I do what I agree to do, I'm going to be okay.
If I do an excellent job getting food delivered, I'll be able to maintain my relationship with my customer (Doordash) and continue to earn money from that relationship.
If the deactivation policies change to the point it's impossible to operate independently as a contractor, then I have to make a choice:
Let the customer exploit me or fire the customer.
At that point I'm firing the customer. I've already more or less done that with Postmates, but that's another article.