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Let’s Just Blame it All on The Cherry Pickers… (a Cherry Pickers Manifesto)

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It's all their fault. Death. Famine. Poverty. War. Justin Bieber….

Blame it all on those evil doers, those villains, those ne'er-do-wells.

Cherry pickers. Those nasty, evil, horrible beings who stomp on babies, kick puppies, put pineapple on their pizza and, horror of horrors, reject orders while on delivery.

You did know that Darth Vader got his start as a cherry picker, right?

All of our problems with delivery would be solved if not for these… these… rapscallions!

Everyone would get fairer orders. Food would all be delivered, customers would be happier, we would all be paid more, our cars wouldn't wear out. But these greedy punks have to ruin it for everyone.

You want to know the crazy thing? There are people who actually agree with all that. Okay, maybe not the Justin Bieber part.

Understand the real villains here:

Here's the deal folks – especially Grubhub employee wannabe's: You've been duped.

The villains here are not the people who understand their rights and understand they are losing money chasing every order they are offered.

The villains here are the people who promise you easy money, framing their promise in freedom and independence. Be your own boss! Just don't actually take them up on their word, because they'll make you out to be the bad guy.

But you believed them. You figured they would have your back. So you accept the delivery request that takes you clear across town and pays you less than what your vehicle expense is. But you believe they'll make up for it and guess what? They reward you with something even worse.

And what do you do? You believe the lie that these companies tell you that the problem is with the cherry pickers. Rather than waking up to the fact that you have been royally and completely duped, you dig further into your dupification.

Inconsistencies in the Grubhub Story

Now when discussing cherry picking problems, most of this relates to Grubhub, as they are the ones struggling the worst with it. Or at least they're the ones making the most noise about it.

But there's a funny inconsistency in their story.

I've heard a number of times where people have been told by their District Supervisor… sorry, Driver Specialist… that 90% or more of drivers are rejecting less than 10% of orders. To me that's them trying to create peer pressure – that if everyone else is falling in line, you should too.

But folks…. do the math here…. think about this statistically:

If the majority of your orders are bad… getting full compliance from the so-called less than 10% of drivers isn't going to improve things. It's statistically impossible.

So either they are lying to you about the percentage of compliant drivers, or they are lying to you about cherry pickers being the problem.

Or maybe both?

Cherries! Cherries just waiting to be picked.

So if it's not the cherry pickers, who is it that's at fault?

Grubhub.

The other companies too, but cherry picking isn't as hot a topic with the other companies, so we'll focus on Grubhub.

The problems that Grubhub faces right now in not getting orders picked up and delivered lies squarely at Grubhub's own feet. Each of these issues have more to do with the problem than cherry picking:

  • The decision to use independent contractors. If Grubhub needs to control how deliveries are happening, the only option to do so is to use employees, not independent contractors. Under employment law, you cannot designate someone as an independent contractor but have control over when, where or how the work is done. If you want control, you have to pay the price.
  • Batch Dispatching. Were you aware of this? Grubhub's computer only sends out orders in batches, not real time. The computer loads up all the orders and shoots them out every 2 minutes. If you have ever noticed that with UberEats, Postmates, and Doordash you can reject an order and another one can be pinging your phone immediately. With Grubhub, it's a 2 minute wait. This is part of why rejected orders do impact Grubhub, because if a driver rejects an order, it's 2 minutes before it gets sent out unless a dispatcher intervenes and sends it out manually, and 2 minutes again the next rejection, and so on… so an order can be rejected several times a minute on the Doordash platform, but those same several rejections on the Grubhub platform now mean it's been sitting there ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Dispatching orders too early. Drivers often receive the order the same time the restaurants do. That means they are arriving at the restaurant before the food is ready. Wait time at restaurants is far worse with Grubhub than it is with any of the other companies, and if drivers are sitting around waiting for food, they cannot be out delivering it. Cutting down on wait times will have far more impact than forcing cherry pickers into compliance
  • Dispatching drivers to unconfirmed orders. Grubhub does not wait for an order to be confirmed before sending a driver out. When a driver arrives at a restaurant to find that the tablet was down, that there were items the restaurant is out of, or that the restaurant is closed, there is a lot of time lost.
  • Dispatching based on customer's proximity to the driver, not the restaurant's. It's like their computer has the wrong parameter plugged into it. I've often had several orders where the restaurant is five miles away but the dropoff is only a few blocks from where I am. It seems like the location of the customer in relationship to the driver is often more important than the location of the restaurant.
  • Inefficient Stacked Orders. For whatever reason, the Grubhub computers or dispatchers don't seem to realize that two orders from the same restaurant are not alway well suited for stacking orders. A high percentage of my stacked order offers are for customers who are in opposite directions from the restaurant. I had an order from an ice cream place, where the customers were both about 15 minutes away, but in opposite directions. I showed it to the owner who promptly said “Oh H#!! No!” Basically, that second order's going to be sitting in my car 45 minutes before it's dropped off.
  • Inefficient dispatching in busy periods. This is sort of a culmination of all the other dispatch issues, but too often they seem to get worse during busy periods. I have been in the middle of snowstorms, where every order is late, I'm in the middle of a very busy section of town, and every order that gets sent to me is five to seven miles away.
  • Punitive Dispatching. I've often said that Grubhub seems more intent to dispatch with the purpose of controlling their drivers than they do to get the food delivered. When you reject an order, and the next several orders are several miles away, or when they quit sending orders to you after rejecting several of these orders, and this happens during peak periods, this only guarantees that other orders aren't going to be picked up.

Notice how “Dispatch” is in most of those items? The bottom line is that Grubhub could solve a lot more of their problems by fixing their dispatching than by cracking down on cherry pickers. If they were to reduce wait times and reduce the distances to restaurants, they would solve a lot more problems and would dramatically reduce the rejection rates and have higher driver retention rates.

Thoughts for drivers:

Never, never forget that as a Grubhub independent contractor, that means that you are running a business and Grubhub is your customer.

Think of it this way: If you ran a store and sold widgets. Those widgets cost you $5. You need to sell those widgets for enough money to pay for your rent, your employee salaries and for you to make a living. If a customer walks in and wants to buy a widget for $4, it's not wrong for you to say no. It's not greedy to sell it for $10 if that's what you need to stay in business.

There are two important principles at play here as a business owner:

  • You have an obligation to make enough profit to stay in business
  • You have a right to set your price in such a way to make that profit.

We can't change or negotiate the fee structure – which is part of what makes the independent contractor designation a crock. However, we can set our price by determining which deliveries allow us to stay in business. A ten mile delivery offer for a $7 payout is pretty much the same thing as the customer walking into your store demanding you sell your widget at below cost.

If you want to pay your costs of driving your own vehicle around, pay your taxes, allow yourself time off, and make room for the extra risk of spending your whole day in traffic, you have an obligation to yourself to do better than minimum wage.

I've heard people claim that recommending that people reject orders could lead to drivers being deactivated. That's a possibility, I won't deny it.

It's ILLEGAL for a company to do so, because that is controlling independent contractors in a way they have no legal right to do so, but that doesn't mean they won't do it.

But I'll also say that the alternative, especially with Grubhub's inefficient dispatching system, is a sub minimum wage existence. Seriously, if the only way to keep your ‘job' is to accept all orders, and if rejecting orders gets you ‘fired,' you really are better off being deactivated and going somewhere to flip burgers. The ultimate pay is better, you don't run your car into the ground, and you don't risk your life like you do spending your life in traffic.

But… if you like slave labor….. keep on being an employee without being paid like one.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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