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The Grubhub Bait and Switch – Why I Don’t Trust Grubhub Incentives

Grubhub has been making the rounds lately, promising increased pay for drivers during busy periods.

The question is, are they fulfilling those promises?

In my experience, no.

Or did they just structure their “promises” so that that when they don't come through, they can say they didn't really promise it in the first place?

Grubhub Bait and Switch – Offering Incentives to Deliver but Not Following Through

Three Strikes

So far I've had three times where I've received a notification from Grubhub that they were offering increased delivery pay because things were busy. All three offers were during times I was already planning to deliver. I have not seen any additional pay yet. I have yet to see any additional pay.

About a week ago when we had a snowstorm, I received a push notification through the app that they were offering up to 15% additional. There was nothing extra on the pay summary or on my weekly pay.

Denver is in the midst of a multi day snow storm. This past Monday, I received the following text from the 36005 Grubhub texts: “With the heavy snow today, we are increasing pay by up to 15% from until the market closes.” There was no additional 15% pay. At all.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I received another push notification. This time it promised an additional 40% delivery pay for a limited time. You know, when it's 10 degrees out and roads are really bad, there are probably a lot of drivers deciding to stay home, so this is a bit more of a substantial offer. Guess how much ‘additional delivery pay' I received?

Zip. Zilch. Zero.

But did they really lie?

They could actually make the claim that they didn't really promise anything. The offers have been vague and non-specific. The first two offers said “up to” 15%. I've seen some other variations posted on forums that used the same “up to” language. That kind of language gives them an out, of sorts. It's non-specific, meaning they could pay less. The problem here is the “up to” suggests that there's some kind of additional pay.

In the latest offer, the wording was different. It was “for a limited time.” For all we know, that “limited time” could be one minute. There's no description of what that limited time is and there was no notification that the limited time was for less.

Is it Possible They Paid But Didn't Break it Out?

There is no mention in any of the pay summaries of any additional pay. There is no additional pay in the daily summary. But is there a possibility that they DID add the pay in but it was lumped into the “delivery pay” portion of each delivery? If you deliver for Grubhub, you know they usually break down the pay into “Delivery pay,” “Mileage,” “Tip” and sometimes a bonus that they usually tack on to low tip orders. Is it possible that they included it there and just didn't tell us?

I don't believe that to be the case. The minimum payout on a delivery is $3 plus tips, and $2 on additional orders plus the tips. That would mean that the minimum should be $4.20 (or $2.80 for a second delivery) when it was a 40% increase. But here's my first delivery under the promised 40% increase:

This was a stacked order. Total delivery pay plus mileage was $3.44. Total delivery plus mileage for the second order was $2.00

If this were a 40% increase, total delivery plus mileage would be $4.20 on the first order and $2.80 on the second. Instead it was $3.44 and $2. And even if they were only increasing the “Delivery pay” portion, at a minimum the delivery pay on that first order would be $2.44, and if you add 40% to that, the delivery pay portion would be $3.42, and on the second order the delivery pay portion should be $2.32 instead of the $1.66. (Even if you make that case that the increase should only be on the “delivery pay” portion of the breakdown, I can counter with the fact that the daily summaries include the sum of that and mileage as “delivery pay.” And seriously, 40% of something that's often only $2? That's not much of an incentive folks).

Notice the Delivery Pay line is the total of “Delivery pay plus mileage” of all deliveries

It is possible that this was a glitch.

Here's the problem for Grubhub right now: They are at a real competitive disadvantage during really busy periods when it comes to getting enough drivers out there. Okay, the problem is compounded when 80% of my delivery offers are for pickups more than 6 miles away in a snowstorm. But other platforms have been better at offering incentives on the fly, with boosts and per-delivery bonuses on Uber Eats and Postmates, and with Doordash having attractive peak pay bonuses. Grubhub rarely does that. Just the other day I had a fellow driver who does mostly Grubhub tell me that “when peak pay on Doordash hits $6, it's goodbye Grubhub.”

I think it's possible that Grubhub is trying to roll out a more dynamic incentive system, and I wonder if it is glitching some. There are two reasons I say that: One has to do with the wording of the text I pictured above: “we are increasing pay by up to 15% from until…” Notice that there wasn't anything between the “from” and “until?” Which tells me that maybe it was accidentally sent out. The other thing that makes me wonder is I received a push notification that said if you want to make extra cash, now is a good time to get out there because there are a lot of orders. The problem? That was sent at 3:38 AM. The market closes here at 1:30 and doesn't open up again until 6 AM.

However, if this is a glitch, we should be receiving some communication from Grubhub explaining that it was an error. But the other thing is, even if it is a glitch, without any communication retracting it, you can make the case this is a binding offer. Ethically, Grubhub SHOULD be honoring the pay. And here's the deal: I have emailed my driver specialist AND the grubhub pay email address and have not received any response yet.

The Lack of Transparency AND Dishonesty around how delivery pay is calculated only compound the trust issue.

When they changed the pay model, Grubhub suggested that our pay from Grubhub would be calculated on total time and total miles. When you look at the screenshot above, you notice that they break down the miles but not the delivery pay part of it. When they announced the pay change, they gave examples of pay structures such as 13¢ per minute and 22¢ per mile and said it can vary by market. The 13¢ seems roughly consistent with what I'm noticing, with emphasis on “roughly.” The problem is, I can never get an answer to my email questions about what the per minute rate is supposed to be in my market.

The other problem is that under normal delivery circumstances, there's a weird thing going on with the total pay. The “cents” portion of the payout is almost always between .00 and .15. The only time I see something like $7.84 is during peak times when there seems to be more intervention from live dispatchers. I write about this more, but the bottom line is, this cannot statistically happen if they are paying based on what they say.

Related: Grubhub isn't the only delivery app to use deceptive language. They all love to use “up to” to make it look like you're getting something more than you really are. For example, Doordash recently promised a new perk for Top Dasher status that actually isn't anything they weren't already promising.

The Delivery Company Who Cried Wolf.

The bottom line is, this kind of thing will only bite Grubhub in the butt. If you offer incentives and people go out and drive when they hadn't intended to, but then don't come through with the incentives or use legalese to say “it was only UP TO…” you can guarantee drivers won't jump the next time. I really do think that it is this kind of thing that in the end is leading to a lot of Grubhub's problems. They're losing market share, they've been passed by Uber Eats, and their stock is tanking.

Personally, trust was already an issue with Grubhub. I had already planned to deliver due to the weather, so it wasn't a matter of me going out there based on their promise. In fact, when I saw the offers, I had some skepticism. I'm just sad to see they proved my skepticism to be warranted.

Have you received any incentive offers? Have you actually received additional pay when that's happened?

Let me know if you have. Comment below. If you can email screenshots to, I'd love to see examples of if they really ARE coming through on their promise to anyone else.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

About the Author

Ron Walter made the move from business manager at a non-profit to full time gig economy delivery in 2018 to take advantage of the flexibility of self-employment. He applied his thirty years experience managing and owning small businesses to treat his independent contractor role as the business it is.

Realizing his experience could help other drivers, he founded to encourage delivery drivers to be the boss of their own gig economy business.

Ron has been quoted in several national outlets including Business Insider, the New York Times, CNN and Market Watch.

You can read more about Ron's story,, background, and why he believes making the switch from a career as a business manager to delivering as an independent contractor was the best decision he could have made.

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