About a week ago I put an article up about Grubhub suspending some drivers for 30 days due to not accepting enough orders. Should the threat of something like that cause you to accept more orders? I made this comment:
The reality is, I can make more per hour on ANY of the other three major platforms than I can make on Grubhub if I accepted the percentage of orders Grubhub wants me to accept.”
The few times that I decide to try and accept a high percentage of orders, I see my per hour profits drop dramatically. I've always told myself that I'm better off doing one of the other platforms than taking that lower pay rate.
Well, this week I had the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was.
The Great Grubhub Schedule Disaster
Here's the thing for me. About 70% of my earnings come from Grubhub. I've always felt like they paid about as well as anyone else in busy times but during slower times were more consistent. It's that 2 to 5 time slot, times like that, where my experience has been I've been able to stay steady and make decent money. With everyone else, there seems to be a drop off.
But for all my bravado that I don't NEED Grubhub, I gotta be honest here. When I do this full time like I do, I need some of those less busy hours to be productive. I have to admit that there's times I wonder: Am I screwed if I can't schedule any longer?
There are four things in my week that are pretty much set in stone. Church on Sunday morning. Get my email newsletter out the first part of the week. Get the podcast up on Friday. Log in to get my schedule set with Grubhub at precisely 10:45 AM Saturday morning when blocks become available.
So, on Saturday morning I'm working on one of the last articles I've been putting together for the tax series. I'd been pretty locked in on it. Way off in the distance (downstairs in the bedroom) I hear the faint sounds of my phone alarm. CRAP!!!! (That probably wasn't what I said). I look at the clock and realize, that puppy's been going for a bit and I just never heard it. I dash downstairs at 10:55. It's all gone. I have no blocks available until the weekend.
Yeah, whatever I said earlier? I may or may not have said it again.
Will this be the new normal?
This is a one time thing. Or is it?
Several months ago you could pick up a ton of blocks on the fly in my market. There were usually some blocks that would pop up for the evening rush and sometimes some for the lunch shifts. However, I've been watching this trend where the hours are disappearing more and more quickly.
If you're not familiar with how Grubhub works, they have an incentive program that has three different levels. You have Premier for the top level, Pro for mid level and then Partner for all the rest. It's pretty much based on acceptance rate and working the blocks you sign up to work. For example, you have to accept 95% of orders in my market to be Premier and 85% to be pro.
That ain't happening for me.
The only real tangible benefit for pro or premier driver is that you get earlier access to schedule blocks. On Thursday morning, they open up scheduling for Premier drivers. Then on Friday, Pro drivers get next crack at it. Saturday morning it's opened up to everyone else.
In some markets, there are so many drivers who are Premier level that most of the schedule blocks are taken up by Thursday. I've been fortunate enough that good schedule blocks are still available on Saturday mornings. But as I go in now precisely at 10:45, when it opens up in my market, and have to tap on those schedule options as quickly as possible to get my blocks lined up, I can see that it's getting harder and harder.
This is Grubhub trying to force more people into accepting more orders
These companies cannot technically fire you, nor can they punish you, for rejecting delivery offers. Not as long as you are an indpendent contractor. They CAN offer incentives and rewards for higher acceptance. And that's what's going on.
Here's how I feel about it: They can do what they want. They're my customer. If my customer doesn't want to meet my price, they don't have to. If they can get enough other couriers willing to accept less and take unprofitable deliveries, that's their right. They don't have to give me any deliveries. So I'm not going to waste any emotional energy on this.
I DO think though that when you flood the market with drivers to the point that the only way you can reasonably work is to accept 95% of your offers, that's pushing awful close to the line of controlling contractors. The question is, how much energy do you want to put into fighting it, right?
So where does this leave me?
My normal is to work the Grubhub blocks and supplement with the others. Doordash has been my main number two, and Postmates and Uber Eats are few and far between. But what happens if I lose schedule access due to some punitive action by Grubhub? Or what about if the trend continues and my market becomes one of those that you can't schedule unless you have a higher acceptance rate? What are my options?
- I can become compliant. Accept more orders so I can schedule. But I still believe what I said earlier, that I would earn less per hour doing that than what I can do on other platforms.
- I can shift my attention to other platforms.
- I can determine that the business model no longer works here, and I move on.
But here's the first time the reality of not being able to schedule hours hits me in the face. I have to admit being a little nervous about it. What if I'm wrong? What if my refusal to chase these long distance low paying orders really is costing me?
Am I screwed? Did I screw myself?
Here was my chance to find out.
And thus began the Uber Eats experiment.
I have done so little Uber Eats this past year, it's not even funny. I didn't earn enough to get a 1099 from them. They cut way back on incentives, and THEN slashed the pay model dramatically. They did improve a few things – mainly starting to show the dropoff location and naming the restaurant when offering deliveries. Episode 46 talked more about the new pay model.
I've been finding that I'm making significantly less with Uber Eats. But since I don't have to worry about scheduling, I know I can grab a delivery at about any time. I kind of figured that I'd do a lot of Doordash and then get a lot more Uber Eats deliveries in than I normally would.
It's kind of creepy when you think about it….
You know how you look up the price of something on line and then next thing you know everywhere you look online there's ads for that item? You start wondering if they're reading our minds. Well, right about the time I'm deciding how I'm going to schedule my week with nothing on the board for Grubhub, I get the notification. “It's time to choose your Quest.”
Seriously, it was flat out creepy how that happened.
Uber Eats has been offering this “choose your Quest” feature since rolling out the new pay model. You could pick the small ones, but those paid squat. Some paid more but you're looking at 40 to 60 deliveries and I'm never willing to commit that heavily to Uber Eats to go for a larger Quest.
But…. what if???
For the first time ever I'm looking seriously at $105 for 60 deliveries. What if I went all in? What would it look like? Worst case scenario is, I bomb. But even then, I have Valentines weekend to probably make up some ground. This particular Quest was for Monday through Thursday. The early part of the week is when I usually take my ‘weekend' so I'm not sure I want to commit to 25 to 30 hours in that time frame.
But… 40 deliverys, $66? Hmmmm……..
Okay… I'm giving Uber Eats a shot.
Instead of going the multi-app route, I decide to dive in. If it's too bad, I can go back to the plan B and multi-app. But…. with this Quest, can I expect to do reasonably well on Uber Eats? What can I earn in 40 deliveries?
My average profit per hour has been right around $21 per hour the past few months. On Monday through Thursday it's probably closer to $19 to $20, and weekends make up for it. That's my PROFIT. But what can I do if I go all in on Uber Eats? I'm seriously thinking that I'll be lucky to make $16 on Uber Eats, and if I can do better I'm pleasantly surprised. That's still better than I can make doing 95% acceptance on Grubhub. Okay, let's give this thing a shot!
So how does it go?
Starting out on Monday.
I venture out at 5 on Monday. I figure I'll do four hours and see how it goes. There's light snow, so it's busier than usual. But it's not crazy busy. I decide to head downtown, mainly because my focus right now is more on 40 deliveries. For me, I find that the shorter and faster deliveries happen there.
Right away, I've got an order. There are some incentives because of the snow, so that helps. I think that first order paid $5. Not bad, but I'm not getting rich on that, right? But before I drop off that first one, I've got an offer for another restaurant close by.
Now I mentioned this before, one improvement is they show you where the customer lives on the map now when you get an offer. BUT if the offer comes in while you are on a delivery, it doesn't show you any of that. The other thing that happens is that while you are on deliveries, you can't see what you were paid for previous deliveries.
So in a way, Monday night felt kinda like I was driving blind. No idea where I'm dropping off and no idea what I've been paid. Now I'm a guy who tracks every delivery and my spreadsheet tells me to the minute how much I've earned and what my profit per hour is for the day. Not having this information is kind of disconcerting.
Deliveries were constant on Monday night
Things were just busy enough that it was constant order after order. That's a good thing. In a little more than four hours, I had 12 deliveries. And you know something? There was something kind of fun about it. It was a challenge to me, get as many deliveries as I can and don't worry about the pay. Just go go go and see how it shakes out in the end.
And when it was all said and done, I had twelve deliveries in about 4-1/2 hours. Not bad. Actually kind of good. Now it takes time to know what you made, because Uber doesn't release the tip part for an hour after a delivery. But when all the dust settled, I was at about $23 per hour PROFIT.
I was kind of amazed. A LOT better than what I was expecting. Granted, the light snow made a difference, and I may have made more if I'd been on the schedule or did some multi-apping. But… $23 per hour? I'll take it. And I didn't drive many miles at all. I was more than pleasantly surprised.
I'll take it.
The Wednesday Disaster
I almost always take Tuesday off as it's the lowest paying day of the week. Tuesday and maybe Wednesday tend to be my weekends. So, I did take Tuesday off. I did have some plans with my wife for Wednesday night, so I figured I'd give it a few hours, maybe shoot for another ten or twelve deliveries to make it easy to wrap up the Quest on Thursday.
And. It. Sucked.
I had what looked like a great order right away. I didn't pay attention to the map. 17 miles later…
And the offers weren't exactly flying off the shelf. It was just…. slow. I drove so far out on that first trip that I kind of deadheaded back to a busier area. But the weird things was, there were no offers all the way back. Something is off. Did I piss off the Uber Eats dispatching gods or something?
Everything that Monday night was, Wednesday afternoon wasn't. Deliveries were long, inefficient, there were long waits between orders. And it was snowing again! It NEVER dies like this when it's snowing. What's up with this? Why am I doing so poorly? It didn't make sense, not even with Uber Eats.
To top it off, a couple hours before I planned on knocking off, my phone starts chirping at me. Apparently my phone and charger can't get along. I see a cut in the charger cable. Okay, I could stop and get a new cable easy, but you know, it's that bad a day you decide, I'm going home with my tail between my legs.
For all that Monday surprised the heck out of me, Wednesday was so much worse than I ever expected it could be, you know?
The idiot who kept his Wi-Fi on.
My profit for the day was $6.69 per hour. I drove 58 miles for $33. It was the polar opposite of Monday. I completed all of four deliveries. Every bad thing I ever thought of doing Uber Eats deliveries was confirmed.
And as I'm limping home, I'm not even sure how I discovered this, but I find out my WiFi is turned on with my phone. I've learned this before, that when WiFi is turned on, too often the phone is trying to connect to hotspots around town. When it's doing that, the cell data isn't on. And when I'm not getting data, I'm not getting orders.
Is THAT why it's that bad? Maybe part of it. I'm sure at this point it's still that Uber Eats just sucks. This is the worst day I've had since maybe I'm a month into delivery. In fact I'm pretty sure the last time I did this bad was when I was doing exclusively…. Uber Eats.
It's Thursday morning. I still have 24 freaking deliveries to do. As bad as yesterday was, I'm not sure I'm even going to try, you know? Seriously, cut my losses, Turn on the Doordash and salvage whatever I can salvage.
And Thursday morning is when I was wrapping up this 17 article Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series. It was the final edits, getting the directory put together, and going live. And that takes some time. So now the morning is shot, and I STILL have 24 deliveries to try to get.
It's not going to happen.
Okay, okay…. if I can pull off two an hour, at worst I should be able to get 24 in 12 hours. I didn't WANT to go 12 hours, but I'm going to regret not finding out if I could have made it. So I head out. And check about a dozen times to make sure WiFi is turned off.
Things were busy. It was constant. I turned down high dollar deliveries. High dollar deliveries on Uber Eats means long distance. It's all about what is short and quick. I'm actually hitting about 2 and a half deliveries per hour. I'm going to make this.
Delivery 22 gets dropped off. 38 total. Two to go.
And…. it dies.
That's what I'm thinking. That's what I'm thinking to myself.
If you've ever chased incentives with Postmates and had the offers completely dry up on a VERY busy night when you are one or two away from completing it, you know exactly what's going through my mind.
They're not going to give me any more, are they? They're going to keep me at 38. Those scum. This is no better than Grubhub offering bonuses to get people out there only to not deliver (using “up to” $6 for a bonus on “select” orders). Get drivers out there but keep them from getting the delivery.
I make my way towards a busier area. I'll camp out in front of a freaking McDonald's if I have to. That or that Mexican place that's open 24 hours and is constantly getting Uber Eats deliveries. And I'm camping out as long as I can.
And then my phone chimes: “You have 2 hours online remaining.”
Did I say that already?
I forgot that Uber Eats limits you to 12 hours logged on. It's a safety thing, tied to their Rideshare. I've been at it 10 hours, and they're going to make me wait two more and not give me anything.
And then…. 30 minutes after dropping off that last one, I get an offer to a pizza place. It's dropping off about a mile from my place.
They're tempting me to go home. Those scumbags.
I am NOT going home now. I got that dropped off. I'll drive wherever and wait. And you can bet I'll rant about this on the podcast!!!
The $66 Burger King order.
The good news is, I didn't have to wait a half hour. It was almost immediately after dropping off #39. What a relief.
But it's to Burger King. Two minutes after they close their lobby. The Burger King with the SLOWEST drive through in the city.
They're just rubbing it in, aren't they?
It's the one offer I would have turned down in any circumstance. I HATE that Burger King. The only thing that could have been worse is if Uber Eats were doing Taco Bell orders. But…. okay.
And it's a double order. I'm thinking that's good, in case my count is off. Insurance.
I wish I could figure out a dramatic way to end it. There was no line in the drive through, they were quicker than normal, the deliveries were easy and quick….
And I went home with $66 more.
When it was all said and done, I did 41 deliveries in 17-1/2 hours. My profit per hour was $16.97 on the fees and tips. With the quest bonus thrown in, it was $20.62 per hour. I drove just under a half mile per dollar earned – slightly better than my average.
I made…. about what I would have made if I had scheduled normally.
I'm still kinda shocked about it.
Five takeaways from my experience:
I think the best approach to taking orders on Uber Eats is to be counter intuitive.
With Grubhub and Doordash, you get the dollar amount up front. Good paying orders you take. Bad paying orders, you don't.
What I found worked the best with the Uber Eats orders is when I quit taking higher payout orders. When most orders are coming in at $5 and one pops up at $9 or $10? That means you ahve a LONG drive. If you're paid $4 more for a delivery you can expect it to add about a half hour to the delivery time.
The thing is that with the amounts that Uber Eats present to you, that doesn't include the tip. A high paying order with them is almost a guarantee that you'll get sucked into a long distance, inefficient delivery. Orders that have a minimum amount mean the customer is close.
Don't underestimate the promotion.
$66 for 40 deliveries comes out to $1.65 per delivery. That doesn't seem like a lot. But if you're getting in 2.3 deliveries in an hour like I was able to, that's adding $3.80 per hour to your rate. And that's all profit. That's nothing to sneeze at.
Whenever you get a promotion like that, you just have to ask what it's actually giving you. And then ask if it's worth it. What would you make without the promotion? If you think that by chasing the promotion you would earn $6 less per hour and only gain $3 back, it's probably not worth it.
The other thing is, a lot of Uber Eats still depends on promotions. Their tipping has improved. But it still trails Doordash and Grubhub substantially. Without the promotions, it's not that great. If it hadn't been snowing Monday and there hadn't been the quest, I'd have likely been closer to $14-$15 per hour.
Is the promotion worth the stress?
I will say there was a level of stress about if I could pull off that 40th delivery. That's one thing I appreciate about doing this work is the lack of stress. I don't know that I'd want to do that constantly.
I made the assumption that it would be impossible to keep pace by just doing Uber Eats. I've come to this place though that I'm not sure that any one platform is dramatically better than the others. My average per hour on all of them is pretty close across the board. Uber Eats is the one that trails the most, but how much of that is because of NOT pursuing things like the Quests.
Don't let yourself be bullied by any of these platforms.
To me, this is almost as much about Grubhub as it is about Uber Eats. It's easy to get worried about what if I lose schedule access? What if I HAVE to be pro or premier to get the hours I need? If chasing status isn't worth it, it isn't worth it. There are always alternatives. Be open, even if it means giving whoever you think to be the worst of the worst a shot.