I'm starting a new series, asking what is it like to deliver for the delivery apps, starting this week with Uber Eats.
Last fall, we dedicated some episodes to whether each of the four major options are good ones, including Episode 45 where we asked, “Is Uber Eats a good delivery option for independent contractors?”
In that series back then, we set it all up as something that we could compare them. We looked at the same factors for each and wrapped it up with a comparison episode.
That was such a different time, wasn't it? No pandemic, no stay at home. But it was also a very different time for Uber Eats in particular. A lot has changed since November.
How this will be different from the earlier series
I want to look at this from the delivery experience. It's not as much what's good or bad about the platform, but what is it actually LIKE delivering for Uber Eats (and eventually the others)? This might be useful if you're just getting started with Uber Eats or thinking about it.
We'll look at logging in. We'll talk about what it's like to get delivery offers. Then we can get into the deliveries themselves. And of course… what is it like being PAID for delivering with Uber Eats?
We'll take a look eventually at Grubhub and Doordash. I'm not going to promise you we'll get into Postmates.
I haven't done any Postmates deliveries for over a year, and apparently that's too long – I can't get on right now. I'm working on it, but one of the issues I talked about way back last year is support is HORRRRRRRIBLE with them and that's playing out today for me. So we'll see.
What's it like to get started delivering for Uber Eats?
I'm assuming you already have gone through the signup procedure. That's maybe good for another topic or post.
You are ready to go. You have your means of getting around. Of course, you have your phone.
You do have the app downloaded, right? It's fairly simple, you can download Uber Driver from the Play Store or the App Store. And you log in.
And you have your delivery bag, right? Uber doesn't give you the bag like all the others do, you're on your own there. They don't want to be interpreted as giving you the tools for your job, it's an independent contractor thing.
They don't make as big a deal about the bag as others, but I still highly recommend it. There's an inexpensive cooler bag in the camping section at Walmart that some like to get.
Picking your times to deliver.
Here's one thing that's absolutely beautiful about Uber Eats. You can deliver whenever and wherever you want. Just click the Go button on the app.
Some of the other apps have scheduling components. It's really a feature they try to use to manipulate you into taking more offers – if you accept a high percentage of offers, you can get earlier access to the schedules. Uber Eats doesn't do that to you.
You go available when you want to go available. You log off when you want to log off.
Making yourself available.
Until recently, this was pretty simple. You press go and you're ready to go.
Sometimes, the app will be like whoah, wait a moment, cool your jets. You need to take a selfie to prove it's you. It's a cumbersome process, a pain in the butt because for me it usually takes several takes, but whatever.
More recently, they've had a list of four things you need to check off that says you are taking the necessary precautions for Covid 19. The biggest one is, you need to take a selfie wearing your mask.
If you aren't wearing a mask, the app can recognize it. You'll have to keep trying until it recognizes your mask. The good news is, you don't have to do this again as long as you're logged in.
You're asked to agree that you won't deliver if you have symptoms, that you disinfect your vehicle, and that you regularly wash or sanitize your hands. Once that's done, you're ready to go.
And now you're ready to go.
This is where you start taking delivery offers.
It usually doesn't take long, especially if you are close to restaurants. You'll hear a chime and you get an offer screen. Here's a sample.
There are a lot of elements on this. Uber Eats has made a TON of improvements lately in the information they are presenting to drivers. Let's talk about what you see here.
About the bottom third of the screen is all of the information about the delivery. You can tap anywhere in that region to accept the delivery. I've accepted a LOT of UE offers by mistake, so be careful.
And then there's the decline button up at the top. You don't need a reason, you can simply say no. I like that.
Up until late last year, I wouldn't deliver for Uber Eats, or rarely so, because of one thing: You had no idea where you were going. You would see a map to where the restaurant was, but that was it. The customer could be a block away, they could be ten miles away.
They have improved this tremendously. Until late last year you didn't even know the name of the restaurant you were picking up from, nor where the customer was. Notice the progression of offer screens above, how there is more information. Also notice how much more clear the map is in the last one.
Here you can see where you are, a clear green icon showing the restaurant location, and a clear red icon showing the customer location.
The dollar amount
As you can see on the second screenshot in the progression, they started adding a dollar amount.
Personally, I find this almost useless. This is the estimated pay, and it does not include the tip amount. You won't know the tip until later. When I am paying attention, it's more to reject larger paying offers. That seems odd, doesn't it? I write more about accepting and rejecting Uber Eats offers here.
The delivery details
Here's where Uber Eats has jumped ahead of everyone.
In the single screenshot above, notice the line right below the dollar amount.
THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT LINE IN THE OFFER SCREEN. At least, in my opinion, it is.
You are looking at the estimated minutes and estimated miles for the delivery. No one out of the main four gives you total minutes like that. NO ONE. It's huge. Without knowing the tip amount, the best thing you can know is how long the delivery will take.
This gives you a pretty good estimate. I've found Uber Eats to be fairly on target with the estimated time. Now this is based on normal conditions and usually on an assumption the food will be ready and the drop off at the customer is quick. If you have a slow restaurant or you have trouble finding the customer, that can impact your results.
You have the restaurant name. You would think that would be a given, but they didn't used to give you that information.
And then at the bottom, something else that no one else gives you.
Cross streets. You have cross streets close to the customer's address. Again, when making a decision, if you're having trouble getting your north and south upside down like I do sometimes, this can be huge.
Now granted, the cross streets aren't always the most reliable. There are always streets I don't recognize. Sometimes I only have one street – that's not helpful. Sometimes it's two streets that are parallel to each other. That's not that helpful either, though sometimes your total miles combined with that can help you narrow it down if you have a good feel for your area.
There are sometimes challenges to getting all the information you need.
On the android phones, the offer screen can appear over the top of whatever you have active on your phone. When that happens, you only see the decline button and the box with delivery details. You do not see the map.
I do think that on iPhones, you can only go to the total screen, since the iPhone doesn't have the overlay capability.
The problem, on Android, is you can't switch over to anything else while the screen is active. There is one trick, if you drag down the notifications, you can choose the “You are Online” notification for Uber Driver, and it will pop up the map.
If an offer comes in while you are on an active delivery, you cannot see the map. It just doesn't show it. The only information you have is the box with restaurant, price, time and distance, and cross streets. Here's where the bad cross street thing is maddening. But the good news is, usually the miles and time are enough for me to make some good decisions.
What offers should you accept?
Here's the thing with all of these apps: They can send you stuff that could take you all over the place. You can spin your wheels on long drives that don't pay all that well.
I will say that Uber Eats pays better for longer distances than anyone else. And they also still factor in real time involved in a delivery. This is a huge benefit for them.
At the same time, my experience has been that what they pay extra for long deliveries doesn't compensate nearly as well as what you would make doing two shorter quicker deliveries in the same time. It costs you money to take those long offers.
One thing I will say that can feel like a disadvantage with Uber Eats compared to evaluating offers with Grubhub and Doordash. With the other two, you know what you will get. Or you have a pretty good idea – sometimes Doordash will pay more than the offer. But generally the offers include the tip.
I use a 40 cent rule with the other apps where I estimate how many minutes it will take and divide the minutes to get a payment per minute. If it pays 40 cents a minute or better, I'll consider it. That's a little harder with Uber Eats.
A tale of two offers.
Here's an example of two offers by Uber Eats, side by side.
These two came in the same afternoon. I would guess most people, especially people accustomed to Grubhub and Doordash, are going to take the one on the left. It pays more, right?
I don't know. I will tell you that the tip was like $3 on the one on the right. So even with the tip it didn't pay as much as the offer on the left.
I don't know about the tip on the left because I rejected that one.
In a heartbeat!!!
I'm generally not taking a 33 minute delivery. Knowing where the restaurant was and the cross streets given (notice that there wasn't a map of the delivery itself – the red icon was where I was dropping off on the active delivery, the green where the restaurant was) – I was thinking that 33 minutes was optimistic. I also have waited a lot at that particular restaurant.
Look at the delivery on the right. I was dropping off literally across the street from the restaurant. Even if the 11 minutes was short it was still likely to be done quickly.
The bottom line: the first offer would have to pay $15 after tip to be the same profit per hour as the base pay of the second offer. The lesson? Think about time and distance when deciding what offers to take.
What are the deliveries themselves like for Uber Eats?
Here's what I can tell you from my experience.
Picking up the order from the restaurant.
You drive to the restaurant. You announce who the delivery is for. Finally, you get the food.
Most restaurants, especially since the pandemic, seam to all be on all the platforms. So the experience usually isn't that much different from one delivery platform to the other.
You will have the information that tells you what the customer's name is and it will give you a five character order code. I have noticed a number of restaurants (McDonalds especially) that rely heavily on the order code. Whatever it is the restaurant staff asks for, you give them the information. Either they have it or you wait.
I've had to wait less with Uber Eats than I have with Grubhub or Doordash, on average. Here's the other difference between them and the others: You get paid extra for the wait time. At least, you do if the Uber app recognizes that you are at the restaurant – it's all triggered by their GPS. Sometimes if you don't go by the right entrance, it might think you aren't quite there. It's weird that way.
I've never had to place an order with Uber Eats and pay with a debit card. I HAVE a debit card – they were getting ready to roll out place and pay but then COVID happened. If you've ever had to place and pay with Uber, leave a comment below and let me know what market you're in.
Here's one drawback with Uber Eats, compared to Doordash and Grubhub.
If you didn't remember where the customer was, you're kind of out of luck. You can't pull up information like the address or even the map until you have picked up the order. They've been fixing a lot lately, I hope they fix that.
You also don't know the due times or the eta. Sometimes that can be an issue.
Delivering to the customer.
One thing Uber Eats has that the other apps don't is in-app messaging. You can send a message to the customer through the app, instead of relying on a text.
Sometimes I like that, sometimes I don't. I like that texting gives me a way to document my communications with the customer. You can still document on Uber Eats, you just have to remember to take screen shots.
I think it's because of their relationship to the ride share and maybe early expectations set by Uber Eats, but I have a lot more customers who come out to meet me on deliveries. That's a big plus in my opinion. Especially at downtown high rises.
During the pandemic a lot of people are opting for contact free deliveries. This too is a plus, you don't have to wait for hte customer. When you drop off, you're required to take a photo. Then you can add a note, or just hit delivered and the picture is sent to the customer.
And that's it. Generally, the dropoff is pretty easy.
Getting other delivery offers.
Uber Eats will often start sending offers as soon as you're getting close to the customer. I find that those offers are often pretty close to where you are dropping off. This can be pretty efficient.
As I mentioned before, you can't see the map when that's happening, so you have a little less to go on.
I've seen that sometimes interferes with what I'm doing. I mentioned accidental acceptance – when you go to tap on the button to take a photo, or to mark an order as delviered, that's the same spot on the screen where you would tap to accept an offer. I've had a number of times I'm trying to complete a delivery when an offer comes in and I've accepted without really seeing what it was.
The good news is, they don't make a big deal about cancellation rates like other apps.
Once upon a time you knew how they figured out the pay for your deliveries.
It was all based on distance, time, a pickup fee and a dropoff fee.
When they made improvements to the information they were providing, Uber Eats also took away the transparency of their pay. Now they just come up with a number.
However, I have found that the pay that comes from Uber does still increase when the distance is somehow increased or there are longer wait times. They are still paying based on real time things. This is a big benefit over other platforms.
In fact, overall I find they still pay more out of their own pockets than anyone else does.
The challenging thing in how it is delivering with Uber Eats and pay is the tipping.
I have seen dramatic improvement in the past nine months. I do receive tips on about 90% of my Uber eats deliveries. Tips are a smaller percentage of my overall compensation with them than anyone else (though part of that is because I tend to decline low tip offers on the other platforms).
One thing to keep in mind with Uber Eats on tips: You won't usually know what hte tip amount until an hour after you marked it delivered. Uber does give people a chance to change their minds (for better or worse). Some tips can show up hours or days after the delivery is completed.
Update: Uber Eats does now include the expected tip in their delivery offers. You can learn more about what pay is like with Uber Eats with the latest model, and how Uber Eats hides some of the tip on the offer for larger paying deliveries.
Most people do tip now when placing the order. Some folks still tip in cash, though my experience has been that's a bit rare.
Rinse and repeat
Personally, I find the Uber Eats deliveries to be a little more free spirited than the other platforms. I don't stress over the order amount like I do when I see Grubhub offering me a three dollar delivery. There's a sense of reward on the tipping end of things that you don't feel with the others.
Support is lacking, but that's true of everyone. They're not as bad as Postmates, maybe almost as bad as Doordash, but not as good as Grubhub. That's all my opinion of course.
I do wish they would fix some things about the information about deliveries. I'm optimistic that they might, just because I've seen them make other improvements without any real fanfare.
What's it like delivering for Uber Eats? I'd have to say I'm enjoying delivering for them more than I am for anyone else right now.
Is Uber Eats a good job? If you know me, you know I'll tell you no. Nothing against Uber Eats when I say that (not most the time anyway) but because in the end, Uber Eats isn't a job. As I write this though, it's in my opinion among the best of the food delivery services as a way to make some money.
A year ago, it was just the opposite. So who knows, in another year maybe it'll be someone else?
Update (December, 2021): Here's an illustration on how things can change quickly. In some markets, Uber Eats is now hiding upfront delivery information for drivers who accept fewer than half their offers. As I write this update, it's a test in just a few markets. Contractors with low acceptance rates will no longer see the restaurant information or customer's location when offered a delivery. That's a major change that can make a huge difference.