My first experience delivering in the gig economy was with Uber Eats. It was February. It didn't take long before the first snow, and I figured tips would be pretty good, right?
You know, you'd expect peope were more thankful that they didn't have to go out. They'd respect that we were willing to put up with the crappy weather to bring food to them.
Boy, was I wrong. I was blown away, not only was I not getting more tips, I was actually getting less.
I thought, what a bunch of ungrateful inconsiderate…
okay, if you've been there you probably have your own list of words to describe people who were not showing the gratitude you would expect when you're busting your butt in bad weather so they don't have to.
I really expected better pay due to the weather, and it was worse. It took longer to get place to place, and the customers didn't seem to care.
Since then, I've delivered for other platforms and found the opposite to be true. Things were busy, payouts were good. Why the difference?
Note: This was originally written at a time when drivers for Uber Eats could not see a price or have any idea if there was a tip when accepting an offer. Uber has changed that policy and there's been a little improvement since then. Some of these issues remain.
Uber Eats handles increased demand differently with its drivers.
Let me start with a disclaimer: This comes from my observations and things I've heard from other drivers in other areas. Other drivers may have noticed things differently.
It seems to me that Doordash and Grubhub are better at adjusting on the fly when there is an unexpected increase in demand such as from weather that was worse than originally forecast. They send out communications to encourage drivers to get out. Doordash in particular seems to be able to add or increase per-delivery bonuses.
Ubereats does not seem to be able to adjust on the fly for some reason. They rely heavily on their promotions as a way to make sure they have enough drivers to handle the demand, but it seems those promotions have to be scheduled and loaded into their system ahead of time. I've never seen them change, add or increase promotions real time. And I've never received any communication advertising drivers are needed.
Although they do tend to adjust their customer fees.
The way that Uber Eats seems to adjust then is to use their delivery fees that they carge their customers as a way to manage the demand. When weather is bad, I've noticed that delivery fees that are normally around $4.99 are suddenly up to $14.99.
The combination of higher fees and inability (or unwillingness) to increase promotions for drivers leads to an inequitable situation for drivers.
Customers are paying $10 more for deliveries, but that is not going to the drivers.
On the picture above, when I saw the delivery fees I pulled up my driver's app to see it there was anything additional in promotions.
They were charging extra to the customer, but not offering anything more to drivers.
How does this lead to decreased pay for drivers?
Okay, tips have never been a bright spot on Uber Eats. I wrote here though about how adding tipping at the point of order could be a real game changer with Uber Eats.
(Update – tipping ahead of time AND showing drivers an expected amount has definitely improved things for us as drivers).
It seems that with Doordash and Grubhub, who already encourage tipping at the point of order, that tips tend to be higher in bad weather. So you'd think that would be the case even more with Uber Eats, right?
The problem is that when the customer is now paying jacked up delivery fees, they tend to expect that the driver is getting at least some of that.
When they now have to pay $15 to $20 (maybe more in really bad weather) to have food delivered, they are less likely to shell out more in tips to the driver.
It becomes especially bad on a platform that has had a history of telling customers they pay their drivers well enough that tipping isn't necessary.
So you start out with often having to take more time between deliveries because of conditions. Add to that now that the customer has been charged so much more in delivery fees that you are even less likely to get a tip than normal (and that's pretty bad).
So should I deliver for Uber Eats in bad weather?
Maybe. Maybe not. I personally wouldn't make that my primary option in bad weather, my experience is it's a lot better with other options. However, I never rule out the possibility.
Here are a few thoughts on how to look at UE offers:
Find out what Uber Eats is charging customers.
This is a good practice in good weather as well. It's always a good idea to know what the customer experience is.
Open up the customer app for Uber Eats. If you don't have the app, check the website or get the app.
Are delivery fees jacked up? This is a good sign that customers will be less likely to add an extra tip. They're not happy about the extra charges, or they assume we'll get more when often we won't.
Uber's failure to adjust practices on the fly in bad weather could work to our advantage.
Case in point is Peak Pay on Doordash.
Doordash starts sending out texts saying hey, things are really busy here, we neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed you. Come on out and we'll pay you extra.
So, you go out, and what happens?
Everything is quiet. More drivers hit the streets and now there's too many couriers available for the number of orders.
When one platform is slower at responding to changes in the weather, that can mean less competition for orders.
Sometimes busier delivery times without increased pay or incentives is better than the incentives.
Drivers go where the money is. When they think the money's not there, they won't log in.
When there's a high demand for drivers but not enough supply, you can stay very busy. They tend to dispatch you to closer restaurants, with less wait time at the restaurant.
You can be much more selective on offers.
Here's the thing: You CAN set your price on deliveries.
I look at my price as my per-minute pace.
And here's the thing: When the weather is bad, you have the right to move your price up. That's part of being an independent contractor.
One misconception that people have is that these delivery companies bump up the pay to compensate us for bad weather. Don't trick yourself into thinking they're that generous.
If they do bump up bonuses, peak pay, surges, or anything like that, it's because they need drivers. That's all.
But when the demand is high, you can pass on more offers. A better paying delivery is going to come back to you more often. Hold your ground and only accept offers that meet your price.
Be more ready to look at other delivery platforms.
If Uber Eats isn't taking care of you, someone else will.
There are a lot of us who work with multiple apps. That means the competition for drivers willing to go out in the bad weather will be higher.
And this means you get to take your pick.
I found that sometimes Grubhub can be the best out there in bad weather and then sometimes they get on this kick of sending you nothing but ten mile trips. In the snow!
They can ALL be bad and they can ALL be good.
Fire up more than one app. Be prepared, you can get overwhelmed with offers. But it doesn't take long to find out who's offering the best. And then you can pick one, or keep them all on.
You take more risks in bad weather.
You have the right to set your standards higher.
Obviously, what works best for me doesn't always work for someone else. I have found that I am less likely to do Uber Eats because other options are more lucrative.
Even when the pay isn't great with Uber Eats in the bad weather, a lot of times you can wait and it doesn't take long for something good to come along.
In the end, my opinion is that it stinks that they jack up the prices to the customer and don't pass that on. When customers are less likely to tip as a result, that takes money out of my pocket.
Having said that, my disagreement with Uber Eats in how they handle things doesn't mean there cannot still be opportunities here and there.
Like you should with every other offer you get from any platform – be selective. I know, broken record, right?
Some things will be better, some worse. Get to know your market. Know when the restaurants will be on top of things and when they're overwhelmed.
Bad weather can be incredibly profitable, but you have to be the one to take control.
And, if I haven't said it before?