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Under growing pressure, DoorDash asks drivers how to make things better

Facing critical press coverage, protests, and legal action, DoorDash sent a letter to drivers asking for feedback and seeking suggestions about pay and working conditions.

Under growing pressure, DoorDash asks drivers how to make things better
[Photo: Barna Bartis/Unsplash]

After weeks of resistance, food-delivery service DoorDash is acknowledging that not all its drivers are happy with how much they get paid.

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Citing, “a lot of discussion in the media about our pay model,” DoorDash CEO and co-founder Tony Xu sent an email on Wednesday to its contract delivery drivers, called Dashers, announcing a series of surveys and roundtables where they can air grievances. (A Dasher shared a copy of the email with Fast Company.) Xu’s email also makes the optimistic claim that earnings averaged more than $17.50 an hour in 2018.

Quick refresher: The app-based service, founded in 2013, faces criticism over the rate and calculation of pay. Like other services, such as Amazon Flex and grocery-delivery platform Instacart, DoorDash counts customer tips toward pay.

But a system that DoorDash introduced in 2017 takes that policy to the extreme–allowing the company to contribute as little as $1 if the customer tip is big enough to cover the assignment fee. That’s angered many Dashers and labor activists, who say that “tip” should be in addition to pay. (In about 15% of cases, customers tip zero, and DoorDash covers the entire fee, the company told me in February.)

A San Francisco lawmaker has even asked the city’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to determine whether Dashers should be re-classified as employees–covered under the city’s minimum wage (currently $15 per hour) and entitled to all tips on top. A 2018 California Supreme Court ruling on classification of contract delivery workers further strengthens the legal basis for such a change.

DoorDash was caught up in a wave of dissent kicked up by Instacart, which on February 6 made a minor concession by setting minimum payments it would provide, regardless of tip amount, on every order. But DoorDash (which raised $400 million in its latest funding round) has resisted making concessions so far.

Now Xu’s letter invites drivers to take part in multiple surveys and “Dasher roundtables” in the coming weeks for input on “what you think works, what you think doesn’t work, and how you think we can improve.” (We contacted DoorDash about the email but had not heard back by press time.)

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Last month, DoorDash told me that, based on its own worker surveys, 20% of Dashers are not fully satisfied with their work situation.

Some complaints the company may hear about this time are a lack of transparency in payments. For instance, Dashers don’t know the pre-selected tip until after the job. They may also question the $17.50 per hour pay (including tip) estimate. I’ve heard claims of lower pay, and gig workers are beginning to demand that these calculations account for their expenses, such as mileage.

After gathering input, says Xu, “we will report back on what we learned and what changes we plan to make in response.” He didn’t provide a time frame but, as time goes by the protests, labor organizing, and legal and political actions may also shape its response.

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About the author

Sean Captain is a Bay Area technology, science, and policy journalist. Follow him on Twitter @seancaptain.

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