back to article DoorDash delivery drivers try to manipulate the food biz's payment algorithm to earn a living wage in gig economy

DoorDash drivers are encouraging one another to turn down food delivery jobs below a minimum threshold of $7 in an attempt to manipulate the company’s in-app payment algorithm. Food delivery platforms like DoorDash have grown during the coronavirus pandemic as restrictions on dining at restaurants have made people turn to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sharecropper economy

    In real sharecropping, the landlord & sharecropper share the risk and share the rewards, with the landlord taking on an additional risk if the crop fails. In real sharecropping, the landlord fronts the money for owning the property & for planting the next crop, the sharecropper does the work, and the landlord & sharecropper share in the proceeds of the crop sale. If the landlords proceeds from the crop sale does not cover the landlords costs, he absorbs the loss. The sharecropper does not incur any debt. Obviously the goal is for both the landlord & sharecropper to make money and this system has them co-invest in the crop, albeit in different "currencies", and share the investment risk.

    The digital sharecropper economy ah la Uber, Doordash or Airbnb, is vastly more abusive to the "sharecropper" than in real sharecropping. In the digital sharecropper economy, the "digital landlord" takes on zero risk and simply skims cash off the cash flow. The "digital landlord" thus makes money regardless of the profit & loss of the "digital sharecropper". The "digital sharecropper" takes on 100% of the risk both in terms of capital investment (owning & maintaining a car or property) and in terms of operating profit/loss.

    The "digital sharecropper economy" is vastly more abusive to the sharecropper than in real sharecropping, and so the digital versions are giving the real version a bad name.

    1. Jim Mitchell Silver badge

      Re: Sharecropper economy

      This seems a rather ... optimistic ... description of "real sharecropping".

    2. Bronze badge

      Re: Sharecropper economy

      While I understand your point, DoorDash still has employees, insurance, and benefits to pay, investors to please, contracts to fulfill, and a brand to maintain, at a bare minimum. I think it's unfair to say that the driver (or "Prancer") takes on 100% of the risk, as drivers providing bad service still reflect poorly on the overall quality of the service, again at a bare minimum. While I'm sure DoorDash attempts to disclaim all liability in whatever contracts the drivers (or "Vixens"), they are likely still on the hook should something really bad happen, at the very least to defend themselves in court.

      Sure, the scales are tilted much in DoorDash's favor, but it isn't so black and white as you make it seem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sharecropper economy

        Not so black and white as in 'not Anish Kapoor's Blackest Vantablack, not Semple's Black 3.0' just a sort of everday really really really really dark grey.

        1. Bronze badge

          Re: Sharecropper economy

          Despite the humor that's basically what I was saying. Based on the ratio though I don't think people understood that. I'm not defending the vulturistic practices of DoorDash at all, merely framing them more truthfully.

  2. IceC0ld

    $16 BILLION Co 'proud' to say it is allowing Dashers to make $22 an hour ................

    the reality is it should be the Dashers make sufficient that they can have a life, that $22 will not include thee outgoings like fuel for the transport etc

    all it takes is one Co to decide that they make enough, and profit share the rest

    and it WAS done in days gone past

    Sir Titus Salt moved his Co out of the polluted cities and into the fresh green country, he built a town - Saltaire - he paid his people way over what the opposition were paying, realising that if his employees were happy, they would work better, he allowed real money to be used in his town, and had outside Co's come in to help and support the workforce, built schools and hospitals too.

    up until then, most Co towns were like a prison, employees were paid in Co coins, that could only be used in Co shops in the town ffs


    there IS a better way, we just lost the vision, when the money blocked their sight :o(

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >there IS a better way, we just lost the vision, when the money blocked their sight :o(

      Unfortunately we can no longer force India to only buy cloth from us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Of course we can, since we liberated ourselves from EU oppression, we now rule the waves again with our mighty carriers.

        We'll strike a deal with our former colonies, the best deal ever.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge


      Sadly though he had views about public houses, and forbade them in his new town.

      1. Paceman

        Re: Saltaire...

        Thankfully that changed, otherwise I'd have never lived there for a spell!

    3. fpx

      The "genius" of these companies is that the algorithms are essentially a reverse auction, finding the lowest possible wage that desperate people will work for. If enough people participate in the effort to decline deliveries below $7, then there will be a new crop of slightly more desperate dashers willing to snap up deliveries at $6.50 before they lose the trip to someone else.

  3. Richocet

    If the majority of delivery people refuse to take low paying jobs, then it will push up the average price. This is common in other market places. It's not really gaming the algorithm. And the algorithm is nothing mysterious, it-s just another calculation of market prices.

    If Doordash are unhappy with the waiting times experienced by customers then this is also fixed by the delivery drivers being offered higher prices which they will rapidly accept and action.

    There is no solution to get fast delivery cheaply without exploitation. Anything that looks like it solves that 'problem' is just disguising the exploitation.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      One of the things that these companies rely on is a supply of casual labour to keep wages down.

      But it's not just the drivers who are getting stiffed: restaurants are also not that happy about how much they have to hand over to the platforms.

      This could all be solved by making the costs for delivery explicit on the order. But that would make customers aware that work isn't all done by magic pixies and we wouldn't want that now, would we?

      1. nintendoeats Bronze badge

        At a greek restaraunt we rather like, their website tells you that using the UberEats link they provide gives Uber a much lower cut than if you use the UberEats website or the App. I presume that this is because if you go to the restaurant's website, you are no longer using the UberEats discovery service (basically, the restaurant is now selling ME to Uber instead of Uber selling ME to the restaurant).

        It occurs to me that somebody could build a tool that aggregates these links as an "open" discovery service. Then consumers get a convenient interface and restaurants get paid.

        Obviously the problem with this is that the Uber et al would do everything they could to break it, all day, every day.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          The local pizza place is even mopre explicit and offers a couple of pounds off if you phone them direct rather than ordering using UberEats

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Only ever used Dominos three times, if I remember correctly, but each time I went to the shop rather than taking delivery. They seemed to operate a BOGOF policy if you came to the shop which made things much less unaffordable.

            I don't think I have ever had food delivered from the couple of takeaways we occasionally use. Both are about a 5 minute drive away so ring the order through, pop plates in the oven to warm up, don shoes and coat and by the time I get to the shop the food is usually ready.

            Much quicker, and no middleman siphoning money off. Also get a chance to say 'hi' to owners of the shop, one set of which are parents of children friendly with mine. Occasionally the children themselves are in the shop.

            We're fortunate to be able to do this, and I recognise some can't. I don't think the Dash/Deliver/Uber model is healthy though, and both the takeaways I mentioned have their own drivers, though as they will take several orders at the same time in peak periods I gather it can take a very long time for your food to arrive.


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pimping 2.0

    Pimp stumps up some capital/muscle, sells another person’s services.

    The more that person “works”, the more they earn.

    Pimp always pockets a percentage.

    The worker suffers any consequences.

    I fail to see a difference with the insipid “gig economy”.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: Pimping 2.0

      I fail to see the point of your post.

      Your description is the description of any business which provides a channel to market for any professional services. The difference is in the types of professional services and whether those services are something society wishes to encourage, permit or ban. It is fairly clear that society does not permit it for sexual services but does permit it for delivery services.

      There is a completely separate discussion of whether society wishes to encourage, permit or ban these types of "channels to market" business which compete with, and possibly undermine, traditional employment models and also impact everything from tax revenues to social provision.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Pimping 2.0

        "traditional employment models"

        It depends on what you mean by "traditional".

        A tradition hereabouts was that of the domestic textile industry which was essentially that of self-employment. In fact my father was the only one I can trace in my male line who spent his entire working life in what you probably consider a traditional employment model.

        1. Keven E

          Re: Pimping 2.0

          "It is fairly clear that society does not permit it for sexual services..."

          For a limited definition of *society.

          We allow MMA *employees to beat the living crap out of each other... for a limited time only!

          Often society isn't trying to be social.

  5. sbt Silver badge

    Is a tip decided in advance...

    .. (e.g. before the quality/speed of the service) really a tip?

    I get why tipping incentivises service professionals to give good service, but where's the incentive here, if the tip amount is decided beforehand but hidden from the server?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is a tip decided in advance...

      I hate tipping culture so much, and the digital age of prepayment means people tip on their cards before they even get the service. God damn just increase your prices by 15%.

      And no, you can't "not tip", because aside from being social suicide, the drivers, servers, and whoever else WILL remember who doesn't tip, and you WILL get worse service. Migtht even be lucky enough to get extra goodies in your food, usually of the human waste variety.

      I didn't tip a Jimmy John's driver once, and even though I told the guy I was poor as shit so I couldn't afford a tip (I was busy working and could not take a lunch to avoid delivery, before you ask) he talked about me to his coworkers and friends, and I knew a guy that knew a guy that was there to hear it. Now everyone thinks I'm a fucking asshole for not giving my delivery driver the holy patronage of seven dollars, even though I promised at the time to order again and make it right. That Jimmy Johns lost a customer forever.

      And no, I hated tipping culture before that moment, but fuck me if it didn't cement it in me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is a tip decided in advance...

        "even though I promised at the time to order again and make it right. That Jimmy Johns lost a customer forever."

        You never did make it right, did you.

        Don't quibble with "but but they lost a customer so that got me off the hook". If you're a man of your word, you would have made it right. Promises are worthless.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Is a tip decided in advance...

          He did bad by me, I do bad by him. I could be the better person and attempt to rectify the situation, but I never claimed to be "a man of [my] word", nor did I show myself to be a man for that matter. Nor did I claim to be a Scotsman, nor a true one...

          I like many others am self-interested and only follow social conventions because it is required for a trouble-free life, and because despite pretenses I often agree that it is "the right thing to do". Against that matter, I don't want to say an empty greeting and inquiry to one's personal wellbeing to everyone I walk past despite expecting nothing meaningful to no answer at all in return, but it is expected to do so; I equally don't want to shake every proffered hand because it is likely the person in question has not earned my trust or respect, but it is strange and suspicious to leave an outstretched hand unshaken. Not following these cues are not what makes or breaks the man, it is the respect (or rather lack thereof) they display. It is the lack of respect, the lack of a willingness to follow social convention that at a base level seems offensive or disingenuous, that breaks the man.

          If he had kept the silent social contract on his end, and allowed me the chance to pay my dues as I said I would, then I absolutely would have kept my word. But instead he scorned me, badmouthed me behind my back, told everyone he knew it seems like. So fuck him. I am not a rat-like person, or at least I would like to think that, but I am also clearly not a fautless saint. I will accept these flaws with gusto, if it means I can scorn him back. I will burn the fire that has burned me and crush that what has crushed me, because while I am not a rat-like person, nor am I a fautless saint, I can earnestly say that I am a scornful bastard.

          tl;dr dont care lol

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. mark l 2 Silver badge

        Re: Is a tip decided in advance...

        The tipping culture in the US is broken. A tip is meant to be a reward for the person going above and beyond what is necessary, not a requirement that every one must get a tip, even if the service was poor.

        Unfortunately US minimum wage laws in some states allowed business to pay their staff a ridiculously low hourly rate as long as they can make it to the minimum wage with tips added on. So if you don't leave a tip then the worker might only be getting $3 an hour!

        Businesses claim this allows them to employ more staff than they would if tips were not counted as part of the wage. But in states that have changed their law to make businesses pay the minimum wage without including tips there wasn't a sudden increase in unemployment in service industry, so it just shows its businesses trying to save money by and not having to pay a living wage to their staff and instead relying on customers tipping to make up the difference.

        1. onemark03 Bronze badge

          Tipping in the US

          I would rather pay more in (say) a restaurant if I knew that the employees were being paid at least a minimum wage and then decide whether I wanted to leave a tip. That's what happens here in Germany.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Is a tip decided in advance...

          Actually $2.13 per hour, provided the employee gets at least $30 in tips per month,1 under Federal law.

          Many states and territories impose higher rates, though in some cases it's only marginally higher (New Mexico raises it to all of $2.55 / hour), and it's rarely a living wage. A handful of states don't allow discounting the minimum wage at all for tipping. Of course, cost of living varies hugely among states and considerably within states, so the real question is the minimum wage adjusted for local cost of living, and that gets complicated when you consider different living situations...


          The US does not do well by its service-sector workers and underemployed workers. But that's hardly news, unfortunately.

          1Of course $30/month is a negligible sum for anyone with real expenses, and good luck contesting a fraudulent claim by your employer that you met this very low bar.

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Workers, unite!

    This new 'digital economy' brings us back directly to the 19th century.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Workers, unite!

      The C19th introduced the large scale waged economy, replacing the self-employment industrial* economy of previous centuries.

      * Agriculture was a different matter.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love seeing

    The videos where the delivery driver is seen scoffing down somebodys meal ... It has become apparent for low value meals , I.e single person, it is quite difficult to provide it, without it costing as much as the meal itself. Which is why I have avoided this service for the last year , (uk)

    Any meal costing less than £10 really

    N.B. when did Fish n Chips become a quasi luxury @ £15+, for delivery

  8. hoola Silver badge

    The way forward

    Yes but we are constantly being told that:

    The "gig" economy is wonderful

    Untold riches can be earned

    There is unheard of flexibility, select when you work blah blah.

    It is based on an App and is the "Modern" way.

    Disrupters are good for society providing better services for less cost than traditional providers.

    For some reason all these companies accrue huge amounts of VC funding yet continue to run a huge losses. We then have stock market IPO floatations with ridiculously high prices making the founders and few who put in the money millionaires.

    All these "New economy" outfits have exactly the same model:

    An app that does some stuff, not particularly clever stuff.

    Low paid workers with no rights doing the hard work.

    High commission charges on the outfits using the service.

    Ignore as much regulation as possible and use the VC money to try and make the problem go away.

    Make losses.

    Yet they continue to appear, sucking in money and despite their obvious losses and dodgy business models.

  9. Lutsar

    DoorDash has numerous issues, to tell the truth. So both drivers and customers can face certain problems. For example, there was a data leak and some of the users' data was stolen and then sold in darknet. I think that such questions have to be solved from the very beginning as people share much of their personal data, including credit cards' credentials.

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