Adventures of Door Dashing in Petaluma, California

*Originally published on LinkedIn in two parts on January 14th, 2020.

Growing up, my daddy told me “Son, all you gotta do to keep livin’ is keep making turds.”

Ain’t that the truth?!

Whether we like to admit it or not, life is pretty simple and most people worry way too much about stuff that is, well, trivial… and unnecessary. Extraneous. Strenuous. Not life giving.

However, across all walks of life, culture, race, sexuality, religion, income level, geography, et cetera, globally, there is one simple fact that binds us all in humanity: we all gotta eat to keep livin’.

INTRODUCTION

Since August 25th, of 2019, my main source of income as a single father living in Petaluma, Sonoma County, California, has come as that of an Independent Contractor driving deliveries ordered through the DoorDash app all around town, day and night.

In other words, I’ve been delivering delicious dishes as a Door Dasher deftly dashing those deliveries to your doors for dollars, daily.

Try saying that ten times fast, lol… and I may be at your door before you can finish, if your order got sent to me. (Ok, maybe not, but I try)

Anyways, as an out of state transplant to Petaluma (and with the life and career I’ve lived) it’s been a helluva interesting experience for me on numerous levels.

According census data, as of 2017 the were approximately 22,000 households in Petaluma.

In the quarter, or so (108 days of work), that’s passed since I started dashing in this town I have, to date, successfully dashed 2,828 order deliveries here. Counting orders that have been cancelled I’ve actually taken 2,883 at least part of the way.

By the numbers it’s possible that I have personally visited 12.8% of the households in this town in just a few short months.

With repeat orders and business orders the reality is probably more like 9% or so, I’d say, roughly.

I can tell you from first hand experience that EVERYONE, regardless of their differences – rich, poor, gay, straight, man, woman, gender non-binary/conforming, black, white, old, young, devout, agnostic, gluten free, vegan, meat and potatoes, et alles – orders delivery food… and I have engaged with them (us!) all, every day.

Food is emotional for people. It’s very important to them… it’s right up there with money, sex, and religion… and family, of course.

In the course of being a “dashing man” to make ends meet I’ve gained quite a bit of insight about my community, the businesses, and the people in it.

I’ve also had a front row seat to inform my opinions about the gig economy, the changing nature of work, consumer expectations and behavior, and the sustainability of the DoorDash’s (and similar companies’) business model… as well as some of its effects on the market for local and small businesses.

Day in and day out since I started dashing I’ve gotten all kinds of questions from all kinds of people about the different facets of the dasher experience…

So, I’m going to share my (funny?) stories about what it’s like to be a resident and Dasher in the Petaluma community…

…and I am also going to share insights on the economics of dashing at both the individual level for earning in this market…

….and also some of my macro views on the business landscape of DoorDash, the “gig economy”, and the future of work which I believe is outstanding intel for many businesses (#freechicken).

I’m gonna be giving out a lot of free chicken here. Hope my story and points of view resonate with you.

DISCLAIMERS

I’m breaking this article down into sections, because it’s hella long.

I’m gonna cover a wide scope of things. Might boil the whole ocean.

Dashing has been both a choice of venture (for $) and a series of adventures, too, which I’ve found noteworthy, yet may only be sever-ably noteworthy to you, and the future of gig work is squarely in the cross hairs of lawmakers.

If the story of Forrest Gump were re-written to include more current history I’m certain he would at some point work in the gig economy along his path… and he’d agree:

On any given day, every dash is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get…

***Just a heads up, if you read on there will be some shade thrown, some praise, some names named, some not, and there will be many opinions and stories for insights coupled with data and statistical support.

There will also be some cussing, here and there, most likely, some cool pics, media, and not a lot of pretension… reader beware!***

Welcome to Petaluma: Bath Tubs on Stilts?

No… please… no.

If you’re not from around here you may not realize I just took a stand on an issue that in Petaluma causes wailing, gnashing of teeth, and polarizing views to the degree of a pro choice vs. pro life debate many places.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, slightly, but Nextdoor app did have to shut down that thread, and I’ve lived in a lot of places all over the world.

Petaluma, California, is definitely a place that is all to its own.

This is a poster for a local Petaluma band

It’s quirky. It’s got charm. It’s got its beauties and ugliness (like any town), and the weather is unique. Its terrain and geography along the 101 put it in a very advantageous location in Sonoma County that has brought growth to the town, and also some of the growing pains of culture change from being the smaller town it once was.

The cost of housing and living is extremely high.

It’s in the heart of wine country.

There is an in-congruently large homeless population against the town size.

It was once the egg capital of the world, as I understand it, and the town identity is big on dairy, agriculture, production, and love for cars given the town’s connection to the movie American Graffiti.

Today, Petaluma also has been fast becoming a place of San Francisco and Silicon Valley tech industry spill over that perhaps used to only reach Marin County, and there is an ongoing battle between big box chains and industry infiltrating this town’s markets against the historic small businesses and restaurants that have thrived here for so long.

I understood most of these things about Petaluma when I decided to move here three years ago for my last “job”, but not until I started Dashing did I really feel like this town was my home in the ways I do now.

While I’ve lived here all the time I have, been fairly involved with my children’s schools here in town, and worked here as well, I never engaged in this community so fully as I have in my short time as a Door Dasher here.

I’ve been everywhere, all the time, around Petaluma, for the last few months.

For me, the most exciting part of my time Door Dashing has been getting better acquainted with all the people I have in my community in the course of doing it.

I’ve delivered to many local businesses, hospitals, fire stations, to the police, to workers at construction sites, churches, the Christmas tree farms, to people at the park, to kids home alone after school, to kids running home to beat curfew just before midnight, to hotels, apartment complexes, east side, west side, north, south, I’ve delivered to schools – both for staff and students…

I’ve delivered food from one restaurant to another, I’ve delivered to beauty salons, auto shops, banks, grocery stores. I’ve delivered to retirement communities, farms, ranches, shacks, and mansions alike… to probably 9% of all the homes in town.

I’ve seen parts of Petaluma that people who’ve lived here their whole life probably haven’t seen.

I’ve delivered in the face of power outages and fire evacuations, and through rain or shine too.

I have come to understand that Petaluma, for a variety of reasons, is a uniquely well suited place for a positive experience Door Dashing and earning well above other areas, which can serve as a case study, of sorts, and so now I’ll share my story with you.

Shoutouts!

Before I get this going, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out up front to the folks at Mary’s Pizza Shack (both locations!), Simmer Vietnamese Kitchen, The New Yorker Pizza & Restaurant, Safeway (on McDowell), The Habit Burger, Panda Express, Don Pancho’s, Five Guys (People!), McDonald’s (both locations!) and El Roy’s Mexican Grill – all in Petaluma – whose staff have been particularly welcoming and kind to me as a Dasher with whom they have entrusted with their food, and customers, these past few months.

With the ebbs and flows of how busy (and stressful) food service and fickle customers can be, I’ve been through some shit with all the restaurants around here in the short time, and this is my first endeavor working in food service in any capacity outside KP in the Army.

The example I’ve seen set in the restaurants above as the “way to be” when it comes to tasty food, disciplined operations, fun, and service with a smile – no matter what – definitely has been a tremendous help for me being successful as a Dasher, above and beyond the others.

While, at times, between both customers and merchants Door Dashing can be wholly transactional and impersonal, I have also been very appreciative of the positive personal experiences and interactions I’ve had with folks at (in no particular order):

Lemongrass Thai Noodle, Baskin Robbins, McNear’s Saloon & Dining House, Lala’s Creamery, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Ray’s Deli and Tavern, River Front Café, Stefano’s Pizza, What a Chicken, Acre Coffee, Kinka Sushi, Stockhome,Taqueria La Hacienda,The Canton, El Gallo Taqueria, Hector’s Pizza, Traxx Bar & Grill, Boulevard Café & Grill,Fantasy Restaurant, Lucky California, Thai Cuisine, Thai Essence, Walnut Park Grill, Firetrail Pizza, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Sift Dessert Bar, Simply Strudels & Coffee, Sugo Trattori, The Bagel Mill, The Shuckery, IHOP, Java Hut, Little Caesars, Mi Pueblo El Centro, Jamba, Rubio’s Coastal Grill, Starbucks, Original Buffalo Wings Restaurant, Lily Kai, Michael’s Sourdough Sandwiches, China Town Restaurant, Simmer Vietnamese Kitchen, Ohana Hawaiian BBQ, Denny’s, Wendy’s, Applebee’s Grill + Bar, Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant, Risibisi Restaurant, Flamez Grill, Chipotle, Oyama Sushi, Red Boy Pizza, Yogurtland, Plaza Tequila Taquiera Bar & Grill, Thai River, Subway, KFC, Taco Bell, Cold Stone Creamery, Palms Grill, Pho Sonoma, Round Table Pizza, Chunky’s Taqueria and Grill, Brasil BBQ, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza, McDonald’s, Cheese Steak Shop, Lumberjacks Restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings, Pongo’s Kitchen & Tap, Everest Indian Restaurant, Burger King, City Chopsticks, Dunkin’ Donuts, North Bay Café, Taqueria Mi Pueblo, El Pollo Loco, Jack in the Box, Extreme Pizza, Wicked Slush Petaluma, Ulia’s Delicatessen, Fruit in Motion, and Soban Korean Cuisine.

Team work makes the dream work! Thanks and namaste to all the folks I’ve worked with around town on the grind getting orders to customers.

No slack! Get some.

If you ever come to Petaluma I can tell you we’ve got great folks, great food, and promise you that the people working at the establishments above always aim to please and take care of customers.

Vignette: If you have a restaurant in Petaluma, why aren’t you on that list? I tried not to leave any out that I’ve delivered… if I did, my bad.

But, are you one of the hold outs that hasn’t established a delivery service some how yet?

If so, I believe you are limiting your revenue and probably losing some market share in Petaluma…

I’ve only lived here three years but I swear I’ve seen double digits worth of restaurants disappearing… #RIP…

My friends at the places above may get mad at me for telling you, but nonetheless:

I recommend getting delivery capable to open a channel for revenue if you’re not already. It’s not hard these days, just sayin’.

The Basics of Dashing

For years and years I have used the internet for food delivery.

It’s kinda the best sometimes, isn’t it?

Whether Netflix and chilling, stuck with no food and/or wheels, or just don’t feel like cooking, the ability to easily order food online to show up at my door is a luxury I have enjoyed (thoroughly) for as long as the capability to do so has existed.

It’s been a life saver, at times. The perfect thing.

It used to be the case that I could only order via a restaurant’s direct website. Therefore, what I could order for food delivery was constrained to only those restaurants that directly employed drivers and provided delivery service.

Over the course of the last five plus years or so, though, the existence of apps that offer food delivery from nearly anywhere I might want to eat has exploded.

As a consumer, I’ve historically spent a lot of money on Grubhub, DoorDash, the now extinct Yelp Eat24 delivery app, perused Uber Eats and a few other apps once or twice (although I have never used them), and used local third party services in many of the towns I’ve lived in as a Soldier for 18 years, extensively, in order to get food from restaurants that do not employ drivers or offer delivery service on their own.

This past summer, I came to a point in my job search where I could no longer wait on “the process” to tell me whether or not I might find a paycheck in my near future.

I had even approached every staff agency in town, most in person, to find immediate work that I could do to put food on the table, but still came up with nothing.

“Overqualified”… “qualified, but not the right fit”… “we would hire you, but we know you will find something better and leave…” Yawn.

Whatever the reason (excuse), not for lack of effort, skill, or character, I needed to find a way to earn immediately.

There’s many good reasons to elect to Door Dash, but that was mine.

Vignette: If you’ve never been in the scarcity tunnel, it’s a motherfucker… and we should all seek to beat its ass so that no one has to get abused by it, ever. Just sayin’.

People, we’re better than this…

Getting Started

Finally, one day (at the nth hour!) I found an ad for Door Dashing on Craigslist and saw opportunity. The ad boasted that Dashers can earn $23 hour, and by my initial math it could be enough to get by until I found something better.

After registering and submitting myself to a background check (which cleared within an hour for me), I was approved to Dash.

I downloaded the Dasher app (it’s a different app from the DoorDash food ordering app) and elected to receive my Red (thermal) Bag and DoorDash Red (credit) Card in the mail rather than to travel to my local office to pick that stuff up and receive an orientation.

That was on a Thursday or Friday.

Had I elected to go to the office 45 minutes away I could have been Dashing the same day I first applied. I chose to wait on the mail to give myself a few more days to see what else might pop up.

On Monday my kit showed up in the mail and I was fit to start earning.

Vignette: Can your hiring process compete with that timeline?

More apps will come that give people the opportunity to start earning quickly in a variety of capacities, beyond the applications we have seen so far today, and innovative companies will find better ways to hire than the stale and unfair mechanisms that persist today.

There’s already apps for Handymen, for example, and more will come. Outdated processes better fix their broke ways. Just sayin’.

The Scope of Dashing

At surface level, Dashing is simple. Dashers take food from restaurants to the people who order it and get money for doing it. It’s not rocket science… it’s easy.

However, considering the personalities (of everyone), the economics, levels of understanding of the tech, and the motivations (Dasher, Merchants, and Customers) of it there’s some core aspects of the role dynamics that make it slightly more complex.

As a Dasher, I am an Independent Contractor. I am no one’s employee. I do not work for the restaurants I pick up from and I don’t work for DoorDash. I am my own business.

I kinda look at it like I’m driving around socializing and collecting money more than I do delivering orders.

The earnings I make are my self-business revenue and the costs of resources (gas, vehicle wear and tear, time) are mine to bear alongside the cost of my own benefits (healthcare, etc.) and my responsibility to settle up with Uncle Sam and the State of California come tax time, because no taxes are taken from me by DoorDash.

However, in my role as a Dasher I am an extension of the Customer and the Merchant and DoorDash, simultaneously, too.

I represent the Customer to the Merchant when I am there picking up the order, I represent the Merchant to the Customer when I drop off, and I represent DoorDash in all my interactions with the parties involved, to a degree… for better or worse.

I have the ability to affect everyone’s experience and reputation. Yet, I always have agency and autonomy to hair toss, check my nails, and walk my ass out the door if I want.

I can decline any order I don’t want to take… or even accept and pick up an order, decide I don’t want to finish delivering it, and cancel myself from it (causing the merchant to have to remake it and the customer to wait for another driver), if I so choose.

I’ve never done that, but I could.

Freedom. ‘Merica. Agency!

Vignette: I have been surprised by how many people don’t understand the independent distinction of Door Dashing.

I was told by one restaurant manager “call your boss!” because he had orders that hadn’t been picked up yet (which weren’t assigned to me) and he wanted me to take them.

There was a language barrier between us, but I tried hard to explain to him that I don’t have a boss or chain of command, and that anything he wanted done had to be done through the app… so I can get paid.

What I tried to explain clearly didn’t compute for him… or he just didn’t like it.

I had a somewhat similar experience with another family restaurant owner who wanted me to take one order and deliver it then come back for another, even though I should have been able to pick up both at once… which is the order (contract) I had accepted for the rate I was offered (via DoorDash).

She wasn’t ready with the second order.

I explained to her that if the delivery address of the ready order had been close by I would do it (because I’m nice), but since it was far away that I would not since the cost of gas and time were all on me.

She told me “I don’t give a fuck about you” and wanted me to not wait for the other order and let someone else take it.

I told her that the orders go through the app, and that she would have to unassign me / cancel the order so that I could get paid my half pay for showing up for pickup if she didn’t want me to take the other order. She stormed off, frustrated. I stepped outside for fresh air while I waited for both orders.

I have been surprised by how many restaurant staff and managers don’t fully understand the tech and nature of service they are employing by using DoorDash as a channel for revenue.

Those are just two examples, but I see similar red flags all the time.

Know your stuff, people.

The Geographic Nature of Dashing

In DoorDash, Dashers are confined to a geographic region, to a degree.

In order to dash one must be physically present within a region that offers DoorDash service.

If dashing isn’t busy in one region I can travel to another to Dash if I want.

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Generally, pick ups and drop offs will all be within the assigned region the Dasher is operating in, although sometimes the drop off may take them out of zone.

I, like many Dashers I’ve spoken with, greatly appreciate the geographic aspect of dashing as compared to doing something like Ubering people around (I also like it that I don’t have to have people in my car, as far as that goes).

Whereas transporting people may often require a driver to go away from their “base” town (facilitating people’s travel), consumer food delivery through DoorDash keeps all the work/transport in a set area, for the most part.

Dashing in Petaluma works because of it’s size, geography, and because of the demand.

Once you learn the back roads and traffic patterns it can be really easy to get around and get higher order volume when orders are coming.

Dashing in Santa Rosa (or SF!) would be a completely different beast than dashing in Petaluma, as far as transportation efficiency goes.

The first few days I dashed I started in Marin County, because I thought it would be a better market for me to earn… and I was also a little apprehensive of Dashing where I live.

However, the orders I got took me through all kinds of really bad traffic and time consuming locations to reach… and most of the customers & restaurant staff I encountered were, well, assholes. Lol.

There, I might pickup an order in Novato or San Rafael that required me to go to Corte Madeira, or Saucilito, or even Fairfax for drop off… and nearly no restaurant actually had the food ready for pickup when I arrived – which also wasted my time a lot.

It was the worst and people didn’t barely tip at all.

The size, shape, and road systems in Petaluma are much better suited for Dasher success than Marin county, I can attest to that… and the people are (mostly) cooler too.

On my third day I started Dashing in Petaluma and haven’t dashed anywhere else since.

The Simplicity of the Dasher App & Tasks

I’ve been approached by a surprising number of people who have been curious about their ideas of Dashing.

One of the things I like about DoorDashing is that anyone who can pass the background checks and has a car can do it.

It’s a way where any American, 18 years or older, can earn an honest living within the market and be empowered.

However, in a way, not everyone is cut out for DoorDashing.

“How much do you make?…if you don’t mind me me asking” is something I hear often… but people have already heard that info, usually, if they are realistically considering taking it up.

More often I hear “what’s it like?,” or similar questions about the other random facets and the ins and outs of it all that may, well, scare some people and make them apprehensive about it.

I’m someone who can be very extroverted and enjoys engaging with people. I’m also even keel, patient, and comfortable in a fluidly changing environment. I drive well and have pretty good common sense and problem solving know-how with life and people.

To be good at DoorDashing maybe you just gotta know your way around town.

However, to enjoy it… and to be better than most at it, you kinda gotta have some of those qualities I described above.

For me, every order on the Dash is a bit of an adventure. You never know what you’re gonna get. Most of the time things can flow smoothly and orders are generally fairly routine.

However, as a Dasher I have found myself in some very interesting situations and exchanges. Some of what I’ve experienced may just be a credit to the eccentricities of Petaluma, but a lot of it is just the stuff anyone might deal with on a Dash, anywhere.

I never get questions about how the app works. The app is simple. It’s easy. Pretty much anyone with a car, a smart phone with a GPS and map app, and at least good enough mastery of basic English to get from point A to point B successfully will figure out when to click and swipe intuitively enough to start earning some money using the app.

We’ll get to the funny stuff, but first lemme explain the app and the basics, just for your situational awareness (FYSA), if nothing else.

When Dashing is available to you (more on “hours” later)… just click “Dash Now”…

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It’s your life, dowhatchalike with your time…

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Then: Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch! (or some such thing – you do you!)…

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And the app begins to scan…

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Once a Dash is started, the app searches for available orders in the region relying on GPS location.

Generally, the app searches for available Dashers that are closest to the restaurant with an unassigned delivery.

If you’re the “best Dasher” (more on ratings later) for the order in the eyes of the app, the order will be sent to you.

And when you get an order…

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When orders are sent to me I get a series of three notifications.

I get a text telling me there is a new delivery, an app notification that also allows me to accept or decline the order (even though it doesn’t show anything other than the restaurant), and in the app itself a screen pops up showing me the order details including pick up and drop off locations and the overall pay that DoorDash guarantees me for completing the order.

There is a little clock in the app screen that counts down while Dashers consider whether to accept or decline the order.

If the Dasher doesn’t choose fast enough the order will be taken away and offered to the “next best Dasher.”

You can ALWAYS decline, if you like… and go back to looking for orders…

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But, if you choose to accept…

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Once an order is accepted it is added into the Dasher app queue and details of where to go, when pickup time should be, and when it has to be delivered are all displayed, along with a map and route of how to get to the next task destination.

In my experience usually the time estimates in the app that are based on drive time to get somewhere are pretty close to what you’ll get on directions via Google maps, maybe with a little “room for Murphy” (Murphy’s Law), which is always pretty accurate for me.

I have been able to deliver to customers on time or early as a Dasher 94-95% of the time, according to the time requirements the app wants me to achieve. As having been both a consumer using DoorDash and a driver too, I’d say that the app does a good job of promising customers a timeliness that is easily achievable by DoorDashers in normal conditions without doing anything special or being in too much of a hurry.

Usually if an order is late it’s not because of the Dasher. Although things can go wrong with anyone, Dashers have a motivation to be fast. The faster we are, the more money we make. Usually when there’s delays its due to something unforeseen and out of Dasher control.

Often, if you’re good, a Dasher can close delay gaps out of their control by being swift and efficient, but you never know.

Time is of the essence, and we gotta make pickup. Here’s how it goes… let’s Dash!

I was looking rough at the end of my first full day of dashing Petaluma for 12 hours!

The Adventures of Door Dashing in Petaluma, California

#Dashcats

Petaluma as a town has a lot of character.

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It has such an eclectic mix of people and an interesting balance of rural-urban-suburban kind of areas in the town that makes Dashing in it non-monotonous.

Horse in the Drive Through!

One thing I’ve appreciated about dashing here is the gorgeous landscape and all that, of course, but, more notably, also the fauna that are everywhere.

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In the course of Dashing day to day, out and about in town, whether crossing my path or there at my destination, I have encountered cows, horses, chickens, turkeys (more than just the one in the courtyard above), alpaca, dogs, raccoons, owls, ponies, vultures, deer, owls, dodged skunks, pigs in the front yard, rats running across intersections, field mice, a hawk carrying a field mouse right across my windshield in flight, and even a coyote or two.

On the traffic light above that’s a stork… or a crane. In the tree below there’s a bandit at the Taco Bell.

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I’m on lookout for mountain lions.

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While I have seen all those creatures in the course of business at some time or another, there is one animal that seems to be… always… everywhere.

The cats.

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The Dashcats.

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Night and day I see them everywhere and have taken pictures of many funny felines (and other critters) that I’ve seen in the strangest places.

They're n the trees! Dashcats!

I call them Dashcats, and they’re a trip. lol.

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The App Calls…

In the course of picking up and delivering the orders there are buttons in the app for Dashers to call or text customers. I use these when there are delays and I recommend all Dashers do the same. For certain actions buttons must be swiped and then the app verifies GPS to allow Dashers to proceed.

Drive, click, swipe, pick up, drop off, swipe, click... wait...

When I arrive at the merchant for the order I have to swipe my status as “arrived”. When I get to the delivery location in the app I swipe myself arrived in the customer location.

During the course of Dasher swipes, customers get notifications, such as “Your Dasher has picked up your order” or “Your Dasher has arrived at you location.”

During the order customers can look in their app and see/watch their Dasher’s location on the map.

Sometimes I forget that people do this… but often customers are watching my location on the map as I am on the move to Dash their order.

I swipe orders complete as soon as I swipe arrived at the customer’s location unless there’s something strange that make me think I may not be able to find the customer, although arrival and delivery are technically two different tasks in the app.

After I complete delivery and have swiped an order complete the app adds the money from that order into my pay balance for the Dash and looks for more orders.

The pay rates for each order are made up of two basic components: What is paid to me for the order by DoorDash, and the tip given by the customer.

Only once I swipe order complete am I able to see what the customer tipped out of the pay I was promised by DoorDash for the delivering the order.

I like to have swiped complete before I even knock on the door so that I know exactly what a customer tipped me before I come in contact with them.

It also gets me available for new orders just a few minutes faster than if I waited… especially in some of the apartment complex…. or hotel drop offs.

Outside a drop off at the Hotel Petaluma

The Things that Can Happen Along the Way…

Whether along the way, or at the destination (where you may encounter any given stranger), or hanging out at the restaurants waiting to pick up, as a Dasher about town in Petaluma you’re bound to cross paths with all manner of situations and circumstances.

Ya better bring yo’ whole self to work.

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And ya better have a tire plug kit, jack, emergency stuff, jumper cables, first aid, water, and blankets or an extra jacket at least.

I’ve gotten flat tires twice from nails in construction areas that slowed down my dashing thirty minutes each.

I was out on order one day and I saw this Dasher got in a crash… #Dashcrash

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Hey, hey what can I do?…

One night I witnessed a parking lot hit and run. I’ve seen more than one parking lot bump n’ jet in the course of Dashing, but this story has a little extra twist.

I was parked near Panda Express one night waiting for orders because the night was slow. I saw this asshat backed up super fast – it appeared he had come out of the AT&T store, or perhaps Cold Stone.

Anyways, it was this car:

The Silver Nissan backed into the white car hard and took off quick

The silver Nissan backed up hard into the white car, and they knew what they did. Dented the white car pretty good. I took pics as quick as I could but they sped off fast and I didn’t get the plate clearly.

Within a few seconds I got an order, and it had been a slow night, but I didn’t want to let this act of assholery slide.

I went into the AT&T Store, Panda, and Cold Stone to see if the white car belonged to anyone there to tell them what had happened and to be a witness for insurance, or whatever.

No one in any of the stores claimed the white car, and no one was concerned about the situation. Frustrated, about to lose my order, I continued on my Dash.

Over the course of the next hour or so I got caught in Panda “loopback.” Meaning as soon as I’d deliver one Panda order, I’d get another.

Each time I went back I looked to see the white car still there.

As I left Panda with yet another order I noticed the white car was pulling out. I hurried up and jumped in my R/T, hoping that I’d be able to safely catch up to the white car and make contact to help them if I could.

“Who knows what this person is going through? Maybe they can’t afford their deductible and this hit and run just ruined their day.” I thought to myself. “Josh, YOU were the witness, YOU have to make yourself known to the car owner.”

I was excited as I pulled up next to the car on McDowell going north. We were each first in the two left turn lanes, at a red light.

I could see a friendly looking elderly woman at the wheel, who was oblivious for a moment or two that I was trying to get her attention, yet eventually saw me waiving (I didn’t want to honk) and rolled down her window.

Quickly, I explained to her that I had witnessed her car get hit in the parking lot. She hadn’t even seen the back of her car yet and had no clue what I was trying to tell her about, out of kindness.

I told her I’d gladly give her my contact information for her insurance if she wanted to pull over at Jack in the Box, or something, after we turned. She was confused and apprehensive.

As soon as the light turned green she sped off north on the 101.

I must’ve scared the shit out of that old lady at that light, I guess, but I was being very polite.

I wonder if she ever realized that I was trying to do the right thing after she got home, and perhaps saw the damage.

The world may never know.

It sad how fearful people can be in this world, although, I understand… and life goes on.

Sticky Situations?…

Pizza with anchovies?

In case you don’t get the reference, there was this movie, Loverboy, back in the 80’s…

I definitely watched it too many times as a kid, but the reality is on the Dash you never know what’s going on in the lives and minds of the people you may encounter at any given drop off – whether late at night on a Saturday or in the morning on a Tuesday for that matter.

I’m not talking out of school when I say that in at least 5 of my 2800+ deliveries, I think sex was on the table… and in numerous others my arrival clearly interrupted sex, or something.

No, I haven’t serve any “pizza with anchovies” in the course of my Dashing for high customer satisfaction rates, but I have come face to face with some sticky situations.

This one night I had a drop off at Hotel Petaluma (cool spot, btw!). The hotels I’ve delivered to in town (Hampton, Marriott, etc) normally want Dashers to go straight to the room that ordered for drop off rather than bug the front desk.

As I approached the 2nd floor room to drop off the order I could hear the bumping and grinding from down the hall. Someone was getting some action, big time! It was the room I was going to, and it sounded like whoever was in there was getting a great workout, if nothing else.

Much louder than any kids jumpin on the bed I could hear could hear the unmistakeable repetitive noises of the mattress… and the sound of bodies slapping… real good… and panting… as I stood outside the door contemplating my next move…

… I knocked and heard a woman’s voice say “just a second!”

“Okay!” I said, and waited. I don’t remember the order but it wasn’t one I could just leave in the hall.

I waited there about a minute, maybe a minute and a half. During that minute, the noises – which had stopped momentarily picked back up and went even harder than before.

There was loud slapping going on that likely merited a porno sound effects award of some sort.

Anyways, whatever was going on in there sounded like it got done, and the nice lady came to the door. She opened it just a crack but was in a bathrobe and was clearly really sweaty… and she was a big girl! In a way, I was proud of her. I was thoroughly impressed.

“Sorry, I was cleaning!” she exclaimed as I was handing her her order. “No problem! Thank you very much! Have a great night!” I told her.

She had given a great tip on the order already. I woulda’ waited there 5 more minutes or so to care for her order properly if she had taken that long to answer, based on what she had paid, lol.

Anyways, as I left I regretted not trying to give her a high five as I thought “go on, girl, with yo’ bad self!” haha… and I took a video of the cool elevator at the Hotel Petaluma… and continued on my Dash.

On one order, I delivered to a woman that was tipsy with the booze, although she didn’t give me a tip at all on the order… perhaps she thought getting all handsy, soliciting me, and telling me how cute I was to her at that moment was a better offer.

It’s ironic that many homes have “no soliciting” signs, yet that the golden rule may not be enforced there, lol.

I told her have a great night… and “thank you!” (I try to always say thanks, even when there’s no tip)

Another night, after I politely dropped a dessert for one to a woman a bit older than I in a negligee, who had all the lights off in the house, and got in my truck… she texted me that I was welcome to come back.

I ignored the text, flattered, and continued my Dash.

Once there were two twenty something gals who invited me in to come party. One was kinda cute. They had both been to the bar perhaps, or something. It was late on a Friday night.

It was just the two of them… that one was tempting, but I did not turn off my meter for them either! Lol. I continued on my Dash.

Honestly, for me, these kinds of surprises are flattering for me more than anything, I’m a big boy.

However, I hope female Dashers (and all Dashers) are safety conscious about the situations they encounter on deliveries.

Dashcats?

Closing, Ending, Ratings, & Dasher Pay

Back to the app for a sec before I share more stories, because… that’s the nature of Dashing… among all the shenanigans that may ensue the app is always waiting for you to complete the next task in the Dash. Duty calls.

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Once an order is complete the customer gets a text solicitation to rate their Dasher from 1 to 5.

After each order is completed or declined/cancelled/unassigned the Dasher app collects the customer feedback ratings when applicable, timeliness metrics, and accept/decline choices of each Dasher as part of tabulating the ratings.

This process continues order by order until a Dasher ends their Dash or stops responding to the app.

Sometimes when it is busy Dashers may get sent additional orders when they are already assigned an order.

When accepted, the app stacks the multiple orders’ tasks in sequence in the way it wants you to proceed ordinally with each pickup and drop off in order to be “on time.”

Once you “end your Dash” in the app your “meter is off,” as I like to say, and you won’t be sent anymore delivery orders until you choose to Dash again.

Earnings from each Dash get added into the balance of any Dashes that haven’t been cashed out yet.

For the first two weeks of Dashing, Dashers do not have the option for daily cashout, only weekly pay. However, after two weeks Dashers can set it up so that for a $2 fee they can cash out directly to a debit card bank account instantly, once a day.

If a Dasher doesn’t choose to cash out their full balance on any given day the account continues to accumulate a balance after each Dash until it is ultimately cashed out to direct deposit once a week (mandatory) by DoorDash for free.

Pay Model Changes

I’ve only been dashing a few months and have experienced three different pay models (aka “Phase I”, “Phase II”, and “Phase III” as I call them) in that time. The pay model keeps changing because of legal issues around gig work… and also, I believe, because DoorDash is trying to get their formula right to be a sustainable business (rather than a WeWorkesque money pit).

I’ll share my thoughts on all three pay models with some feedback about how it “should” be, because this topic is very important among all my other hub bub, and, #freechicken.

Bottom line up front on Dasher pay potential, the ability to earn higher depends more solely on the market demand, conditions, and a Dasher’s ability to turn orders around at a higher pace than any of the changes to pay that DoorDash corporate has made in the time since I started Dashing.

For orientation, I took a few days and built a spreadsheet with graphs and charts you’ll see below cataloging data on all my orders to be able to provide you detailed insights on the market that I have experienced as it relates to many facets of Dashing, including pay…

And…

I’d bet a dollar that the amount of orders and hours I have done Dashing in this last quarter far surpasses any one else in this area as a reliable sample set for order analysis of the Petaluma food service and delivery market in some interesting ways.

Before I get to my graphs and charts n stuff, let me first clear up one very popular misunderstanding (it will be important later too):

Dasher pay for a specific order doesn’t completely come out of the order cost paid by its customer.

The only part of Dasher pay that a customer pays a Dasher directly for their specific order is the tip.

Vignette: A DoorDash customer might pay a monthly rate for some free or discounted delivery subscription, or they might pay a delivery fee that is set for each restaurant per order, or both, as it relates to any given individual order, depending on their account.

I often collect more from DoorDash (aside from tip) for an order than the delivery fee(s) the customer actually paid.

PHASE I PAY (19 AUG – 22 SEP, for me)

When I first started Dashing, the basic “every order” DoorDash pay rates amounted to $3 per order.

However, every order was a guaranteed $6 minimum pay for Dashers.

What this meant is that in the worst case, if the DoorDash pay for the order was only $3 and a customer didn’t tip at all, that DoorDash would pay the other $3 to the Dasher to make up for the lack of tip so that every order a Dasher would get at least $6.

However, in exchange for that minimum DoorDash would recoup some tip, in a way, from Dashers too, to get their lost $3 back where they paid Dashers who didn’t get tipped, on some orders.

DoorDash paid Dashers where customers weren’t in order to get drivers the pay it would take for them to do the work… in order to bring more delivery capability and gain customers.

The time period I Dashed under that model, “Phase I”, was from when I started until September 23rd, when the “Phase II” approach was implemented.

Here’s some metrics based on what I experienced in PHI. I believe there was potential to earn more during this first month, as I did later, but I was still new and learning.

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Clearly the rate of orders per hour affects hourly rate. Be brief, be brilliant, smile and be polite, pickup, dropoff, go, go, go!

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In case you wondered how much of Dasher income is tips vs. paid by DoorDash to them, there’s a graph based on my stats during Phase I.

During PHI the pay I got from orders was comprised 54.2% guaranteed by DoorDash, and 45.8% customer tips. As you can see it fluctuates greatly day to day.

PHASE II PAY (23 SEP – 24 NOV)

Within a month or so of starting Dashing (I believe in response to law suits and/or law changes around independent contractor vs. employee rights), DoorDash changed the pay model.

Where before they had paid mostly flat per order rates plus tip and a guaranteed minimum, they adopted a model whereby they would no longer take any portion of customer tips to recoup loss, would not augment lack of tips for any guaranteed minimum, and would pay rates per order based off of some calculation for order size, distance, time, traffic, and some other factors, which they call “desirability.”

I believe their “desirability” factors have to do with corporate partnerships and fee structures, and trying to make the business model profitable.

Anyways, at first I was really pissed when they changed to this pay model.

I had not noticed before how often people don’t tip at all. (MORE ON THIS LATER!)

However, in due course I saw that the portion of pay from DoorDash made more sense order by order, on the whole.

Where there were “shitty orders” (Seriously, $2?) coming, it was easier to discern that it isn’t the app… it’s the shitty customer, usually, and I stopped accepting every order that came to me if it wasn’t going to pay fairly.

Good orders also got better, and made the better customers more obvious.

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Overall pay got better… but I have come to believe that change is because of the change in season and other factors more so than the change in the formula.

That is, perhaps some college kids who were Dashing in the summer went away. Perhaps some Dashers switched to other gigs because they don’t like the lack of guaranteed order minimums. I definitely got better at Dashing and I’m certain that was the biggest cause of my pay jump more so than the change in Dasher pay through any of the changes.

The reality is that the bottom line is never insulated from the distributive property of mathematics. IMHO, some of the pay terms changed, but it’s still just the same amount of money to be collected as the market demand will deliver in any period of time.

Rookie Dashers just have to learn to be discerning of which orders not to take.

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How much a Dasher can make truly just depends on what customers will pay. During the time period of the Phase II pay formula was in effect DoorDash paid an average of 60% of the gross, and tips were 40% of that gross.

It’s ironic, in a way, that the pay change trigger centered around the issue of DoorDash’s practice of dipping into and augmenting tips; however, after the change, as a Dasher I didn’t experience a higher percentage of tips in the makeup of my pay.

Don’t believe the hype, it’s a just a finance shell pea game… you know, a good ole’ currency Chinese fire drill at a corporate level… with the distributive laws always in play.

PHASE III PAY (25 NOV – 3 Jan)

On November 25th, DoorDash implemented yet a third pay model version with a few more tweaks to their Dasher pay terms and algorithm.

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It’s essentially the same but they’ve tweaked their formula in a way where the rates from DoorDash are a little less on average per order factors.

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They also have surged more peak pay opportunities in an effort to align their available labor to the high volume times.

Overall, my pay shrank nearly 3% from the last pay rate change.

They also brought back something I really hate, and which I think could get them in more legal trouble.

That is, when an order comes it shows an overall pay… but the pay might be more.

Oooooo! That’s cool! Right? No.

It’s fucking stupid and insulting. This is what I call DoorDash playing fuck fuck games with people. I believe they are probing to see what Dashers will agree to for a future rate change iteration.

Each order is a bid for a contract. It is offered to the “Best Dasher” with right of first refusal based on a rate and terms.

If DoorDash offers a job at $5 that by the terms is actually a $6 job and withholds such material information, a Dasher may pass on an order they would have otherwise accepted had they not been “tricked” by DoorDash.

DoorDash: you should show the same information when I am sent an an order as you do when I complete it regarding pay. You should clearly display, by line, the Dasher pay and customer tip with no bullshit.

Stop playing fuck fuck games with my money thinking that a surprise extra $0.25 cents for an order is such a cool treat that I’ll forget you withheld information from me when you offered me the order in the first place.

I might have turned down orders because I didn’t know the information you withheld.

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Whether by design or by the market overall, pay was more substantially comprised of customer tip support during Phase III than it had been in the time of Phase II.

#dashcat

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Dasher Earnings

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Dasher pay.

Let’s unpack it all, it may be eye opening for you, and I’ll be transparent like no one else.

How you view the pay from DoorDashing really depends on your perspective and the context of it in your life.

At times the hourly rate is $0.00. If there’s no orders there’s no money. However, I once got an order that paid me $80 for what amounted to 20 minutes of my time ($240 / hr???).

On any given day depending on time of day, what hours were worked, what day it is, the weather, how many Dashers are in the area, how many people are eating out (i.e. how congested are the restaurants’ kitchens), what peak pay promos might be going on, what day of the month it is, lol, and a whole host of other factors… I’ve earned a range from about $17-$26 / hr gross revenue on any given day.

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However, just like I don’t get overtime I don’t judge Dashing purely as a matter of hourly rate.

Each day there is a pie of money that will be spent on food deliveries using DoorDash in Petaluma. The market.

When I work I simply want to get as much of that pie as will be getting served during the time I am working as efficiently as possible.

Doordash is a way to surge for income in the short term as much as someone is willing to work to get it for folks who don’t have a better all around earning opportunity otherwise.

For folks that do it part time, though, the hourly rate may matter more, whereas I often consider opportunity cost with heavier weight. Time spent with the meter on is not necessarily the same as time spent actually working.

Currently in Petaluma, generally, I have found it reliable that I can earn $200 or more a day on Monday through Thursday and $300 or more on Friday through Sunday, if I put the time in.

On my best day I’ve earned over $400. On my longest day my meter was on for nearly 18 hours.

When I have put in the time to do it, I’ve earned $1800 in a week. Annually that rate extrapolates to $94K, gross… but it’s more than 2,080 traditional hours.

On each day in Petaluma there’s three windows of time that most of the “pie” gets served. On days that subscribe to the norms I’ve experienced, with small margin of error, those blocks are Lunch: 1030 AM – 330 PM, Dinner: 430 – 830 PM and Late: after 9 PM.

Generally during each of the lunch and dinner blocks I have earned almost $100 on average, sometimes more if it’s a busy day. The dinner block is often most profitable because traffic goes away and people spend more on dinner than other meals.

During lunch there is lots of traffic, things go slow, the orders are smaller, and the tips are less.

It’s less volume, less revenue, and more cost for the Dasher. The late block is the opposite in sense of costs, but the volume is a total crap shoot. It’s better on the weekends, that’s for sure.

During the dinner block – especially on the weekends – DoorDash has been doing something called “Peak Pay” quite a bit lately.

During peak pay times Door Dash adds an extra bonus (usually $1-$4) per order during certain time frames within specific geographic regions. The purpose of these promos are to get Dashers to go to areas where order volume may exceed the amount of Dashers available to get them delivered.

Peak pay is when the most part time Dashers and out-of-towners flock to an area to try and earn during high volume high pay times, and the best hourly rates can be achieved, usually, if there aren’t too many available Dashers.

I don’t count hours as much because in town I can go home and do whatever and just wait for an order with my meter on… and there’s money to be made in the times between the main ordering volume blocks too, if there’s otherwise not some larger opportunity cost.

Clusterfucks between order volume and Dashers available in the Petaluma market happen with some level of regularity.

The Dashers who are available in such circumstance can get totally swamped with multiple orders, and our ability to get them delivered on time can get totally screwed.

However, we can making a killing in those time periods too when restaurants are on time.

Vignette: If I have five orders to pick up and the first restaurant I stop at is late enough, all five orders will likely be late unless I can cut the time delay driving.

Conversely, if I have five orders and the last one is late enough coming from the restaurant, the first four orders can get cold… and late.

The most pressure I ever feel as a Dasher is when I have multiple orders and it’s high volume high pay time… and restaurants are backed up.

I want to get orders served fast, efficiently, and with a smile. These are the times when the cohesion of restaurants’ ops, or lack thereof really shines. Let’s go!

#Dashcats

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Taking Control of Time Earning

It’s common knowledge to some degree or another that a draw of gig work is that it gives people the ability to work non traditional hours.

With DoorDash this is true, but what I found to be an even greater draw is the fact that my work hours aren’t limited by DoorDash like they would be in most non salaried jobs.

My ability to earn is only constrained by the market and my will. This chart shows which days of the week have the best orders and order frequency, based on my orders and when I’ve worked.

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In the Dasher app there can be some limits on when you can work, but once you learn the system you can pretty much work whatever hours you may choose, subject to the market (i.e. if all restaurants are closed you can’t Dash).

If you are a standard Dasher you can only start your Dash when it is scheduled in advance (within half hour blocks) or when you navigate to an area that is busy (the app will let you start dashing even though you weren’t scheduled in advance).

In my area (and select others, as I understand it) DoorDash has been testing a pilot program called Top Dasher. On a monthly basis if a Dasher’s ratings meet certain metrics (on time rate, high customer ratings, etc) they earn Top Dasher status.

One of the perks of being Top Dasher is that you can start your dash anywhere, unscheduled, regardless if it’s busy or not.

I have been lucky enough to be a Top Dasher 4 of the 5 calendar months I’ve been eligible. While this feature has eliminated my need to schedule in advance and enabled me to start Dashing whenever I choose, spontaneously, the practical thing that has been the biggest benefit of Door Dashing for me is that I can work as much as I want without scheduling in advance.

Dash Rabbit!

Many hourly workers wish they could work more hours in their jobs than they do, for whatever reason, but are not allowed.

Whether because of part time status, or, for full time employees, state labor regulations and employers who are miserly with overtime, “traditional” work often constrains non-salaried people in what they can earn aside from the pace of earning that is dictated by their hourly rate.

Many people are held down not just by their hourly rates, but also by the amount of hours they are (not) allowed to work.

Doordash hasn’t had that barrier for me.

Door Dashing around Petaluma, most Dashers I’ve met have some other main source of income and only Dash as I side gig. For me, there’s no draw to working a second gig that wouldn’t pay what I could do on my own Dashing.

However, there are a few people I met who Dash and also work in the restaurants in town.

There’s also a few people I met who work at more than one restaurant in town because they don’t make enough at any one to support their needs.

Some days I have Dashed from 7:30 AM to after midnight to earn what I wanted to earn that day.

The ability to earn of my own accord and work as much as I choose is something I think is a great upside to Dashing and is an overlooked benefit in the flexibility of gig work.

When I was in the Army I worked plenty of 24 hour shifts.

Civilians should not be constrained by laws in how much they can work for employers in a day in some of the ways that they are, especially if they are hourly (non salaried) workers.

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Dashers can end their dash whenever they want no matter when they start. #agency

The first three weeks I was Dashing I worked 20 days straight more than 12 hours most days. Most days I Dashed I did so longer than 12 hour stretches.

However, I also enjoyed that I could not work and do whatever I want whenever I wanted. I took off for holidays as I chose.

Life is much different when you are unbound from the 40 hour work week.

By my estimation, based on the Petaluma market (and assuming it will sustain as I have experienced), I believe that someone with low enough personal expenses (no kids, bills, low enough rent, etc), the right vehicle, work ethic, and probably not much social life could earn over a $100k gross and easily be able to save $50K to have a nest egg… from nothing… if they are willing to put in the time to do it… for one year.

In this way I love DoorDash and gig work because it can enable people to get ahead who might not find opportunity otherwise.

Not sure if DoorDashing has made it to my hometown of Flint, Michigan, yet (and I’m sure the market is much different there), but I know you could buy a house and a car there for less than $50k. Just sayin.

But also, if you Dash in Flint I’d get a concealed carry permit. Just sayin.

#Dashcats

On the Dash, black cats cross my path nearly every day. And in this case, one led to me where I was going to deliver

The Lady Who Called Me an Asshole

I really pride myself on killing people with kindness, even when they don’t deserve it. One order truly tested my patience in a way others have not.

In case you don’t know, Safeway around here offers grocery delivery. Sometimes grocery deliveries get sent as orders for Dashers when Safeway has too many to deliver with their available fleet, for whatever reason.

I like doing Safeway deliveries. They often pay more than other orders, usually the orders are going to businesses or the elderly, and they often are going outside of Petaluma so they can be a nice field trip to drop off in Sonoma or Rohnert Park, perhaps.

Anyways, one day I brought a Safeway grocery delivery to an old lady in a trailer home in Rohnert Park. It was a gorgeous weekend day and the birds were chirping. As I approached the door was open, and so through the screen I said “knock knock! I’m here with Safeway delivery!” with a smile.

The small, frail woman with a cane said to me “You’re late! You were supposed to be here two hours ago! Is the ice cream melted?”

“Ma’am, if Safeway was supposed to have your order here hours ago I really apologize. I work for DoorDash and just got the order 15 minutes ago and came here straighaway. Your ice cream is in this bag and I brought it right from the freezer for you.” I had made extraordinary time on how quickly I got there since getting first notified of the order. The ice cream was not melted.

“Here’s your receipt” with a smile “I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day!”

“Get off my property you asshole!” Right to my face.

I may or may not have said “thank you” on that one, but I continued on my Dash.

The moral of that story for everyone is to know that not all little old ladies are nice. That woman was just a mean lady, really, and as a Dasher you will encounter all kinds of folks.

Unfortunately, in this world there’s many people who simply get their kicks by taking their shit out on others. Whether to your face, or in some other passive aggressive way, hurt people hurt people (that’s what they do) and many times these kinds of people are also your customer who don’t see you as a person, just a Dasher they can get away with disrespecting in some way.

Ya gotta have thick skin to keep your sanity sometimes on the Dash, or in any service industry for that matter.

#Dashcats

Tips, Tipping Culture, and Boundaries

As a kid growing up in Flint, which has been both one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in America years before the water problems ever surfaced, we always tipped the pizza or Chinese food delivery person $2 or $3. Always. No matter what.

As as a man, I’ve always been a good tipper, I think, at restaurants and with delivery people, valets, etc. Sometimes I’m not great tipper at the bar… sometimes I’m too good of a tipper at the bar, but that’s a different story.

One of the most eye opening things I have learned since I started Dashing is how many people don’t tip at all or insultingly under tip. Makes me think of that movie, Reservoir Dogs…

In case the magnitude of “non-tipping” is lost on you, the number of people who gave no tip at all – whether in the app on in cash – is between 15 and 20%. For me, more than 500 of my 2800+ orders got no tip… and I have a 95% on time or early rating and nearly a 4.9 out of 5 customer rating.

If all those folks who tipped nothing had tipped just $1, I would have made $500 more than I did. If they had all tipped at least $2 or $3, like I did as a kid in Flint, I would have made over $1K more.

The best I can estimate is that the people who don’t tip are just ignorant and/or have some kinda selfish or stupid policy like Mr. Pink.

BAD CORPORATE POLICY

Twice I’ve delivered orders to the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Petaluma for corporate lunch orders that they spent hundreds of dollars on. Both times I got zero tip. I could have done better for myself, financially, to have declined those orders and just delivered a regular Chipotle lunch order or something, for the time.

The first one I delivered I had gone into one building to the second floor before finding out that the lunch had been moved to another… and so I schlepped the large order there up to the second floor of the other building to where it was supposed to go.

When I got there, the executive who had paid was no where around and so I left it with some staff who had no part in the actually ordering or paying process, which is what I was supposed to do. When I swiped and saw no tip I was furious.

I told the nurses “please pass on to [name withheld], that the app does have a place where he can tip!” That was my way of being passive aggressive, and I believed those nurses empathized. If they work or that guy they probably work for a total douchebag, but that’s just my guess based on my limited impression.

The owner of this Dashcat said it likes to climb all the way onto the roof from this porch.

The second time I brought a corporate lunch order to the folks at Kaiser was a little more enlightening. It was another very large order. The exec who ordered it met me outside with a cart and everything and was super nice… and when he started to walk away and I swiped and saw no tip I took the opportunity to engage him.

I explained that this was my second such large order like his that I had brought on time, with a smile, to Kaiser and gotten no tip. He apologized profusely and explained how bad he felt, but that Kaiser had a policy where tipping on a corporate card is forbidden. I believe he was being truthful. I gave him a heads up I was going to write this article.

Therefore, here’s my message to Kaiser and to other corporate execs who might implement a similar policy: Policies don’t replace leadership.

My impression of Kaiser, or any company that makes a policy like that about tipping, is that they probably had a problem at some point with people using the corporate card egregiously. It’s usually not a brand new manager with their first corporate card who goes to the bar and splurges in some way that’s “over the line” in my experience… it’s usually an exec.

However, policy doesn’t hold people accountable, leaders do. Making a blanket policy that stops people from doing the right thing rather than holding people who do the wrong thing accountable for their actions is just plain lazy garbage.

I would never do anything to the food I deliver out of anger towards a customer. I respect the restaurants I work with here too much to ever do anything like that, and probably it could be considered a criminal act if I did, maybe.

However, there’s someone out there who might just take a bite… or take a shit on… or just simply not show up with your food once they know who you are by mistreatment. Just saying.

Stopping a delivery guy from getting a tip after bringing your awesome expensive meal is just bad policy Kaiser. No slack.

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I gotta take this opportunity to bad mouth Friedman’s Home Improvement too. I delivered a big lunch for them to their corporate building, was early, nice, accommodating, everything.

I even brought the food into the the meeting for everyone.

Spent way more time than a typical drop off. No tip. I don’t shop at their stores any more. I go outta my way to go elsewhere, like Lowe’s or Home Depot, even though their store is closer.

LUNCH AT WORK

When you order meals at work, even if it is not for a corporate thing – it’s just for you – you can affect your business’s reputation by not tipping.

I often get orders for the car dealerships in Petaluma which are all pretty much along the same road on the northwest side of town.

The best tip I ever got from any of the auto dealerships over there is delivering to their security guard on a Saturday night. However, aside from that most of the orders I bring to them are tipped at an acceptable average level that I’ve come to expect from lunch orders of their size… strangely, except for one.

There is one auto dealership I have delivered to with some regularity – probably more than any other – and to about 4 or 5 different people who work there… and never once gotten a single tip from any of them. Not one dollar.

I am certain I will never buy a car there. I may never buy that brand at all because of them, honestly.

Now, I’m not going to dime out which one it is here because I already gave them a piece of my mind about it. It was some time around Christmas, and I dropped off two orders there at once for two different people who did not tip me.

Crazy five car pile up at the entrance of the shopping center

And so, there, in front of the four or five people who had all ordered from me multiple times and never tipped, I went to the one person to whom I had never delivered that I could recall (and looked like the manager).

Since it was the holiday season I was feeling all chipper and gay, and so I said to him (with a smile):

“Wanna hear a joke? It’s pretty funny. Well, I think it’s funny but some people might not. Some people might not think it’s even a joke… maybe, more of a riddle.”

He kinda looked at me puzzled, and so I just went ahead since I had his attention.

“What makes this dealership different from the Honda dealership and the Toyota dealership right up the road? They tip.” And then I said thanks and have a happy holidays as I continued my Dash.

It’s funny, a few days later during lunch I saw one of the women I usually deliver to there in front of me in the line at Jack in the Box in one of the dealership’s cars. Maybe they got a reprimand about ordering and not tipping.

Just the other day I got another order there with no tip. It must really be rough working at that dealership if you’re stretched so thin you won’t spare that extra dollar… or they’re just trying to keep the streak alive. Lol.

In any case I’ll keep bringing their orders fast and without further complaint from here on, tip or not, so long as DoorDash makes their portion of the pay worth my while.

After all, I can always decline the orders if they don’t pay enough, just as I do from time to time.

What’s the Right Tip for Food Delivery?

Simple. 10% (or more).

MY personal method is always to tip at least a $2 or $3 minimum yet always go at least 10%. If you have a $10 order and you only tip $1, I can accept that, even with my philosophy on what the minimum should be, as you “doing the right thing,” better than not tipping.

However, as the value of the order goes up so should my tip.

On any given order there is a certain set of things I will have to do no matter what. However, as the order gets bigger there’s more I have to double check and more I have to carry, etc. Just by its nature more stuff takes more time. It’s more responsibility.

As the value of the order goes up, so should the tip. At least $5 or a $50 order, and at least $10 on a $100 order. 10%. Very simple.

If you were going to go out to eat you would tip at least 15-20%, I hope, and even with the delivery fees DoorDash charges most orders over $25 or so can stick to the 10% rule on deliveries and still “save money” that they would have otherwise spent going out.

Plus, you can be naked at home if you like and don’t have to go anywhere. Tip a least 10%, and never less than a dollar.

However, there’s a bit more to it.

That is, if you are at an apartment building I’ll have to go inside or up stairs/elevator, hotel, business, really weird or far out location, etc, you should add on money for that… to compensate me for the extra time.

If you want me to call when I get there, or text, or wait, yadda yadda yadda, pay for it.

Maybe the Dasher with your order is on a pay as you go phone. Asking them to call you is asking them to pay for something for you. Make sure you pay Dashers alongside you special asks.

You have a map on your app that shows you I’m coming, and texts you. YOU ordered it. As far as getting paid in the app, the only actual requirement I have to meet is getting to that GPS location.

Extra compensation for extra expectations is only fair.

Orders with higher tips do get a higher level of service. When I get a good order I am much more invested in making that customer’s order experience positive. I want to encourage more good orders.

Need extra ranch? No problem! Oh shit, the restaurant is really busy, let me see if I can get my order moved up to take care of you.

Sometimes you gotta get your elbows in there to get orders out the door when restaurants are busy. When an order is worth more because the customer has clearly tipped it well the Dasher is your ally and advocate more than you realize.

It IS in YOUR interest to tip.

The other day I got an order for Pho Sonoma. On my way there the app sent me another pickup there (which is usually great to earn extra!), but it was only a $2 job. I declined the order.

When I got there and got my order the nice lady asked “are you here for this one too?”

I said “no,” and asked “is that the one for [name withheld]?”

She said “yes, and it has been sitting here a long time.”

“That’s because it’s only a two dollar order. No one is going to want to take it. That lady should learn to tip.” And I went on about my Dash.

If you want the most competent Dashers handling your food, tip well enough in the app that they will take your order.

When you don’t tip, and your order gets declined after the best dasher and the next best dasher and the next best, and so on, decline it, your food will sit until someone so green and/or desperate will take it to you… and they probably really don’t care about your pleasure with the experience, or whether your food is still hot, at all. Just sayin.

A few months ago there was a shooting – a murder – at the outlet stores area in Petaluma.

Police had the area cordoned off looking for the suspect. They were checking every car coming out of the shopping center to ask for information.

I had an order for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for something sweet late at night…

…and so I went in through all the flashing lights, passed by the cops and then came out into the line I knew I’d have to wait in.

I brought that customer’s order of sweet treats without issue or delay because it was obvious that they had tipped well from the moment I was offered the order.

I think you get the point, but one more thing and I’m off this topic: your kids.

Teach your kids about tipping. Have a discussion with them.

With some kids it’s obvious they’ve been taught, however I deliver to a lot of teens who don’t tip. I’ve got teenagers too and so usually it is my impression that they are just ignorant and probably don’t know better.

I recently dropped an order off to a teen who didn’t tip but exclaimed to me “I really appreciate it!” as I gave him his order, and he meant it.

He was genuinely thankful to get his McDonald’s.

I held my tongue, I don’t know why, but I nearly said “kid, if you’re so appreciative, you’re so supposed to show it with a tip!”

Parents, if you don’t teach your kids the world will, in one way or another, about all sorts of things. Whatever your policy is, have that conversation with your kids if they are going to be using apps for food delivery, at least that way they aren’t caught off guard.

Everybody ain’t as nice as me. Just sayin.

#Dashcats

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Petaluma Merchant Competition and Order Selection

Ok, now on to some business stats stuff that may be interesting to local restaurateurs, or what have you. Definitely there’s interesting things I figured out about order selection as a Dasher building my sheet products for this article.

For orientation, these stats are based on my sample size of 2,883 orders accepted for delivery, not just the 2,828 deliveries I’ve completed.

The delta is all orders that were cancelled for some reason to no fault of mine.

In those cases Dashers are entitled to half the pay, or even full pay in certain circumstances. One time an order got cancelled when I was a half mile from the house. I got full pay from that… and I got to keep the food.

Many Dashers don’t realize that they have entitlement to half pay or more when orders get cancelled.

It’s actually been very streamlined and easy for me to collect my pay due upon cancellations from DoorDash, and so I give them a lot of credit for that.

However, more drivers need to get with support to collect who leave money on the table, and support could be more effective proactively reaching out to Dashers to pay up on cancellations.

Anyways, in my charts merchants are identified, all cancelled orders are grouped, and even the jobs I did in Marin are their own entity.

The percentages really do reflect the Petaluma market for orders.

Order Volume by Merchant

The Top Five restaurants in order quantity for my orders was:

  1. Mary’s Pizza Shack by far in 1st Place with 348 orders (12%)
  2. McDonald’s in 2nd with 185 orders (6%)
  3. Chipotle in 3rd with 180. (6%)

Although, both McDonald’s and Mary’s Pizza Shack have two locations which are combined in my stats.

I would estimate that puts Chipotle at first just a few orders ahead of each Mary’s Pizza Shack location in Petaluma, that the Habit Burger is actually ahead of each McDonald’s location, and that each of the McDonald’s locations’ volumes of orders falls below Panda Express down to on par with Taco Bell and Wendy’s.

The sheets below list every merchant I’ve delivered, and includes percentage of the market based on my total orders as 100% of the market.

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These stats have nothing to do with the value of the food itself, only with the value of the orders to me as a Dasher.

However, generally speaking Dasher pay does follow some congruency to the actual value of the orders.

The stats in these sheets includes both the overall totals and the totals by phases of how my pay was being calculated, which correlates to the time periods I explained above.

I also added columns to show percent of change across the three phases.

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Mary’s Pizza shack clearly had the highest levels of consistent growth phase to phase non stop, and their brand is head and shoulders more popular for orders in the Petaluma market than any other. And with good reason, the folks at both locations are top class!

I was also pleased to see that the New Yorker Pizza & Restaurant experienced consistent growth in order volume throughout the period as well. The folks there are great and take great care of folks too! It’s great to see small family businesses compete and win.

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One thing I can tell you is that you is that there is fluctuation in which restaurants you may find on the app. Kinka Sushi is newly on the app, along with a few others that seemed to start getting more orders just at the end of the year and may begin competing for more share.

Also, I was sad to see El Roy’s is no longer on DoorDash. I didn’t get an order for them all Phase III, and they were still 11th in my overall order volume. They really had high order volume and the folks over there are great.

“It’s because El Roy’s is the fire!” one friend of mine said when I mentioned how busy El Roy’s used to be.

Vignette: There’s a few merchants who have mentioned to me that they don’t want to be on DoorDash at all and that DoorDash is offering to deliver their food without permission.

I believe that El Roy’s may have been in a similar position.

I recommend talking to the folks over there to find out how they got off the app, or why, in case it may be helpful to you.

Order Value by Merchant

For further insight by Merchant I averaged the total value (tips in the app plus pay from DoorDash) of their orders to a Dasher.

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It is important to consider order volume when analyzing these metrics because the value of individual orders can be volatile due to the the element of tips.

However, the numbers don’t lie. The best orders usually come from the restaurants highest on that list including the ones that are at least near or above the overall average of $7.98 per order.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when I started the only guaranteed minimums was $6 per order so it’s nice to see that the pay rates have mostly averaged at least that high.

As a Dasher, though, more goes into being selective about accepting an order than just the total pay for it.

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An order may be low pay but close by and fast…

Or an order may be high pay but far way and take a long time.

These sheets just reflect which merchants the higher order pay overall comes from.

DoorDash Pay By Merchant

Out of curiosity I wanted to look a bit closer at orders by Merchant. And so, I took a look at not just total pay, but also DoorDash pay versus tip. The sheets below reflect which average rates per order Merchants pay from DoorDash alone.

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It’s important to note that Safeway orders don’t ever carry a tip component. The only way a driver can get tips for that is by cash if a customer is so inclined.

I have only ever gotten tipped once in cash on a Safeway order.

It was at a nice house, over by Windsor Dr, and she arrived at her house around the same time I did, it was about 9 AM.

She explained to me that she had a dream and that God told her to tip me $20. That she normally tips the Safeway guy $10, but because she had that dream she was just coming back from the ATM.

And so she gave me $20.

I think that lady is a realtor. You know what? In a few years when I’m perhaps ready to buy one of the million dollar houses out here I might just look her up. I’ll remember her.

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The other thing that is important to consider around the pay just from DoorDash by Merchant is the corporate partnerships and levels of service agreements Merchants might have with DoorDash.

I’ll explain a bit more about that in the business model section, but another thing to consider is order size.

Aside from whatever rate of pay DoorDash offers Dashers as part of a corporate strategy (or that Merchant account), there is also a portion that correlates to the cost of the order for the customer.

Bigger order, bigger pay, usually.

Tips By Merchant

Let’s take DoorDash corporate out of the equation. Which Merchant’s orders carry the best tips, on average? The results are interesting, though slightly misleading.

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Most of the places Dashers will get the best tips are the local fare rather than the fast food chains.

Customers of local restaurants tend to extend love to Dashers in a way that is associated with the restaurant they ordered from.

Remember, food is emotional for people. Usually when I arrive at their door with food from their favorite place they are happy to see me.

These numbers follow that trend mostly.

However, there’s two other factors I believe plays into customers’ tip decisions outside Mr. Pinkism, or something.

It’s simple: cost and cash.

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Some people simply want to tip cash, and some restaurants do cash orders. Therefore. all the numbers aren’t really on these sheets. If you want to tip cash it’s cool, cash rhymes with Dash and everybody loves it.

However, when you don’t put a tip in the app your order value goes down in the app and it might not get picked up by the best Dasher.

You play Dasher “roulette” when you don’t tip in the app up front. Lol.

The other factor is cost. Restaurants that are viewed as overpriced, have higher delivery fees, or that only sell smaller orders for the most part are simply going to result in smaller tips.

However, people, we have got to do better than a $3.33 average tip in 2020.

I was giving $3 tips in Flint, Michigan in 1990 and surely the rates should have gone up more than they have since then, right?! Lol.

Small orders and fast food orders are just as much a pain in the ass as any others. The lines are long a lot and lunch time is the busiest time of day and hardest to get around town.

People inappropriately tend to tip less at lunch and for fast food.

Waiting in the Mc'Ds line editing my friend's graduate work

NO Tips By Merchant

Last but not least in my fabulous charts is one that I will think about in my Dashing decision making now that I’ve learned it. That is, which Merchants are a Dasher most likely to get no tip at all from the order?

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Now, I have to share a few caveats as I present this.

Cancelled orders and Safeway orders never get tips.

Petalumans are 3% more likely to tip than people in Marin.

Mary’s Pizza Shack orders are the ones MOST likely to get a cash tip, in my 2,883 orders of experience.

But this is only half the list, right? For the rest of the list I’m going to flip it upside down…

… because the ones least likely to NOT get a tip are the ones most likely you WILL get a tip.

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Kudos to the customers of Lemongrass Thai Noodle for always tipping!

Keep the streak alive people!

Also, I must say, kudos to the customers of Mi Pueblo El Centro too!

As a Dasher, I sometimes take orders that clearly don’t have a tip based on my estimation that the customer will tip cash because of their Merchant selection.

The good news on tipping is this: if we take out the “no tip” orders the average tip is $4.12 from people who tip.

If only the non-tippers actually tipped at that level I would have made over $2K more than I did in the quarter.

As a Dasher it is often obvious when a customer hasn’t tipped in the app.

However, the prospect of a cash tip and our estimation that we might get one based on the restaurant associated with the order can influence Dashers’ decisions around taking those orders or not.

In that way from time to time I play customer roulette, and it only pays off about 10% of the time or less, I’d say. Those are the breaks on any given Dash. Lol.

Stranger Things

Here’s a few more strange encounters (with strangers) I’ve had on the Dash.

I had one “hat trick” where I delivered to the same person three times in one day. I’ve had numerous “twice in the same day” customers, and once delivered three times to the same house during a day to different people, but only one true hat trick. The third order arrived within seconds of me completing the second one to that customer. It was strange, but cool, in a way.

I delivered to the police station and couldn’t figure out how to get out. The doors lock to prevent unauthorized exit. I eventually found the button, but was completely a confused dumbass for a few minutes, lol.

Delivering through the power outages and fire evacuation time periods was nuts. It was surreal yet fulfilling bringing delivery food to people with no power during the first safety power shutdown. Pizza and headlights into the black abyss. Thank god for flashlights or there’s a few customers I may have never found.

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When Petaluma filled up with evacuees from the fires last year it saturated the town to a halt of pace. Traffic was awful and restaurants were filled beyond capacity with people dining and online orders. The lines or gas everywhere were absolutle madness. Dasher earnings that weekend and ratings went way down. Nearly no orders were on time.

That was just at the end of October. It cost me my top Dasher status for November, but gave me the time to first start writing this article. It felt good to be bringing food to people more than usual that weekend, even though it was harder and didn’t pay off as much. On the worst day, though, I was feeling very dejected because I had earned so little after such a harder day than any other Dash.

Fake Dashcat... happy halloween!

I was about to call it quits when I got the biggest order I ever have, to bring a huge meal of Panda Express to the Falck folks who had been out all day too, in their ambulances and everything, helping folks during that disaster. That order made my day in more ways than one, and made me happy I had hung in there just a bit longer to see what that Dash might yet bring.

In October we lost our beloved dog, Ollie, which was heartbreaking for my family. In December, we found our newest family addition by coincidence when I delivered a Dash to North Bay Animal Services, and Cozmo has been a blessing. I’ve even brought him with me a few times Dashing.

Cozmo on the Dash!

In all my life I won prizes on the radio five times. Two of those times have come in the last few months on the Dash. Both times have been through 100.9 FM, “The 101”. I’ve been listening to FM radio (again) alot since Dashing. The first time I won dinner and a movie at the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastapol, which was cool.

The second time I won tickets to a kind of private-ish concert event with Too Short and some (perhaps) up and coming local bay artists. That was pretty cool too.

On the Sunday after the Emerald Cup I delivered Starbucks to a corporate cannabis event. It was on a gorgeous property with a fully catered brunch spread, mimosas, and everything… and everyone there was totally wasted at 9 am.

They were all really nice, “hey man, you want some free samples? Wanna do a dab?!”

“No, but thanks – I’ve gotta drive”

But they totally perpetuated the stereotypes. Everyone was confused and no one could figure out who ordered the coffee, and the customer wouldn’t respond to my texts and calls through the app. I left the coffee at the bar. That ordered did tip very well, at least.

My next order on that Dash was a delivery to a church, who didn’t tip me at all. The juxtaposition of things you may encounter on a Dash is sometimes truly wondrous.

And so we continue…

Gig Working vs. Employee Labor, The Business of Door Dashing and Gig Apps, and the Future of Gig Work

Shhh! I’m going to tell you a secret… the struggle is real…

…and the implications of how we as a society sustain the gig economy, or not, from where we are now can have massive effects on which way we push many struggles of life in America, for many people, and can affect the quality of life of not only all Americans, but people all around the world.

For real.

I want the gig economy to thrive. It is the great global equalizer, in a way. It can be the ground truth at all times for labor in the free market… where the workers set the rates!

It could be an apparatus to raise minimum wage everywhere, which I believe is ultimately good for everyone once we reconcile against the growing pains of change, if shaped properly in our society.

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Decisions of Unskilled and Unemployed/Underemployed Skilled Labor

In the course of being a Dasher I’ve come across a lot of people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet… or to still not even make ends meet.

Some people I’ve met work at multiple restaurants in town to earn enough, some work at restaurants and do gig work like Dashing on the side, and some work solely on the gig across apps – Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats, all of them! – and simply take whichever kind of job comes up that gets them the best money for their time at any given moment.

For me, Door Dashing has been a way to get some base level of financial security for me and my family while I continue to search for my next “real” career step…

…and as the shit hit the fan for my financial security, gig work was clearly the best option out there for earning in an unskilled capacity faster and at a higher rate than the other options, immediately.

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I contend that gig work is actually the best option for unskilled earning, and for many “semi-skilled” labor folks too.

This summer my two teens worked their first jobs. One got hired at about $14/hr and one got hired at $15/hr. We live in California. Elsewhere they would have made much less working in a grocery store and fast food joint.

On a standard 40 hour work week, $15/hr is an annual gross of $31.2K (in case you don’t know this trick just multiply your hourly rate times 2,080 for the annual rate of an hourly job), working 260 days (not counting off holidays – 5 days of 7, or 71% of days in the year).

I made $23K (plus cash tips) working 108 days of 147 (73%) since I started to Dash, and many of the days I worked I only worked a few hours (although many I worked more than 8).

On an annual basis I could easily surpass $70K gross without working as hard as many $15/hr. employees do… and if I committed myself to make as much as possible Dashing for a year I believe I could hit six figures gross, but that would be way more days and hours than a 9-5 M-F gig.

During the course of Dashing I became aware that many businesses, across industries, have immediate employment openings and demand for drivers, and most of the restaurants I’ve delivered for are hiring for cooks, servers, and all kinds of staff positions – some of them desperately need people.

I have overheard more than a handful of conversations between employees and their managers explaining that they weren’t earning enough and needed a raise or more hours.

However, sadly, I am certain that many (most?) of those openings are not ones that would pay as much as gig work.

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Why on earth would someone choose to be an employee at $17/hr. or less when they could average above $20 and have unlimited freedom to work by the gig?

There’s many driver jobs that even require a CDL and pay less than $20/hr!

Think about how many jobs earn less than $20/hr. Call center people… drivers… servers, cooks… office admin folks… “coordinator” roles… heck, even many General Manager jobs at many restaurants and retail stores only comp $60K-$80K annually guaranteed!

Here in California the cost of living is crazy high, but for the most part wages are a bit higher than other parts of the country. Although, the disparity in pay vs. cost of living is just as bad, if not worse, than it is in other parts of the country.

Why the fuck would anyone accept lower rates of pay and the stress that might come with it when they could earn more driving around collecting money, socializing, and taking pictures of cats?

There’s so much consternation and bad blood around the idea of states raising the minimum wage up to $15/hr… but if gig work is truly enabled to thrive long term I contend that states and businesses will eventually HAVE to raise their minimum wages in order to compete.

Consider the impact of a $15-$20 hourly minimum wage in places like Michigan or Georgia, thanks to gig work.

However, that vision assumes that people will have the wherewithal to cause that shift as a collective, and that the demand for gig work will be high enough in volume to sustain it.

I think it’s possible. I know it is.

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The DoorDash Model and Improvements Needed

DoorDash, this section is #freechicken for you. By the way, you should have at least called and had a conversation with me when I applied to work for you in the SF office, just sayin’.

For everyone else, food for thought, perhaps. Pun intended.

With peace and love (and I do love you), DoorDash, there is nothing special about you, and the sooner you realize that the better it will be for your sustainability.

I’m certain with the right crew of coders I could oversee building an app that works just like yours or better in like a month, or less. I don’t really see that you have any significant special sauce that simply couldn’t be replicated and done better by someone else who had the funding and drive to take the market from you.

Recently, Grubhub has been in the news a lot as being on a downward spiral of sorts. Grubhub has dealt with a slew of lawsuits around some of their practices and has experienced great market decline while DoorDash has gained market share.

For more insight, here’s a few things I saw pop up in the course of writing this piece. I won’t belabor regurgitating all the details from these other than perhaps a few quotes, but I recommend them, FYSA, if this topic is interesting to you:

“Grubhub sale rumors highlight the state of the struggling food-delivery industry”

“The Great Food-Delivery Fight Arrives in the U.S.”

Grubhub just agreed to a big change. What you need to know about the food delivery service

I’ve known DoorDash was going to take market share for a while… simply because of my own behavior.

That is, as someone who loves food delivery I had gravitated first towards switching between the Yelp Eat24 app and Grubhub for a while (years ago)… and at a certain point Yelp24 got eaten by Grubhub and I began to try DoorDash…

… and eventually only used DoorDash.

I still get $5 off coupons in my email from Grubhub, regularly, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve checked out Uber Eats a few times but never made an actual order on it.

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Clearly, many people have had a similar experience.

The biggest reason for my consumer behavior with deliver apps? It wasn’t the fees. Overall the fees between the apps are about the same, to me… and it’s not the app either. Overall the functionality of all these apps is the same too.

The reason I switched is for the selection. DoorDash quickly had more options for vendors I could order from, while it seemed to be the same restaurants without much growth or new options for me to choose from on the other apps.

As I understand it, Grubhub’s model established a delivery platform (software) they provide to their partners (food vendors) for some fee structure (base subscription fees, I’m guessing, plus some set of fees on the actual revenues, orders, etc.) without actually providing anything else for those businesses… the delivery labor pool and service relied on the vendors to cover that themselves.

DoorDash’s approach has been smarter, but they have made some similar mistakes as Grubhub (and Uber Eats too) in some regards which will threaten their sustainability.

Let’s talk about pizza for a second.

Once upon a time at the national level the ONLY players in food delivery were the pizza joints. Domino’s and Little Caeser’s (#motown) were household names.

Years ago Little Caesar’s shutdown it’s delivery service and leaned into the “hot ‘n ready” cheap and fast pickup model, which, if you’re paying attention, is the way Domino’s seems to be leaning more towards these days too (do you really think delivery insurance is going to make your delivery service viable again???).

Just last week I delivered my first Little Caesar’s order via DoorDash.

I predict that in due course all major state, regional, and national food chains that offer delivery as part of their core business will move towards outsourcing that labor through a third party delivery app.

Which is all DoorDash really does. That is, their model is to provide a platform for their vendors’ ecommerce with customers, but to also connect their vendors orders with the outsourced labor that will deliver the service, on demand.

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For the hours in a day that delivery orders are busy for any restaurant, there are as many if not more that are dead for delivery orders.

For every restaurant that such is true, therefore, employing people full time to deliver on demand loses sunk money, more than it makes all the time…

… and, therefore, outsourcing delivery can keep the restaurant’s costs for that service congruent to the actual demand, be a profitable endeavor, and enable that restaurant to realize revenue and brand loyalty where they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Meaning, if I am considering ordering food delivery it is very rare (almost never) that I will choose to go do take out or dine in from a specific restaurant instead to get the specific thing that I want from a merchant that doesn’t offer delivery. Duh.

If I’m thinking delivery and I want this, I’ll take that instead if the only way I can get this is to go there myself. Almost always. When people want delivery the whole point is to not have to go anywhere more than it is about wanting only a specific thing. Again, duh.

All you need to dominate the on demand delivery market is the orders and the labor to deliver them.

Grubhub didn’t generate either, and is now reaping the results… a merger or acquisition won’t stop it’s murder and decapitation, only prolong the dead man walking duration. They need more than that.

According to one of the articles above, Uber Eats is losing nearly $1 or every $1 of revenue they generate. Perhaps they enjoy some cost savings through some sharing of infrastructure with the other Uber apps, but I’m willing to bet they’re actually overall not profitable either.

Uber and Lyft, already proved that their models aren’t profitable (yet?), as far as gig companies go. However, I don’t believe that’s because their services can’t be; in their cases it’s been more about being way too fat in overhead and shitty corporate behavior and philosophy more than anything, IMHO.

They drew the people’s ire and behaved badly with their gold mines.

While DoorDash has had a few lawsuits already, they are still among the youngest of the gig leaders and haven’t gotten the black cloud over them in regards to trust the way some of the others have, as far as I know.

Although, it may be coming.

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For orientation, as a Door Dasher when I accept an order and arrive at a merchant I may have any one of three sets of activities to perform which depends on DoorDash’s relationship with that merchant, or “Tiers of Service.”

On some orders (let’s call it “Tier 1”), where a merchant is “fully plugged in” with DoorDash, all I have to do is pick up, and it moves like clockwork. The full ecommerce system is in place between Dasher, merchant, and customer. The customer’s electronic order goes all the way through and it is mostly seamless.

On some orders (let’s call it “Tier 2”), where a merchant may actually have no relationship, or a limited relationship, with DoorDash I have to pay and pickup. I use my DoorDash supplied Red (corporate credit) Card to pay for the order that has been (most likely) called in by DoorDash (support?) personnel after it was ordered and paid for online by the customer first to DoorDash. The customer’s order and payment do not reach the merchant directly in these transactions. The Dasher is not only the driver, but the apparatus to complete the order payment with the merchant too, in order to pick up and deliver.

Lastly, on some orders (let’s call it “Tier 3”), where the merchant has NO relationship with DoorDash at all, I, as a Dasher must place the order, pay, and pick up. These types of order are most time consuming for Dashers, because they include waiting on the order to get made by the merchant. In these transactions there is no connectivity between the customer and merchant via the DoorDash app, although customers may believe there is. Customers see the merchant and a version of their menu online on DoorDash, and then pay DoorDash for an order which is not actually going to be placed until I, as the assigned Dasher, actually go make it happen.

These three “Tiers of Service” between DoorDash, Dashers, and Merchants also equates to different tiers of revenue for DoorDash’s service merchant by merchant, and the different fee rates to customers merchant by merchant.

DoorDash has gotten more orders because they’ve offered more vendors than other apps. They have gotten the labor because they have paid the best to drivers (from what I understand).

They have laid the groundwork to stay dominant, but we are at a crucial point in their life.

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DoorDash charges from “free” to $5.99 per delivery, at most, per order, plus tip, to customers.

So far, having Dashed 2800+ orders around Petaluma, on average I make more per delivery than the fees customers have paid DoorDash for the order. On average, I have earned $7.98 per order comprised (rounded to the penny) of $4.66 from DoorDash and $3.33 per customer.

Higher than average rates from DoorDash are usually paid for orders associated with higher fee Merchants, which are usually Tier 2 or 3.

If the 20% of customers who didn’t tip at all tipped at the averages of everyone else, that $3.33 would go up to $4.12 and the average total order would be $8.77.

If all the merchants I dealt with were on Tier 1 service the amount of orders per hour I’ve averaged would go up a LOT, possibly double.

In my market, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that only one third (or less) of the 95, or so, Merchants I have delivered are on Tier 1 service.

Why does that matter? Because the aside from customer fee revenue the only other revenue DoorDash gets is from Merchants that have actually partnered with their service, in my market less than one third.

I’m certain DoorDash is losing money on every order just like Uber Eats is.

DoorDash blitzscaled their orders by offering menus online without many Merchants’ permission. They still do today. In the articles above I read that Grubhub got slapped with lawsuits for the very same practice.

I can tell you that any restaurant I’ve talked to that is on Tier 2 service HATES it, and it gives them a negative impression of DoorDash. The biggest complaint? The staff calling in the orders doesn’t speak good English and makes the ordering experience terrible for the Merchant.

It’s quite possible that NONE of the Merchants on Tier 2 or Tier 3 have given DoorDash permission to advertise and re-sell their menus. Tier 3 Merchants definitely don’t pay anything to DoorDash, and I’m fairly certain at least most Tier 2 Merchants don’t either.

Some Tier 2 & 3 Merchants that may not have given permission don’t mind DoorDash’s audacity, as they have realized gains because of it… and pay DoorDash nothing for the free marketing and revenue channel.

However, some Merchants are offended by it real bad, and it’s only a matter of time before DoorDash feels the stings of lawsuits as Grubhub has.

On one hand, there is nothing wrong with DoorDash offering delivery of Merchants by Dashers in a Tier 3 capacity. Me, Josh Maynard, ordering, paying, picking up, and bringing you something from your favorite restaurant (that doesn’t do delivery) and collecting reimbursement and a fee from you for it by mutual agreement is essentially no different than any of us might do for a friend or a member of our families.

I am allowed to shop wherever I want like anyone else, even for someone else.

On the other hand, though, using a business’s brand and selling their products online without their expressed permission is not good business, if legal at all, for DoorDash or other apps.

More than a handful of local restaurants on Tier 3 service that didn’t give DoorDash permission to advertise them often refuse service the orders of Dashers, or make the process painful enough for Dashers that they won’t take the orders from that Merchant any more for delivery.

Some customers are aware of this, I’ve been asked about it from time to time during drop offs.

In order to be sustainable DoorDash needs to eliminate Tier 2 and 3 Service that doesn’t have Merchant agreement to be on the DoorDash app, even if it means lowering the fees they might want to charge them for real partnered service, but they need to get Merchant buy in rather than being so cavalier.

There is a way to do this and still sustain orders.

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But first, let’s talk about drivers.

Drivers are the life blood of pretty much every gig app, for better or worse, regardless of their platform & infrastructure sophistication. In the articles above, the volatility of the food delivery industry and gig apps in general is cited as highly attributable to lack of consumer loyalty.

That’s because the service is commodity.

Who gives a shit if it’s Uber or Lyft, or DoorDash or Grubhub? No one.

All I need is a ride from point A to point B at an acceptable cost, or all I want is a burger.

Whichever app can give it to me doesn’t matter, just like I might switch between Netflix or Prime depending on which one has what content I want to see.

It’s not the app I care about, it’s the availability of what I want.

DoorDash needs the best Merchant and/or “goods” selection to keep getting orders, and should not expect any consumer loyalty if they don’t have those goods.

No goods and no service is delivered without the labor, as Grubhub figured out.

What DoorDash needs to do is lean into making Dashers loyal, which is much more realistic. If DoorDash has the drivers, they can deliver the goods and realize what will look like customer loyalty, statistically.

How to get the drivers? Pay them; or rather, get them paid.

Here’s an idea: hey DoorDash, you should implement a mandatory 10% tip on all orders.

Vignette: Funny, in the course of writing this I saw this headline just pop up! Great minds:

Instacart workers are organizing national boycott to reinstate a default 10 percent tip

Right now is the time to strike and lead the way on mandatory tip, DoorDash. You have market share and more options than the other apps. Establish a “new norm” for the 20% of people who don’t tip at all.

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Stand by your labor. If the delivery isn’t worth it to the customer, don’t commit your labor.

80% of people will feel no change – they are already tipping 10% or higher.

The other 20%? They will either “pay to play” or they will eventually have to get up and go get their own food.

Taking this “drastic” stand will ensure that Dashers view every order as “worth it” and encourage them to drive for you.

It will also ease your bleeding a little and offset some of those labor costs you have had to pay, back on to the customers who want the products your commodity can bring them.

You should take that money and invest it more into your infrastructure. I have lost huge orders as a result of your system wide crashes and glitchiness numerous times as a Dasher in the last few months.

I’ve had to answer to pissed off customers and Merchants to boot as a result too, through no fault of my own.

As mature and popular as you are you should be better than the kind of systems problems I’ve experienced. If you WANT to lose customers and Merchants alike then don’t heed my advice here. Just sayin.

I also recommend that you add a functionality to accept / decline orders via text with a “Y” or “N.”

Often times, in poor signal quality areas, texts get through but the software may not sync or respond to the incoming order notifications. Adding text functionality beyond what you have would be a good move.

I also recommend that you add the ability for Dashers to be able to rate customers.

I also recommend that you enable Dashers to see more clearly how saturated with labor they’re area is at any given time, even while Dashing, similarly to how in Uber people can see how many drivers are around.

I also recommend that you stop the “fake out” “you might get more” order total shenanigans.

I’m pretty sure here in California there’s an easy lawsuit for a Dasher to win against you, if they had a mind to, based on that bad practice.

Be transparent about order pay up front more than you are. Remember, every order is a bid for contract.

Dashers will self manage if you provide them accurate real time information. Withholding information or taking actions that don’t properly consider your need for the respect of your Dashers is the surest way to discourage driver loyalty.

Change your pay model for order types. I believe you already account for the “Tiers” in your pay algorithm because you understand the time it costs Dashers at Merchant not on your plans.

However, grocery (Safeway) orders are being severely under paid as of the last pay model change, whereas they were being paid more appropriately earlier in the fall.

As you roll out pharmacy orders and order routes, as you emailed about, you have got to distinguish pay models for order types properly and you should lean into “qualifying” Dashers for the various types of orders they might get based on ratings and experience in your algorithm.

The Future of Gig Work

I don’t like the idea at all that the courts might constrain the rights of people to work on the gig economy as Independent Contractors just because some people would rather be employees.

I do understand that in some professions, such as in sex work, workers are disadvantaged by businesses’ ability to force them to be Independent Contractor status workers rather than employees, and we need to help people in that situation with protections of law.

I believe we do need to update our laws to protect workers from predatory business practices, but that we should not emplace laws that restrict independent workers and competition.

There is some good in unionizing, but I don’t see that as the overall “right” answer either.

Frankly, I see unions as another entity that would constrain me. Perhaps there is some newer better version of unions that is a better fit for today than the unions of old, which I see as outdated in many ways for today’s world.

If gig app companies make the right decisions around how they treat their contractors they could stave off union overrun of their businesses.

Gig companies can establish options for labor to choose to be employees or independent contractors without changing what they are paying for labor overall, but the terms of performance and earning potential between the two choices must be distinguished and made clear. If companies can figure out this wrinkle, it will go a long way to their scalability, sustainability, and profitability.

As I understand it, one of the biggest reasons many Independent Contractors want employees’ status is for health care. 

Ultimately, we as a society have got to move to a better dynamic where health care coverage is not tied to employment. The way Americans cling to work for health care is institutionalized slavery for many, and in that way our norms strangle the American dream from many.

I like it that DoorDash has partnered to offer affordable health plans to it’s Dashers. 

It should be very feasible for Independent Contractors to not lose their status and simply pay “employee rates” for a health plan from any number of apps that might employ them for contracts. 

To me, this is an easy way to compromise short of much bigger changes in our society, which courts should uphold as adequate.

Once we figure out the right mix of legal protections to allow choice of status to workers, we should lean into the world of gig work.

Here’s an idea: how about an app called “Jobs” or “Tasks on Demand”?

Using a few of today’s gig apps as an example, if I am registered on Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, and I want to “gig hop” – meaning take jobs on whichever one might be busy at the moment – I kinda can’t, at high quality.

I have to switch through each one separately, turn my meter on and off in each, and juggle my funds from each in different mediums.

What about an app that acted more purely as a broker of various types of “Jobs” or “Tasks” that needed to be done by any available labor at the time?

Picture one app that would send any Uber, or Lyft, or DoorDash, or Instacart (for examples) delivery to anyone qualified in a certain geographic area to do the work, on demand, in one platform.

The functionality could expand beyond the gig apps we have today. 

Anyone (customer) could offer whatever need they might have (hang some curtains? Clean my bathroom? Pick me up some pants? Or some pad thai? Or give me a ride? Et cetera) and input what they will pay for it, and the app simply routes the orders to the “best qualified” labor for whatever task type that is based on rating and performance metrics… who can accept the job or decline before it’s passed on to the next prospective contractor.

An app like that truly could equalize the labor market for what work consumers (and businesses?) need done, and what people would accept to do it.

Many people accept less pay than they could get doing gigs, because they don’t want to do gig work. Gig workers will do a lot of work that many people won’t, for the right amount of money.

All apps like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc, do is connect labor to a need with some level of quality assurance behind it and manage the ecommerce of it all. They’re just craigslist, or next door app, in real time, for certain limited services.

Short of a wide open market system like I described above, the best bet for DoorDash, or Grubhub for that matter, is to seek to own more of the supply chain and partner across competitive lines with each other. 

DoorDash or Grubhub purchasing one another does nothing for their actual problems getting to scale. Grubhub purchasing something like Instacart or Postmates could be another story.

DoorDash is expanding what it offers beyond restaurant food delivery. As a Dasher, I have done grocery deliveries partnered through Safeway, and expect to soon see pharmacy deliveries too.

Anyone remember an app called WunWun? DoorDash (or some other app) could become what WunWun sought to be. Order what you want, when you want it, and it shall appear.

The framework is there for DoorDash to become that, but not under the one size fits all model it’s applied to its order rates so far.

Grocery stores, retail stores, etc., don’t typically have an ecommerce department for immediate deliveries of things off their shelves.

When there is high order volume, my local Safeway easily gets behind on getting orders together for me to deliver for the same reasons Little Caesers went hot ‘n ready pickup. 

It costs too much to employ full time staff for the volatile impulse buys of delivery. Instacart and Postmates already know this, I believe.

My local Lucky California (grocery chain) is now on DoorDash, but only for limited items from the deli. I’ve talked to the management at my local store and been told “we don’t have the staff to pick the items of the shelves” in order to do full grocery delivery.

The segmented markets of ride sharing, order picking, and transportation/delivery may not be margin enough for any one tech giant to sustain its overhead and infrastructure against the revenue pool and labor availability.

However, collectively the orders are there to pay the people who would do the work if the task and order supply chains were pooled into a true open contractor market. Gig companies need to embrace these concepts or they will simply find themselves making the same mistakes as each other over and over, and spending way too much time in court. Lol.

One Comment on “Adventures of Door Dashing in Petaluma, California

  1. Pingback: (4) BLUFs: Reach Out and Touch Someone

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