In an absolutely depressing bit of déjà vu, DoorDash’s controversial tipping policy—the one that generated a good amount of outrage nearly six months ago—has received renewed attention this week, reminding us that DoorDash and companies like it continue to exploit workers even after ample (but ultimately inadequate) outcry.
Coverage of the policy—one that seemed upon its implementation in 2017 specifically designed to confuse workers about how it worked—resurfaced this week after a New York Times reporter completed a 27-hour stint as a dasher (DoorDash-speak for its delivery workers). In his report on the experience, reporter Andy Newman wrote that he pulled in slightly below $10 an hour, which falls below New York City’s minimum wage. He also talked about his experience with the company’s tipping model, which uses customer tips to supplement a worker’s wage.
The policy has worked, until recently, by masking the breakdown of per-delivery wages and using clever language that claims dashers keep “100 percent of customer tips.” What is actually happening is that DoorDash agrees to pay as little as $1 per delivery as part of a guaranteed minimum. So let’s say a delivery promises a minimum of $8, and a customer tips $4 on the order. DoorDash will apply that $4 tip toward the base pay, will pay $1, and then will cough up an additional $3 to make up the difference. In other words, that delivery driver is making $8 rather than $12.
If this infuriates you, it should. But it’s also been happening for years. And despite a veritable tsunami of press coverage on the practice—in addition to a tech worker boycott and an investigation from San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement—it continues. It’s a sobering reminder that short of consumers flipping the hell out a la the #DeleteUber campaign, companies are often more than happy to lay low and continue fucking over their independent contractors.
Further indicating that DoorDash is unwilling to overhaul this rigged payment system in any meaningful way, DoorDash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu announced in a blog post last month that—following what I can only assume was a totally impartial and thorough internal review of the policy—the wage model would remain in place. The company would, however, begin more clearly outlining how wages break down, Xu said, in effect just screwing workers to their faces.
“Overall, we heard that Dashers value transparency and fair, consistent earnings. With our current pay model, Dashers see a guaranteed minimum—including tips—prior to accepting a delivery,” Xu said, illustrating the kind of sleight-of-hand the company uses in its messaging to assure dashers that the company isn’t outright stealing their tips (which would be illegal).
It does not have to be like this, of course. And history has shown that a palpable response from consumers does have results. Take, for example, Instacart. The company was shamed earlier this year—right around the time that DoorDash was getting heat—into changing its own shitty wage model in response to both worker and consumer backlash.
Short of that response, the best thing you can do for DoorDash workers is to tip in cash. Dashers will appreciate it, and DoorDash will have to fucking pay their workers what they’ve actually earned.