DoorDash: What Only True Fans Know About The Food Delivery Service

DoorDash dates back to 2013, beginning as a small delivery business in Palo Alto, California. In fact, its original name was Palo Alto Delivery, and its four founders created it to assist the lack of delivery drivers for restaurants in the area. Within a half an hour of going live with Palo Alto Delivery, the first order came in (per DoorDash).

In its early years, the founders had to quickly begin hiring other drivers to help them keep up with all the orders they received. This evolved the business model into what it is today: an app-based company that virtually anyone can sign up for to earn extra cash as an independent contractor delivery driver. DoorDash has certainly expanded since then, now offering its services in small and large cities across the country. According to Business of Apps, DoorDash is the top food delivery service in the country, seeing a significant increase in revenue and subscribers since 2019.

But there's more to this food delivery service than you know. Keep reading to learn how the pandemic affected DoorDash, why customers love its refund policy, and why restaurants and drivers aren't always its biggest fans.

DoorDash was founded by three Stanford college students

Today, DoorDash is a multi-billion-dollar company (via Yahoo! Finance). But like so many behemoth corporations before it, the delivery service had humble beginnings. It started with, of all things, macaroons. In the early 2010s, Stanford University students Tony Xu, Andy Fang, and Stanley Tang were working on a project to utilize technology to help small businesses. It led them to a meeting with the owner of a macaroon store who was struggling to fulfill all her delivery orders (via the Seattle Times). She described a situation the three students had heard frequently: Demand was too low to warrant a full-time delivery person but too high to allow her to make all the deliveries herself.

Xu, Fang, and Tang went to work creating a website featuring menus from local restaurants. "It was super simple, ugly, and honestly we weren't really expecting anything," Tang said. "All of a sudden we got a phone call – someone called! They wanted to order Thai food." The trio made that first delivery themselves and continued building the business while in school. "We would go to class, and then after we would go deliver food," Tang said.

The hard work clearly paid off and then some. DoorDash became a public company in 2020, instantly turning Xu, Fang, and Tang into billionaires. All three continue to serve on the company's board of directors. Additionally, Xu is DoorDash's CEO and Fang is Head of Consumer Engineering.

There aren't as many driver requirements as you might think

When you're hired to make deliveries for a restaurant, you have to go through a typical employee hiring process that may include an interview, hiring paperwork, orientation, etc. You should also expect your driving record and vehicle to get scrutinized, as restaurants want to make sure they hire safe drivers with reliable vehicles to represent their companies.

You might be surprised to learn that DoorDash requirements for drivers aren't very strict. As a DoorDash driver, you're an independent contractor representing yourself, technically. Therefore, DoorDash just wants to make sure that you are who you say you are and don't have any criminal activity on your record. DoorDash requires a background check using a third-party service called Checkr to get an overview of a potential driver's criminal and driving history (via DoorDash).

Other requirements are relatively basic. You must be 18, have your own insurance policy, have a valid license and Social Security number, and have a reliable mode of transportation (per DoorDash). However, several Dashers admit on Indeed that getting accepted is super easy. One person says that if an area is in desperate need of drivers, you can get started right away, adding "I applied one day and was delivering the next day." Other Dashers mention that if you clear the background check, you're basically good to go.

All employees must deliver — even the CEO

DoorDash has a roster of delivery drivers in each of its delivery areas ready to go during their selected shifts. But that doesn't mean that DoorDash's employees are off the hook. In late 2021, DoorDash surprised just about everyone, including its employees, by announcing that every single one of its staff must make at least one delivery a month. That's right — even the CEO has to deliver. The policy, known as WeDash, originally began in 2013 to ensure that DoorDash's salaried staff engaged in the same experiences as drivers to learn what happens behind the scenes (per CNN).

However, the program's reinstatement didn't sit well with some employees. One DoorDash engineer wrote in an anonymous Blind post, "I didn't sign up for this, there was nothing in the offer letter/job description about this," to which someone responded, "Not acceptable in any[]way!" There seems to be a way out for those who don't want to participate, though. According to Fox Business, employees can work alongside customer support agents to learn more about common consumer issues or support a merchant instead.

DoorDash pay is hit or miss

Talk to any Dasher, and you might notice a common theme: how they talk about their pay from the delivery app varies significantly. One driver might tell you that their pay isn't worth their time, while another could gush about their high earnings from just a couple of hours of work on a busy weekend.

DoorDash's payment model is a big reason for those differences. Drivers earn a base pay for a delivery that takes into account the distance for the driver, the estimated delivery time, and its desirability. They also get 100% of the tips earned for their deliveries and have a chance to qualify for extra money from challenges and peak-time deliveries (per DoorDash).

However, delivery areas and the times a Dasher works can really play into their overall pay. For instance, busy cities will probably give Dashers more opportunities to have a packed delivery night than small towns. And, delivering during dinner rushes will usually net higher hourly rate equivalents than delivering in the early afternoon.

Take a look at reported Indeed salaries to see how much driver pay can fluctuate. The average reported salary is about $13-$14 per hour. However, several reports mention that gas takes a huge chunk of Dashers' pay and that much of their earnings relies scoring the best, high-paying shifts.

DoorDash allegedly duped customers about tips

In 2019, DoorDash was hit with a lawsuit from Washington D.C.'s Attorney General, Karl Racine. The lawsuit alleged that, instead of giving Dashers the tips they earned from deliveries, DoorDash used those customer-paid tips to pay its delivery drivers' base pays. Therefore, the money customers were leaving for tips to thank their drivers wasn't necessarily getting used as they intended. According to the lawsuit, DoorDash was using this tipping model from July 2017 to September 2019, potentially misappropriating "millions of dollars in tips" (via Restaurant Dive).

In September 2019, DoorDash changed its tipping model over to its current one in which drivers keep 100% of the tips they earn. However, the company heavily disagreed with the claims brought against it in the lawsuit about its old tipping model. Still, in 2020, DoorDash settled the lawsuit, paying a total of $2.5 million to delivery drivers, the District, and District charities (per Business Insider).

Many drivers don't love the experience

It's not uncommon for workers to dislike some aspects of their jobs. Apparently, independent contractors like DoorDash drivers aren't exempt from having complaints. While you might think that choosing your own schedule and having the freedoms that independent contracting provides is great, some Dashers have plenty to dislike about their experiences delivering with the app.

Indeed reviews reveal some of the most common complaints from DoorDash delivery drivers, with one of the top reasons for negative experiences being a lack of Dasher support. One driver writes, "Worst ever. Horrible Dasher support." Another says that there is "no customer service with clearly speaking English speakers. No support." Other issues mention the "glitchy app" and low base pay.

Reddit also sheds some light on Dashers' true feelings. One Redditor mentioned DoorDash docking their delivery time after delivering the order, chalking it up to "system mistakes" that result in violations against their account. Another Dasher complained that trying to find orders they want to complete is challenging, sometimes rejecting "70 or more offers to get a good one."

The COVID pandemic boosted DoorDash's business

The COVID pandemic temporarily closed down restaurant dining in many areas. While many began reopening with safety precautions several weeks later, some people still preferred takeout as a seemingly safer alternative.

That could be why DoorDash flourished during the pandemic. DoorDash said (via TechCrunch), "58% of all adults and 70% of millennials say that they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago," noting that the pandemic has "further accelerated these trends." DoorDash also received 45% of all third-party delivery orders, became number 12 on CNBC's Disruptor 50 list, and earned close to a $16 billion valuation in 2020 (per CNBC).

DoorDash not only boosted its own revenue, but also assisted restaurants in staying busy and profitable, according to its economic impact report released in October 2020. The report notes that 67% of restaurants found DoorDash to be "crucial to their business during COVID-19." Additionally, 65% of restaurants said DoorDash helped them increase profits during the pandemic.

DoorDash doesn't always get permission from restaurants partners

You might think that restaurants would have to give the thumb's up to DoorDash before the company can post a restaurant's menu on the app and begin deliveries from that restaurant. However, DoorDash has tangled itself in quite the controversy for adding menus and delivering from restaurants without asking restaurants' permission.

A pizza place owner in Cincinnatti told WXYZ Detroit that the restaurant's reputation has suffered since DoorDash began taking orders without its permission. It all started with customers calling the restaurant to complain about missing or incorrect items. Soon, owner Kevin Leidecker found out that his menu had been added to the app, so customers understandably began to order. However, Leidecker said that the menu wasn't up-to-date or detailed enough to ensure correct orders.

One restaurant staffer took to Reddit to complain about the same situation. "Today, we've been receiving calls from DoorDash, asking if their orders are ready for pickup. The thing is, we NEVER put our restaurant on this website. We will be complaining to customer service, but this is ridiculous that something like this happens without any authorization or permission."

Due to backlash, some areas are pushing for third-party apps like DoorDash to ask for consent before publishing restaurant menus. For example, California pushed through the Fair Food Delivery Act in 2021 to require agreements between restaurants and delivery companies (per Food & Wine).

DoorDash has been accused of misclassifying its workers

DoorDash operates under the business model where DoorDash oversees a team of independent contractors as its delivery drivers. However, many Dashers and misclassification experts alleged that DoorDash misclassified Dashers as independent contractors when they really should be employees.

Tensions came to a head in California, a state that pushed through misclassification lawsuits for other similar app-based companies, including Uber and Lyft, in 2020 as part of a new law known as AB5. Complaints alleged that DoorDash is unable to prove that its Dashers are free from company control in how they complete their work, and that Dashers do not perform work outside of DoorDash's usual course of business, which is delivering food (via Lawyers and Settlements).

DoorDash joined forces with other app-based companies the same year to fight against AB5 with Proposition 22, a ballot measure that would allow the companies' independent contractors to remain classified as such (per the San Francisco Examiner). Prop 22 passed in November, but DoorDash still had to settle for a tentative $100 million for misclassification lawsuits in California and Massachusetts (per Bloomberg Law).

You could get Thin Mints delivered by DoorDash

If you're craving a box of Thin Mints, Adventurfuls, or Tagalongs, and DoorDash is in your area, you might be in luck. As of 2022, the food delivery service offers speedy delivery of several varieties of Girl Scout cookies right to your door. CNET reports that the partnership is valid throughout the time that Girl Scouts typically sell their cookies, which is usually from January through April, for as long as the popular boxes are available.

DoorDash's vice president Shanna Prevé said in a statement (via CNET), "Through this collaboration, we aim to provide access and opportunity for Girl Scouts, while providing their neighborhoods with safe, efficient and enjoyable ways to support their local troops." Unfortunately, the cookies will only be available in select areas through DoorDash, depending on whether there are sellers in your area, but you can check the DoorDash app to see if you can satisfy your sweet tooth.

You can order groceries with DoorDash's newest venture

During the peak of the pandemic, many businesses got creative with their business models in an attempt to adapt to the changing needs of customers. In late 2020, DoorDash did the same, introducing a new venture called DashMart. According to a DoorDash press statement, DashMart is a brick-and-mortar location designed to compete with your local convenience stores. In the shops, you'll find everything from pet food to cheesecake, which you can have delivered to your home just like DoorDash's restaurant offerings.

Originally, DashMart operated in eight cities, including Chicago, Cincinnati, and Columbus (per DoorDash), but it has since expanded into more than 25 locations (via New York Post).

The idea behind DashMart is to make DoorDash even more accessible and convenient to customers, catering to the modern desire for instant gratification. DoorDash CEO Tony Xu tells CNBC, "It's a bit like the express lane inside of a store, whether that store is a grocery store or a convenience store, or a pharmacy. You're going to be able to get it in about 30 minutes. You really don't have that proposition anywhere else."

Slow packing times will start costing restaurants more for DoorDash orders

In April 2021, DoorDash announced that merchants could choose from three different partnership plans with various commission rates and benefits. To become a partner with DoorDash, restaurants and other merchants pay a commission to DoorDash, but they get the added benefit of convenient delivery for customers. Commission rates generally range from 15% to 25% for deliveries, with the higher tier giving merchants access to DashPass customers and larger delivery areas.

But, the Wall Street Journal reported that McDonald's restaurants might notice commission prices increasing if they take too long to pack orders starting in 2023. The higher commission happens when orders take more than four minutes to pack, increasing to 17.6% for non-DashPass subscribers, up from its usual base 11.6% fee.

A McDonald's spokesperson told Food & Wine that the company strives to put its customers' needs first and that commission rates are just one piece of the puzzle to consider when making agreements with delivery providers like DoorDash.

Driver safety is a top concern for DoorDash

You may have heard or read news stories about DoorDash delivery drivers getting hurt or killed on the job. In August 2021, Noel Njoku of Springdale, Maryland, was shot while driving for DoorDash, a gig he had just recently picked up (via NBC 4 Washington). In December of that same year, a DoorDash driver in Gary, Indiana, alleged that he was involved in a carjacking by three men, one of whom held a gun to his head, as he walked out of a gas station (via The Times). The Baltimore Sun also reports that a teenager has been charged in the January 2022 murder of Cheryl McCormack, a DoorDash driver in the Northeast Baltimore area, after refusing to hand over her cell phone to the teen.

These events certainly aren't exclusive to DoorDash. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that fatal injuries were at a five-year high for driver/sales workers, with 14 deaths intentionally caused by another person in 2019 alone.

However, DoorDash has taken steps to ensure the safety of its drivers. DoorDash partnered with security service ADT to allow Dashers to connect discreetly and quickly with an ADT agent by pushing a button on the DoorDash app. The feature can help drivers get speedy access to 911 if needed.

Customers are quick to point out DoorDash's flaws

It's not likely that all customers will love everything about a company. And, with a service like DoorDash that relies on the use of independent contractors that aren't necessarily trained for their delivery job, there are bound to be some complaints.

Such is the case with DoorDash, which doesn't fare well on some review sites, like SiteJabber and, with its respective one-star and one-and-a-half-star ratings. The most common complaints stem from slow waiting times, a lack of customer support, and delivering to the wrong addresses. Yikes!

One reviewer on SiteJabber said, "Wish I read the reviews before ever using Doordash. As someone that uses delivery services often, Doordash is the worst. Do yourself a favor, and don't bother!" A reviewer adds, "Horrible experiences! My order was missing items twice. The second time I called to complain and they said since iv already paid. We'd to take it up with the restaurant. Very unhappy and would Strongly recommend not using them."

To be fair, similar app-based companies, like UberEats and GrubHub, have similar review profiles on these sites.

DoorDash's refund policy might be a little too lenient

While some customers complain that customer support is lacking with DoorDash, others love it for its refund policy, which seems to be almost too good to be true — maybe even to a fault.

According to DoorDash's Terms of Service, "Charges paid by you for completed and delivered orders are final and non-refundable. DoorDash has no obligation to provide refunds or credits, but may grant them, in each case in DoorDash's sole discretion." In other words, the company does not have to provide customers with refunds, but it can choose to do so when it wants.

However, Redditors share that they've been able to use the app to request a refund for a missing item or unsatisfactory order, and they get the order refunded, no questions asked. One commenter admits to getting refunded 18 times in a row. Another adds, "I have heard stories of people doing this, and eventually their account usually gets deactivated so they can't order anymore. But why not do it every once in a while?"

According to Daily Dot, the lenient policy has even gone viral on TikTok, thanks to a posted video showing a person receiving what seems to be a free Sonic Drive-In meal from DoorDash after getting a refund. One of the video's commenters explained, "For anybody asking what it is, basically you tell them to leave it at the door wait 15 mins and say it was stolen and you get refunded."

Here's how the DoorDash customer rating system works

DoorDash allows customers to rate their delivery experience on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. This score is based strictly on the delivery, not the quality of the food. According to DoorDash, a driver's rating is calculated by averaging their 100 most recent scores. As a Dasher completes more deliveries and accumulates newer scores, their older scores get erased. For example, if a driver received a majority of 3-star ratings when they first started, but are now getting 5-star ratings, the lower scores will get dropped and the driver's rating will continue to rise. This "rolling basis," as DoorDash calls it, ensures a Dasher's rating accurately reflects their current performance. 

The magic number in the world of DoorDash ratings is 4.2. That is the minimum customer rating a Dasher must maintain at all times, or risk becoming deactivated from the platform. Of course, there are many circumstances in which a customer may be dissatisfied with delivery — and, in turn, give a poor score — through no fault of Dasher themselves. To make the scoring system more fair, DoorDash removes any score below 5 stars in certain situations. These include restaurant wait times of over 10 minutes, orders with missing or incorrect items (when the bag is sealed), delays of more than 15 minutes caused by multiple previous Dashers unassigning, extreme weather conditions, and uniquely challenging delivery situations related to protests.

DoorDash offered financial assistance to drivers during COVID-19

In March of 2020, DoorDash announced it would be providing its delivery drivers with up to two weeks of financial assistance if they couldn't work due to a COVID-19 infection or mandatory COVID-19-related quarantine (via TechCrunch). The policy, which remained in place until October of 2022, applied to workers in the United States, Canada, and Australia if or when they had worked for the company for at least 60 days and made at least 30 deliveries in the previous month. Those Dashers who qualified for the financial assistance were given a one-time payment equivalent to their average earnings over a two-week span. This total was calculated based on the worker's previous three months of earnings.

To prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19, any Dashers receiving financial assistance had their accounts temporarily suspended, thus prohibiting them from working (and ostensibly from double-dipping between their delivery income and DoorDash's assistance payment). The delivery service also announced at the time that it was providing more than 1 million sets of free hand sanitizer and gloves to its couriers.

DoorDash introduced contactless delivery during the pandemic

By now, we're all very familiar with contactless delivery, in which a delivery driver leaves a customer's food outside their home, alerts them of its arrival through an app, and never comes in close proximity with another person. But this method was a fairly new concept only a few years ago. So much so that it wasn't even available when ordering through DoorDash before 2020. According to Reuters, the third-party delivery service did not offer no-contact delivery as one of its official delivery options prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — though customers could have left their Dasher instructions to leave their food outside.

That all changed quickly as the pandemic spread across the United States. In March of 2020, DoorDash's founder and CEO, Tony Xu, announced the company was making contactless delivery its default option for customers. It was one of several moves the organization made at the time to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The update meant that when customers were checking out via DoorDash's website or app, the "Leave it at my door" option was automatically checked off on the drop-down menu. If diners didn't want their food left outside, they had to manually change their delivery method to the "Hand it to me" option. Even then, however, Dashers themselves could request a contactless delivery by reaching out to customers through the app. According to DoorDash's customer support page, the move to make contactless delivery the default option is temporary. 

In-N-Out Burger once sued DoorDash

Many fast food restaurants were quick to embrace third-party delivery services as a means of expanding their customer pool. The legendary In-N-Out burger chain, however, is not like most fast food restaurants—and it was even willing to go to court to prove it. In 2015, In-N-Out sued DoorDash in hopes of prohibiting the company from delivering the restaurant's food (via TMZ).

In-N-Out accused DoorDash of both trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to Eater. Regarding the former allegation, the restaurant chain stated that DoorDash illegally used a fake version of In-N-Out's logo on its website and advertising. In addition to the trademark issues, In-N-Out had major concerns about how delivery would affect the quality of its food. The lawsuit claimed that In-N-Out's lack of control over delivery times, food temperatures, food handling, and safety practices could result in customers receiving meals that don't meet the burger chain's standards.

"We have asked DoorDash several times to stop using our trademarks and to stop selling our food," an In-N-Out spokesperson told Eater. "Unfortunately, they have continued to prominently use our trademarks and serve our food to customers who believe that we are responsible for their delivery." Fortunately for the burger chain, the legal recourse seemed to scare DoorDash straight. In-N-Out was removed from the delivery service's long list of restaurant offerings after the lawsuit was filed. To this day, In-N-Out cannot be ordered through DoorDash.