What It's Really Like To Work For DoorDash

Online food delivery platforms such as Uber Eats, GrubHub, and DoorDash have taken the world of couch dining by storm. Over 112 million Americans said they've used a food delivery service in 2021, with 60% ordering delivery services or takeout at least once per week. And the trend is not showing any signs of slowing down with the booming industry projected to hit $32 billion by 2024 (via Fundera).

With a 56% market share in the country's online food delivery industry, there are over a million DoorDash drivers in 7,000 cities across not just the U.S. but also Canada and Australia, according to Go BankingRates. That's a lot of drivers! As such, it's little wonder that becoming a DoorDash Driver, or a Dasher for short, is pretty easy. All that's required is an insured vehicle or a bicycle and a smartphone. A quick license and background check and you are on the road. There's more to being a Dasher than meets the eye, however. Keep reading to find out what it's really like to work for the food delivery platform.

DoorDash drivers like the flexibility of deciding where, when, and how much they work

With the slogan "Your time. Your goals. You're the boss," DoorDash positions itself as an employer of choice for those looking for work flexibility (via DoorDash). And this is the main appeal of the job for most Dashers — being their own boss and the freedom to take on as much or as little work as they wish. All while making the most of the entrepreneurial spirit of working as an independent contractor.

Jerry Graham, who has been driving for DoorDash for around six months, said he was attracted to the job because it meant he no longer had to deal with a boss. "Almost every time I've left a job, whether it was a side hustle, day job, or contract work, it was about my boss ... Not having a boss is a big bonus for me," he wrote on Kinda Frugal. Mike Hayes, who works as a Dasher in Oregon, told Business Insider that he doesn't mind being an independent contractor because the gig lets him take days off and look after his children while his wife is at work. Nevertheless, he was also quick to point out that the flexibility of the job has its limits, "People eat at set times, so my schedule revolves around when people are hungry, rather than when I want to work."

The base pay for DoorDash drivers is low

DoorDash drivers are paid per delivery rather than per hour. Unfortunately, the payment structure, which consists of base pay and peak pay, leaves much to be desired. The base pay depends on the distance, time, and desirability of each order while the peak pay is typically an extra few dollars per delivery during busy periods. There are also promotions that let drivers earn more money for finishing a set number of deliveries over a specific period of time (via DoorDash).

According to the DoorDash website, the company's base pay ranges between $2 and $10+ per order (via DoorDash). This seems to have been lowered, per a TikTok video posted by Denise Small, "As if a $3 base pay from DoorDash was not insulting enough, they've lowered it to $2, $2.25, $2.50, $2.75. I've declined so many orders because they've been $2." Another dasher agreed, telling Business Insider, "I've gotten offers for $3.75 to drive 30 miles, and that's just ridiculous."

On July 31, 2021, some Dashers went on strike after a post on Reddit called for drivers to switch from DoorDash to Uber Eats for the day. One of the demands was a $4.50 minimum base pay rate. We aren't sure how many DoorDash drivers took part in the strike, but so far the effort seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as Dashers geared up for another set of strikes in the spring of 2022 (via Reddit).

DoorDash drivers rely on tips

Since DoorDash's base pay and peak pay system just don't cut it, Dashers rely on gratuities to bolster their wages. Customers can tip when placing their order through the app or after the food is delivered to their doorstep (via Ridester). When deciding whether to accept an order, DoorDash drivers can see their total earnings per delivery, including the base pay, peak pay (if applicable), and tips. However, it's only after the delivery is completed that they see the breakdown of the amount they have earned (via Shop Food).

Since drivers see the entire amount before accepting the delivery, orders without tips usually take a while to get picked up. Mike Hayes, who Dashes for the company, told Business Insider, "Offers with the lowest tips generally get passed down through different Dashers before someone accepts them. My piece of advice for customers is to tip more than $5 on your delivery if you want it to arrive fast."

Up until July of 2021, Dashers were able to see the monetary breakdown of each delivery — including the tip — by downloading a third-party app called Para. Almost 200,000 Dashers signed up for the app within months of its release. However, last year, DoorDash rewrote its code, cutting Para off. This loss of tip transparency was one of the reasons why some Dashers went on strike on July 31, 2021 (via Vice).

DoorDash is better as a side hustle than a full-time gig

While the flexible nature of Dashing is a definite bonus, many drivers have said that the job is better as a temporary or a part-time gig rather than a sole source of income. This is mainly because DoorDash doesn't guarantee a stable wage — the delivery service only pays for the deliveries a driver completes. This can be problematic during slow days. Mike Hayes, who works as a Dasher, told Business Insider, "On a good week, I can make up to $800 working about 45 hours a week. On a bad week ... I can make around $200 to $300. The downside of being an independent contractor is not having a fair wage or any real benefits."

Nevertheless, Dashing can be a great option for those looking to supplement their salary. Doing deliveries for DoorDash as a secondary source of income has worked out well for Jerry Graham, "My primary source of income is project-based, and I work remotely ... I need a side hustle I can do according to my schedule quirks. When I have free time, ideally I would use it to make extra money" (via Kinda Frugal). Other Dashers have also said that working for DoorDash is a great in-between-jobs gig, as one driver highlighted on Reddit, "It [is] a bridge to find another job with better security and a better workplace."

Order acceptance rates matter

Since tips make a huge difference to the income of DoorDash drivers, it's little surprise that orders with low, or no tips, get rejected. So are there repercussions for a Dasher who repeatedly hits the decline button on those pesky $3 orders? The answer is both yes and no. As independent contractors, Dashers are free to accept or decline each order. And while DoorDash cannot take any punitive actions against a driver who rejects multiple orders, declining orders can prevent a driver from qualifying for the company's Top Dasher program. (via EntreCourier). Along with some other requirements, Top Dashers need to accept at least 70% of orders offered to them. They are then offered "priority-access to high-value orders ... on top of being able to dash anytime, without having to schedule."

While at a first glance, high acceptance rates might be a sign of a more professional driver, things aren't this black and white. According to driver Omar Zahran, the DoorDash system practically forces drivers to take low-stake orders to maintain their Top Dasher status (via Medium). This is because the inability to "Dash Now" might just kill a driver's business, as highlighted by Dasher Kevin Smith on Quora. "I'm in a city where trying to schedule dashes is nearly impossible. When I first started I relied on the "dash now" option. But now that my acceptance rate ... has dropped to 55% I kind of screwed myself."

DoorDash's cash policy has made drivers fearful of being mugged

Dashers are far from happy about DoorDash's new cash-on-delivery policy. And the sense of annoyance is palpable on social media. Dasher SophiaF88, posted on Reddit, "People knowing we don't have cash is what makes me feel semi-safe doing this. This is gonna get people robbed." Another issue brought up in a viral TikTok video posted by Alex Serves Tea was the fact that drivers now have to carry extra money in case a customer needs change. "My days as a waiter making change are long over, no way I'm starting each shift making sure I have enough bills and coins," The_Sparklehouse posted on LibReddit.

A recent carjacking of a Dasher highlighted the issue of driver safety. The Dasher in question was held at gunpoint while delivering Taco Bell. The robbers ended up stealing all the valuables from her vehicle including $200 in cash — luckily, the car was later found and returned to its owner (via KFOR). On a more positive note, Dashers can decline Cash on Delivery orders — it's unclear whether this affects their acceptance rating — and have access to SafeDash, a service that connects them to the police and ADT security services if they find themselves in trouble.

DoorDash and restaurants don't always see eye to eye and this can affect drivers

To attract customers, it's important for DoorDash to have as many restaurants on its app as possible. In theory, this should also provide exposure for restaurants. However, the reality is not quite so rosy, with many restaurants unhappy about Dashers picking up orders. To a large extent, this is because DoorDash charges restaurants up to 30% per order for the privilege of appearing on its app (via NWA Online). In addition, some restaurants say that they never gave the delivery platform permission to post their menus. One Reddit user explained, "DoorDash delivers until they receive a cease and desist order. It's pretty much their business model ... The theory is that you will partner with them when you see your sales go up or at least won't care if they send in drivers."

Another reason for the disconnect between Dashers and restaurants is their different priorities. Dashers are usually thinking about time since their wages depend on the number of deliveries they complete. As such, they don't appreciate wait times at restaurants. They are also annoyed by the lack of consistency between restaurants, even if they belong to the same chain. McDonald's is a case in point, with some outlets demanding that Dashers go through the drive-thru and others that they ring a special orders doorbell. The drivers' frustration is often seen as a lack of professionalism by restaurant staff who are often also under pressure to complete orders (via Medium).

Some DoorDash drivers have been fired for stealing food

In the DoorDash world, tampering with food isn't uncommon. From missing food items to entire meals being stolen, the delivery system can leave a lot of people hungry. One incident involving missing food was captured on a TikTok video under the handle @katelyn8560. After ordering Taco Bell through DoorDash, Katelyn noticed that her food order bag was ripped open. Upon checking the receipt, she realised that her Doritos Locos Taco was missing and requested a refund. Presumably, to prove that the order had been delivered, the Dasher sent Katelyn a photo of the delivery bag on her front porch. Unfortunately or fortunately, they left their Dorito-dust-covered fingers in the foreground. Not surprisingly, DoorDash has since fired the driver (via TooFab).

While Dashers can be removed from the platform for stealing food, most order mishaps are due to restaurant mistakes. According to Isabel Kidd's post on Quora, if the bag arrives on the customer's porch sealed with stickers, Dashers are not docked for any order mistakes since this indicates that they were made at the restaurant. This said, she also points out that she is sure that DoorDash keeps track of any such problems "to see if it is reoccurring with the same drivers."

DoorDash requires all of its corporate employees to deliver food at least once per month

DoorDash believes in making the higher-ups put themselves in the shoes of their employees. The WeDash program does exactly this — it requires all employees, including DoorDash's CEO Tony Xu, to don the hat of a delivery driver at least once a month. All money generated through the program is donated to charity. "As the company grew, the founders wanted everyone to experience different parts of the product so we could get closer to all our audiences and understand how the product works," a DoorDash spokesperson told CNN Business.

Not everybody has been happy about the program, however. In December 2021, a DoorDash corporate employee who reported making $400,000 a year complained about WeDash on the anonymous employee platform Blind. Entitled "DoorDash making engineers deliver food," the post bemoaned the fact that the so-called engineer would have to hit the road, "I didn't sign up for this, there was nothing in the offer letter/job description about this." Luckily, other DoorDash employees disagreed in the comments to the post, "Most of my coworkers and I are excited. DD pays well and I get to better understand what I'm working on, and hopefully improve the experience for our Dashers" (via Business Insider).

Car wear and tear can be an issue for DoorDash drivers

While many Dashers seem to think that their only outgoing expense when working for DoorDash will be gas, this is far from the case. Car wear and tear, and even the occasional parking ticket, can put a huge dent in the salary of a delivery driver. Dasher Vianne Curiel explained to Eater, "You are putting miles on your car ... I think I added 40,000 miles in a year or a year and a half." According to another Dasher, Moshe Ben Dovid, the "stop n go" driving he does for DoorDash has wreaked havoc on his car, "It wears out everything from the tires on up. Brakes and suspension take a beating and the extra miles will wear away just about everything faster than when most people use their car" (via Quora).

Many DoorDash drivers recommend factoring in vehicle wear and tear — not just gas — when calculating income. In an EntreCourier article, one Dasher advises setting money aside for car registration, insurance, and car maintenance from the first day on the job. "If you know your car costs 30 cents a mile to operate, then put 30 cents aside for every mile you drive each week."

DoorDash was sued for ripping off driver tips

DoorDash changed its payment policy in 2019 after paying $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of absconding with drivers' tips. The original payment model saw DoorDash paying its drivers a flat rate of $10 per delivery. This included a base rate of $1 and customer tips. If a customer didn't tip enough, DoorDash made up the difference. If a Dasher got a relatively large tip, however, DoorDash used the extra money to subsidise the hourly wage of its other drivers (via ShopFood).

Implemented in 2017, this payment structure worked until two articles — one in The New York Times and the other in NBC News — shed light on the practice. The revelation didn't go down well with customers who were upset that their tips didn't go directly to their delivery drivers. More specifically, they were enraged that their tips were used to subsidize the drivers' base pay, which they believed should have been covered by the company (via Business Insider). Since DoorDash changed its payment policy in 2019, drivers have been able to keep 100% of their tips (via Cnet).