The Ugly Side of Working as a Food Delivery Driver
4 min read | Nov 2021

The Ugly Side of Working as a Food Delivery Driver

We are underpaid and overworked. I wish customers would understand the obstacles to handing them dinner.

guksu / Millennial / Progressive / Student

I am speeding down I-40 westbound toward Downtown Albuquerque when I receive every food delivery driver’s least favorite text message: “Part of my order is missing.” Usually, I would return to the restaurant, request the missing item and deliver it to the customer, apologizing profusely. But this lady lives 30 minutes from where she ordered, and I am already late picking up my next delivery. So I follow the standard protocol, telling her to contact the restaurant or DoorDash’s customer service to resolve the issue. This response is met with a slew of complaints because customer service is useless. “Why didn’t you just check the bags to make sure nothing was missing?”

I express my understanding of her frustration because I do. I understand how annoying it is to pay for a service and not have it perform as promised. But we are in the middle of a pandemic, and it is company policy that drivers do not open their customers’ orders because, like I said, we are in the middle of a pandemic. If I were to go through orders to ensure all the items were in place, I would receive warning notifications in my app that the customer reported tampering with their food—notifications I sometimes receive anyway, despite never tampering with orders. 

I don’t hear back from the customer after my explanation. An hour later, I receive a response in the form of a one-star rating and a thumbs down for communication in my DoorDash app. I don’t want blame to be directed toward restaurants, even though it’s often the case that the driver has nothing to do with the mistake, particularly when it comes to missing items in sticker-sealed bags.


Being a Food Delivery Driver Means Taking Blame for Unhappy Customers—Even When I’m Not at Fault

One time, I delivered to a customer who claimed to be missing part of their order, only for me to return to their door where the “missing part” had been sitting on the doormat the entire time. They’d only bothered to collect one of their two bags. I have asked drive-thru employees for the drinks on the customer’s order, only to be told the drinks were already in the bag, which I’d later learn from the customer that they weren’t. I have had customers request additional items after I have long since left the restaurant, as if either of us would gain anything from my returning to the 30-minute-long drive-thru line for a couple packets of hot sauce. 

I have had customers complain about taking too long in said 30-minute-long drive-thru lines, because it’s clearly my fault that the restaurant is understaffed and had to close their lobby. While the occasional understanding customer exists, their basic human decency gets overshadowed by the people who direct all their complaints toward their delivery drivers. After all, we’re the most accessible punching bags, the shields held up at the front lines to protect the big-name brands from taking the damage.

Delivery Driver Gigs Do Not Pay Well—Even With Tips

Despite DoorDash’s claims that they pay according to the distance of the trip and the time it takes to complete it, drivers earn about $3 per trip, not including tip. Tips generally range from $0 to $3, so if you were to average one trip per half hour, earning $3 tips, the hourly wage would be $12. Granted, this is based on my experiences in New Mexico, which may receive lower wages than big cities like Los Angeles and New York City. But a full tank of gas costs at least $30 now, meaning three hours of work is required just to fuel the vehicle that allows me to deliver. (Don’t get me started on the cost of vehicle maintenance.) 

Uber Eats used to be better than DoorDash. They stayed true to their promise of earnings based on distance and trip time. But they have since lowered their wage per trip to $2, competing with DoorDash to see who can make their employees quit faster. On good days, I will get a three-mile, $2 DoorDash trip and earn a $5 tip. On bad days, I will get a 10-mile, $5 delivery to someone twice my age who thinks they can tip with lip service, commenting on my appearance as if that will help me pay my bills. On good and bad days, I will gamble on short-distance McDonald’s trips, with a 50-50 chance of getting tipped a couple of dollars at most because why should you tip your driver if the restaurant is just around the corner? Surely it can’t be that much work to pick up and drop off your order. Couldn’t you pick up the order from the restaurant just around the corner if it isn’t that much work?


Are Delivery Jobs Worth It? No. But I Still Have to Pay My Bills

In effect, food delivery drivers are like waitstaffs: underpaid and overworked, the root cause of all customer problems. DoorDash and Uber Eats drivers are supposed to have an “easier” time than waitstaff, free to schedule their own hours and work within the seated comfort of their own car, but that logic only applies if your preferred hours are during mealtimes or when people have late-night munchies and if you enjoy running your car into the ground by racking up thousands of miles driving back and forth from restaurant to house to restaurant to apartment and back again for six hours straight. 

Which, yes, I continue to do because just like waitstaff keep their wretched jobs to pay their bills, I, too, keep my wretched job to pay my bills. Wretched, I say, though I appreciate the few people who go out of their way to tip me a couple extra dollars in cash or give me a can of beer to enjoy when I get off. And, unlike waitstaff, if someone tries to complain to me about their food or lack thereof, I have the option of ignoring their call or text message, though I can’t say I ever have.

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