During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic many people sheltered indoors are turning to food delivery apps to have meals or groceries brought to their doorstep. But some drivers working for popular app DoorDash are making as little as just over $3 an hour, according to multiple DoorDash drivers.
One reason some drivers are making so little money during the coronavirus crisis is that they accept orders from restaurants DoorDash lists as open, only to find out that they are closed when they get there. The drivers then have to waste more time navigating DoorDash's support system, which is struggling to keep up with the volume of requests and is operating with a limited number of staff due to the outbreak.
"Phone support is 100% unavailable right now. The only option is chat, and then it’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll ever get to speak to someone," one DoorDash driver told Motherboard, referring to the support system they may contact if a restaurant is closed. Motherboard granted the driver anonymity so they didn't receive retaliation for talking to the press.
Despite some drivers talking with the support team to sort out the order, in some cases DoorDash doesn't provide them full pay for the order, and doesn't let them process other orders before the issue is resolved. This means they miss out on income that may be especially crucial at this time, while they risk further exposure to the coronavirus delivering items for people who can afford to use a food delivery service. Drivers have encountered this problem before, but with the coronavirus pandemic it is particularly pronounced as more restaurants close and DoorDash's support system is stressed.
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Restaurants that accept DoorDash orders typically have a tablet running DoorDash software, and restaurants can mark themselves as not receiving orders, the driver explained. But some restaurants are leaving their tablets online despite closing because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the DoorDash system assumes they're still open.
When drivers accept an order from a restaurant only to discover that it's closed, the DoorDash app asks drivers to send a photo through the app of the closed restaurant. DoorDash may then take the time to verify itself that the restaurant is closed.
"Queue times are often an hour or longer. If you do luck out and get someone, they’ll unassign you and give you half pay. If you can’t, then your only option is to unassign yourself, which affects your completion rating and you get paid nothing for time wasted," the driver told Motherboard. A driver's completion rating needs to remain above 70 percent to be allowed to work on the app.
That half pay can be as little as $3.50 to $3.75 for the hour spent talking to support, according to multiple threads from other drivers raising the issue on online forums during the pandemic. The driver Motherboard spoke to added it would be $3 to $4 on average.
Some drivers do suggest another option to deal with this problem: asking the customer themselves to cancel the order. In that case, the driver would be given half pay, but they don't have to stop working to chat with support for around an hour.
"But this is sometimes tricky to explain to them [customers]. 'Hi, could you please cancel your order because the store is closed? Normally we could do it but we have no support right now that we can contact,'" the DoorDash driver told Motherboard.
"Phone support is 100% unavailable right now. The only option is chat, and then it’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll ever get to speak to someone."
DoorDash told Motherboard it is actively reaching out to restaurants to confirm if they are open or not, although the drivers' experiences show there are some gaps in the company's approach. The company said that if a driver is only given half pay while talking to support for over an hour, the driver should reach out to DoorDash directly. DoorDash added that its support system is working with a limited number of support agents due to the global pandemic.
"In light of the unprecedented situation, we are actively working to ensure we have the most up to date restaurant hours and information on our platform. Our policy has always been that a Dasher will receive 'half-guaranteed pay' if they arrive at a closed merchant location and report the closure to us through the in-app process. We understand that in some instances, Dashers may be redirected to support and experience a longer than usual wait time to report a store closure. In those cases, we’ve updated our policy to grant Dashers 'full-guaranteed pay'," a DoorDash spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement. DoorDash did not clarify when asked if it updated the policy before or after Motherboard approached the company for comment on this story.
On its website, DoorDash says it has moved all orders to so-called "no contact" orders, where drivers drop-off food without coming into close proximity with customers. The company adds it has shipped hand sanitizer and gloves to DoorDash drivers.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.