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DoorDash May Finally Change Its Shady Tipping Policy

After a spate of bad press, the company says it will no longer repurpose workers' tips to pay their wages.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jul 24 2019, 7:11pm

Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

This time last week, DoorDash's biggest PR problem might've been Chris Payton. The Pennsylvania man spoke to his local news station, alleging that his delivery driver had helped herself to his rack of ribs, leaving behind two meatless bones and a set of visible bite marks on what was left. "I was just dumbfounded. I was really shocked that something like that would happen," he said at the time.

But on Saturday, Mother Jones published a piece describing DoorDash's not-terribly-worker-friendly tipping policies, and encouraging customers who use the app to tip their drivers in cash instead. And a day later, New York Times reporter Andy Newman wrote about his own experiences as a delivery courier for DoorDash (and a couple of other on-demand food services) in New York City. And that seems to have gotten the company's attention.

Newman said that he didn't know how DoorDash distributed its drivers' tips until he was on his very first shift with the company. Basically, DoorDash offers each worker a guaranteed minimum for each job and, just as an example, let's say it's $5. If the customer gives the driver (or the Dasher, to use the app's own vocab) a $2 tip, then the tip goes toward meeting that $5 minimum, and DoorDash only has to pay the Dasher $3. If the customer doesn't tip, then DoorDash would pay the entire $5.

Yeah, that's bad—and not just because most customers probably think that their tips are going directly to the drivers. A DoorDash spokesperson told Vox that customers tip less than the drivers' guaranteed minimum around 65 percent of the time, and they don't tip at all 15 percent of the time. In the Times, Newman wrote that he didn't receive a tip on "almost two-thirds" of his deliveries. (Honestly, if you're not willing to tip your driver, then its probably best if you turn off Criminal Minds, push yourself out of the the couch cushions, and go get your own food.)

That system has been in place since 2017, but after enduring a not-undeserved amount of backlash, DoorDash swears it's going to change. In a five-tweet thread, DoorDash CEO and co-founder Tony Xu addressed the controversy, and said that the company "didn't strike the right balance" between compensating drivers for non-tipping customers and, you know, not taking their tips to pay their wages.

"After a year of research and conversations with thousands of Dashers, we built a pay model to prioritize transparency, consistency of earnings, and to ensure all customers get their food as fast as possible," he wrote. "We did not launch our current model to pay Dashers less. In fact, when we moved to it, our average contribution to Dashers stayed the same. Going forward, we’re changing our model - the new model will ensure that Dashers’ earnings will increase by the exact amount a customer tips on every order. We’ll have specific details in the coming days."

That's super-thin on details—it's not clear, for example, whether Dashers' rates will drop overall as a result. New York City Council member Brad Lander has suggested that in addition to receiving 100 percent of their tips, drivers for DoorDash and other delivery apps should be more fairly compensated, all around. "[W]hat it calls for is better public policy. These are workers, and they deserve living-wage pay, benefits, and a social safety net," he tweeted. "Time to rein in the abuses of gig-work."

But for real, until that happens, start tipping in cash. And, if you're part of the ultra-awful 15 percent who don't do it already, start tipping, period.