At a time when social distancing is the norm, food-delivery app couriers face a dilemma: How to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, while still generating income?
As of March 17, customers can still order food through apps like DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats. But sometimes the trips aren’t worth it to the courier – whether it’s the health risk or the payment.
“Sometimes you drive four miles for $4. Or eight miles for $5,” said Weston Maher, 33, who works for UberEats and DoorDash. “I think it should be salaried. A base pay … some of them say that you can make up to $22 an hour, so if I’m sitting there (on the clock) for an hour with no orders, they should pay you $22.”
Maher’s sentiment was echoed by Jim O’Connell, 50, who also works for DoorDash and Uber Eats. “Sometimes the pay doesn’t coincide with the distance.” He added that these past few days have been “slower” with fewer orders, but the people he is delivering to are very grateful for his service.
“I had a customer today message me (through the app) to thank me and telling me to be careful. That felt nice.”
O’Connell, whose ex-wife and son are currently quarantined, also understands when people request “contactless” deliveries. “It’s different when it hits home.”
And at the end of the day, someone is delivering those orders. With fewer orders coming, as is the case with O’Connell, tips from customers become much more relevant for couriers. Maher said that with more companies having employees work from home, those corporate orders (which are usually accompanied with a larger tip) have declined. While Maher confirmed that tips through the app go directly to his check, he did wonder about the impact of tips to his bottom line.
DoorDash, Postmates and UberEats understand the risk couriers are facing by interacting with various customers during their shifts and the strain that social distancing places on their partner restaurants, and they have implemented different policies to address both.
DoorDash’s being proactive
The San Francisco-based company is maintaining regular delivery rates for their couriers, and has started an assistance program for couriers who have been quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19.
“This program will provide up to two weeks of (financial) assistance to Dashers and Caviar couriers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are subject to quarantine at the direction of public health officials,” said DoorDash in a statement to USA TODAY. “We have also begun distributing much-needed supplies to Dashers in affected areas, such as hand sanitizers, gloves and wipes.”
Couriers can also order these items free of cost, but they do have to cover shipping expenses.
While the company has provided options for couriers to do contactless deliveries, in practice that has been difficult to maintain, as Maher and O’Connell explained.
Postmates launches relief fund
Postmates confirmed that is also maintaining regular rates for couriers. Additionally, the 9-year-old company has taken a proactive measure to encourage its couriers to be on top on their health.
With the launch of the Postmates Fleet Relief Fund, the company intends to cover the costs of co-pays or medical expenses related to COVID-19, regardless of diagnosis. “In the event a fleet member tests positive for Covid-19, the fund can be used to cover 2-weeks paid sick leave,” the company said in a blog post.
“The fund will credit Postmates’ health savings vehicle (a free benefit for the Postmates powered by Starship), which fleet members may use to cover the costs of doctors appointments and other medical expenses,” Postmates confirmed to USA TODAY.
Contactless delivery is also an option for Postmates deliveries.
Uber Eats focuses on local business
Uber Eats, launched by Uber in 2014, seems to maintain regular rates for deliveries, as couriers reported.
The company is also providing financial assistance for up to 14 days to couriers and drivers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been asked to self-isolate. The assistance will be based “on your average daily earnings over the last six months,” the company explained in a blog post.
With declining foot traffic and some local governments barring restaurants from hosting patrons, Uber Eats is launching dedicated marketing efforts to drive local business sales. Among them, waiving the delivery fee on all independent restaurants and a new feature that allows all restaurants to receive daily payouts, rather than the typical billing cycle, Uber Eats said in an statement to USA TODAY.
Uber Eats also offers contactless deliveries. “Uber has been very transparent since the virus started,” added O’Connell.
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