Back in 2001, I was working for the Papa John’s in the Meadowbrook area of Fort Worth. It was one of the worst locations for a store I’d ever worked. The basic problem was that the area was big, but back then big areas weren’t uncommon for pizza places so it was a second factor. That factor was that the store was in the center of the area where there were a bunch of businesses and also a bunch of houses. Meanwhile, the population density of the area, where the apartments were located, was at the far northwest and the far northeast parts of the delivery area. This meant that the drivers spent most of their evening driving the farthest they could drive in the delivery area, which meant that in order to keep our delivery times somewhat consistently below 40 minutes; we had a lot of drivers and almost always left with a double when going to an apartment.
I walked into work one day to find a scathing note from the area manager (who was a super douchebag, just so you know) pinned to the center of wall above the driver table. It showed our driver stats and had our average deliveries per hour highlighted. Most of us were averaging around 2.6 to 2.9 deliveries an hour. The day drivers, who were sometimes sent out the door with three or more deliveries at once, were showing an average of 3.5 deliveries an hour.
I read the note that super douchebag had written and then examined the highlighted numbers. It took me about 20 seconds. The note said something to the effect of “Our standard is for drivers to average 4 deliveries an hour. This is unacceptable and must improve immediately.” I looked at my boss and said, “He does understand that since no one is averaging over four deliveries that the only ways to achieve that is to have fewer drivers or more deliveries, right? And neither of those things are things are factors that we drivers have control over, right?” My boss looked up at the note and said in his very dry way, “I doubt he understands very much at all.”
I’ve been doing Uber Eats since 2018, minus about eight months when I first started working Domino’s. For a system that is meant to allow drivers to sign in and do everything themselves through the app, I spend a lot of time on phone reporting issues. One of my repeated statements has been, “I’m doubting that anyone who designs and updates the app ever actually goes out and delivers on the weekend to see what’s actually going on, or there would be things that we drivers complain about constantly that would be fixed immediately.”
This became obvious to me again Friday when they added a completely useless feature showing us what our acceptance rate is for delivery orders. Mine was low for last week because I only worked a little over one hour. I was willing to go on for another half hour to try to get the first Quest bonus, but the only way I could get the bonus was to accept a double before the time ran out. So I declined singles and then signed out when I didn’t get a double. Basically, I didn’t want any more orders for the night unless it was going to benefit me. They sent me a text explaining that drivers who have a high acceptance rate maximize their earnings. They also sent me a text a couple of weeks ago congratulating me for earning $1,700 in one week. Seems a bit contradictory.
So here are the three reasons that immediately sprang to mind as to why this acceptance rate thing makes no sense and why they would know this if they used their own damn app to deliver. Understand that the reason we can decline orders is because Uber pays us as contractors, meaning that they can’t compel us (maybe even for legal reasons, I don’t know) to take anything we don’t want to take. But I don’t decline orders unless I have a good reason. Here are those good reasons and what Uber can do to fix the problems.
If I’m not making at Least $15 an Hour, the Car Repairs Will Kill My Earnings
The Problem: I got the job at Domino’s because Uber needed to fix the way the tipping system worked in their app. I was literally not making enough to pay for my car repairs and pay my measly bills. While I was gone they fixed the problem and they added a feature that other similar apps had where you could see how much a delivery was worth including both what Uber was paying you and what your tip would be. Then they low key lowered how much Uber was paying per delivery. It was supposed to look like we were making so much more, but the tradeoff now that if you get an order that will take 15 minutes or 20 minutes to pick up and deliver that is offering you $2.16 to take it, you decline it because you’re getting into making less than minimum wage territory.
How Uber Can Fix It: This one is on you, Uber. You thought you were sly trying to pull the wool over our eyes, but when people don’t tip it’s not worth our time. The base rate for taking a delivery should be $12 an hour. A 15 minute delivery should offer $3. A 20 minute delivery should offer $4. For fuck’s sake, Uber, at least make the base rate something like $10 per hour or even $8 per hour. I’m not delivering for $6.48 an hour. Actually, I’m not delivering for less than $15 per hour, but I would be able to accept more short orders without promised tips if I knew it wasn’t going to destroy my average. The estimates on how long an order will take to deliver leads nicely into the next reason to decline orders.
If I Know that a Restaurant Consistently Takes Too Long or Doesn’t Fulfill Orders, I Won’t Accept It
The Problem: While most of the mom and pop restaurants know that Uber Eats is possibly the difference between their business surviving or going under, the corporate giants that Uber Eats associates with sometimes view Uber Eats drivers with contempt. I’ve been told before that even though the order is sitting there ready that I need to wait while they help the customers. I’m picking up for one of your customers, idiots. This is an extreme example.
Mostly, some of these places just get behind because they’re understaffed and when you get there they tell you it’ll be fifteen minutes, because we usually cancel the order for excessive wait time. Then when the next driver shows up they can say the same thing and never make the order as long as the drivers keep leaving.
Then there are the late night restaurants where they’re really only open to get the breakfast shift setup, and in order to have time to do that they will tell you they aren’t doing Uber at the moment or that they don’t have an Uber order. The reason why I decline orders from these restaurants is because I don’t get paid unless I pick up an order and deliver it. If I’m offered $5 for a 15 minute order and I know that they will tell me it’ll take 15 minutes to even make, I’ll decline it. If I get offered any amount of money after 11 pm to go to a place that I know never fulfills the order, I will decline it.
How Uber Can Fix It: You have to start engaging with the restaurants that give you the most problems and demand that they live up to their contractual obligations. It doesn’t matter if it’s McDonald’s. You shouldn’t put up with atrocious behavior just because they bring in the highest percentage of your revenue. You lose drivers and you lose customers when they feel like Uber doesn’t have their back. Funny enough, I keep getting messages begging me to deliver late night, and I would actually prefer to start around 8 pm and deliver through to 4 am. It’s when I’m the most energetic. I won’t though. I lose money every time I do it. The hourly average is atrocious and it’s all because of restaurants acting like shitheads. You have to call them out or you will always have these problems where drivers decline certain restaurants and don’t deliver late night.
If You Setup Your Quest Bonuses to Where I Have to Take Three to Four Deliveries an Hour, I Will Decline Any Order that is longer than 20 Minutes
The Problem: The week that I made $1,700 I was able to take full advantage of all of the Quest bonuses. They were from 11 am to 3 pm and usually a few hours in the evening and on the weekend you could pick anytime in a fifteen hour window to get out and fulfill the orders. During this time, I only had to do between 2 and 3 orders an hour, meaning that I would only decline an order for one of the two previous reasons, which meant I rarely declined any of the orders.
When they started increasing the number of orders per hour to 3 to 4, I thought they were attempting to get drivers to not accept doubles that would take 50 minutes even if they were paying well. This would make sense, because another driver who was closer would probably get the orders and it would lower the overall delivery times.
I should have known that if it made sense that it wasn’t the reason Uber did it.
And by the way, this gets into that same space as the note that super douchebag posted up.
You should take 3 to 4 deliveries and hour, but don’t decline any orders no matter how long they’ll take. Because math works that way.
How Uber Can Fix It: This is a lot like the first fix. Uber has to accept that until their fleet is fully automated that they are paying human beings for their time. I haven’t delivered for well over a week (except that one hour) because the Quest bonuses Uber has been offering have been shit. And the one they offered Friday was to try to get people to go out between 11 pm and 3 am (see the second reason I gave). Not only does Uber need to pay better on their end each delivery, but if you want to incentivize people with bonuses they have to believe it’s reasonable to get that bonus. The bottom line is that you need to pay your drivers better or when they do drive they will decline anything that isn’t going to benefit them. You can’t offer 14 trips in four hours to make an extra $3 a delivery because no one will believe they’ll get it. They know they’re going to have to accept no tip orders that should only take 15 minutes and hope that the order isn’t delayed by the restaurant.
I know this was a long post, but please Uber. I beg of you. Quit trying to skirt your responsibility to the people who are working your shit for you. When the Quest bonuses are good, I’m accepting orders that will pay my bills, and I’m avoiding restaurants that are poorly run, I actually kind of like being a contractor for your company. The more I’m forced to deal with low pay and poor service from you revenue streams, the less likely I am to sign in and drive and the more likely I am to go back to being a security guard or delivering pizza.
Chris McGinty is a blogger who would normally be out delivering at the time that he’s writing this, but guess who didn’t offer any incentive tonight?