DoorDash Drivers Game The App To Get Paid More

Illustration for article titled DoorDash Drivers Game The App To Get Paid More
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DoorDash delivery drivers are fed up with insultingly low pay from the app. Some drivers are fighting back by gaming the system to give out high paying deliveries, and it appears that the strategy is actually working.


Drivers for apps like Uber, Lyft, InstaCart and DoorDash are fighting an uphill battle for better wages. California Prop 22 resulted in pay decreases for drivers, and one report even estimated that the average DoorDash driver makes an astonishingly low $1.45 an hour.

Dave Levy and Nikos Kanelopoulos are DoorDash drivers aiming to change that. The pair launched a movement to get Dashers more pay, reports Bloomberg. The movement, #DeclineNow, is over 40,000 members strong, and it has one goal in mind: Reject any delivery job that doesn’t pay at least $7. That way, drivers can make a livable wage.

The duo found out that when a Dasher (that’s what DoorDash calls a driver) declines a delivery, the app passes it onto another driver for slightly higher pay. DoorDash notes that Dashers are independent contractors and that they don’t have to accept deliveries. Kanelopoulos and Levy figure that drivers could stick together and effectively raise the pay rate of a delivery from $3 to at least $7.

While many drivers may try their hardest to reach Top Dasher with high delivery acceptance rates, #DeclineNow members take pride in taking far fewer deliveries. As Bloomberg reports, Levy accepts only about 1 percent of the deliveries he is offered.

Members of #DeclineNow say that the tactics are working and drivers everywhere, including the Pennsylvania Lehigh Valley where Levy and Kanelopoulos operate, are getting paid more.

However, the strategy of gaming the system isn’t accepted by all Dashers; and some say that the #DeclineNow community is unwelcoming, from Bloomberg:

Some question the strict minimum fee rule, citing regional price differences. Others find #DeclineNow to be mean-spirited and toxic, a place where people try to ridicule and bully others into going along with their plan. “They put out information as facts without backing it up,” says Amy Lee, a DoorDash driver in the Dallas suburbs who runs the gig economy site PavementGrinders. “Then they publicly humiliate anyone who doesn’t understand or agree.”

Users who question the $7 minimum rule are punished with suspension from the group or, as the group’s moderators like to put it, “a trip to the dungeon.” One former moderator, Josie Lindström, claims to have personally suspended hundreds of people, saying the intolerance for dissent was necessary to keep the group moving in the right direction. “It has to be all of us, or it doesn’t work,” she says. But Lindström eventually quit, citing what she described as a toxic atmosphere.


That’s not a good look for the movement.

Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings Law, says that these actions could be part of #DeclineNow’s success. But she finds that drivers who try to beat the algorithm find themselves disappointed, from Bloomberg:

But sustaining such collective action is complicated by the constant influx of new workers. The company will “give bonus incentives to a bunch of new drivers,” says Dubal. “And those drivers are not going to be a part of the club who know what to do. And then they’re like the scabs.” In trying to use algorithm-shifting strategies, she’s observed, drivers are “always really disappointed in the end.”


Still, #DeclineNow members hope that their methods of gaming the algorithm will ensure that drivers get higher pay in the long run.

Declining low-paying deliveries sounds like a neat hack and #DeclineNow members say that pay is increasing for DoorDash drivers around the country.

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I dashed for two months earlier this year to counteract the pandemic bordom. I don’t need the money, it was just something to do. I don’t do it anymore... multiple reasons.

1. When I first started It seemed like there was plenty of work to go ‘round and I’d often get an extra $1 or $2. Once I hit the end of the first month I got put in the pool with everyone else and realized that there was not enough work and I was taking from people who actually needed the money. So I stopped.

2. I’ve always been a 20% tipper, but after experiencing how frustrating it was to get a crappy order I really started to get angry. Then I got to see the other side of crappy tips. It was raining and I got an order for a Cap’D’s kids meal with NO tip. I was new and didn’t want my decline rate to go down so I took it anyway. To top it off the delivery location was outside of the zone I had to be in to accept orders. So I wouldn’t be able to pick another up until after I got back in the zone. I arrived, it was on a pretty busy street with no curbs, I had to pull in the driveway. The house was dark, only one light on upstairs. It was actually kinda falling apart. Yard overgrown. Steps were icy. There was no place to turn around so I had to back into said busy street, in the rain. Yard was wet so I couldn’t have turned around there if I wanted to. Needless to say I was kinda angry. But then as I pulled out the customer (who I normally never saw) was an old lady. My assumption is she’s shut-in. The kids meal with no tip was all she could afford. I think the order total was less than $5. I ended up feeling bad for her situation and guilty that I was assuming so much.

3. DD had a habit of accepting orders that were way outside of their own order area. These are always rural and you almost never get a second order to go with it to help with the cost. The most frustrating one was when I took a pizza to some 10yo kid in an absolutely huge house with fancy cars, and no tip. The dad didn’t even know someone ordered a pizza. Parents, don’t empower your kids with debit cards when they’re not old enough to impact people’s livelihood. By the time I got back in the delivery zone my ‘dash’ time had passed and there wasn’t enough orders for it to keep me logged in. So in 1 hour I made $3 and probably spent as much on gas.

4. Met some nice people. Lots of older couples dashing together, and a few younger ones. It got easy to identify what a ‘dasher’ looked like. In a hurry, constantly staring at the phone. Most didn’t carry that red bag around with them.