Harry here. It’s amazing to see how much these services can change from month to month and even week to week. Today, RSG contributor Dash Bridges tells us all about the changes he’s seen over the past year on the DoorDash app and how they affect drivers.
Hi everyone, it’s Dash Bridges again to provide slightly-above-average musings from Dashville! As you may have read in previous articles, I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area working DoorDash as a 10-15 hour/week side hustle accompaniment to my Operations Manager day job. I don’t know anyone at DoorDash corporate. I am not a spokesperson for DoorDash in any way. All of these observations and opinions are strictly my own.
My previous article was a statistical breakdown of my first year of driving: How much I made, what % of my money was made through delivery fees vs. tips, etc. Today though, I’d like to talk about some of the monetary incentives DoorDash uses to keep us Dashers motivated.
My Day Job vs. DoorDash
Let me back up for a second though. I have a day job as a Sales Operations Manager at a Silicon Valley broadband networking company. One you’ve probably never heard of. The culture there is one of continuity. I’ve been there since 1999. I work in a 10×10 taupe-walled cube working with a lot of colleagues who have been there as long as me.
I’ve worked through several booms and recessions, good products, bad products, turnover, etc. I enjoy my company and I do good work, but there’s a lot – a lot a lot a lot — of consistency. My job with DoorDash is a huge change from what I’m used to. It’s outdoors. It’s app-based. It’s surprisingly fast-paced. And furthermore, I’ve seen a ton of growth in DoorDash in the time I’ve been here. From both the relationship between DoorDash and its drivers, to the evolution of the Dasher app, I feel like I’ve seen DoorDash mature in real time!
In a recent video, I saw DoorDash CEO & co-founder Tony Xu say that his company has three pillars, the customer, the Dashers (drivers) and the restaurants. I’ve felt a lot of back and forth between corporate and us drivers in the past year. Some of it is direct communication, and some of it is implied through various new policies. Furthermore, you can see some of the policies as reactions to problems or growing pains taking place as DD tries to expand and improve its business. As someone with a long history at a corporation with an entrenched management and glacially-paced change, I’m highly impressed at the variety of experiments DD corporate makes to affect Dasher participation.
I don’t envy the juggling act of a) keeping self-scheduled Dashers appropriately busy while b) offering reasonable wait times for customers and c) earning a profit. If there are too many drivers sitting idle in a parking lot for 45 minutes at a time, they’re going to find other employment. If drivers are inundated with orders and customers receive late, cold food, the customers won’t come back. So DoorDash needs methods to encourage Dashers to get on the road, stay on the road, accept orders and ensure those orders are fulfilled correctly. Here are a few ways they encourage the right number of Dashers to work and do a good job.
Schedule Yourself Ahead of Time
Dashers schedule themselves through the app. DoorDash offers shift availability in your chosen territories up to six days ahead. You can schedule yourself from one hour to a full 6:30 a.m.-3:00 a.m. shift, as long as those times are available. In the below photo, you can see that on Sunday, November 13, Milpitas has availability basically all day, but no slots are available from 11 p.m. – 12 a.m.
The mutual advantage here is that I can schedule the times and locations I want while DoorDash can see their labor participation well ahead of time. For instance, I have a recurring reminder each Tuesday morning to schedule myself for 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. the following Monday.
This summer, apparently some people were taking advantage of this scheduling, locking up slots for entire days and then pausing their Dashes when doing things other than driving. This selfish (but crafty!) activity kept other Dashers from scheduling themselves while also limiting available drivers. DoorDash seems to have eliminated this practice by giving Dashers a total of 15 minutes of pause time—in theory for bathroom breaks, fill-ups, etc. – during their shift.
Same Day Dashing
Some high-volume days requiring increased labor are known well in advance, i.e. Oscar Night or NFL playoffs. Others come up rather quickly. If the Cleveland Indians had won World Series Game 6 on Tuesday, Wednesday night would have been dead. But they didn’t, and suddenly Game 7 was a guaranteed ratings bonanza and DoorDash probably needed 2-3 times their normal number of drivers. A more common example of this phenomenon occurs when it rains, meaning fewer people leave home to eat. A few days a week, I receive a text like this:
Yep, when DD needs drivers, they will guarantee you a certain minimum hourly wage (or more if you naturally earn that amount) during a specified period, assuming you meet the modest requirements. DoorDash can customize their incentives to match each region’s needs and the make appealing guarantees for us drivers. Regions needing more Dashers will offer higher guarantees to entice drivers to work in that specific territory. They’re betting that these offers will encourage us to postpone laundry night or homework to participate in a high-earning shift. These guarantees are particularly enticing for drivers because we’ve all been out there when it’s unexpectedly dead and the shift is a waste of time. So if I traditionally average $20/hour but DD guarantees $22-$30/hr because it’s raining, yeah, I’ll postpone my wine & Netflix binge until tomorrow.
When I first started Dashing, the app only allowed me to schedule a shift in advance. If I was working until, say, 8 p.m., but I finished my shift and wanted to continue, I was out of luck. I was obligated to let my shift end then schedule another shift to begin 30+ minutes in the future. Now though, the app has evolved to allow me to extend my existing shift. So if it’s 7:30 and I know it’s a heavy day (or my post-shift plans fell through), I can schedule an extension as long as there are Dasher slots available. During busy times, the app proactively offers to extend my time, which I can then accept or deny as desired. So convenient! I love these extension options!
Long Distance Boosts
For a time last year, DoorDash offered $0.50 – $2.00 per order boosts for what they claimed were deliveries over a certain mileage threshold. Unfortunately, the application of these boosts seemed inconsistent, drivers complained, and the program disappeared after a few weeks.
A new feature in the app gives a real time heat map of order activity in various regions. Furthermore, I can log into my app at any time and Dash immediately, assuming I’m within a territory with open slots.
DoorDash has scheduled orders you can claim ahead of time. You can now go into the app and see an offer for a future order, typically the following day. The information includes restaurant location, delivery locations, order value and guaranteed pay (usually $10-$20 plus tip). Typically these are large corporate orders requiring extra hot bags and delivery time/distance.
Recently, DoorDash expanded its service to late night, delivering as late as 3am. To ensure its success, they offered Dashers HUUUUGE boosts to encourage drivers to stay out late and support the new service. Apparently the best way to do that is to throw money at Dashers. For the first weekend in October, it offered $11.00 per delivery ($6.00 standard + $5.00 boost) from 10 p.m. – 12 a.m. and $16.00 per delivery ($6.00 standard + $10.00 boost) from 12 a.m. – 3 a.m. Did that incentivize ME to go out late? HECK YEAH! Check out how I did when I stayed out an extra 45 minutes and caught a double-order for Jack in the Box.
Clearly DD felt it was in their best interest to ensure driver coverage and support a successful launch, because they obviously lost money paying me. And funny enough, during one of those deliveries, the college student received his food and told me, “Yeah, I’m sooo happy you guys offer late night service. It’s awesome.” Subsequent weekends haven’t been quite as lucrative, but $8.00 deliveries from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. and $11.00 deliveries from 12 a.m.-3 a.m. are nothing to scoff at.
DoorDash does not require $$ minimums on customer orders, nor does it strictly limit order distances. This loose ordering requirement leads to increased orders but less-attractive deliveries. Savvy Dashers may decline these undesirable orders, leading to delays and bad customer experience. So in August, DD unveiled this offer via email.
When you do anywhere from 20 to 100 deliveries in a row with no missing or incorrect items and keep your acceptance rate above 90%, you are eligible for the Dasher Streak Bonus. The more deliveries you do, the more you’ll earn, up to $160/ week! See the table below for the bonus levels.
$10 first week
$30 second week
$40 third week
$80 fourth week
The 90% acceptance requirement forced me to stay honest and accept all orders, plus it ensured I focused on order accuracy to make sure I’d be eligible for the Bonus. Again, DD felt the cash bonus was worth the extra expense in order to eliminate costly redeliveries and poor customer service. Or maybe it didn’t work out, because this offer hasn’t yet resurfaced.
Right-sizing the Labor Pool
All of the short- and medium-term participation boosts won’t work if you don’t have an appropriately-sized certified Dasher pool in the first place. It appears one of the most effective ways DD recruits dashers is to have existing dashers do it for them. Similar to Harry’s referral link here, we receive periodic incentives to recruit Dashers. If a recruit provides my name upon sign up, passes orientation and completes a certain number of deliveries in a given period, the new Dasher will receive certain incentives and I’ll get a specified bonus.
At certain times of the year, the bonus is as low as $250. If DD sees their labor pool dwindling (i.e. early August when students go back to school) I’ve seen referral bonuses go as high as $750 per qualified referral. Going through the Bay Area DoorDash Facebook group, I’ve seen super hustlers claim to recruit a couple dozen new employees and reap the benefits of the incentive.
These are several of the ways DoorDash tries to provide an excellent service while keeping its Dashers happy. Over the past year, the app enhancements have allowed it to communicate, schedule and incentivize its independent contractors to fit its evolving labor needs. As someone who sees it from both sides, it’s a fascinating look at a company realizing and attacking its business challenges.
Drivers, what do you think about the way the DoorDash app has evolved and how does it compare to the other on-demand services that you’ve worked for?
-Dash @ RSG