Between the rise of sheltered-at-home consumers and the many businesses reliant on delivery orders to avoid going out of business, food delivery services have become critical in our current COVID-19 economy.  This increased reliance is reflected in the numbers, as companies such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats have soared to record sales, which have nearly doubled year-over-year since the end of April.

While these businesses have become essential, their unethical policies and treatment of workers should not be overlooked. Whether it is DoorDash’s unethical payment model, Instacart allowing “tip baiting,” or classifying workers as “independent contractors” rather than “employees,” leaving them devoid of certain benefits and protections, these businesses have not been without their issues. 

As this line of work continues to thrust these workers onto the front lines of this pandemic, spotlighting the treatment of these workers is of utmost importance. Given how similar these companies are in terms of provided service, the company’s treatment of their couriers could be a valuable factor in our decision as consumers for which services to use. 

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Eager to learn more, we surveyed 87 current and former food delivery service workers in order to learn more about their experiences working for these companies in general, and during this unprecedented time.

The above figure highlights the breakdown of worker ratings for each company on a 5-point scale from Terrible to Excellent. Overall, we uncovered three major takeaways from these results:

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Takeaway 1: Uber Eats is favored by workers

One survey respondent was not mincing words when they called Uber Eats “the king of all the Food courier services.”  Sixteen of the twenty-six Uber Eats respondents (61.5%) stated that their experience was either Excellent or Good, while only five workers (19.2%) claimed their experience was Terrible or Poor. Uber Eats also had the highest proportion of Excellent ratings of the five companies with eight of the twenty-six respondents rating the company as such (30.8%). The positive sentiment toward Uber Eats has not slowed during coronavirus either, as one respondent notes, “They offered me a free face mask shipment which they did not have to do”.

Takeaway 2: Postmates is disliked by workers

On the other end of the spectrum, our survey respondents were not too high on working for Postmates.  Postmates couriers spoke of “Extremely low pay,” the fact that “People can cancel orders regardless of where you are,” and that “You don’t know full pay or if the customer will tip until later” as just a few of the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the company.  Of the twenty-six survey respondents who have worked for Postmates, only four of them (15.4%) stated that their experience was either Excellent or Good, while eighteen workers (69.2%) claimed their experience was Terrible or Poor. Postmates also had the highest proportion of Terrible ratings of the five companies with eight of twenty-six respondents rating the company as such (30.8%).

Takeaway 3: The rest are a mixed bag, but are mostly neutral

Of the forty DoorDash respondents, thirty-four (85%) rated their experience in the non-extreme sentiment categories of Poor-Average-Good, and one respondent explains why: “‘Good’ and not ‘excellent’ because amount of orders can be inconsistent which makes it not always worth my time.”  Similarly, nine of ten (90%) Instacart workers rated their experience as Poor, Average, or Good, with one respondent succinctly summarizing the work experience as “money offset by aggravation.” Fourteen of seventeen (82.3%) Grubhub respondents gravitated toward the non-extreme ratings of Poor, Average, or Good as well.

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During these times of uncertainty, we must stay informed. The decisions we make regarding which companies receive our business should not be taken lightly, especially as these couriers continue to risk their health and safety to deliver us food.  We must not ignore the voices of these workers - “Think in the shoes of the person delivering your food”, as one former DoorDash worker put it. Showing our appreciation for their work can best be done through making responsible, informed decisions when engaging with these food delivery services moving forward.

About the Authors

Matthew Colón and Jung-Won Ha are rising senior students at Stanford University, where they study Mathematical & Computational Science and Computer Science, respectively. Matthew is originally from Summit, New Jersey, and is a 2017 graduate of Summit High School. Jung-Won is originally from Provo, UT.