How much to tip food delivery drivers

This is your Grubhub driver, <name redacted>.

Got your order.   Heading that way now.

Most dont know we get $2/delivery plus tip.  So if you think i was fast or your food is still hot or fresh. Maybe there was a long wait or long drive. Could you consider this and maybe add to your tip.  

I appreciate your order.  

Thank you

Text message I received from a Grubhub driver

This is painful to read from several points of view. First is that a company with $2 billion in revenue allegedly pays their workers so little, but I guess that should be expected from the gig economy. Second is that on top of the inflated prices of the menu items, the delivery fee, the service fee, the taxes, and the tip I already added – I am being told that I still have not paid enough for the service. Third are the implications that my tip was too small and that it is my responsibility to directly pay the driver a living wage.

Of course, it is entirely possible that my tip was fine and this was the driver’s standard “text signature”. Regardless, the message prompted me to search online to try to understand the conventional wisdom for tipping this line of work. As with most “what should I tip” questions, the advice is all over the map.

Paging through search results on the subject, you’ll see 20% mentioned a lot, with a healthy dose of 15%, 10%, and various flat rates in the $5 range. Grubhub, i.e., the company that is trying to offload the responsibility of paying of its workforce onto its consumer base, provides The Essential Guide to Tipping Your Delivery Driver which recommends tipping the greater of $5 or 20%, adding more for weather, stairs, and larger orders.

I reject Grubhub’s false 20% tip equivalence between delivery drivers and waitstaff – the latter is a far more difficult and complex job. Further, there is no difference in the work involved in delivering a small bag of food containing $25 of wings or a small bag of food containing $100 of sushi. But according to Grubhub’s logic I should tip $5 for the one and $20 for the other – I find this absurd.

We are at a time when the food delivery gig economy is trying to find a path towards profitability. Turns out that the true cost of digitally orchestrating a pool of “independent contractors” to deliver food to anyone’s home from any restaurant is uncomfortably high. Passing the buck on paying your workforce by exploiting an off-the-rails tipping culture seems like a good strategy.

My own tipping strategy for food delivery has been to tip between $5 and $10, varying due to weather and order size. Having driven my own carryout innumerable times, I know this is easy work in my area and so a $5-$10 tip seems reasonable – even generous – to me. But if the expectation for this service is 20% with no ceiling then we may have an irreconcilable difference of opinion in the role tipping should play here.

I was already at a tipping point 😏 with food delivery services. Inflation has raised costs of course, but also restaurants have been passing Grubhub’s fees on to the consumer through higher online menu prices, and Grubhub is increasingly leaning on tipping as a sleight of hand to minimize employment cost and make their pricing appear lower. In response, I have begun acting as my own delivery driver, often tipping the restaurant around 10% – especially for local businesses. This sits better with me than engaging in the socioeconomic games of the gig economy.

As for the Grubhub delivery driver who sent the text message, I logged back in and increased their tip to around 20% for a total tip of $17 on a single, lightweight bag of food. And then I vowed never to use the service again.

This entry was posted in Rants. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *