How To Tip Food Delivery Drivers, Because Not All Apps Follow The Same Rules

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If you've ever used a food delivery app, you know they're basically a saving grace. After spending just a few minutes ordering on your phone, your fave food shows up at your doorstep — usually within minutes. Recently, though, these apps have been getting some negative attention, especially after a July 21 New York Times article laid bare some of the tipping issues delivery app workers deal with. If you're curious about how to tip your food delivery drivers in light of these conversations, there are several guidelines you can use to make sure you are properly compensating people.

The author of the aforementioned New York Times article, Andy Newman, began working for several popular food delivery apps to explore what it's like to be a food delivery person. In the process, Newman found that one of the apps — DoorDash — was using tips to subsidize its workers' pay.

For example, if DoorDash promised to pay a delivery person $6.85 for one delivery and that person received a $2 tip, they would still only receive $6.85 total in compensation, Newman explained. $4.85 would be supplied by DoorDash and the other $2 would come from the customer's tip. If the customer didn't tip anything, then DoorDash would pay the entire $6.85 amount it guaranteed the delivery person for the order.

As Slate reported, after outcry following the publication of the New York Times' article, DoorDash changed its policy. "Going forward, we’re changing our model - the new model will ensure that Dashers’ earnings will increase by the exact amount a customer tips on every order," DoorDash CEO Tony Xu wrote on Twitter on July 24.

In addition to prompting changes from DoorDash, the New York Times piece has also sparked a larger conversation about how to appropriately tip food app delivery workers. Ahead of your next order, it's helpful to keep these four tipping suggestions in mind.

Cash Is King

As USA Today explained, the best way to ensure that your tip is going directly to the person who delivered your food — and isn't being used by the food delivery company in any way — is to pay in cash. While, as Slate described, many food app delivery companies have indicated that they don't use tips to subsidize their workers' pay, their policies could potentially change at any time, likely without you knowing. As a result, the best and quickest way to ensure that your delivery driver gets their tip is to pay them with cash, Slate recommended.

Adhere To Accepted Standards

While a lot of factors go into determining how much you should tip, there does seem to be at least a general agreement on the minimum amount that you should compensate your delivery app driver. A recent study from restaurant supplier US Foods found that both customers and drivers consider a $4 tip fair. This amount can (and should) increase if you have a large order or other circumstances, like weather, make the delivery more difficult.

A recent CNBC comprehensive tipping guide had somewhat similar recommendations, saying that you should tip $3 to $5 for your order or 20% of the bill, whichever is more. Keeping these numbers in mind when you're tipping will help ensure that your tip falls within an acceptable and fair range.

Keep Context In Mind

When you decide to order food from a delivery service, consider the conditions that drivers have to endure before arriving to your residence. For example, if there's bad weather outside, such as rain or snow storm, consider tipping your delivery person more than the standard rate.

"If it’s raining outside, tip 22 to 25 percent. If there’s any snow accumulation, add a dollar or two on top of what you’d tip if it were raining," Adam Eric Greenberg, a UC San Diego Ph.D. candidate and co-author of a comprehensive study on tipping in bad weather, told New York magazine in 2014. "Having to work as a delivery guy during a blizzard is similar to getting stuck with a party of 20 as a restaurant server, so if you hear weather forecasters promising a 'polar vortex,' a 30 percent tip is not outrageous."

A more recent January 2019 article from MarketWatch recommended slightly higher tipping rates. The article indicated that, during extreme weather events, you should plan to tip between 25% and 30% of the bill. Constance Hoffman, the owner of an etiquette and professional skills firm called Social and Business Graces, told MarketWatch that you should take several factors into consideration when determining the exact amount to tip. It depends on "how bad the conditions are and what someone has to maneuver through to get to you,” Hoffman said to the outlet.

Moreover, USA Today indicated that you should also consider transportation and access logistics — like how far away your driver has to park and how many stairs they have to climb to get to your home — when deciding on a tip.

Remember That Every App Is Different

As HuffPost described, every food delivery app has different tipping guidelines. For example, the UberEats' website notes that tips aren't required for the service, while GrubHub actually has a comprehensive tipping page on its website that guides users through different tipping scenarios.

So, it's definitely important to know the tipping guidelines for the service that you are using in order to be sure you're compensating workers properly. In addition to relying on food delivery company websites, you can also check out this HuffPost piece that breaks down how food delivery companies compensate their workers — and how they account for tips.

The next time you take out your phone to order delivery, take a minute to make sure you're prepared to properly tip your delivery driver ahead of their arrival. Your diligence will undoubtedly be much appreciated.