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DoorDash Driver: Vons’ Shift To Gig Economy Is Driving Down Wages

The DoorDash app is shown on a smartphone on Feb. 27, 2020, in New York.

Photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Above: The DoorDash app is shown on a smartphone on Feb. 27, 2020, in New York.

Last month, Vons told dozens of grocery delivery drivers at San Diego supermarkets that the company would be laying them off. The company said it was transitioning to third-party services, meaning those who work in the gig economy through services like DoorDash or Instacart.

In a statement, Vons said the move to third-party delivery companies will help it, “create a more efficient operation.” But a longtime DoorDash driver told KPBS that the move has driven down profits for drivers who use the app.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

That driver, who asked to remain anonymous because he fears retaliation for speaking out, has been driving full-time for DoorDash in North County for the past two years. He said earns as much as $200 for a full day of work.

As a gig economy driver he’s given options on delivering food for different businesses and has enjoyed the freedom of the job.

“I do like the flexibility, you can go work whenever you want. If you need to take a day off because something comes up, you can do that without worrying. In other jobs, it becomes a big hassle,” the driver said.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Around a year ago, as Vons began ramping up its use of the DoorDash service, he noticed that the opportunities being offered by the only grocery chain using the service didn’t really stack up with the other jobs he was being offered.

The driver said that jobs from Vons had him traveling to areas far outside his own service area, for as little as $10.25. That amount is supposed to cover the time spent driving to the destination and the gas costs.

“On top of just the long distances, you also have to consider you go into the grocery store, you have to go get the order from them, sometimes it’s not ready, you’re waiting at the store for 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “You finally get your car loaded up, take another 5, 10 minutes doing that. Drive, unload the groceries, which can take another 5, 10, 15 minutes.”

If he was sent outside of this service area, he would then have to spend time driving back there to be able to get another job.

The driver said he would reject these offers from Vons, because it didn’t make financial sense to him.

“Now when I see something come up from Vons, I don’t even give it a second look, I just decline it,” he said.

As Vons began preparing to switch to the sole use of third-party delivery drivers last fall, it began to ramp up its use of DoorDash. Because the driver KPBS spoke to was declining those jobs, he saw his acceptance rate plummet in the DoorDash application. That rate impacts what kind of jobs he’s offered. He said this incentivizes some Doordash drivers to take jobs that pay low rates, just so they can keep their acceptance rate up.

“Every month, if your ratings are at a certain percentage, then you get priority in deliveries, it says you get the bigger deliveries,” he said.

RELATED: San Diego Delivery Drivers Laid Off As Prop 22 Takes Effect

In an emailed statement, a DoorDash spokesperson told KPBS that, "DoorDash is committed to providing the best possible experience for Dashers, and we're eager to hear their feedback on how we can best serve their needs. Nationally, Dashers earn on average over $22 per hour they’re on a job, including tips. Dashers always have the choice to decline orders if they choose, and always see their full pay, which includes 100% of their tips in their accounts after a delivery. We’re actively engaging with community groups across the country on ways to continue supporting workers, including our Dasher community."

Other companies besides Vons are now outsourcing work to third parties after the passage of Prop 22 in November, which granted legality to gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash,

The driver doesn’t think the proposition is bad, per se. He’s now guaranteed a minimum wage for hours he’s actively delivering items. He just wishes that companies like Vons were willing to pay higher wages.

Vons would not comment on its agreement with DoorDash regarding rates of pay for drivers.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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