A new study making the rounds shows DoorDash drivers making just $1.45 base hourly pay before tips and making the food-delivery economy at large look pretty dismal. And without real-world data, this is what makes the news.
The report appeared on Salon, and a handful of other news sources, spreading some pretty bad data around about a growing and volatile industry. The study, and that term should be used lightly here, was put forth by PayUp.wtf, a website and organization founded by Instacart workers and labor advocacy group, Working Washington, to push back on the DoorDash payment model. In all, it looked at 229 job-level pay reports from across the U.S., i.e. screenshots of delivery orders, and calculated driver pay based on that. Among those reports, it found that 8 percent of jobs were at the minimum DoorDash scale of $2; just 11 percent meet the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 and just 2 percent meet the $15 an hour mark.
It’s not a flattering picture of the largest third-party delivery provider, but it’s a very limited and likely biased look at pay, as even the authors note:
“Because this data is self-reported and the sample of workers was assembled through campaign organizing work rather than through a random sampling process, it is possible that there are some selection effects in our data,” wrote the unnamed authors.
So, why bother highlighting this data at all? Well, the industry has a major data problem and it’s not only around who “owns” consumer data. Much of the industry is awash in nonsense and anecdotal data—at the other end of this spectrum, driver forums are filled with drivers bragging about their high earnings. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, but nobody is sharing it. DoorDash claims that drivers earn an average of more than $18 an hour, but without some data to validate that claim, seemingly detailed examinations like this will get more attention. That could be damaging to the industry at large, beyond making delivery services look draconian.
When potential drivers see data like this, they just might look for other employment. When restaurant operators see data like this, they can easily say, “Nobody is making money on this fad, why bother.” And when lawmakers see data like this, they’re more apt to regulate the industry.
Companies in the space should see data like this and want to provide their own accurate figures. It’s high time this industry starts utilizing the endless amount of data flowing through with every order to brag a little. Without real and accurate data, however, we’re stuck with whatever this is.