NY Review of Books: What the Apps That Bring Food to Your Door Mean for Delivery Workers by Willa Glickman


Chris Lee/VII Mentor Program/ReduxDiego Rodriguez, twenty-three, delivering a food order to a customer in Manhattan, September 2, 2019

Competition in online food delivery is fierce, and there are four main players in the US after recent mergers: DoorDash/Caviar, which recently claimed the largest market share nationally; GrubHub/Seamless, the oldest and formerly most successful in the field; UberEats, which does high volume business but is notably low in profits; and Postmates, limping along in fourth place, with rumors that it may be sold. In New York City, Relay is also prominent. Much is unclear about this new industry, including the simple question of how many couriers it actually employs. The app companies do not all readily disclose the numbers, and even if they did, many couriers work for multiple apps simultaneously. A working estimate is “tens of thousands,” in New York, and DoorDash alone employs 700,000 cyclists and drivers nationwide, which is more people than currently work in the entire US mining industry.

Where do they come up with these outrageous, unverified numbers?

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What figures do you have for doorDash workers? Who are your sources?

The NY Times says DD has 1 million workers.

from August 2019 NY Times:

The company’s one million delivery workers will also get something else extra: an increase in minimum base pay.

Just asking a question. (yes, in a smarmy way). Throwing a number out there without data to support it is irresponsible. And yes, I don’t believe it.

oh, OK. So you want every fact in every newspaper or magazine article to have an accompanying footnote backed up with a complete bibliography of academic peer reviewed research papers. That’s a great idea.

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In 2012, the city estimated that there were 50,000 couriers working directly for restaurants rather than for the app-based industry that has expanded rapidly since then.

Much is unclear about this new industry, including the simple question of how many couriers it actually employs.

Come on man. Don’t bust my chops for doubting the veracity of the claims.


You’ve shown me nothing. Thanks. Maybe nobody works for DoorDash and it’s all delivery by drones and self-driving cars.

You missed the whole point of the articles. forest…trees…

“Smarmy” is the right world for it.

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So, news flash, work is hard and sometimes sucks?

I thought ‘smarmy’ was more kiss-ass, boot-licker …

That comment radically simplifies and misses the point of this article. The issue here is how these apps interfere with tracking actual wages for labour and obfuscate the ways wages are declining and basic protections are absent. Work that should be wage labour has been turned freelance in the gig economy, but when freelance is so reduced (not a large item or swath of time) it is ultimately damaging and destructive to the workers, particularly as there is no recourse to health, workers comp, or collective bargaining (to name a few aspects). Moreover, these apps change the working relationship and shut out the communities who had been doing this work.

But sure, ‘work is hard’. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Not showing me much here either.

Also, ‘doubting the veracity’ is such an odd way to come at a question of source for data. My guess is that they are using numbers gathered by the city and by the company (for each point) and that the reference to estimates means this cannot be confirmed. Of course, that lack of confirmation enhances the article’s principal arguments.

But again, ‘doubting the veracity’ rather than ‘seeking sources’ suggests bad faith in the article. So why not speak more about that and the actual substance of the argument (and why the numbers are so important to you) rather than presenting your cry of ‘fake news!’?

I’ll cede the field to @zippo1 and @Hunterwali.

I’ve got nothing to add.

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I’m not clear on why it should be wage labor. Is there no room for part time, on-call, temps, independent contractors or piece work in the modern economy, or are they just doing it wrong?

Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash have vowed to spend a combined $90 million to oppose the new rules.

Food delivery companies, just like rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, often rely on independent contractors to pick up food from restaurants and grocery stores and carry it to customers’ homes. In the past, they’ve tried to sell this setup as worker-friendly (freedom! flexibility!), but workers have organized and argued that they don’t actually come out on top. There’s mounting evidence to back up their claims: In February, a labor group claimed that half of Instacart’s drivers earn less than minimum wage, and a prior DoorDash policy counted workers’ tips against the minimum guaranteed payment. Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) is intended to force companies to classify some contractors as employees, enshrining their rights to key benefits like the minimum wage and the ability to unionize. The bill codifies a recent state Supreme Court decision.

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Looks like we are going backward than advancing with this so called technology innovation. Last night I saw a program on the dark side of algorithm, featuring Uber Eats, Facebook moderators (cleaning up videos of extreme violence, leading to psychological problem for the moderators), low paid freelance data feeder (training computer for algorithm, one discovered she was in fact, training a drone to kill).

Unfortunately for deliveries, I think human will be replaced ultimately by drones and autonomous delivery. But during this transitional period, these companies are mass exploiting the labour. The biggest problem with Uber Eat and those type food delivery companies, paying less than minimum wage is a problem, but risking life getting oneself injured in an accident without any insurance is a bigger issue.

In France, the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. The programme showed Uber Eats tracked down with their system GPS a certain percentage of workers on strike last year, demanding for higher rate. Internal email was published showing that the managers of UE would like to get rid of them by fake accusation e.g. steal etc.

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In the US, all states except New Hampshire require drivers to have a minimum amount of coverage. Of course the minimum doesn’t cover much and some people still don’t buy it, but are these companies not asking for proof of insurance? Seems like a basic requirement for the job … is insurance optional in other countries?

I agree that minimum wage protections should apply. I see this work as similar to waiting tables - appealing to people who need a flexible schedule that’s not 9-5, some days it’s great, some days it sucks, but at the end of the week or month it should average out above minimum wage and tips should go to the worker not the company. But tip credit varies by state so tips might count towards that minimum wage.