- Food delivery drivers are struggling to make ends meet, according to a recent New York Times article.
- The drivers told the Times that weak tips are among the biggest reasons why.
- Readers flooded the story’s comments about why they don’t think they should have to tip more than they already do.
Americans sure do have strong opinions about tipping etiquette.
On Sunday, The New York Times published a story about the financial struggles of gig workers for companies like Uber Eats and Doordash. Among drivers’ key challenges, the Times reported, is that customers have cut back on tipping.
While many delivery drivers said they benefited from larger tips during the beginning of the pandemic, some said this generosity has since faded. Others blamed the persistence of “contactless” delivery, which they said has cut down on interaction with drivers and contributed to smaller tips.
“People were almost applauded,” Brantley Bush, an Uber Eats driver, told The Times of those in his profession. “Now we’re just the bottom of the barrel.”
Bush recalled delivering a $388 order of sushi and hoping for a tip between $50 and $70 but only receiving $20 — a roughly 5% tip.
“It’s hard to fathom how people could have so much money and tip so little,” Bush said.
The Times story has received over 3,800 comments and 188 Twitter replies as of Monday afternoon. While many readers expressed sympathy for the struggling gig workers, the most popular comments pushed back on the idea that customers should have to step up their tips in order to supplement the overall income of food delivery drivers.
Here are five of the main arguments for why customers shouldn’t have to tip more.
(1) Larger orders don’t mean more work for drivers
Some readers argued that the size of an order shouldn’t have an impact on how much a customer tips.
“A $20 tip is weak but I’m not sure I see a $100 tip as justified,” wrote Tom Boyer of Philadelphia in a comment referring to Bush’s anecdote with over 4,100 recommendations. “It’s just one food delivery regardless of the value. $388 in sushi takes no more effort to deliver than two pizzas, for which the tip would be maybe $10. Why should sushi delivery drivers earn 10 times as much as pizza delivery?”
Added Elizabeth from New York in a comment with over 1,800 recommendations: “I can’t wrap my mind around why delivering a single paper bag with $300 worth of sushi warrants a larger tip than delivering a single paper bag with a couple of burritos in it. It’s the same amount of work.”
On Twitter, Joe, under the handle @Wrig300, wrote that the cost of the food should have nothing to do with the tip.
“You’re not at a restaurant getting continuous service,” he wrote. “Give me a break.”
—⚾️ Joe ⚾️ (@Wrig300) April 9, 2023
(2) Drivers shouldn’t expect the same tips as restaurant workers
Other readers wrote that delivery drivers shouldn’t expect to be tipped at the same rate as the waitstaff at restaurants.
“What was wrong with that $20 tip?” wrote Len from Pennsylvania in a comment with over 3,300 recommendations. “It’s not as if the driver cooked the food. He didn’t provide table service. He just delivered the package.”
Added Steve from Michigan: “When I tip 20% at a restaurant, it’s because the staff has gone over any questions about the menu, brought the food, come back to give us extra drinks/napkins/utensils/condiments as requested, and also cleaned up after we have left. Given Mr Bush’s level of input into the above $388 meal, I think $20 is more than generous.” His comment received over 2,900 recommendations.
On Twitter, the user @bkmbooks agreed.
“He’s driving a package from point A to point B,” they wrote, “not delivering a fine dining experience.”
—bkmbooks (@bkmbooks) April 9, 2023
(3) Drivers should be tipped based on how difficult their delivery was
Some commenters argued that food delivery drivers’ tips should be based on how far — and what weather they had to endure — to make the delivery.
“I was fully under the impression that you tip a delivery person based on the geographic length of the delivery (ease or difficulty to get you your food) and/or the weather conditions they deliver in,” wrote EM from Philadelphia in a comment with over 2,200 recommendations. “Not on the price of the food order itself?”
Added Robert from New York City: “Does FedEx or UPS charge for deliveries based on the value of the merchandise? Of course not. No delivery company does. It’s absurd for a driver to expect a payment that’s based on the food’s value.” His comment received over 1,000 recommendations.
On Twitter, Dan Saltsburg @envscientist72 wrote that the difficulty of the trip should be what influences the size of the tip.
“For me it’s the distance they drive and the weather,” he wrote. “I had ice cream delivered late at night in the rain, $10 for the ice cream $10 tip.”
—Dan Saltsburg (@envscientist72) April 9, 2023
(4) Why should the customer be responsible for paying these workers a living wage?
Others said the it’s not customers’ tipping habit that should be blamed for gig workers’ financial struggles — it’s the corporations that aren’t paying them enough.
“I feel for them but tipping culture in US has gone berserk,” wrote SJ from Chicago in a comment with over 3,300 recommendations. “We don’t address the root cause and solve wage issues rather cruelly force people to live on someone else’s generosity.”
Added Jacob from Wisconsin: “Tipping in this country is out of control. Everyone and their mother is asking for a tip these days. We should ban tipping altogether and force employers to pay a fair wage.” His comment received over 2,600 recommendations.
Twitter user Maria @envscientist72 agreed.
“It’s not the constumer’s responsibility to pay delivery workers’ salary but the company’s,” she wrote.
—María Antonia García De la Torre, Ph.D.🧞♂️ (@Caidadelatorre) April 9, 2023
(5) Gig work was never intended to be a full-time job
Lastly, some readers argued that delivery drivers should not expect to make a living from gig work alone.
“How about figuring out what you need to do to land a job with regular pay, regular hours, and benefits,” commented Karl from the US in a comment with 69 recommendations. “Someday, all of these gig workers will be too old to keep this kind of hustle up. And I guarantee that they are not saving anything for retirement.”
Added Nicole from Los Angeles in a comment with 50 recommendations: “Gig work, by definition, will never be enough to make a living by.”
Commented Fausto from Albuquerque: “Maybe adults need to get adults jobs, not gig work that might be ok for students on summer break.” His comment received 107 recommendations.