That's okay, I'll still keep using that garbage.
I order delivery far more often than is reasonable. Or fiscally responsible, or normal, or healthy, take your pick. I know all the arguments against using food delivery services like DoorDash: it’s more expensive than cooking for myself; using these services actually costs restaurants money; delivery drivers work under abysmal conditions for meager pay, no health insurance, and zero job security. I’m aware of all of these things.
I also know that nine times out of 10 the food isn’t even good; that’s what happens when you dump a freshly-cooked meal into a disposable pie plate, hermetically seal it with a plastic lid and send it on an hourlong journey on the back of an electric bicycle. And sure, most of the time it would be faster for me to just walk to one of the several million bodegas within spitting distance of my front door than spend the bulk of my evening waiting for a middling-at-best order of chicken strips.
But still I continue to use DoorDash. This makes me an idiot, and I know that. You probably find my decision to shoot myself in the dick at dinnertime four nights a week deeply troubling; you are not alone. I, too, believe the best course of action may just be to stuff me inside a cannon and fire it directly into the Caspian Sea or a particularly sturdy wall. We’re all on the same page here. But this is America. And in America, we have a little thing called The Constitution, which says that when I experience a minor inconvenience, even if it is entirely of my own making, it is my right—nay, my duty—to work myself up into a righteous lather about it, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
The obvious answer to this particular riddle is to stop using DoorDash, but I’m not going to do that because I refuse to entertain any solution that requires any effort whatsoever on my part, including but not limited to changing my behavior. No, I’m going to bitch and moan about the problem while contributing absolutely nothing in the way of ideas to fix it. These are my rights as an American citizen. The brave men and women of our armed services are drone-striking children as we speak to protect these rights, and I’ll be damned if I let their efforts go to waste. But I guess some of us just support the Troops® more than others. Typical.
Anyway…where was I? Right, yes, DoorDash sucks.
Like almost every alleged tech innovation of the past 20 years, DoorDash doesn’t actually need to exist. It’s a repackaged version of something that already exists (Seamless/GrubHub), which is itself a reskin of another extant concept (restaurants delivering food). Seamless was a quantum leap forward, a true disruption of the foodspace that mercifully put an end to the barbaric practice of “talking to another person” favored by our primitive forebears. For generations mankind suffered under the yoke of these archaic customs, and Seamless was the herald of a new dawn. Finally, we could order food in a manner that was more compatible with the modern man’s elevated consciousness:
Look at picture. Scroll. Look at other picture. Scroll. Look at other other picture. Scroll. Look at other other other picture. Sigh. Scroll back up to first picture.
Tap. Scroll. Tap. “Dressing on the side, please.” Tap. Tap. Tap. Wait, how much? Swipe. $3 tip is plenty, it’s not like they’re cooking it. Tap. Tap.
Seamless lets us pretend we’re George Jetson and everyone else is Rosie: they’re all here to serve us, but that’s okay because they’re happy doing this stuff! They love it! Is it a little gross? You bet. But the ultimate goal of practically every new technology is to minimize—if not eradicate outright—the Cronenbergian nightmare that is human contact, and Seamless achieved that. Anyway, the people at DoorDash watched Seamless take off, and they decided to get themselves a piece of that action. Because if there’s one thing tech bros love more than inventing shit that already exists, it’s latching onto an idea like so many remoras and wringing every last penny out of it by building multiple versions of the same product, each more confusing and slightly worse than the last.
As far as I can tell, the only real difference between DoorDash and Seamless is that DoorDash allows you to order from places that don’t actually offer delivery (or, if they do, don’t deliver to where you are). At first blush, it seems like a neat little workaround: for example, as a trash person with a horrendous palate and a poor opinion of myself, I like Chipotle. But Chipotle doesn’t deliver and the nearest location isn’t within walking distance, so what am I to do? (And if you’re thinking “eat literally anywhere else, have some goddamn dignity” well guess what: if I had dignity, I wouldn’t want Chipotle in the first place. Now who’s the idiot, maybe read a friggin’ book sometimes.)
With DoorDash, I can place an order, Chipotle makes it, a driver goes to pick it up and delivers it to me. I can do this, which is to say that all the mechanisms required to bring this process to life exist and are in place. And yet, here’s what happens instead:
I place an order. I wish I could ask for extra sour cream, but the app doesn’t let me add special instructions. I also can’t add a side of sour cream to the order because it’s not a menu item on the app. My burrito (bowl) will be very dry; I accept this as the punishment I deserve.
I tip a lot. Drivers pick the orders they deliver based on the size of the tip, so if the tip isn’t big enough, nobody will accept the order. I’m fine with this: DoorDash doesn’t pay drivers so tips are their income, and I’m happy to pay a sloth tax. I leave a big tip and I wait.
Whoops! I tipped too much, so now every driver in a 3-mile radius is scrambling to claim it. Which means it could—and often does—go to someone who’s 30 minutes away from Chipotle and who already has a bag full of other deliveries to drop off first.
I’d estimate that 25% of the time, tipping extra pays off: someone’s right near Chipotle, they claim my order, they bring it, voila I’m eating my under-creamed burrito bowl. 70% of the time, I wait 90 minutes for whoever claimed my order to schlep in from the bowels of Queens, pick up my (dry) burrito bowl, and bring it to me. The remaining 5% of the time, a driver claims my order, gets halfway to Chipotle, sees another order up for grabs that’s closer and has an even bigger tip, claims that order instead, cancels my order, and leaves me high and dry.
Spending extra on the gratuity is basically like buying a lottery ticket, only the jackpot is eating dinner at a reasonable hour, which is what I’m already ostensibly paying DoorDash for. (The odds of winning are roughly as good as the actual lottery.)
Depending on the whims of the gods, my food arrives somewhere between 30 minutes and a fortnight later. I sit down to eat.
Double whoops! Chipotle put the wrong ticket on the bag, or the driver didn’t double-check the name to make sure they were grabbing the right order. Or both! (Some variation of this happens, oh, 75% of the time.) Doesn’t matter now, I’ve become the proud owner of a barbacoa bowl with just pinto beans and cheese (?) with a loose tortilla on the side. Yummy yummy!
I open DoorDash again to complain that my order was wrong and try to get my money back. Before I can wade through that fucking quagmire, though, I have to rate the driver’s delivery. I give them 5 stars because due process, stop snitching, things of that nature.
I fill out a form detailing exactly what was wrong with my order. DoorDash’s mediation algorithm rules that because I paid $14 for a steak bowl and received what can only be described as “very much not that,” they are willing to offer a trade: my dignity for $4.37 in DoorDash credit. I can either accept this offer, or I can abandon my complaint completely and start the whole process over in a live chat. (Reports that DoorDash is beta testing an option for someone to break into my home and actually spit in my face, instead of just metaphorically, remain unconfirmed.)
If I have sour cream in the fridge, I take the $4.37 credit like the pathetic worm I am. If I don’t, I do the live chat. Either way, I am defeated: Chipotle is closed now, so I’m stuck with what I got. I eat a few bites of the congealed slop.
This is what I deserve.
God, I fucking hate pinto beans so much.
DoorDash could have improved on Seamless’ business model and made their product more restaurant-friendly by offering lower fees or possibly figuring out a way to treat delivery drivers like human beings. But that would require careful planning, imagination, and some vague sense of humanity—qualities famously in abundance in the startup world, as we all know. It would also require a willingness to sacrifice short-term profits1 in order to build a better product and a more sustainable system that doesn’t treat workers like disposable meat-robots.
The blueprint for such a business already exists: just take what everyone’s doing right now, remove the vampirism, and you’re set. But the people who are interested in building a more equitable version of these services don’t have the money to do it, and the people who do have the money all made their fortunes by feeding workers into a meat grinder on their way up. It’s not surprising that DoorDash settled on What if Seamless, but also Uber? as their big sales pitch. It’s also not surprising that one year later, the big brains at UberEats strutted into the marketplace holding a light bulb over their own heads going What if Seamless, but also Uber, but also, uh…Uber? And to string some festive lights around this ouroboros of suck, Seamless is now copying DoorDash’s model and enlisting courier services to offer delivery from a wider range of restaurants. The whole thing is an unsustainable disaster, so there’s only one thing left for me to do:
Sign up for Postmates. I hear they’re good.