Right now, almost all of us are relying more on delivery and on-demand services than we ever have in our lives. Be it Instacart, Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, Amazon Prime Now, or Postmates, the gig delivery economy is operating at heretofore unseen levels. In many ways, this is great: it means Americans are staying home, reducing their exposure to others, and doing their best to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic that is now spreading across the globe. But in using these services, it's critical to remember that the people bringing you these goods often aren't well paid, and rarely enjoy any kind of benefits. You should be tipping them well.
If you can afford to pay for hot food or groceries to be delivered to your doorstep, you can afford to tip, and to tip better.
This isn't a post about shaming bad tippers. There are a million posts about bad tippers, and why not tipping well is a kind of shitty thing to do. I'm not going to rehash those arguments. What I am going to do is tell you that right now, the millions of people working for the companies I named above generally don't make a lot of money. You can argue that it's unskilled labor, that times are hard for everyone, or that they already make a wage, but I don't think any of that matters. If you can afford to pay for hot food or groceries to be delivered to your doorstep, you can afford to tip, and to tip better.
Amazon Prime Now drivers earn around $20 per hour on average before expenses, according to Amazon itself. Gasoline, vehicle insurance, and maintenance costs aren't included in that figure. A driver who averages 100 miles a day at a generous 33MPG (for the sake of mathematical simplicity) would pay $6 a day for gas at an equally generous $2 per gallon. At 20 work days a month, that's $120. Add another $100 each month for insurance. And vehicle maintenance is hard to calculate, but $600 a year (between, let's say, oil changes, brake pads, and tires) extrapolated monthly is $50. That's nearly $300 a month in expenses for a job that, assuming you could work it 40 hours a week (and you can't: Amazon maxes most Flex workers at 20-30 hours a week), could pay $3200 per month total. And that's before taxes.
DoorDash pays so poorly that many drivers barely make any money at all.
Amazon, in this scenario, is actually one of the best places to work. Data suggests shoppers for Instacart average between just $10 to $17 an hour in pay. Postmates is allegedly around the same. Uber Eats, unsurprisingly, pays among the worst—as does DoorDash, so poorly that many drivers barely make any money at all. Use the Amazon driver math above and you'll discover that most people in this industry are woefully underpaid, and right now they're providing us not just convenience, but a critical service to many of our communities and those who are members of vulnerable populations that cannot go to the store.
I understand that among those people relying on delivery services right now, not everyone can necessarily afford to tip generously. If you are or live with someone over 65 or who is immunocompromised, and you're relying on a single grocery delivery to feed your entire family for a month on a highly restricted income, paying a $20 tip instead of $10 may feel like an incredibly difficult decision. When every dollar counts, it's hard not to count every dollar you could save. But most of us using these services don't have a good reason to be penny pinchers.
How much should you tip? Ask yourself: if you were in your delivery driver's shoes, what would make your day feel a little less onerous, make you feel a little less defeated? $10? $15? $20? What would make enough of a difference for you to say to yourself "I feel appreciated"? Right now, these millions of people are doing something that many of us are trying to avoid: going into places where potentially sick people congregate, touching surfaces that could be vectors for COVID-19, and interacting with people who are isolated at home. This is a hazardous job. It deserves to be recognized as such. And if the companies employing these people won't offer the extra pay that hazard so clearly warrants, for now, the least we can do as consumers of these services is to put money in the pockets of the people who make them function.
So, tip. Tip in the app, or leave cash out on the doorstep. Tip in gift cards if you have to. But show these people some love right now, and show it to them in the way that helps the most: paying them for their continued service during an unprecedented crisis.