BUSINESS

You’re Probably Not Tipping Your Food Delivery Guy Enough

The complete guide to being an ethical tipper when having dinner delivered to your door

BUSINESS
Photo Illustration: Vocativ
Mar 02, 2017 at 9:56 AM ET

Everyone seems to know how to leave a gratuity at a restaurant. But for many people, the rules for tipping tend to get murkier when ordering a meal online. Should you tip a food delivery person more or less than when you’re in a brick-and-mortar joint? Is it better to leave a tip on your credit card or to hand over cash in person? We asked several food delivery services to weigh in on basic questions like these and came up with this easy guide to being a fair and proper tipper — even when you’re dining in sweats on your couch.

Q: Do I really have to tip for online ordering? It’s not like a restaurant where you’re being waited on.  

A: Yes. You really do need to tip. While someone who delivers food to your home isn’t waiting on you through the entire meal, their work may be even more stressful than serving in a restaurant: They may have to bike or drive through hellish traffic and crappy weather and are under serious pressure to get meals to their destination fast. Food delivery places such as GrubHub, Seamless, DoorDash, Postmates, Caviar and Delivery.com all say they pay their delivery employees wages —the national average for delivery drivers is $24,000— and some even provide benefits like healthcare. But tips are still a critical part of a delivery person’s salary. So yeah, in almost all cases, tipping is definitely expected. And a dollar or two doesn’t cut it.

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Q: Is there an exception for services like Maple, Caviar and UberEats, which include a delivery fee? 

A: Quick answer: Yes. Employees who work for these delivery services are not generally expecting tips since they receive a more substantial salary and benefits, the companies say. Both Maple and Uber spokespeople said tipping is not expected or required. A Caviar spokesperson also said tipping isn’t required, but it is appreciated. 

In Maple’s case, the meal delivery startup that’s backed by top chefs like Momofuku’s David Chang and Le Bernardin’s Soa Davies, employees are offered a competitive wage with access to healthcare and paid time off. Maple charges one flat fee that includes the meal price, tax and delivery fee. Meals usually cost $12 for lunch and $15 for dinner (some cost more or less depending on the ingredients). The delivery fee is $1.95 at lunch and $2.95 at dinner.

“This fee allows us to provide delivery team members with a competitive wage and benefits like healthcare and disability coverage for full-time employees — a rarity in New York food delivery,” a Maple spokesperson told Vocativ. “All our riders are W-2 employees and everyone who works more than 30 hours per week has access to healthcare.”

With Uber, the booking fee for delivery is a flat $4.99. While Uber drivers don’t expect tips, some say they do appreciate receiving some extra cash. “We know what we are getting into. We know tips are either rare, or never happen, and the money we make is the money off the app,” a reddit user who is an Uber driver said. “So if you decide to tip, it will make somebody’s day. If you don’t tip, no big deal it is what is expected.”

Caviar charges anywhere between $1.99 to $8.99 as a delivery fee — depending on distance. Caviar gives diners the ability to add an optional tip in the app (up to $5) before or after their order is delivered.

Q: So how much should I tip for online delivery?

A: Fifteen to 20 percent is pretty much standard. However, you should always consider tipping more if weather conditions are extreme or the distance is far. The only exception is when you order a super-cheap meal, say, $10 or less. In that case, give the driver a flat tip. Some say $5 is the absolute minimum.

Q: How do I know delivery people actually get tips left on a credit card? Do Seamless, GrubHub, etc, distribute tips to drivers at the end of each night?

A:  GrubHub, Seamless, Postmates and Delivery.com all told Vocativ that they handle tips the same way: Any tips added to credit card orders are given in full to the person who delivered that order.

A Grubhub spokesperson said that 100 percent of credit card tips go to the delivery person, regardless of whether that person works for Grubhub/Seamless or a local restaurant. Delivery.com says it works the same way and requires merchant partners sign an agreement assuring that delivery personnel will keep tips in full. Postmates and DoorDash also confirmed that tips can be allocated via the app/website and are directly given to delivery personnel.

Q: Is there any benefit to paying tips in cash?

A: Not really, but if you simply don’t trust that delivery people will receive their tips at the end of the day, then go ahead and feel free to tip in cash.

 Q: I get that I should tip more when the weather is bad, but are there other times when I should throw in a little extra?

A: Definitely. If you feel bad for putting the delivery person through any sort of challenge or unfair situation, then you should probably increase the tip amount. Some examples of situations that warrant a bigger tip: Ordering 50 pizzas for your office, or forcing someone to hike several floors to your walk-up apartment.