On Thursday, March 28th, DoorDash went down for hours unexpectedly, apparently due to server-side load balancing issues. For users, it was impossible to get an order through: for contractors, it was impossible to log in. This created mass confusion among users, as the platform itself did not notify its users that it was down. Orders were canceled, drivers were left with food getting cold and many users didn’t receive their deliveries.
This highlights another problem with on-demand gig work: the gig workers themselves are reliant upon platforms that can go down at any time. While some workers noted that they had still been able to make their quota, many of them just saw orders go dead at a certain amount of time. Without knowing that users were unable to log in, they were kept guessing.
Reddit users reported that DoorDash support told them that the problems did not exist:
This comes on the heel with some significant controversy regarding DoorDash: that DoorDash has been cannibalizing user tips. DoorDash was recently found to operate by giving dashers a flat service rate ($6) and then deducting any tips from that, so that dashers only get $6 if the tip is less than that amount. Today, the app states that the full tip goes to the dasher, but that is a little vague: DoorDash has defended its business practices before by stating that they give the whole tips, but just adjust their own service rate to compensate.
In any case, this may have pushed many users away from the DoorDash platform, and has left the contractors somewhat adrift. Many of the contractors still aren’t sure if they’re going to get paid for some of the work they did during that time, as their orders either disappeared entirely or couldn’t be properly marked as completed within the platform.
It’s an uncomfortable reality that many gig workers are at the whims of the platform that they use, and these types of crashes can impact someone’s earning potential for the day. Even a traditional contract worker generally has recourse: they are working by larger contracts, with some amount of money guaranteed. A gig worker’s primary platform can go down at any time.
This emphasizes the need for gig workers to work on multiple platforms at once. DoorDashers could switch over to PostMates, Uber, or Lyft while DoorDash was down, in order to continue earning money while the platform was down. At the same time, it raises the question regarding this type of on-demand service is really sustainable, as many gig workers are now being forced to take on multiple jobs at once to meet their income goals, and many of them are working at this job full-time rather than as part-time labor.