Lincoln’s gas prices continue to sit above average and delivery drivers are feeling the impact.
One local DoorDash driver said the cost of gas makes him question if being a delivery driver is worth the hassle.
“I would say that the higher gas prices have definitely made me consider changing up my career choices and maybe looking for another job,” Powell Hauber said.
Hauber signed up to drive for DoorDash near the beginning of the pandemic when businesses began to shut down.
“I started doing DoorDash back in quarantine during the summer, I had just lost my job at a child care provider,” Hauber said. “So I had to find a way to make money, pay rent, pay my bills and everything and DoorDash was the easiest thing for me to do.”
With more people staying home during the pandemic, there was a higher demand for food delivery. Less traffic on the road also led to lower gas prices, with averages in Nebraska dropping as low as $1.87 per gallon in April 2020. The current average price for a gallon of gas in Lincoln is $3.87.
“The business on DoorDash is a lot less busy than it was back during quarantine because people were ordering like food online like crazy,” Hauber said. “I used to make like, over $100 a day for just like four hours during quarantine time.”
Hauber said he’s lucky to make $100 in seven hours now, with less going in his pockets and more going in his gas tank, but he said he has faith the tips will stabilize soon, and he wants to maintain his status as a “Top Dasher,” which directs higher-tipping orders to him first.
Hannah Orion started working at Chipotle in Lincoln in 2019 and noticed stark differences in the ways people ordered.
“We’ve always had mobile ordering but it was never a full separate line of orders,” Orion said. “Now we have a line of Doordashers waiting on top of a full line in the store daily.”
Orion said canceled orders from Doordashers have been substantially impacting efficiency behind the counter.
If a customer doesn’t leave a tip on their order, the driver only receives a base pay, which can be as low as $2.50. Many dashers refuse or cancel these orders because of the low pay, but the food is still prepared right away.
“We make the orders as soon as we can when the ticket comes through, but if people keep rejecting the order, the customer’s food is going to sit behind the counter for thirty minutes to an hour until someone finally accepts the order,” Orion said. “Not only does it add to our congestion, but the customer gets mad because their food arrives cold.”
While Hauber understands the stress that is added to restaurants, he said it is not worth accepting low-tipping orders.
“I’m going to pay $3 for a gallon of gas when I am getting someone’s order, I’m driving like three miles for them to just pick up their food and then another three miles back to only be paid $2.50,” Hauber said, “You have to spend all the tips you get just to fill up your tank again to do it all over again, which kind of sucks.”
Orion said restaurants are adjusting to unreliable orders.
“I really get why people wouldn’t want to take those cheap orders, I wouldn’t either,” Orion said. “When you have to make your living order to order, you need to be picky. We’re paid hourly here, but it feels like we deserve more now, too, after the ways customers respond to the restaurant directly.”
Hauber said it may not seem like a lot, but it adds up for DoorDash drivers who rely on the income.
“It makes the whole motivation to go out and use the gas kind of plummet because you don’t want to spend all the money that you’re making,” Hauber said.
Despite the resistance to higher prices, Hauber is finding ways to make it worthwhile.
“I really like working and delivering,” Hauber said.“That’s why I don’t want to give it up. It hasn’t scared me off quite yet but I just hope gas prices back down soon.”