High Gas Prices Costing Delivery Drivers More Than Their Pay

Bethany Laugavitz of Big Rapids was eager to start with mobile, third-party delivery service DoorDash after a friend referred her.

She was looking for a job that would allow her to watch her two children, both under age four, because she couldn’t afford childcare despite her husband also working.

“The first couple of weeks were great,” says Laugavitz as she sits in her car outside Taco Bell, waiting for a DoorDash order to pop up on her phone. “I seemed to get a lot of orders for the first two weeks and then after that it was really hit or miss.”

It quickly changed when gas prices began to soar due to the war in Ukraine. Laugavitz went from making “pretty good money” to losing money.

The base pay for DoorDash delivery drivers is $2.25. Much like waiters and other delivery drivers, they rely on tips to make ends meet. But Laugavitz says Big Rapids is notorious for poor tips.

“The DoorDashers have a saying, ‘no tip, no trip’ because if you don’t tip we don’t make up our gas money,” Laugavitz says.

The higher gas prices left her paying more to operate than she was making in income.

“I’ve already put $25 in the van today,” says Laugavitz. “I’m going to have to put in half of what I made today just to make up for what I drove. So in reality I’m only making $25 versus $50 or $75.”

On a rainy Friday afternoon, Laugavitz is in her car with her two girls, ready for orders. For the past week and a half, she quit to save what money she had. But Laugavitz is back at it again because her car needs repairs.

“Paying for those unexpected things, unexpected needs and what not,  that is what this job is good for at this moment,” says Laugavitz. “It is not good for making a full time paycheck.”

An order pops up on Laugavitz’s phone after nearly an hour of being “on the clock.” It’s a delivery several miles out of town, and she’s hesitant to accept.

“I don’t know if I want to take it or not, but I need the money,” she says.

She takes a risk driving several miles out of town, putting miles on the odometer and losing gas in the process. She risks losing money if the person doesn’t provide a big enough tip.

The delivery ends with a three dollar tip, not enough for a gallon of gas.

“It’s scary because I’m really worried about rent next month,” says Laugavitz on the ride back to Big Rapids. “I’m worried about my kids. They go to school 20 minutes away. I have to get them to school every day and I don’t know how I’m going to do that if I don’t have the means to.”

She’s going to continue to use DoorDash for a few days, hoping to make enough money to at least fix her car.

“Unless something changes I’m not going to be able to do it anymore,” Laugavitz says.