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  5. A food-delivery driver hunting for big tips says he declines 75% of orders and hangs out in wealthy areas: 'I'm not doing this to gamble. I'm doing this to make money.'

A food-delivery driver hunting for big tips says he declines 75% of orders and hangs out in wealthy areas: 'I'm not doing this to gamble. I'm doing this to make money.'

Jacob Zinkula   

A food-delivery driver hunting for big tips says he declines 75% of orders and hangs out in wealthy areas: 'I'm not doing this to gamble. I'm doing this to make money.'
  • Jay said he delivers food 10 hours weekly for DoorDash and Uber Eats.
  • The Gen Zer said he didn't accept orders with low tips and that wealthy neighborhoods tipped better.

If you don't tip — and tip well — don't expect Jay to pick up your food-delivery order.

The Philadelphia Gen Zer works roughly 10 hours a week on his "weekend side hustle," he told Business Insider, delivering food on his bike for primarily DoorDash and Uber Eats. Jay, whose last name is known to BI but has been excluded for privacy reasons, shares his delivery experiences with his nearly 150,000 TikTok followers.

When Jay logs on to his delivery apps, he said, he chooses whether to accept or pass on a variety of orders that come in. He said his decision was based on how much each delivery would pay and how long it'd take. DoorDash and Uber Eats offers include a base payment — which depends partly on the distance of the delivery, occasional incentive fees to entice drivers, and any up-front tip the customer includes.

Jay's average base payment is between $2 and $2.50, according to delivery records previously provided to BI, though some base payments were as high as $4.50. When a delivery offer comes in as low as $2 or $2.50, he said that meant the customer did not offer a tip upfront.

While DoorDash and Uber Eats customers can also tip after the order is delivered, Jay said he's not interested in waiting to see whether he'd wasted his time. For this reason, he generally accepts only orders with the highest payments — which often mean the highest upfront tips — and declines roughly 75% of the orders he receives.

"I'm not doing this to gamble. I'm doing this to make money," he said. "So I'm not really interested in playing the game of, 'Oh, maybe I'll do this person's delivery for a guaranteed $2.50. Maybe it might be more.' I don't play that game. And most people don't like to play that game. That's what results and their order's not getting picked up, or it takes a while for them to get their food."

Jay isn't the only food delivery driver who takes this approach. In November, DoorDash customers who attempted to place an order without a tip began receiving an alert: "Orders with no tip might take longer to get delivered — are you sure you want to continue?"

The majority of orders he sees do include a tip, Jay said. According to documents BI saw, they generally range from $3 to $7. Both DoorDash and Uber Eats drivers keep 100% of their tips.

"I think people should be tipping for the premium service that they're being provided," he said.

@downtownhustle This is one od the rare times where it was worth it to deliver a @wendys order.. lol #CapCut #tiktoklive #bikedelivery #deliverydriver #ubereats #phillytok #philly #doordashdriver ♬ original sound - Downtown Hustle

Jay isn't the only gig worker looking for higher tips. While many delivery drivers said they benefited from larger tips during the beginning of the pandemic, some customers have since cut back.

Alix Anfang, an Uber spokesperson, told BI last year that tipping had increased since 2020.

"On the rides side, tipping frequency and the average tip on a trip roughly doubled over the last two years," Anfang said. "Food delivery has always had a high tipping rate, but the average tip on a delivery increased even further by about 20%."

A DoorDash spokesperson told BI last year that the vast majority of DoorDash customers left a tip and that, on average, drivers earned $25 an hour while delivering. While drivers are allowed to pass on orders, the spokesperson said, the company's data shows that drivers who accept more orders — rather than wait for the ones with the biggest tips — tended to earn more.

A new study of over 500,000 US gig drivers from Gridwise, a data-analytics company and app helping drivers track their earnings, found that nearly 90% of food-delivery trips got a tip in 2023, compared to 75% of grocery-delivery trips and 28% of Uber and Lyft ride-hailing trips.

Looking for big tips is like a 'treasure hunt'

Jay doesn't just cross his fingers and hope for orders with big tips. He said he deliberately hangs around more affluent neighborhoods, like Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square, because customers there tend to tip better, he said.

"I'll sit in Rittenhouse Square in the park, and I'll get an order that's from a fancy Italian restaurant," he said. "It's a two-block delivery, and it ends up paying me $20 because this person doesn't want to walk two blocks in the winter cold."

He added: "I know what parts of the city have the better tips and which ones don't. That typically does have to do with the income of the area."

Jay began delivering food for DoorDash in January 2019 to earn extra income and said he worked roughly 40 hours a week that summer when he was off school. When the pandemic forced Jay to move home to a Philadelphia suburb, he began doing grocery and food delivery from his car. He noticed a significant boost in tips, he said, and for the first few months, it was a "gravy train."

"On $250 to $300 grocery orders, people were tipping $100," he said, "because they were just so petrified to step foot in the grocery store and they were so thankful that someone else was willing to do it."

Jay said his DoorDash and Uber Eats tips were roughly at a pre-pandemic level, if not slightly higher. But while $100 grocery tips might be a thing of the past, Jay said he'd been able to count on one time of year for higher pay: winter.

During the summer, when there are more drivers on the road, he said he typically earned between $20 to $25 an hour delivering food.

But during the winter, when there are fewer drivers to compete with — and some customers tip more generously in appreciation for their drivers navigating adverse weather conditions — Jay said he earns as much as $45 an hour riding his bike around the city, according to documents viewed by BI.

Snatching up an order with a high tip isn't always what it seems, though. Some drivers have complained of "tip baiting," when customers offer high tips to attract drivers and then revoke them — something Jay said had happened to him two to three times.

Jay said he planned to continue doing gig work on the weekends — and search for the highest tips.

"Doing this food delivery thing, I just kind of think of it as a game," he said. "It's like a treasure hunt, if you would, and I get joy out of it."

Are you a gig worker willing to share your story about pay, schedule, and tipping? If so, reach out to this reporter at

Editor's note, April 26, 2023: This article has been updated to reflect the real first name of the source mentioned in the story.