DoorDash is hiring employees — not contractors — for a 15-minute delivery service

DoorDash launched its first 15-minute-or-less delivery service in Chelsea, Manhattan for convenience store items, entering an already packed competition for the ultra-fast delivery market.

A DoorDash delivery driver on a bicycle

“People want more and more convenience over time,” DoorDash VP of Public Policy Max Rettig told Protocol.

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

DoorDash officially entered the chaotic war to capture the market for 15-minute deliveries today and opened a new chapter in its history by hiring full-time employees, not gig workers, to run the operation.

DoorDash, which opened its first ultra-fast delivery hub for convenience items in Chelsea today, is emulating companies like Gorillas, JOKR and Buyk, which already offer Manhattan-based 15-minute or less delivery using employees rather than gig workers. The move to the employee model for this service has become standard because delivery in such a short time span requires that workers always be available, instead of opting for specific times to work in the more traditional gig model. If DoorDash wants to compete in the ultra-fast market, the gig worker model it relies on for regular deliveries is just not going to cut it. In this system, DoorDash employees will also stock and manage the local delivery facility, called a DashMart. (DashMarts are DoorDash-owned-and-operated convenience stores that were first created in August 2020).

While ultra-fast delivery is far more normal in major cities in Southeast Asia and Europe, Manhattan and the other four boroughs have become the experimental launch site for DoorDash and other delivery companies to see if people are willing to pay for speedier delivery. DoorDash plans to eventually expand from its one hub in Chelsea to several across the city, and then into other cities. Instacart also plans to launch a similar service with an employee model next year, according to a leaked report obtained by The Information.

For regular gig workers, ever-increasing delivery time pressure has become a source of danger, causing accidents and injuries. The new employee model, which includes ultra-local hubs with limited delivery radii and company-provided bikes, is intended to improve safety while further increasing the speed of delivery.

Apparently, consumers are needy people who see 35- to 45-minute deliveries as slow. “Consumer expectations around convenience have really evolved. It tends to evolve only in one direction — people want more and more convenience over time,” said DoorDash VP of Public Policy Max Rettig. So this Protocol reporter asked whether DoorDash has contemplated the more philosophical, existential question about whether there’s such a thing as “too fast” delivery, or if there’s an upper limit where, perhaps, the customer expectation just isn’t reasonable.

“Somewhere there is a limit here. You’re not going to be able to get something before you order it, maybe that’s the upper bound,” Rettig replied.

He dismissed questions about whether it made sense to enter an already brutally competitive market. “We’ve always been operating in a competitive environment. And we’ve often done so as the late entrant or the underdog. None of that is unfamiliar to us. We think we have some real strengths,” he said, rattling off a list including the company’s core business profits and its “willingness to listen” to customers and merchants. (Gig worker activists and union organizers might disagree with Rettig’s characterization of the company.)

DoorDash will supply and pay for delivery equipment and e-bikes from Zoomo, an e-bike subscription service from Australia that offers bikes for rent to gig workers. The company will have extra bikes on hand in case of flat tires, and Zoomo will perform regular maintenance on the bikes. DoorDash said it would be capping the upper speed of the e-bikes to 20 miles per hour (e-bikes are legal in New York City as long as their top speed does not exceed 25 miles per hour), and, during his conversation with Protocol, Rettig said that full-time workers will have access to traditional workers' compensation for injuries and benefits like health insurance and part-time workers will be able to access the same occupational accident insurance provided to gig workers.

The company is also exploring different ways to offer the same 15-minute delivery for local bodegas, though Rettig said the company does not yet know whether those deliveries would be handled by traditional gig workers or the new employees. Rettig compared the creation of the planned bodega delivery service to the way DoorDash originally evolved from regular gig work deliveries to an additional “white-label” platform called Drive where restaurants can create their own delivery service in partnership with DoorDash.


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