Tricia Weed

Local DoorDash driver Tricia Weed picks up a delivery from Mannino Italian Garden. With many restaurants closing except for deliveries and pickups, dashers like Weed are seeing shifts in their workload.

At a time when countless restaurants have shuttered dining-in options and most people are staying home due to COVID-19 coronavirus fears, DoorDash possibly could not have picked a better time to come to Meadville. The digital food delivery company began offering its services in the city last month.

DoorDash is an app-based service where people place orders for food from partnering restaurants. A driver then picks up the food and delivers it to the caller's home. Deliveries may also be ordered through DoorDash's website.

Similar to companies like Uber or Lyft, anyone may sign up to be a DoorDash driver, referred to by DoorDash as "dashers," and may set their own hours. Dashers use their own vehicles when making deliveries and use a separate version of the app to receive their deliveries.

Mary Ross, a local woman who has become a dasher, has noted a big increase in the number of deliveries she's had to do since concerns about the coronavirus have sprung up.

"It's just gotten overly busy," Ross told the Tribune in an interview this week.

In response to the virus, DoorDash has begun having dashers make "no contact" deliveries. In these cases, the dasher will drop the food off at the door of the delivery site, knock on the door and walk away, allowing the recipient to get the food without having physical contact or close proximity to the dasher.

The coronavirus hasn't been entirely kind to local DoorDasher drivers. Tricia Weed, another local dasher, said she has noted some slower days lately, particularly after Allegheny College sent students home out of concern for the virus and switched to online coursework.

Weed said the slowness could also be the result of there being more dashers in the city, estimating there are around 30 dashers currently operating in Meadville. A private Facebook group set up for DoorDash drivers in the city counts 23 people among its membership, with 10 of those members joining in the last 30 days.

Why become a dasher?

For some dashers, being a part of the DoorDash program can represent an important source of income.

Ross began dashing when her husband lost his job, leaving her as the only source of income. While Ross has a full-time position at Leech Industries Inc. in Meadville, she needed some way to supplement that.

Ross' husband has since gotten another job — one that does not pay as well as his former position. Ross plans to continue dashing, though she admitted that working both her regular job and DoorDash often leaves her exhausted.

Weed became a dasher as a way to get a quick income. She formerly worked as an in-home nurse, but due to physical strain brought on by a medical condition, she looked for a job which would be less hard on her body.

Both women also work with InstaCart, another app-based service like DoorDash, but for grocery delivery and pick-up instead of restaurant food.

DoorDash does not pay much per delivery. According to Ross, usual payments for each delivery range between $3 to $8, depending on the cost of the meal. Dashers are reliant on tips from customers to see larger payment.

"We rely on the tips from the customers just like a pizza delivery," Ross said.

Being a dasher

The number of deliveries per day can vary. Weed said during one three-day period, she had around 15 customers but had around 20 during a different three-day stretch. Ross estimated she can get anywhere from six to 10 customers over three hours.

DoorDash drivers can deliver to anywhere within a set coverage area, including homes and businesses. Weed said she has delivered as far as Saegertown and Conneaut Lake and noted the coverage area has been expanding.

Dashers are given insulated bags that can keep meals warm as they drive to the delivery location. Anyone interested in utilizing the service can enter their address on DoorDash's website to see if they are covered.

Ross said many of her deliveries are for people with kids who believe it's "inconvenient" to take them to a restaurant, such as those who are too young or misbehaving. Through DoorDash, Ross said such families are able to enjoy professionally made food without having to deal with the potential of disturbing other patrons.

Despite how tiring the job can be at the end of the day, Ross said she finds being a dasher fairly fun and considers it a "cutesy job."

Weed expressed similar sentiments.

"I like it," she said. "It's easier for me to do than a normal job."

Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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