A new app promises to help delivery people make more money. Will it work?
Earlier this year, UberEats passengers gathered on a Reddit Forums youo Discuss changes the company has made to how it calculates food delivery charges. Riders suspected they were being paid less as a resuthat – but they couldn’t prove it.
The algorithms delivery companies use to assign charges to orders are notoriously difficult to crack, putting the ball firmly in their court.
But now, at last, riders can take matters into their own hands – literally.
A new app, called Rodeo, is being used by 2,500 cyclists across the UK to track their earnings across multiple apps and see which companies are giving them the best deal. It shows which days are best to work, which areas are best to work and at what hours, as well as which companies pay best and worst.
And, by aggregating data from across the workforce, Rodeo also determined the impact of changes to the UberEats algorithm. “We found that there was about a 7% reduction for drivers,” says Alfie Higgins, co-founder of Rodeo. “Average payment per order stayed the same, but orders got longer.”
“[Riders] deserve transparency and the right to behave independently,” says Higgins. “That means being able to make informed decisions about when and where they work.”
Being able to track income is one of the biggest benefits of the Rodeo app, says Mike Loftus, delivery driver for UberEats, Deliveroo and Stuart, a courier company used by JustEat to make deliveries in parts of the UK .
Typically, transportation apps show delivery staff an overview of the number of deliveries they’ve made and the times of those deliveries. But it is difficult to assess how many hours they worked and what their hourly rate is.
“There are drivers who literally work 14 hours a day, every day. And before Rodeo, you couldn’t see how much you earned; we were just working blindly.
“You would come to the end of the week and the apps (company standard) would tell you that you had won £900 to 1,000, but you had no way of knowing where it came from, or how many hours you had put in doing it,” says Loftus. “All is well and win well £1,000 and all, but when you have no life because of it, that’s another matter.
Rodeo’s data on delivery driver earnings could also be useful if workers are given the opportunity to discuss pay rates with companies.
“Stuart has a problem right now because the workers are starting to strike over a change in salary,” says Loftus. “I asked Rodeo to look into this today because they have the data that shows what an average order is today compared to 12 months ago.”
“These data are invaluable,” he adds. “We can go back to businesses with real numbers and say ‘Listen, last year we were making £5 per order, and now we’re making £4.80, for example. We can actually quantify what we lose or gain.
For Milo, it is the “community side” of the application that he particularly likes. He can connect with other drivers from different areas who share tips on good and bad restaurants to work for in specific areas.
“I hrecently gave up delivering for UberEats. I looked at my stats from the last month and I see that I’m spending a lot of time delivering for Uber and not making as much money as I could,” says Milo. “And that was purely due to the data that I saw in Rodeo.”
Not all runners are so sure
Joe Durbidge, a runner from London who has worked for Deliveroo and other apps for four years, says there is a need for more transparency for runners.
“There is a huge asymmetry of information, that’s how these platforms work. Riders don’t know how work is priced, and more and more over time, pricing has become more opaque,” he says.
Loftus agrees, adding that delivery staff have little to no communication with the companies they work for.
“With Uber and Deliveroo, it feels like working for a faceless organization”
“With Uber and Deliveroo, it feels like working for a faceless organization. I’m lucky I’ve never had an accident at work or anything where I had to contact support, but you feel like you don’t have the contact handy,” says he.
But Durbidge isn’t convinced Rodeo has the answers.
“The model is essentially a free market model, based on the idea that if riders have more information about where they should work, they can make decisions about how they work to increase their wages” , he said.
“But we know how the market works. I know London intimately, I know where all the work comes from, and everyone who does it too. We just don’t have enough work.
The number one variable that really affects passenger revenue is the volume of passengers available, and the applications overhiring at every opportunity, which means there is often not enough work for everyone, he says.
The premise of Rodeo, in Durbidge’s eyes, is that the perfect supply market for riders can be created if riders are empowered to select the ideal ordering opportunities, as they will then compete for those ideal orders. This is the opposite of what is needed, he says – the answer is instead collective action as a workforce.
Durbidge is also skeptical of the motivation of Rodeo’s founders.
“They’re trying to monetize runner data,” he says; Rodeo plans to advertise financial and insurance services to cyclists.
Some of the aggregate wage data collected by Rodeo could be useful, but it should be in the hands of unions or rider collectives, rather than people trying to monetize the workforce, he adds.
Calls for regulation
What is needed instead, Durbidge says, is government regulation to force tech companies to be more transparent about their algorithms.
There’s some discussion about whether apps could introduce personalized pricing, for example, where riders are offered different fees based on the fees the algorithm infers each individual rider will accept – something Durbidge says the regulations should protect workers.
There have been gains for riders through regulatory changes. Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands now classify workers as Full time employeesentitling them to benefits.
But try to putting regulations in place to get companies to open up their algorithms have yet to succeed. UberEats couriers in the Netherlands, for example, have launched a legal auction bring more algorithmic accountability.
For now, as the regulations may take years to come to fruition, more and more riders across the UK are downloading Rodeo – perhaps the best of the limited tools riders currently have.