A woman in Philadelphia was treated to a delightful text message, commenting on her looks and her breasts, from a delivery driver, a person who—lest we forget—visits at a particularly vulnerable time: at your home, late at night, when you’re just trying to eat your god damn pizza fries.
On Wednesday evening E.M. Ricchini, a writer, placed an order through DoorDash, one of the numerous on-demand food delivery services that runs via app. She had what she describes as an ordinary food drop-off, but a few minutes later she says she received a text from her driver.
“OMG please forgive me for saying this, but you are so gorgeous,” the text read. “And I hope this doesn’t offend you but you have the most perfect titties.”
When she replied to the text she received a bounce-back email, informing her that the number was a dummy account, used by DoorDash to protect their drivers’ privacy.“It was kind of a predatory thing to say,” she told Jezebel. “This person knows my address. It’s 9:30 at night.”
Ricchini reported the incident to the company, by posting on Twitter and sending a message through the company’s customer service page. She received an automated response. “We very much appreciate your perspective, and will flag this correspondence for the appropriate team here at DoorDash,” the email read. “Please rest assured that we regularly review customer feedback as part of our ongoing commitment to delivering the best service possible.”
She didn’t hear directly from the company until almost 12 hours later, at 12:34 p.m. on Thursday. “We do not condone this type of action and have therefore taken the step in removing them from our platform — they will no longer be able to deliver future orders on DoorDash,” the email read.
(A DoorDash spokesperson sent Jezebel the following statement: “At DoorDash, we take the safety of our community extremely seriously and we do not tolerate any form of harassment or inappropriate behavior. We have reached out to apologize to this customer and we have deactivated the Dasher from our platform.”)
Yet in some ways, DoorDash and the many companies that make up the gig-economy are built to promote these kinds of shitty interactions. Cheap labor in the form of independent contractors—who can be onboarded efficiently and easily, with minimal background checks or supervision—have allowed delivery companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Postmates to scale exponentially.
Couple this enormous scale with finite customer service departments—many of which operate without direct phone lines—and both customers and workers are left with little recourse or support following negative interactions. It took a spate of lawsuits launched by women alleging they were sexually assaulted by their Uber drivers, for the company to release fleet of safety additions—including a ‘panic button’ to connect riders directly to police departments.
Indeed DoorDash instructs customers to submit any “health, safety, or legal” over an automated form, and has similarly lax requirements for hiring new drivers. (“What’s required to dash? You must be 18 years old, have an iPhone or Android smartphone, and volunteer your social security number,” the on boarding page reads: “Get your first check this week.”)
Regardless of how quickly DoorDash acts, the damage is still done: it’s unclear how well the company protected Ricchini’s privacy when it kicked the driver off of their platform—a man who, lest we forget, has her address. Not that any of this should come as a surprise. Companies like DoorDash set women up for harassment or, worse, retaliatory action by design. And conveniently, once a driver’s kicked off the platform, DoorDash washes itself of responsibility. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences—they just trickle down to everyone else.