by Will Schreiber

Inside every brown take-out bag…

“I wanted Uber Eats because it was raining. But didn’t end up ordering because it was raining.” - Recent text from a friend

Paying for somebody to deliver burgers and fries usually feels fine. They could decline the gig if the price isn’t fair.

But when you’re sitting on a bench across from a mid-forties man rubbing his knee and popping Advil, or when a woman is standing outside the door, dripping wet, brown bag in hands, glancing at the gray Scandinavian couch and 65″ Sony on the wall, guilt creeps in.

Maybe Doordash and Instacart aren’t stealing the tips. Maybe they are. I don’t know. But I do know something feels weird about paying somebody to mask up and pluck items off the shelf while I sit on the couch. For only $8!

I’d order more often if I didn’t feel guilty.

But the gig economy is stuck in a prisoner’s dilemma. Doordash can’t raise prices to pay Dashers™ more. If they did, everyone would use Postmates or Uber or Amazon instead.

Game theory means it’s cutthroat prices and cutthroat wages. Game theory means inside every bag of hot food left on the doorstep, there’s a little feeling of shame. They could decline the gig if the price isn’t fair.

When price for delivery goes up, people order less often. Same in the other direction. But I wonder if the gig economy prisoner’s dilemma is suppressing overall demand for food and grocery delivery.

If seeing Palm Oil on an ingredients list didn’t make customers think about deforestation and global warming, then more products would have palm oil.

The same goes for delivery and labor practices.