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Foodie Rant - Bamboozled by Delivery Fees

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 16, 2010 2:40PM

Delivery.jpg Every time I order food to be delivered, I find myself a participant in the same internal morality play. Not some snappy little moment of angst, but a deep questioning of my values. You might reasonably ask, “How can a thin crust sausage pizza lead to this much suffering?” I would answer: Delivery Fees. Delivery fees make me crazy.

Before I moved to Chicago, I rarely encountered this strange beast. Sometimes food prices were slightly inflated, but that was understood as part of the game, like room service menus in hotels. If I wanted to eat greasy food while wearing my pajamas, I paid a little bit more. When the delivery arrived, I tipped the driver, got the food and climbed back into bed. If there was a delivery fee, it more often occurred in the form of a minimum order or a very small percentage of the total.

Ever since I moved to Chicago, my pain has been increasing. Fees are everywhere! As I have mentioned in previous columns, I take tipping very seriously. While the current system may not be ideal, I try to make sure that every member of a service staff gets a decent gratuity - usually something around 20%. Delivery fees throw a wrench into my entire system. It's not that I don't want to pay a fair amount for my delivery, it's that i don't know what a fair amount is!

If a restaurant charges $3.75 for delivery, on top of a minimum order of $10-15 dollars, have I already paid for the privilege of delivery? In my past life, I would’ve tipped that $3.75, but now it has already been charged to me! I’m honestly not sure whether restaurants use that delivery fee to pay their drivers or pad their pockets (I often suspect the latter), and I find myself in a quandary every time. Depending on my mood, I usually find myself tipping somewhere in the 10% range, feeling either guilty or embarrassed. Occasionally I justify a higher tip - the weather is bad, my order was particularly heavy - and then I wonder if I actually just paid a 40% delivery premium.

I certainly don’t want to stiff delivery staff - they work hard, and bring me the gift of food very late at night in blizzards. And so, the play goes on. How do you handle it?

Photo by Brian_Howe_Battle.