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N4T Investigators: Restaurants again paying full price for delivery services, Door Dash changes pricing model

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Businesses are back to paying the full cost for app-based delivery services after a City ordinance intending to protect restaurants during the pandemic is lifted.  

The N4T Investigators began looking into issues with Door Dash after a so-called “Tucson fee” added a $2 premium to customers' orders in response to the City ordinance. This had several regular Door Dash customers we spoke to upset. 

“If you’re going to pass the cost to anyone it shouldn’t be the consumer,” said Isaiah Garcia. 

Before the ordinance, many businesses were paying commission fees as high as 30 percent. The ordinance, passed in October, capping fees to 15 percent. 

Mary Brinley is a manager and the owner’s daughter at Joe’s Pancake House on Tucson’s eastside. She reached out to the N4T Investigators concerned by the return to 30 percent commission fees. She said the change was made overnight without any warning. 

“Without any warning or ‘hay it's going to change’ they upped it back to 30%,” Brinley said. 

For a short time, she said they were still charging the “Tucson Fee” and charging the businesses the normal commission fees. That has since changed. 

Door Dash sent the N4T Investigators the following statement: 

In response to the price control in Tucson, we implemented a small fee to help ensure we could continue providing a high level of service for merchants and customers while paying Dashers' meaningful earnings. We lifted that fee earlier this month and launched a new pricing update that allows all U.S. restaurants on the platform to choose a pricing plan starting as low as 15 percent.

Door Dash sent us information on its new pricing plans. They offer a 15 percent, 25 percent or 30 percent rate with more benefits the more restaurants pay.

Brinley said she doesn’t believe that change is a reasonable solution right now because many businesses like hers are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. 

“If I wanted to cut back say to 15 percent, then they would up the delivery fee at least $3 to $4 per consumer and cut down our delivery range to three miles. We have to try and find the balance of upping our prices on the platform and making sure it's not too much for our consumers and making sure we’re not losing money on the sale at the same time,” Brinley explained. 

The city said the ordinance went away just as it was supposed to. 

“The city’s ordinance very clearly stated the time it was going to be in operation, it was until such time as the Governor would lift the executive order and business could return to normal,” said Tucson spokesperson Andy Squire. 

Other delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats are also able to charge their normal commission rates, both companies told us they never charged an extra fee in response to the ordinance. 

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 955-4444. 

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Chorus Nylander

Chorus Nylander is the Chief Investigative Reporter for News 4 Tucson. He is focused on giving the voiceless a voice and holding the powerful accountable.

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