Food delivery charges add up. Who keeps the money from all those surcharges?

In this Nov. 6, 2019 file photo, a restaurant advertises Uber Eats in Miami.  (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

In this Nov. 6, 2019 file photo, a restaurant advertises Uber Eats in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

We’ve all been there. There’s nothing in the fridge and you don’t have time to finish, so you open a delivery app to order lunch. But by the time you go to the checkout, pay all your taxes, and tip your driver, your $11 burrito has turned into a $19 splurge.

The price jump is due to lots of small fees a couple of dollars here, a few percentage points there that add up when the food arrives at your door.

Where does all that extra money go? Uber Eats and DoorDash analyze line item charges on their websites. Grubhub also charges similar fees but doesn’t list them in detail.

The first two charges you’ll see listed frequently on all three apps are shipping and service charges. The delivery fee, to state the obvious, goes to help defray the cost of delivery, the companies told Nexstar. Delivery rate may vary based on demand, your location, number of available carriers and other factors.

The delivery fee is what goes towards courier earnings, at least in part, an Uber spokesperson confirmed.

The service fee, on the other hand, goes to cover operating costs, the three companies said. Operating expenses include keeping apps up and running, customer service, credit card processing fees and more, said an Uber Eats spokesperson. A service fee can start at less than a dollar but increases based on the size of your order.

Next come some less common fees that you may see added.

Uber Eats and DoorDash both have a small per-order fee, for example, which is about what it sounds like. If you’re just ordering a coffee or smoothie for delivery, the app may add a few extra dollars to make the delivery worth the driver’s time and company resources.

On DoorDash, you may also see an extended range fee if you order from a company further away.

In some places, apps charge a regulatory response fee to compensate for the effects of local regulations. For example, after protests from restaurants struggling during the pandemic, dozens of cities pushed limits on the amount apps could charge restaurants to deliver food. Now, in some cases, apps charge extra for users in response. On DoorDash, these fees range from $0.10 to $3.40, depending on the region.

Californians also get another fee that apps started charging after Prop 22. They say it’s needed to ensure drivers get the minimum wage and health insurance.

You may also need to pay a fee if you change your address after placing your order, which helps pay the delivery person for the extra time and effort, according to Uber Eats.

The price of the food you order may also have hidden costs built into it. Grubhub’s terms of service, for example, state that the company reserves the right to consolidate or otherwise incorporate fees and/or surcharges into the prices listed for the merchant’s food and beverage items.

Restaurants can set higher menu prices on delivery apps to help defray the costs of doing business on the platforms. In addition to the fees users pay, delivery apps take a cut from restaurant sales.

We checked out a lunchtime delivery option on Uber Eats in San Rafael, California. The restaurant listed a price for the salads of $15.95 if you picked it up in-store, but the same menu item was marked up to $19.30 on the Uber Eats app and that’s before tax, delivery and other expenses.

The total ended up being $31.85 without leaving a tip for the driver.

Seeing all those small fees factored into your bill can be frustrating, but DoorDash said the rumors are part of the company’s transparency policy. The app shows you fees multiple times, not just at checkout, so you know what’s coming and you know where the money is going, a spokesperson said.

In its recent Merchant Impact Report, Uber also says that its services, while they cost, facilitate billions of deliveries globally for many small and medium-sized businesses that may not be able to deliver food without third-party services.

If you order a lot of food for delivery, it might be worth subscribing to things like DashPass, Grubhub+, or Eats Pass. For $10 a month, the delivery fee is usually waived and the service charge can be reduced.

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