Para hasn’t exactly been welcomed by the gig companies. DoorDash sent a cease-and-desist letter last summer, shortly after the app had started, saying that it was illegal for drivers to use their DoorDash credentials on Para and that data traffic from Para was so high it had “destabilized” DoorDash’s platform more than once. Mr. Pickerell responded by offering to have a conversation, and he never heard back.
In July, DoorDash tightened the security controlling how drivers log into its app, cutting off Para from it. Each time Para created a workaround, DoorDash quashed it with a new update within hours, Mr. Pickerell said. After a few weeks of cat-and-mouse, Para gave up, ending workers’ ability to use the app with DoorDash.
“Getting in a daily engineering war was not sustainable,” Mr. Pickerell said.
DoorDash does not show full tip amounts for “orders that contain larger tips” in advance “to ensure all Dashers have an equal chance at receiving high-value orders,” said Rachel Bradford, a spokeswoman. When drivers take only orders with big tips, it “harms the experience” for customers and merchants, she continued. Further, third-party apps that require drivers to share login credentials are “a concerning safety and security risk.”
Last week, Uber also sent Para a cease-and-desist letter. Uber declined to comment.
Harry Campbell, the founder of “The Rideshare Guy,” a blog and podcast for gig workers, said there was “inherent tension” between the ride-hailing platforms and their workers. Drivers want fewer drivers on the road, giving them less competition for the best-paying orders and more bonuses. But the platforms want the opposite — slightly more drivers than orders, to keep the service reliable and consistent.
“That inherent tension always leads to issues,” Mr. Campbell said.
DoorDash came under fire for using tips to subsidize driver payments, a practice it stopped after an outcry, and lawsuits, in 2019. In 2020, Uber gave its drivers more flexibility to turn down lower-paying rides in its push for a California ballot measure that would keep drivers as independent contractors. A year later, after the measure had passed, drivers accused Uber of taking away that flexibility. The company made changes to address the complaints in recent weeks.
Other apps have offered drivers various tools over the years, but none have directly undermined the delivery apps as Para did with its hidden-tip feature. The company claims that its app has more users — 100,000 logging on each week and more than 400,000 downloads — than any others trying to give drivers more information about their take-home pay.
Para began as a pandemic project. When Covid-19 first began to spread, it was not clear whether gig workers qualified for government assistance. Mr. Pickerell, 31, built a website, Autonomy.jobs, which scraped government sites and told people how to get money on various timelines.