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Case Study

September 7, 2023

DoorDash is an on-demand delivery platform with millions of Dashers on the road 24/7. We sat down with Chad Dennis, Manager of Trust & Safety Strategy with DoorDash, to talk about how the role of Trust & Safety is expanding to help protect users in the real world and how real-time alerts help keep Dashers safe before, during and after every delivery. 

Note: Chad’s answers have been slightly edited for clarity and brevity but you can hear his full comments by watching the video here.

How has the role of Trust & Safety at DoorDash expanded beyond online interactions?

When people mention trust and safety, if this was five, six, seven years ago, it would be content moderation, making sure people aren't posting things they're not supposed to be posting. But in the past several years we've noticed – and this isn't a DoorDash-specific problem at all – a lot of external risks popping up.

So things that aren't necessarily related to our platform, but just increases in violent crime across the country, unfortunately, very, very serious things like car jackings, active shooters, bomb threats. And so we realized we need to not only be monitoring conduct within our platform, but we need to have the tools and processes in place to manage and mitigate those external risks that are really the same types of risks that our Dashers are facing. We're really focusing on things that we may not have a good signal of on platform, so that's where partnerships with vendors like samdesk come in is unlocking the visibility into the external risks.

How has samdesk helped your team have more visibility into external threats?

A lot of our monitoring takes place surrounding the areas where our merchants are operating. So think shopping malls, shopping plazas, and restaurants. So if we receive something like a bomb threat at a mall, and a Dasher has just accepted an order and they're heading to that mall to pick up the order to deliver it to the customer, samdesk helps us intervene in that moment.

We can say, “Hey, we detected a risk, there's something going on where you're heading right now. We've temporarily shut down the area while the police investigate, and we've canceled the order for you, completely penalty free.” So Dashers don't need to make a decision to continue on and potentially cause harm to themselves or lose out on pay or ratings. We remove that element so Dashers don't have to decide.

They can focus on getting there safely, knowing that we're constantly monitoring every single dash around the world and at the earliest signal that we get from samdesk or any other input mechanism, we're able to take action.

What role does transparency play in the effectiveness of your safety program?

We definitely balance transparency with not causing panic necessarily. So everybody on all sides of the marketplace, the Dasher, the impacted merchant and the impacted customer, all understand what's happening. They're alerted that there was a possible safety incident occurring somewhere along the journey and we needed to cancel this order for the safety of the Dasher, the safety of the merchant, even the safety of the customer in some of those instances.

Everybody is made whole if an order does need to be canceled because of a potential safety incident. The merchant is paid for that, the customer gets a refund and they're able to reorder from potentially another merchant that maybe isn't impacted in that moment. And then as soon as we get the all clear, whether that be from the police or another official source, immediately all operations are back to normal and our team is very cognizant of monitoring the events for the whole life cycle.

How do real-time crisis alerts help power your workflows when a safety incident is detected?

If our systems in conjunction with samdesk identify a Dasher as potentially being in an area where an incident is taking place, whether that be an active shooter incident, a bomb threat, police activity, we tap our partners at ADT and they automatically make an outbound phone call to the Dasher to confirm their safety and wellbeing. And since ADT is directly connected to 9-1-1 dispatch centers, they can directly send police, fire, EMS services to the Dasher if they need them – and we've already made hundreds of calls to Dashers potentially in those areas. 

What is an example of using a real-time alert to get ahead of a crisis?

A couple of months ago, there was an active shooter alert that came out of a fairly large mall and we had several dozen merchants in the area, and we actually had Dashers that were already picking up orders at the mall. 

So when we engaged our crisis shutdown, which actually took place something like 90 seconds after we first received the signal, we shut down the stores and canceled the orders. Our partners at ADT made outbound calls to those impacted Dashers and one was sheltering in place in the back of a store. The ADT dispatcher was able to give that Dasher context of what's going on and talk to local law enforcement on the other line at the same time. The ADT actually remained on the phone with that Dasher while the police went in and extracted them. Fortunately nobody was harmed in that particular incident, but I think that's a really great example of how all of our different safety products kind of merged together into this larger program that is really about keeping people safe, keeping people updated and giving them emergency responders if it's necessary.

What value has samdesk brought to your team and your organization?

Samdesk helps us get so far in front of events that we're often canceling orders, maybe temporarily shutting down stores due to an incident, half an hour or maybe an hour before those incidents actually hit the news. We obviously can't get in front of every incident, but samdesk helps us lower that delta from alert to response and so we can maximize our effectiveness in keeping people out of harm's way.

Being able to save that little bit of time in our response to an incident happening is all the difference and was definitely worth building out that somewhat advanced infrastructure where we're ingesting all these alerts from around the globe. We have over half a million merchants in a lot of countries, and we're able to react to them so quick that we've reduced that delta to just single digit seconds in most cases. And that's of course, once we receive the signal from samdesk.

I think it's one of the many reasons that so many dashers choose to earn with DoorDash over some of the other platforms is because of awesome safety related partnerships like we have with you. 

Check out the full conversation between Chad and James Neufeld, samdesk Founder and CEO, on YouTube.