I will never not tip again!
My name is Tricia and I’m your friendly, local, food delivery driver.
This isn’t my only job. This isn’t my first job. In fact, I’m a nurse and the nature of my schedule was sometimes dependent upon the health of the patient I worked with. On occasion my patient would be hospitalized; I had no paid hours when that happened. Rather than try to juggle a second nursing job and the schedule demands that often includes, I decided to pick up a side gig doing food delivery. I have worked this as a supplement to my income, and then shortly after losing my nursing job it became my only income while I searched for a stable paying nursing job that I could balance with the demands of my family.
I have worked food delivery for eight months now with three different food delivery outfits. Their names are not important and the experience is the same regardless which one I’m working for. Keep in mind, I never worked as a waitress or other food service job before. This was all new territory for me. I have also never worked for pay that was highly dependent upon tips. I suppose you could say I was a little spoiled before this.
Let me first start off by saying that I am grateful for the abundance of food delivery and other delivery jobs that can be worked as a private contractor (as opposed to being an employee of a given restaurant or company). These allow for the flexibility of working whenever you want, where you want, for as long as you want. Want to work 10 hours this week? No problem. Want to crush 40 or more? You got it. As a mother of three children with variable schedules and needs, having the option to work without the commitment to a schedule, location, or employer is great. I can even bring the kids with me and sometimes give them a cut for helping me. They learn some skills about service and work, and I get the benefit of company and sometimes an extra set of hands.
The basic structure of these delivery gigs is that of a private contractor relationship. You are not an employee so there are no benefits, no hourly pay, no paid time off. You are a private entity offering your services. Some delivery companies will offer “hourly guarantees” to incentivize working for them. One of the companies I work with offers $11 per hour guarantee. This means if my total earnings during my scheduled shift don’t equate $11 per hour then the company will pay the difference provided I meet a certain criterion of performance standards. You are not obligated to work any shift, or take any job. They do offer incentives to promote reliability with their contractors or “drivers.” You make tips as well as a flat fee and sometimes a per mile fee. These are paid out once a week with instant cash outs becoming more readily available, depending on the outfit you work with.
Requirements? A good driving record, a clean background, and a working and insured vehicle. Some have options for on-foot and bicycle delivery as well. This is useful for big cities, but where I live it is not a practical means of delivery. In my experience, the background check, driving record check, and filling out documents for tax purposes are usually done in 1-2 weeks. All the companies I have worked for require delivery bags, but one company I had to pay for them (they’re very high quality). Take the bags if offered. They’re worth it.
If you’re thinking this all sounds great you would be right, but as with all good things there are some down sides. Since these gigs are so easy to sign up for everyone is doing it. That means competition to get those orders and hours is steep. The delivery outfit will use this as an incentive to perform at a higher caliber to earn first access to the schedule and priority dispatching for higher paying jobs. The downside to the driver is that it can be difficult to find the number of hours you need to earn enough money for this to be an economically viable gig for you. Some people do this as their only source of income. Others do it for supplement. I have done it as both.
Keeping yourself with optimal numbers for priority scheduling and dispatch also means you have to be willing to take a lot of jobs that are poorly paid. Since the pay is per order, and tipping is optional, some orders will end up paying less than it will cost for you to go fetch it. You, as the contractor, have the right to refuse this but then your acceptance rate declines and this is a part of how they determine your access to scheduling. I found myself being paid $5 to drive across town, retrieve an order and deliver it. This could easily take 45 min to an hour, depending on traffic, and there was no guarantee of tip. By the end of that delivery I had paid over $2-3 in gas, not to mention time and wear on my vehicle, to bring the food to the customer. Some people tip in cash and that does help, but in my experience that is less than half of non-tipped orders.
The poor tipping on top of long driving distances has made me much more selective in which orders I will accept. I maintain an hourly rate at $13-15 and keep my miles lower, but I have much more difficulty getting scheduled hours. In fact with one outfit I haven’t been able to schedule hours in advance at all and can only go “online” to take overflow and rejected orders or pick up hours on a last minute basis.
In all I have learned a lot during my time as a delivery driver. One, I understand and empathize with other drivers when they are running behind, or if they forget something, or look rushed and flustered instead of smiling when they arrive at the door. I know the best times to order and when things are probably going to run slow. I also know which restaurants are more likely to get my order right, and out on time. I have learned the streets of my city better in the past 8 months than I have living here for 18 years. I discovered that having your address spray-painted on the curb is underrated and under appreciated. People really do steal and eat pizzas that aren’t theirs. And I can promise, after working a job depending on tips, I will never not tip again!
About the Author
Tricia is a mother, wife, and registered nurse and aspires to become a science fiction author.