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Being a Delivery Driver During the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic

How is the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation impacting you? How will it impact us in the days and weeks to come? What should we do? Should we keep delivering?

I've not really dug into the Coronavirus thing much, other than talking about how Grubhub's policies are probably the worst out there when it comes to keeping everyone safe.

It hasn't been about not taking this thing seriously. It's extremely serious. Maybe part of it was not wanting to jump on a bandwagon. Part of it is not wanting to turn people off by appearing to capitalize on it by drawing people in or to do the click baity kinda things that turn me off when others do it. Part of it is just understanding, I'm nowhere near an expert on any of this, so why would I think anyone would care about what I think about this whole thing?

The whole world is trying to protect themselves from the Coronavirus
The whole world is trying to protect themselves from the Coronavirus

However, I don't want to ignore it.

I'm starting to get a number of readers lately. Maybe it's because I've put out so much stuff that there's more stuff for Google to find, you know? The bottom line is, I created this whole EntreCourier thing to try to help people get a grasp on owning their business in this food delivery independent contractor space.

Well, this whole thing is going to impact our businesses, isn't it? So let's talk about it.

I don't want to approach this like, this is all the stuff you should do. I'm not an expert. Hell, I'm trying to figure a lot of this out myself, you know? My opinions will definitely come through in what I have to say, so let me repeat this:

I'm not an expert.

I don't know public health, medicine, immunology, any of that stuff. I've not taken a single class on any of this. I've probably not read much more on it since this all blew up than anyone else. I have no basis to call myself an expert. If you see opinions showing up in what I write, remember that fact, okay?

But maybe I can offer some thoughts that might be helpful?

I hope they're helpful anyway. People are scared right now.

And the fear isn't just the virus. The virus is one thing. The impact of the virus is another. I don't think I had any idea how dramatically it could impact our economy.

So this is going to be a little different. Mainly I think I'm just going to spew my thoughts. This will be shorter than my normal episode, which is ironic because there's so much to talk about here. But part of that is, I don't want to delve into things where I'm not an expert.

Okay, THAT alone should make it really short, you know?

But let me start with where I am.

I'm not afraid of COVID-19.

That doesn't mean that I don't think I could catch it. I'm not that arrogant.

It doesn't mean that I thought it would be impossible for it to kill me if I did catch it. I do think I've got a strong immunity system, but I'm not immortal, you know? This thing could pack a wallop.

But I'm not afraid of it.

The bottom line is, Coronavirus can't defeat me. Nothing can unless I let it. It could even kill me but killing me doesn't defeat me. It's hard to explain that without going in depth about things like my faith, and that's not what this blog is about. I'll just leave it at there's something much greater than my own life.

But that doesn't mean not to take it seriously.

Let me explain it this way.

I'm not afraid of traffic. I drive in traffic all the time. I deliver a lot downtown where I'm walking around traffic. To top it off, I ride my bike, sometimes even in some heavy traffic. I'm not afraid of it. But I respect it.

Looking around before stepping out in the street isn't being afraid. It's being smart. You can do a lot of things in and around traffic to keep yourself safe. You do that because you know what it can do when you don't.

I think this is the thing about this virus. They're calling it a pandemic, and that's something that isn't done lightly. We don't have to live in fear of it but we can be smart about how we look at it.

This is not the freaking flu.

There's been a tendency to compare this to the flu. A lot more people catch it. A lot more people die from it. So why bother with this stupid virus?

I don't know which one is actually worse. I read a lot of things that go both ways. This is one of those “I'm not an expert” things. So I won't try to pretend I am one.

But I do think it's pretty safe to say that if someone with Corona-virus sneezes in a room full of people, and someone with the flu sneezes in a similar room full of people, that first room is more likely going to have people come down with the disease, and the disease could be more severe. It all has to do with immunity. We're around the flu all the time, so even though it's prevalent, there's more opportunity for our bodies to figure out how to fight it. Part of the reason this new virus is so dangerous is, we're not equipped for it. Our immune system isn't equipped and our medical system isn't equipped.

This isn't a failing of the medical system. It's just impossible to be equipped this quickly after something this new. Understanding the treatments, developing vaccines, all that stuff takes time. We haven't had that time.

How will this impact delivery?

I think the common wisdom is, deliveries are going to increase dramatically. Grubhub had a big jump in their stock price in anticipation of more deliveries as people stay home. After all, deliveries in China shot through the roof.

I'm not sure it's as simple as that. There are a few factors that could tell a different story.

The economic impact of this thing is huge. We're only getting a taste of it. The bottom line is, disposable income is about to evaporate for a lot of people, so the ability to order delivery may decrease dramatically.

Are people comfortable, do they feel safe with delivery? Let me put it another way: with a lot of the people I see doing deliveries, I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel rolling the dice on who might end up with my food.

Finally, say that deliveries do skyrocket. Is that a good thing? Or could it be the thing that knocks over this whole house of cards that is the delivery industry. Delivery companies are losing money, and the thing with high demand is that it's going to require higher bonuses, higher incentives to get drivers out there. That can be good for the drivers in the short term – but it could mean higher losses. The other problem is the system is so freaking inefficient. Especially with Grubhub – that if they can't fix those inefficiencies QUICKLY it could be a death blow to one or more of these companies. Because what it does is it introduces more people to the company, yes, but it also introduces a higher dissatisfaction rate.

And when the dust settles on all this, good luck getting people to come back.

So what do we do?

There's all sorts of good advice out there. There are a lot of places that do it better than I could. Stride health has a good resource guide for independent workers. That's a good starting place.

Here are a few things I would suggest:


Don't live in fear. Be smart about exposure, but…. for gosh sakes don't spend your life fortune on toilet paper! I don't know what's with the toilet paper, are people creating home made masks or something and duct taping toilet paper to their faces? I don't think so because I don't see the run on tape.

But…. don't live in fear. Maybe this is an opportunity to connect more individually. People are home more, take advantage of that. Instead of being afraid of what will happen, focus on the stuff of life that brings you joy and meaning. Keep living.

Think about paid time off.

But we don't GET paid time off. That's been a big issue, right?

A lot of people are beating the drum that these delivery companies should be giving us paid time off so that if we need to step away for the sake of safety, we don't take the financial hit.

That makes sense when you have employees. To a certain extent it even makes sense when these companies are developing massive work forces – there's a lot of stuff about that and about how they treat their workforce – especially Grubhub, that crosses the line into employment treatment.

Some issues with these companies

Quick dive into a rabbit hole here – I wrote this earlier – but it's going to be hard enough to get contractors to stop driving if they're feeling sketchy. I wrote this article earlier about how Grubhub's attendance policy could make it worse. You not only lose out on earnings, but also jeapordize future ability to earn.

Doordash isn't much better. They announced a plan where they'll pay for time off if you come down with the virus or are quarrantined. But did you see what they put at the end of the policy? You are deactivated as a driver while that happens. You have to file an appeal to get back on. So essentially yeah, we'll pay you but we have to fire you to do it.

Remember though that we aren't employees.

If these companies do come up with paid time off, that's great. It definitely helps.

But I'm going to tell you, act as if it won't happen.

And honestly, we shouldn't expect it to happen. Because we are running a business here. Do you think anyone's promising paid time off to the restaurant owner in Omaha who will go out of business now because the revenue from the March Madness and College World Series crowds he was planning on won't come in now that it's all canceled? A lot of businesses are going to go under and there's no minimum wage and no paid time off for them.

And here's the thing – you signed up for it. You may not have intended to be a business, you were looking for money, but… you signed up just the same. You agreed to it. Absolutely, if they offer things that help you beyond that, that's great. I'm not saying they shouldn't take responsibility.

What I'm telling you to do is take responsibility. YOU take control of your situation.

I will have paid time off if I need it.

Because my employer is giving it to me.

I'm my employer.

This is an important thing that I preach when it comes to running your business. You treat your revenue as income for a business, not income for you. And you give yourself a paycheck. Episode 30 on the Podcast gets more into that. Part of that is setting aside money for some paid time off.

I put $50 into the bank every week. This is not vacation savings. It is not anything like that. This is paid time off. If I'm in a situation where I can't earn money, I can draw money from that fund. Either I can use it as vacation pay or sick pay. If I take a couple days off, only make $200 but I needed to earn $600, I can take the $400 out of that fund. This is here for exactly this kind of situation.

I've had people argue that it's not the same as paid time off at work. It actually is, or is very close to the same. In most places, you accrue that time off. You work so many hours and you accrue an hour of PTO. You work so many months before you get your vacation pay. The only real difference is, YOU are the one making it happen. But that's not so different because it's still your employer doing it, right?

I would suggest, start the practice if you haven't already. This isn't just about this scare, but something that you should be doing no matter what, especially if you rely a lot on this income. If you're a little concerned about the current situation, maybe ramp that up. Cut your costs, cut your spending to a minimum and stock pile as much as you possibly can to protect yourself.

Be smart

Should you keep delivering? When all the rest of the world is self isolating, when sporting events and schools are shutting down and everyone's staying at home, all of a sudden you are going to be one of the people in more contact with other people than anyone else.

I can't tell you whether it makes sense or not to deliver. It's an individual decision based on a lot of things. One question is your own level of immunity. I've been blessed with a strong level of immunity, I don't catch much and I usually recover from stuff quickly. My mom said I ate dirt a lot when I was a kid, maybe that was the secret. But if getting sick knocks you out worse than most, maybe be a little more cautios.

Be clean

If someone sneezes on you there's not much you can do. That's why they say self isolate. But outside that, most risk comes through contact. And usually that's your own contact with yourself. Wash your hands. A lot. That's all stuff people tell you all the time. They say don't touch your face – a lot of people are suddenly aware of how difficult that really is. But that's part of not touching your hands.

I've been even more conscious about even the appearance of clean. I tend to shave every three days or so, I'm shaving daily. I'm even more thoughtful about how crisp and clean the clothes I wear for delivery look. I'm cleaning my car a bit more to the level you would expect when driving passengers around. None of these things are making myself or the people I deliver to any safer, I don't believe. But it's the appearance that is important. There's comfort and reassurance.

And stay home when it's time to stay home.

Are you feeling sketchy? Wondering if you might be coming down with something?

Don't take chances. Stay home. Both for yourself and for those you will come in contact with.

Don't forget to live.

I mentioned that earlier.

This is a scary time. People are going bonkers. Who knows what this will do to our economy. Who knows what this will do to our industry.

Don't let fear control you. Live your life. Focus on the things that matter. Dwell on things that give you strength and comfort.

You can take control here.

Even with the Coronavirus out there, you can still be the boss.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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