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The Delivery Life – a Quiet, Uneasy Hopefulness

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Yesterday was the first day of the new temporary normal. Restaurants and bars in Denver are closed to dining or drinking in. Is “drinking in” even a term? With the bars closed, I guess now it's drinking in place.

I decided to take a bit of a departure from the more practical type articles for this series, using this to share my experiences and observations as I go out and deliver in this new environment. Yesterday, I shared that it was kind of difficult, seeing the faces of restaurant staff who just received the news that restaurants would be closed down for the foreseeable future.

I usually stay home on Tuesdays. It's kind of my weekend. But yesterday, I just felt like I needed to be out there. Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was feeling a need to show some support. I don't know. I just had to.

A different approach to deliveries

As I headed out, there was a part of me that just said… screw it. I'm not going to stress about profit per hour or any of that. I ditched the 40 cent rule – where I usually say a delivery has to pay 40 cents a minute for me to take it. I'm not putting any brain damage into evaluating deliveries, I'm just going to go out and experience.

Mind you, that didn't mean taking everything that came in. If it's a long drive to the restaurant, or it's one of those 10 mile drives out of the area to deliver, I'm still passing. That alone still manages to keep my acceptance rate particularly low with Grubhub. And the $3 Doordash order that goes seven miles is still a hard no.

But that said, even if it was semi-reasonable, I just decided to take it.

Maybe my Uber Eats experience is changing me a little.

That's not to say that I think that's how we should approach things right now. I can't blame anyone for deciding that the standard has to be even higher. Because we go from person to person to person from restaurant to house to restaurant to house and back again, that in and of itself puts us at a higher risk. It's not wrong to expect hazard pay, and we can control that to some extent by what offers we accept.

If things are busy enough.

However, for me, my thought process for the day is, I just want to experience the day.

The mood is different

You can imagine that my experience is limited. Therefore I can't assume that what I notice from a few places is how it is everywhere. However, I did see a shift in mood. Monday was very somber, but yesterday was more cautiously optimistic.

Obviously, the restaurants had a lot fewer people on hand. They didn't need wait staff and usually needed fewer people in the kitchen.Maybe the mood was different was because these were the ones who didn't lose their jobs. At least not yet, anyway.

Which is not to say anyone was callous or uncaring. I made a point to ask people how it was going, and one owner was nearly in tears saying it was so difficult sending people home.

I have to say this right now. I'm seeing a lot of criticism on social media of small business owners who are laying people off. They say they should keep paying people even if they have to send them home. I think they assume that if you own a business you are built of cash or something. How many of these businesses are just on the edge of survival? A lot of these places aren't going to survive, and to tell them to keep paying staff when there's no money coming in is to just guarantee that these folks won't be able to come back.

And don't begin to think that doesn't weigh heavily on most of these owners.

A sense of determination

Having said all that, the other thing I saw was just a sense of determination. We're not going to let this thing defeat us, we're going to do everything we can to keep our doors open and get through this.

Some told me that business was booming. Others said that the numbers were way down. I noticed a bit of a pattern, that the ones who were booming relied more on delivery and takeout to begin with. For those who relied heavily on dine in customers and who delivery was kind of like a side hustle for them, I'm a little more concerned that they may not make it.

I've always thought it was important to maintain a good relationship with the restaurants that I pick up from. I've never understood the drivers who look at the restaurants as the enemy. Having said that, most drivers that I see that look at it that way seem to look at everyone as the enemy. I kind of feel for them, that's got to be a miserable way to live.

You know, Monday I just had to hang it up early because it was so discouraging. Yesterday, I think I came home inspired. I mean, I know some of these places aren't going to survive this. That's difficult. Heartbreaking. But the inspiring part is, I came away knowing that some of these places that don't have a prayer of surviving are going to survive anyway. There is such a determination and a strength of will, it's just going to happen.

It was a surreal day.

Okay, this is just a surreal time period. It's even a surreal time, period! (Punctuation is everything, right?)

It is so odd to drive so easily through the streets, not fighting traffic. Normally you approach the main roads knowing you have to wait for an opening before you can turn onto them, and don't even THINK about turning left onto one of these. Yesterday, I could do pretty much anything I wanted without a wait.

That said, I was a little surprised how many cars were still on the road. It wasn't a TOTAL ghost town, but still very different.

And parking!!!! There was parking available. EVERYWHERE. Except some of the residential streets. Everyone's home now.

I'm trying to get a handle on how much sense it makes to keep delivering.

Here's the oddest part.

I sat a lot more than I usually do. I thought things would get super busy. I'd sit for ten or fifteen minutes without an order from Grubhub, Doordash OR Uber Eats. I was almost tempted to turn on Postmates for the first time in forever, but there's still a principle thing there.

The part that's hard to figure though is, I met up with another Uber Eats driver and asked him how his day was going. He said it was crazy busy, nonstop.


And then just when you think it's not going that well financially, a $50 double delivery comes in that's short and quick. And then an unexpected $25 tip comes in on Uber Eats.

In nine hours being out there yesterday, more than an hour of it was idle. But the weird thing is, I still made enough that even compensating for the still time, I made well above my average for that time period.

I don't know for sure what to expect. Are deliveries not up as much as I might have thought? Or are all the side hustlers suddenly going full time now that their main hustle has shut down for a few week, so there's more drivers competing for those deliveries?

Curious about the days to come.

I'm wondering what it will be like. One restaurant manager told me he figured it might go okay for a few days but he was afraid of people running out of money. But how many people are going to get tired of cooking after awhile? Are more people going to try to deliver because they're desperate? Or will they get discouraged by the slow times and go home?

I don't know who it is that put the curse on us.

But we certainly live in interesting times.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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The Delivery Life - Finding a New Normal
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The Delivery Life: What Am I Doing Out Here Anyway?

Lisa Burke

Thursday 19th of March 2020

I always love reading your articles. I work in the Nashville market which is the busiest of the 14 markets I have worked in the last 6 years doing this work. We are DEAD. Nothing but crickets....but with that being said Im doing o.k. instead of my usual $120 daily goal my daily goal is now ,$50 and Ive hit at least ,$70 every day so far. Mind you that $70 is NOT due to jobs-it is because of tips. Todays haul was a surprising $106. So it felt good. That was in 7 hours. But Im sitting for about 2.5 out of those 7 hours. I average 1-2 jobs an hour vs my normal 3-4 jobs per hour because i purposely take only $3 jobs. They are quick, use less mileage and use less gas and I can easily knock several out an hour on a normal day. I actually declined several jobs today now that UE is showing us distance and time for each delivery.(that just started after yesterdays app update) Im not about to take a 14 mile job that will take me 38 minutes for $5.41. Its not happenin. But send me all the $3 jobs you want. Like you, noticed I notice the same thing here. Very minimal staff, restrauants shutting early and even a couple of places are just plain closed for now. I did have 2 interesting proposals this week tho. 2 restrauants asked me if I would be their driver exclusively as they are dropping DD, GH and UE. I found that to be interesting. Not because they asked me(because I also maintain excellent relationships with my restrauants) but because they are finally seeing the light. As I often share with my restrauants MY strategie vs how UE and DD and GH do it. My strategie is to take those $3 and keep my delivery radius small. This pays off in several ways for me: repeat restrauants(relationship is key), repeat customers(we get to know each other and what my customers like, I address them by "good morning Bob" or "love your new shoes Katerine"-who doesnt like to be called by their name and get a compliment) and lastly by doing a small delivery radius, my repeat customers know they will get ME along with some HOT and FRESH food. Guess what I get??? Bigger tips. My tips today were all $8-$10. Its not uncommon for me to get a $20 once or twice a week. My strategie works! UE, DD, GH wants to send me out 14 miles for $5.41 to some stranger I have never seen before and hand them food that is now either luke warm or cold and poor quality. And the trip will take me darn near an hour by the time I get back to my starting point where my repeat customers are. Is that stranger gonna give me a tip like my repeat cusyomers do? Its a 50/50 gamble. But I would rather take 2 to 4 $3 jobs per hour with my regulars. So I mention my strategy that I regularly use because my restrauants all know about it amd think its a genius strategiem they dont want their food going and getting delivered by some guy with pants half down to his knees who just smoked a blunt with their food bag opened for the last 14 miles. They want their food delivered hot and fresh by a uniformed driver who keeps it in a hot bag amd delivers it to them within minutes still fresh in quality. So their offers were both well within my likes and I have accepted both so that they can drop the platforms and let me help em out. I can still do UE(my main platform) while doing their deliveries and continue to get the word put to my regular/repeat customers. So as restrauants close and limit hours and staff, none of us knows what the future holds. My personal thoughts as I have watched things go farther down hill for restrauants each day is that food delivery as we know it will be gone for a while. It womt get busy for us again until things get back to normal whatever that is. The work just isnt there now and in many vases there ismt enough delivery orders coming in to justify keeping the restrauants open. At this time, one thing is going to seperate the delivery drivers who are business owners vs those who just see this as a delivery job and that is our continued strategies to make it work not only for US but also our RESTRAUANTS and pur CUSTOMERS-OUR REPEAT CUSTOMERS in my case!. But I DO encourage YOU to try your owm strategies and see the difference in things. I get bigger tips from my repeat customers and I get free full meals at any of my restrauants(except mcdonalds) so I make this job work for ME. Thats the only way I have been able to stick it out for the last 6 years.

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