Two summers ago my partner and I spent a few months doing bicycle food delivery for companies such as Just Eats, Uber Eats, and Door Dash. As a fresh grad, my partner was looking to pick up some quick cash to supplement his full-time job with something he could do on his own hours. It was really the kind of job that could only exist in today’s modern world by using a smart phone equipped with an app, location tracking, and a robust data plan.
It was his gig, but I was curious about how the process worked so we had “delivery dates.” Typically I rode in front to navigate from pick-ups to deliveries. He carried the food in a giant, insulated backpack. As the novelty wore off for me, our dates dwindled down to once a week. We had a good time all summer discovering the city on our bikes, getting exercise, learning about new restaurants, and making money. We were in great shape! Plus we learned a lot about working together as a team.
I hadn’t thought too much about our time working in the gig economy until I read an article in the New York Times this past weekend, “My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman.” Reading this article brought back memories, including yes, how dangerous it could feel to be moving fast, under pressure on a bicycle in traffic, competing with other bicycle delivery people, and in adverse weather conditions.
After reading Andy Newman’s (journalist) sometimes harrowing time delivering, it brought back some negatives about the experience. The work was hard with terrible pay. The companies constantly incentivized us to work more by promising bonus pay if a certain number of deliveries were completed in a specific time frame, while achieving a rating of almost 5 stars. UberEats could send us up to 4kms in any direction to make a delivery, making it difficult to finish them quickly and increase earnings.
Towards the end of the article, Newman recalls something from one of his interviewees that the real value of the deliveryperson is all the data collected by the hiring companies so that this work can eventually be replaced by machines.
I have mixed feelings about being replaced by machines, but having experienced the negatives of this gig economy, I would probably welcome a drone dropping off my order.