A New York Times writer’s 27 hours as a third-party delivery courier brought some of the industry’s last-mile ugliness to the masses last week.
It does not paint the industry in a kind light, and just reading it is enough to trigger anxiety, as writer Andy Newman gave a first-person account of being a courier and the hustle mindset of couriers trying to make efficient use of their time. If you were a non-tipper before reading, seeing the great lengths drivers go to for modest pay may change your mind.
In our own ride-along with a bike-delivery service in Minneapolis, we saw that bike delivery was not for the faint of heart (or weak of leg), but the New York Times article tapped into how couriers game the various third-party networks. Newman looked at how typical professional couriers use multiple apps (what drivers call “mutli-apping”) and the gamble couriers take on every order—gambling on tips, personal safety and order size for apps that don’t include the delivery price before accepting.
Another gamble for couriers is the use of electric bikes, which are illegal but still ubiquitous in New York City. Thousands of the bikes have been confiscated, leaving drivers without transportation. It also shined a light on the DoorDash policy around tipping and guaranteed minimum driver payouts.
“If the woman in the bathrobe had tipped zero, DoorDash would have paid me the whole $6.85. Because she tipped $3, DoorDash kicked in only $3.85. She was saving DoorDash $3, not tipping me,” wrote Newman. DoorDash almost immediately announced plans to change its policy and give tips directly to drivers, but full details still haven’t been revealed.
This story is worth a close read if you haven’t been behind the wheel (or handlebars) to delivery meals for yourself. Even if you’re a seasoned courier, the story’s first-person imagery is a treat, so go check out the absolute chaos of delivery in New York.