If you order chicken nuggets or pad thai when the air quality is officially “unsafe” to breathe, you should probably tip more. (And naturally, the same goes for any other natural disaster.)
Food delivery drivers hope that’s the message people take to heart after smoke from wildfires blanketed the Midwest and East Coast earlier this month, creating dire respiratory conditions for anyone inside. outside.
It was particularly bad in New York, where some 60,000 people make deliveries for apps like Uber, Grubhub, and DoorDash.
Gustavo Ajche is one of them. He was riding his bike to make food deliveries during the worst wildfire smoke. Tipping was hit and miss, he told HuffPost.
“I’ve noticed people tip a bit more — maybe $6 or $7 instead of $4 — but there’s no shortage of people who don’t tip, and as a delivery person, that frustrates us because we depend on tips,” said Ajche, who delivers for DoorDash and GrubHub and also does construction work.
Ajche, who is the founder of the working group Los Deliveristas United and a member of the Workers Justice Project, a group that fights for better working conditions and higher wages for immigrant workers, masked during their deliveries, but it was impossible to keep the smoke out of their eyes.
It’s not the first time he’s experienced extreme weather or environmental conditions while on the job, and Ajche doesn’t expect it to be the last. As climate emergencies become more common in the United States ― hurricanes, wildfires, floods and high winds, even in unexpected places ― delivery drivers are becoming a new category of essential workers. (Of course, we also became very dependent on them during the pandemic.)
“Our jobs are essential works that make life easier for thousands and thousands of people who may not be able to get out,” Ajche said. “Personally, I have been on the streets several times during major winter storms. In 2010 there was a big snowstorm where I remember it was very difficult for me to get to my house, everything was closed and there was no public transport either.
Ajche said, “Here in New York, the delivery man is always on the street.”
Adam ― who, like others in this story, asked to use his first name only to protect his privacy ― is another New Yorker who has overcome it all.
“By bike, I delivered in weather close to 0° Fahrenheit. I delivered in snowy weather, and I delivered in rain, and a few weeks ago I delivered when NYC was dealing with fire pollution in Canada,” he said. declared.
The snow hasn’t been this bad in the past two years, but Adam remembers times in 2013-2015 when the snow was so bad his heels slipped off the pedals, and he jumped off his bike to avoid the wounds, while balancing hot foods. .
“Snow can clog the bike’s drivetrain, which makes shifting much more difficult,” he explained.
In the winter, it also faces slippery flights of stairs, as most customers expect their delivery to be brought to their walk-up apartments.
Apps have launched policies to prioritize the safety of their drivers. When wildfire smoke was at its peak last month, Grubhub reportedly alerted drivers that they would not be penalized if they did not feel safe making the deliveries and reminded those with pre-existing conditions to stay indoors.
DoorDash automatically suspends operations in severe emergencies, including blizzards and hurricanes. The company activated the protocol in response to Hurricane Ian, major winter storms in the United States and forest fires near Vancouver over the past few months.
But construction workers like Adam say there’s also an incentive to drive or cycle when the weather is bad, but not quite bad.
“Sometimes the apps will offer workers more base pay because fewer people want to work in such weather,” Adam said. “That’s one of the reasons I try to work in bad weather; the ball is rather in the court of the delivery people these days. Customers can also tip more on difficult days.
According to the app, the delivery requests drivers receive show tip estimates, so if Adam sees a low or no tip order, he declines.
That said, delivery people don’t have much time to pull out their phone, access the ringing app, and decide whether or not to accept an order.
“We can get 22-30 seconds for most delivery requests,” Adam said. “Sometimes we are already on our bikes so we have to slow down and go through this process or come to a complete stop depending on traffic. The applications do not take into account the weather with the time we have to evaluate the applications. »
In the past, Adam has received no tips during dangerous weather conditions and low tips ($1-$3). One of her worst experiences was last winter when someone ordered three packs of spring water from Poland — 24 x 16.9-ounce bottles — and only tipped her $8.
“It was store and pay delivery, and that water was about 75 pounds,” he said. “I had a bike rack and a big backpack so I was able to carry it, but now I’m more selective on certain orders.”
As for how many additional customers should tip, Adam said he thinks distance, weight of the order and weather conditions should be taken into account.
“I know customers have to pay fees on top of the higher app prices, so it’s not cheap,” he said. “In winter and in bad weather, I would like at least $7 for a delivery with a maximum distance of about half a mile. So with a base salary of $2-3, that equates to at least a tip of $5 or $4.
That day, when the air quality was at its worst in New York, Bimal Jhale tried to get some Grubhub deliveries through in the evening. (Earlier in the afternoon, Jhale, a father of 5, said he felt too dizzy to travel around town after finishing his shift at a restaurant.)
“We can’t afford to take a day off, so we’re the ones taking all those risks in bad weather,” said Jhale, a Justice for app workers member who replied by e-mail.
“People have their own needs, but we want people to think about our safety and understand the situation we find ourselves in,” he wrote.
He and other members of Justice for App Workers believe customers should tip about 15% to 20% more in unsafe or unsafe conditions.
Jess, a delivery driver in Portland, Oregon, has struggled with wildfires every year since she started driving in 2020. She struggles with eye and lung irritation from particulates in airborne, distracted drivers on the road, and added pressure on his car. (For example, vehicle air filters should be replaced immediately after the smoke subsides or during wildfires if conditions persist.)
On days like this, Jess told HuffPost that she tends to see a slight increase in her tips at the end of the night, but that’s usually thanks to a few high tips.
“Most tip the same as they always do, even if it’s zero,” she said. “Yes, people don’t tip at all, even in the event of a forest fire.”
There are usually price increases on apps if there aren’t enough drivers on the road, but Jess said it’s usually only a dollar or three more per order: “It’s not not great, but worth it in the right situations.”
Jess, mum of a 5-month-old, said she wishes people would change the way they view tipping on delivery apps. She said instead of being called a tip, it should be called an offer.
“That’s how it works from the driver’s perspective: You bid a certain dollar above the minimum for better service and faster delivery,” she said. “A good driver is more likely to quickly accept an order with a higher bid than a lower bid.”
For the customer, however, tips are still considered optional.
“They think if $5 is enough for the Domino guy, why not do the same for the UberEats guy, no matter what?” she says.
Drivers we spoke to agreed that app companies should adequately compensate their workers. Organizing delivery drivers, like Ajche and Jhale, say they will continue to fight for better wages through apps. (They scored a win earlier this month when New York set a $18 per hour minimum wage for food deliverers.)
But customers should remember that delivery is a luxury, especially when conditions are dangerous.
“I don’t mind people ordering in bad weather. It’s the wrong tip that’s frustrating,” Adam said. “People shouldn’t be suffering outside and not being tipped so others can relax at home while they eat and enjoy Netflix.”