In addition to Amazon Flex, which I covered in my last article, I do Postmates deliveries. The way deliveries are made, how one receives pay, and a number of other factors are different from Amazon Flex but may be more similar to other food delivery gigs.
For this article, I'll go over how one can start delivering for Postmates and a short list of some tips I wish I knew before starting as a driver. As a reminder, the views expressed in this article are my own and do not reflect the perspective of the companies mentioned herein.
Picture by Postmates
Becoming Part of the Fleet
To deliver for Postmates, you will have to sign up on their website and download the Fleet app. From there you will have to pass a clean driving record and background check. You can then link your bank acount for direct deposit; you will need a check from your bank to input the approriate information. You will also need to add a description of your vehicle into the app to give customers an idea of what car to look for when receiving.
When using the app, push notifications should be turned on in order for you to receive updates about deliveries and when deliveries are available. Before starting, may sure that your car is in good working order and I also advise getting an air freshener because food can really stink up the interior.
Picture by James Shih. Drive-thru window.
Postmates Delivery Tips
1. Areas and Times of Hot Activity
When I started, I would turn on my app in the middle of suburbia during mid-afternoon and wait for a delivery to pop up on my phone. I'd wait. And wait. And wait. Unlike Amazon Flex which goes off a block system in which drivers accept blocks (set times) for work, Postmates is on call. When you turn on your app, the availability of deliveries and the amount of work you will get is based mainly on two things: time and location.
I didn't know that starting out and would just turn on the app wherever and whenever I had some free time and wanted to make a few bucks. This is a no-no. To maximize the amount of money you can make in the least amount time, lunch and dinner are peak times for Postmates deliveries. That's generally why there are also deals available to drivers (e.g. earn an extra $2 per delivery) during these times as an incentive for more drivers to turn on the apps.
Downtown city centers are peak locations for getting deliveries. But you can also check the map they provide on the app and see where the red areas (high demand areas) are. In LA county I've found Koreatown, downtown, NoHo, and a few other spots as key areas. It's best for me to drive to one of these hot zones before turning on the app. If I leave on the app on my way there, sometimes I'll get a delivery that will divert me from that location. Then when I'm finished, I could very well be in a low-demand area and then will have to drive farther to get back to a high demand area.
2. Coolers, Boxes, Drink Holders
I've found it super helpful to have designated boxes or coolers in my car for holding food deliveries. Placing food directly on my seats, even if they're bagged or wrapped in plastic, can be a recipe for disaster. Some food items have liquids that can leak from the bag and stain your seats. Also, having cardboard boxes can keep food that are in multiple containers and stacked, from sliding and falling over.
Drinks are the bane of my existence when it comes to Postmates. It's very easy for liquids to spill when not placed properly in a vehicle. It's important to ask for a cardboard drink holder from the restaurant when you have multiple drinks and to place them on a flat surface. If you only have one or two, you can place them in your car's drink holders, but make sure that they have a snug fit. You may have to place some napkins to do this.
I have a cooler in my trunk that I prioritize for putting food deliveries. In the time of COVID, I want to make sure that the food is not sharing the same air space with me for an extended period of time, which is why I usually put it in the trunk. However, this doesn't work with drinks or smoothies since they're much more likely to slide and fall over in the trunk, so I have to place those next to me in my car's drink holders.
3. COVID Precautions
Food and drinks should all be tightly covered and packaged to prevent direct contact to the exposed air. This is the restaurant's job, but be sure to check that the packaging is secure before leaving the restaurant.
Always wear a mask when picking up and delivering the food. When in the vehicle and food and drink are present, I still recommend wearing a mask. If you have a safe and stable place in the trunk that you place the food delivery, then in that case it should be safe for you to take off your mask since the food is away from you.
Gloves can be worn when delivering, but it's important that your washing and sanitizing your hands with or without gloves frequently to prevent the spread of germs. When waiting for a food order to be ready, it's preferable to wait outdoors and away from groups of people.
4. Check the Delivery Option
Customers have the option to choose a delivery option and/or to leave a specialized note for how they would like to receive the delivery. Some options include: No contact delivery in which you would leave the food at the front door and take a picture, hand delivery to the customer, meet the customer outside the building, and more.
For apartment buildings and gated communities in which the customer wants you to deliver directly to their apartment or home, be sure to check the notes for any gate and entry codes. If you do not see any, then there's an option to call the customer through the Fleet app. What's good is that calling through the app keeps your phone number as well as the customer's phone number hidden.
Photo by James Shih. Restaurants are only to go now.
Verdict on being a Fleet Driver
Driving for Postmates can be lucrative when driving at peak times in high demand areas. The issue with that is that if you live in a low demand area, the time and the miles you need to drive in order to work in a hot zone cuts into money you make. Also, the amount of deliveries you will get is uncertain and so is the amount of tip you will receive. What makes Postmates worthwhile is tips. If there were no tips involved, the amount you make from deliveries would be abysmally low after calculating gas and maintenance costs. What I've found, which is heartening for me, is that generally people are decent with tips during the pandemic. I feel that they recognize how we're exposing ourselves in order to do our jobs.
Reminder: As with any delivery gig, it's important to keep track of your miles with an app like Stride so that you can deduct the cost from your taxes.