New York City, NY

A Food Delivery Worker's Lament

William "Dollar Bill" Mersey

The preponderance of bicycle food delivery workers on the streets, bike lanes, and even sidewalks in New York City is undeniable. So many of them don't obey traffic laws that citizens of the city are often left dismayed by the situation. But every story has a point of view. And putting on my intrepid reporter hat, I decided to hear theirs. Not surprisingly, one took a few minutes to voice a few pet peeves of his own concerning pedestrians, restaurants, and customers to whom they deliver.

Talking about pedestrians, the food delivery biker (named Raul complained) "They walk in front of me. In bike lanes! And they always on phone! Never look!"

Spending just one minute walking the streets of New York, it's easy to verify his statement. New York City rarely tickets its army of jaywalkers. Nor does it seem to cite bicyclists who break the rules either. With no enforcement, organized chaos is the best way to describe bike and pedestrian traffic in the city.

With respect to traffic rules, why they consistently break them is intuitive. Raul continues, "We no make money," asked why he rides the wrong way on one-way streets, runs red lights, and even rides on the sidewalk. Clearly, traveling the wrong way on a one-way street to save hundreds of yards rather than going around the block in order to obey traffic laws costs the food delivery guy time and money. And without the threat of being fined, Raul and most of his colleagues opt for the short route.

Primed by my questions and on a roll (no pun intended), Raul segued into problems he encounters with restaurants. "They make me wait!" was his primary complaint. Most "dashers," as they're known in the industry parlance, are paid by the job - and not by the hour. Waiting time while a restaurant prepares the food is dead time to a dasher. He's on the job - but the clock stops while he waits.

Raul moved on to how restaurants package the food which apparently, ranges from very well to not so well. "McDonalds good! Some place not so good. Package break!"

Packaging beverages and really, anything liquid, seems to be a challenge. And not every restaurant meets that challenge with equal professionalism. Exactly what happens when a package breaks open is not a subject I broached. But from what I inferred, it's not a one-in-a-million occurrence.

"So how do the customers treat you?" was my final question. To that, he went directly to the negative. "Sometime no apartment number on order. Or they no answer bell and they no answer phone! Sometime I walk five floors for no tip!"

This response brought a pained expression to my own face. I could feel his frustration knowing how apps aren't flawless, people could possibly order food and then fall asleep if they ordered when drunk. And as far as phones go, a lot of people don't use them like a traditional phone. They prefer to text and don't answer numbers they don't recognize. The end result is frustration and lost time to a dasher.

With respect to walkups? That's a reality that comes with the territory. While they might tire a dasher, there's really no remedy for that issue.

All in all, delivering food sounds like a tough job. And that's why the task is mostly performed by immigrants. It's not a job most Americans want.

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Alt views, news, and opinions from Greenwich Village, NY. Contributor for the Daily Beast, New York Daily News, Daily Mail, The Independent, and New York Times

New York, NY

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