In the beginning of the year 2020, I was working as a valet at the J.W. Marriott but in the drop of a hat the world seemed to flip upside down. In one moment I was in the middle of my sophomore year of college and the next thing I knew I was back home in quarantine. I like the other 38 million people who either lost their jobs or have gotten laid off. With many individuals having no source of income, they turned to delivery apps such as DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub and more food delivery apps. Independent contractors are hired by food delivery apps and are free to set their own hours and work with little oversight. Local and chain restaurants collaborate with the apps in exchange for a portion of each sale in exchange for increased order volume and new market growth. Food delivery apps usually set their minimum working age at 18, three years less than the normal 21-year-old requirement seen in ridesharing apps, since no human passengers are at risk during transportation. There are no standards for vehicle type or cleanliness. People realized that with everyone stuck at home in quarantine that there was a high demand for food delivered to people’s doorstep. As more people order takeout and groceries during the coronavirus pandemic, delivery apps have become more relevant for both people looking for work and their customers. From April to September, the food delivery app companies generated approximately $5.5 billion in revenue, more than double their combined $2.5 billion in revenue over the same time last year. Even as sales for food distribution companies have increased, workers’ pay has remained inconsistent. The drivers are not entitled to a minimum wage, overtime, or any other benefits, such as health insurance, since they are self-employed. The increased competition brought on by the influx of new jobs has exacerbated the financial difficulties. Although exact estimates are unavailable, advocacy organizations estimate that there were approximately 50,000 distribution staff prior to the pandemic, a number that has since increased exponentially. Since March, Uber alone has added 36,000 couriers in New York.
A particular question arose when conducting this research, does where people live affect how many individuals will join in delivering food for these apps. How does location play a part in whether a person wants to work these types of jobs? In this project I am comparing both IUPUI students and people from my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. After speaking with as many people as possible, I discovered that 19 Evansville residents have begun working for companies such as UberEats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and others. These findings were intriguing because, in general, few people are aware of or use these applications for food delivery in Evansville, resulting in fewer orders. Because there are fewer orders, the price rises, resulting in higher pay for drivers for each delivery. With a large amount of drivers and so little orders this leads to a lot of competition. Students at IUPUI on the other hand it is the opposite. After asking classmates and friends, I found fewer individuals that go to IUPUI participate in driving for delivery services. IUPUI is almost right in downtown Indianapolis so this means more restaurants, more people, and more orders. The amount a driver is paid is based on the distance between the restaurant and the location the food is getting delivered to. Since in Indianapolis everything is closer together which means getting paid less for each delivery a driver completes so this could play a role in why there are not as many delivery drivers at IUPUI. When comparing IUPUI and Evansville, IUPUI has a higher demand for drivers but less drivers, while Evansville has an excess of drivers with low demand. After conducting more research residents who live in Indianapolis have 328 options for food delivery on UberEats alone. Despite having a large number of options, not all of them are accessible due to a lack of drivers. In Indianapolis, almost half of the restaurants are losing potential business due to the low number of drivers. People who live in Evansville only have 84 options compared to Indinapolis there is a 244 difference in options but I found more drivers in Evansville than in Indianapolis. This could be a result of that in Evansville restaurants and neighborhoods are more spaced out meaning more pay per delivery. Keep in mind this is only tracking from one of the several delivery service apps.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic there was a very large spike in people working for food delivery services. With the pandemic slowing and less constraints on business and social distance, it’s unclear how many people will continue to want to work for food delivery services. Business for these applications might take a big hit with people being more likely to go out to eat at restaurants with at least half of all American citizens getting vaccinated. Although working these types of jobs was a convenient way to make money during the Covid-19 pandemic it could be dangerous. Drivers were/are putting themselves at risk that it got to the point that the CDC even released a statement in November of 2020 on how drivers can stay safe and healthy during the pandemic. Drivers face risk of getting Covid-19 from having near contact with individuals with COVID-19 while picking up or delivering food or groceries, or touching surfaces touched or treated by a person with COVID-19, are all potential sources of exposure. They advise drivers to stay at home if they are ill, to cover their faces, to avoid contact with others, to practice regular preventive measures, and to clean or disinfect their vehicles.
Through the world going through such crazy times people found ways to not give up and delivery drivers are a part of that group no matter the location weather in a big city or in a small town. Delivery drivers were able to support not only themselves and their families, but also the restaurant industry. People don’t think of delivery drivers when they think of “essential workers,” but they are some of the unsung heroes who get food to people’s doorsteps. Every day, they drive for several hours to ensure that people receive their deliveries.
Freytas-tamura, Kimiko De. “Food Delivery Apps Are Booming. Their Workers Are Often Struggling.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Nov. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/11/30/nyregion/bike-delivery-workers-covid-pandemic.html.
Sumagaysay, Levi. “The Pandemic Has More than Doubled Food-Delivery Apps’ Business. Now What?” MarketWatch, MarketWatch, 25 Nov. 2020, www.marketwatch.com/story/the-pandemic-has-more-than-doubled-americans-use-of-food-delivery-apps-but-that-doesnt-mean-the-companies-are-making-money-11606340169.
Tiku, Nitasha. “Desperate Workers Rush to Delivery App Jobs to Find Low Pay and Punishing Rules.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 23 May 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/23/gig-work-instacart-shipt-amazon-flex-doordash/.
“What Food and Grocery Pick-Up and Delivery Drivers Need to Know about COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/food-grocery-drivers.html.