Food delivery and rideshare workers deserve the courtesy of a tip

Ordering in or ride sharing? Then make sure you tip the rider or driver. Photo: Shutterstock.
Ordering in or ride sharing? Then make sure you tip the rider or driver. Photo: Shutterstock.

One of the first jobs I ever had, back when I was still in high school, was as a contract delivery driver for a pizza franchise that opened a new store in my region.

It was good in a few ways because it taught me many things.

For instance, I got a whole lot better at map reading, and planning efficient routes quickly (when you are paid per delivery, getting back to the store sooner during busy periods is an advantage).

I became super-proficient at parallel parking, and formed the life-long habit of reversing into spaces in car parks (better to make people wait for you to park, than to go blindly while hoping they let you out). I was both careful and fortunate enough not to have any accidents, and I did not incur any traffic infringements during that time either.

I got very good at cash handling and doing sums in my head quickly. I also got an immense amount of experience dealing with customers, all in varying moods depending on how long they'd had to wait compared to how long had been estimated by the phone operator.

It also opened the door to a Small Business Operations traineeship and after completing that I managed the store for a couple of years, still doing some of the deliveries in the busiest periods, before I eventually moved on and went to university in my early 20s.

In those few years, the store's computer system said I'd done over 10,000 deliveries and I did over a thousand more for a neighbouring store owned by the same franchisee.

I'd like to think that first-hand experience gives me some credibility when I say this.

TIP YOUR FOOD DELIVERY OR RIDESHARE RIDER OR DRIVER.

I mean it. If you don't, then you become part of the machine that is, in a surprising number of cases, exploiting them.

Think of it like tipping a waitperson in the US. They rely heavily on that form of income because they're probably not getting much from the brand they represent.

The system in place for deliveries in many Australian business models - particularly food delivery and ride sharing but others too - is also such that the delivery person is effectively self-employed.

The easiest way to tell if this is likely to be the case is if they appear to be using a private vehicle (with or without a temporary thing on the roof).

What that means is, delivery contractors get paid for outcomes, not hours (or very little per hour with a small delivery payment on top), and it has long been an easy way for business owners to get around the minimum wage requirement extended to permanent and casual employees.

Since they use their own vehicles, it also means they incur increased running, maintenance and insurance costs. Not to mention having had to buy a suitable vehicle in the first place, and then rapidly depreciating it with every tick of the odometer.

But even before they pay these additional expenses, many have, for a long time, earned less than the minimum wage.

The job can be dangerous at times too. Apart from most of my experience being at night, there's the weather to make the roads treacherous. I've delivered in rain and snow, and you don't earn any more in those shifts unless the customers are empathetic and take pity on you (thankfully, many did, for which I'm still grateful).

In recent years, electronic payments have greatly reduced the likelihood of being mugged for wads of cash. The only solution we had back in my day (the '90s) was regular cash drops to put the big notes in the store's safe. Hardly anyone paid with credit card (or in-store earlier that day).

However, this takes away the phrase "keep the change", which I have to say still warms my heart and they remain my favourite three words in the English language.

So tip them in change if you didn't already tip electronically. In fact, especially make sure you tip them electronically if you're having a no-contact delivery done. It's simply the decent thing to do.

Sam Hollier is an ACM journalist and a motoring fanatic who builds cars in his shed in his spare time.