Back in February, during a two month period of unemployment, I joined a food delivery app as one of their couriers (let’s call them FoodMonkeys because that’s what I feel like) and this has been what I learned from a month as a FoodMonkey in Los Angeles.
Ridiculous People Exist, They Are Out There And They Are Thriving
I’ve only been delivering food for a month and have already seen extremely nonsensical things. For example, one guy paid what I’m guessing is upwards of $20 (I saw a fraction of that) for a delivery all the way from Hollywood to Downtown LA during rush hour because he wanted Ziploc bags. Just one box of Ziploc bags. Discuss.
Another woman ordered a caramel macchiato without caramel. That was fun to explain to the barista.
Extravagant Displays of Wealth Give Me Psychological Wedgies
I thought that from my time at USC I would be used to being around wealthy people even though I’m a poor scrappy go-getter who emerged from the depths of L.A. like a sewer creature in 1993. I thought wrong. See, it’s entirely different catering to these people instead of simply working alongside them. It gives me emotional road rash.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some wealthy people. The deeper the pocket, the more the potential tip (and I’m sure some of them have sparkling personalities. Kisses to all sugar daddies). But when someone emerges from a gigantic mansion to snatch the food bag out of my hand, or I take the elevator up and it leads to their actual apartment (as in, they have the whole floor to themselves), or I step into their super duper nice office surrounded by glass walls on floor 1314831741 of their building in such a nice neighborhood and I hand the receptionist the food and she nods silently and I slither back into the elevator to go back into LA’s armpit where I belong, it reaaaaally makes me want to do a u-turn and steal their French fries.
Sidebar: Dear really famous agency in Beverly Hills who ordered over $100 in pizza, FUCK YOU GUYS FOR NOT TIPPING. I AM A FIVE FOOT TALL WOMAN. DO YOU KNOW HOW RIDICULOUS I LOOKED CARRYING FIVE PIZZAS? I COULDN’T SEE THE STREET. I HAD TO CRAB-WALK SIDEWAYS TO MY CAR.YOU WILL REGRET THIS WHEN I AM FAMOUS FOR MY SEXTAPE WITH REINCE PRIEBUS AND YOU WANT ME AS A CLIENT.
Without tips, you make a net profit of essentially zero dollars (life sucks and then you die)
FoodMonkeys has a roughly $4 base pay for an order and it increases a small bit (about five cents a minute) based on your wait time and mileage from the restaurant to the hungry person’s house. It pays about $1 a mile which as you can imagine is fun when it takes ten minutes to move a mile in L.A. traffic. Oh and it pays from the restaurant to the customer’s house, but not from wherever you may be to the restaurant. Oh and also you don’t know where you’re delivering before you accept the order, so if you take a gigantic bag of 50 tacos to someone less than one mile away, you get paid a hefty 4 bucks for it. Oh and it also does not cover parking meter fees, so if you have to pay 50 cents at a meter then you really get paid $3.50 to haul 50 tacos to some random house. Oh and let’s say that took you 30-ish minutes because of traffic, finding a parking, and waiting a little for the tacos. Now here’s the kicker: both orders don’t tip for whatever reason. Congrats, at this rate you’re making $7 an hour (while the minimum wage here in California is $10.50). A gallon of gas costs $3.
After you factor in the actual cost of gas and some impossible parking situations (like when you deliver to a hospital with no parking other than a garage available) you make pretty much an overall net of zero. You might be able to make more if you do more than one order at once, but that’s mostly physically impossible when you consider the lines and traffic of Los Angeles. Soggy cold food = no tip = no benefit of juggling multiple orders.
You’ll have days when people tip pretty well and you can walk away from four hours of work with a $50+ profit, and other days when you make a $10 net profit in 4 hours. I’ve looked it up because I thought maybe I was just particularly inefficient, but it actually appears to be the norm. So that’s clearly a problem.
Short Term Novelty Helps
Listen, I don’t think this kind of work is beneath me. I supported myself senior year of college by driving around drunk frat bros for my school’s safe drive service. I delivered food in college as well. But knowing that this was a short term, month long gig definitely prevented me from driving my car off a cliff.
In a city like Los Angeles, people order from FoodMonkeys to avoid traffic, parking, and because it’s not too much to pay for an inconvenience depending on your financial situation. However, if apps like FoodMonkeys want to continue being successful, they need to at least pay their couriers enough to make paying $.50 at a parking meter on a regular basis worth it.
They need to either raise the base rate or pay more per mile.
L.A. Is A Lot Of Things But I Love It
Traffic sucks. Parking sucks. Socioeconomic class divides suck. But L.A. is beautiful. I can drive one way and I’m in downtown, a little further and I’m at my alma mater. I can drive west from there and be near the ocean, and drive along the coast and a bit east and I’m at the hub of the entertainment industry. L.A.’s my city, and I’m glad my parents let me live with them here.
Because I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to afford it while working for FoodMonkeys!