Courier

I have experimented with working as a bicycle courier as a simple way to get paid to exercise and stay fit, as the perfect complement to an office or desk job. A number of people have asked me about it, and besides them, I suspect that those who might be interested in my experiences would fall into 3 categories: potential riders, customers, and advertisers.

After all, life is like a bicycle: to keep balance you have to keep moving.

riders

This page is created for those who would like to try to get paid for working out just like I did and be able to deduct food expenses from their taxes ("food as fuel"). If you are a courier already and would like to supplement your income, you might be interested in the advertiser page.

For my very first job in Canada I worked as a lifeguard. Most people think of it as "physical", but for the most part, you sit down and watch kids in a pool doing stupid thinks. The mere act of paying attention to a busy swimming pool can get you very tired mentally, without a corresponding physical feeling of exhaustion. Since then, I worked in more intellectually demanding jobs, mostly having to do with IT, and while I like intellectual stimulation, I found that I need regular physical exercise to feel good, stay healthy and perform well. Of all the jobs available to me, I find bicycle courier to be the best combination of exercise, having fun and financial reward (see also Dan Pink's talk at TED or its RSA animation for an explanation why performance-commensurate pay works for physical tasks but not for cognitive-complex ones).

As a bicycle courier, most companies will consider you an "independent contractor" which means no benefits and that most protections available to full time workers do not apply to you. That is fine if you do this as a way to stay fit, but it might not be sufficient for a full time career.

All the companies I worked with provide quite a bit of flexibility which you can trade off for guaranteed earnings if that's what you want. For their apps, I provide the Google Play rating out of 5 and the number of reviews (this was written sometime at the end of 2016), which is usually an indicator of popularity (though not only in Toronto but worldwide). Here they are: DoorDash currently pays a flat rate of $7/order + tips and a guarantee of minimum $12/h, with conditions. Interaction with the customer is encouraged and calling, texting go through double anonymization. They will charge you $30 for their branded red square backpack which is deducted from your first week's earnings and they also give you free t-shirts. You can get hired online in the most streamlined process of these companies via drd.sh/IvOrLb. You would have to complete 30 deliveries in 30 days and then you will get at least (it increases with need) $50. The customer app has a rating of 4.5/11516, driver (dasher) has 2.9/1109 while the order manager has 3.5/22. UberEats - They pay $4.225/order + $1.2025/km (they changed the payment formula and now you get paid more if you wait more, as explained by them for a 16 min/2.7 km trip: New Fare: $1.50 pickup fee + ($0.49 x 2.7 km) + ($0.28 x 16 minutes) + $1.00 drop-off fee = $8.30 Old Fare: $2.90 pickup fee + ($1.05 x 2.7 km) + $2.50 drop-off fee = $8.24. There are no tips via the app, but I was given cash tips a few times. UberEats might occasionally increase pay at peak times or during inclement weather (e.g., +$3/order or double the pay) or have specific food promotions on specific days, allowing you to make around $30/h over a few hours in the evening. There are no shifts, no tips (except occasional cash tips) and no guarantee, you sign in and out as you please. Their black, rounded trapezoid-like backpack is $25, deducted in 2 payments of $12.50 from your earnings. They also provide a more detailed and exact accounting of your trips. The referral code is YZT23EZ4UE or just use my full name in the referral box; you will get at least (it increases with need) a $50 bonus, on top of your earning, on a successful application. If you're looking for the taxi referral code so that you can get your first free ride (i.e., with simply Uber), it's andreiz32ue. Its customer app has 4.1/10820 while its driver app has 4.4/301199 (the numbers reflect a worldwide presence and the "partner" app seems to be the same for taxicabs and delivery guys). Favor - They offer a $12/h guarantee only for scheduled rides, but the guarantee applies to the shift, not an entire week. You are paid $2-4/order (more in the weekend, less on Monday-Thursday) plus a $2 minimum tip. Their starter kit including Saran wrap, a branded square backpack like Doordash but black and with a blue logo as well as t-shirts is $45. Favor requires the most interaction with the customer, as virtually anything, even non-food items can be ordered, but that usually means the possibility for more tips. You only need to mention my name to Dushyant when applying or use the code ANDRZ9N to get the referral benefit; you will then have to run 10 favors in 14 days. Google Play: customer app has 3.8/60 while the "runner" is private and thus unrated. Foodora - When I applied, to me, Jack never got back (or got caught up in my anti-telemarketer filter). I spoke to a few of their couriers and a "ride captain" and the pay is $4/order + $1/km. Ride captains are full time staff who make more and also get benefits. I cannot provide any first-hand experience on what is like working for Foodora, but most of those I spoke to seemed happy and content and had no desire to work for another company. Foodora customer app has a rating of 2.8/1844. JustEat - I haven't applied, but talked to someone who switched to UE in the meantime and apparently he was paid $4 flat for car deliveries, which does not sound like a lot. App 4/4604 Zap - Karen mentioned to me that their best couriers make $400/week with an intense work schedule. I applied, but they did not get back to me or could not make it past my anti-telemarketer filter. New companies may appear and go, but these are the ones I tried. I have included for each, where possible, a referral link which, if used to apply for a position with them and then proceed to work, will give you around $50 bonus on top of your regular earnings as long as you do a set number of deliveries in the first month or week - they want to be sure you actually work and don't apply solely for the bonus. Promotions may change and that amount could vary with demand for new riders.

Each company I worked with has also requested me to go through a criminal background check (which I obviously passed) provided by Checkr, possibly a credit check (my credit score is well above 700, which puts me roughly in the top 10% of Canadians) and I had to provide them with my social insurance number.

Perhaps the best way to be happy doing such a job is to think of it as not a job, but merely a way to get paid to exercise.

I have more tips to give, but not enough time to write them down. When I find the time, I might publish it in a longer document. Buy me brunch (I'd say coffee or beer, but the truth is, I don't drink much of either) and I'd be happy to answer any further questions you might have!

customers

I (Andrei) created this page as part of a larger article and as a quick way to avoid problems in bike deliveries and also to allow you, my customer, a way to learn more about me, if you so wish, in the hope that this would increase your satisfaction with my services and minimize the time spent, preventing unnecessary delays.

A note from Andrei to Food Courier customers

In an effort to provide a good customer service experience, in my first week of work I would leave with each order a note handwritten on my personal stationery, but I ran out of notes and writing them takes quite a bit of stationary time - so I created this page instead!


If you are a client from one of the food delivery companies I work with and have come here at my suggestion, please see the following for a smooth and fast delivery!

  1. The number one cause of delays that can be easily corrected is the absence of a full address. While the client may have entered their apartment and/or buzzer number in their profile, all apps (except Favor) pass on only the bare street address to couriers (not sure why - either bad design, poorly understood privacy concerns or so that Google Maps does not get confused when mapping) and only their first name, not their last, for privacy reasons. As such, couriers cannot look the customer up in a directory and neither can the concierge. 
    1. If only the buzzer is included, the customer might forget to provide the apartment number and cause the courier to have to repeatedly buzz until the customer listens before opening and hanging up; when the customer tells the number, it may sometimes be misunderstood over the inter-phone and without coverage inside the building, the delays could be substantial.
    2. If only the apartment number is included, the courier may have difficulties getting in. Relying on the concierge is not always a good idea as they often go on patrol around the building or may have to leave their desk for emergencies or other issues.
    3. If your address includes an apartment number or special instructions, please text it to me via the app or directly at 416-NEURONS (638-7667).
  2. Calling / SMS. Texting is preferable. I focus on getting orders fast and am mostly on my bicycle. This makes it difficult to answer phone calls. It is best to text me at the number above. I always try to make a phone call if I have to wait longer than expected for food at a restaurant. Often, during inclement weather, I have to keep my phone protected from the elements and that makes it impossible to answer inquiries immediately.
  3. Office address. Double-check given address. Sometimes the customer has more than one address or their profile has an address (e.g., home and office) and they order from another. When that happens it may be impossible to fulfill their order, as couriers often get several orders queued and going to a different address takes time away from the next customer, who might get upset this way. Please be sure that the address in the app is the address you want your food delivered to.
  4. Feedback. Please do. If you would like to give me feedback, please do! You may use the rating system of the app itself, although your comments might not reach me and in some cases it is impossible to leave separate feedback from the service in general. I always appreciate an opportunity to improve my service and the apps seldom allow for feedback to be passed on to me, so if you have the time, email me (firstname at lastname dot net) or text me your thoughts, good or bad, but hopefully good! 
  5. Delays / Problems. I didn't do it :D Behind any successful (and even unsuccessful) order there is a team of people and quite a bit of luck. 
    1. I am not licensed to handle food, so even though I always check that I'm getting the right food order, I am forced to mostly rely on the restaurant staff for that. Some restaurants may be swamped in orders and provide your food with delay. 
    2. Occasionally, I get orders that may have been refused by others and as such are late already when I get them (in one case, a far-away order had been placed for more than 1h by the time I got it). Some reasons couriers may repeatedly refuse an order include locations North of Bloor (which means uphill pedaling and a loss in revenues, especially at peak hours) or because it's an order that is already late, resulting in an irate customer no matter how hard the courier might try. When I receive queued orders (a set of several orders stacked) I fulfill them in the order they appear in my app. This may show in your app that I am taking long time to deliver your order, but that is usually because I have to pick up other orders and deliver them before yours.
    3. I bicycle fast, but sometimes traffic, street closures, sport or concert events, accidents, construction, sink holes or multiple orders and delays outside my control could possibly interfere with delivering an order on time. Occasionally, food may spill due to shoddy packaging or simply too many potholes.
    4. I always text when I get a late order and / or when I leave the restaurant. If you feel that you have been waiting too long, it is best to let me know right away and contact customer service to cancel the order and/or ask for a refund. Please note that as a contractor, there is very little I can do to change anything. The best I can do is ride as fast as I can, but I do this by default, anyway.
  6. Pizza. Vertical. I am using an insulated backpack designed for food deliveries (it is like an over-sized lunch box). It does not deal well with pizza boxes as most such boxes may be slightly bigger than can fit in it, especially if there is more food for other orders. Placing the pizza box vertically in the bag (the only way I can) may cause toppings to fall off and not being able to fully close the bag may cause heat loss and the pizza to go cold. I usually do not see that it's a pizza order until I get to the restaurant, and by that time it's too late to warn you, so if having your pizza delivered in a proper pizza bag (which I don't have) is important to you, please contact support or customer service and ask for the order to be assigned to somebody with a proper bag.
  7. Tipping. Cash is king. I have spoken to a number of couriers and for all, cash tipping is always preferred to tipping via the app. Some apps may force customers to tip in advance, which defeats the purpose of tipping and also depersonalizes the act. Some customers prefer tipping via the app as they do not carry change and do not like to ask for change, yet most couriers carry quite a bit of change, don't mind breaking bills or giving change and would even take a smaller cash tip rather than a large tip via the app. This might also be because all companies that provide minimum income guarantees (e.g., Favor, DoorDash) count tips against such guarantees. Personally, I do this for fitness and fun and I never expect tipping. I also know better than to refuse a gift; I see it as a measure of customer satisfaction and a less involved way to provide feedback. 
  8. Questions. If you are interested in or have questions on doing deliveries yourself, I am happy to answer them but not when I work. Please see the riders page for some quick info and if you decide to apply or have more questions, please feel free to contact me by email or text later.
  9. About. If you would like to learn more about me, you may visit andrei.zodian.net


Some friends who have heard about my new part-time adventures asked me if I could deliver for them. My first impulse was to refuse and refer them to one of my partner companies, but as far as I know, none of them allow for specifying a special person to fulfill an order. I thus decided I should provide them with a more standardized opportunity to use my services. To that end, I created an order form in Google and, though I've never received an order or promoted in any way, one of my partner delivery services Toronto manager claimed that I am "promoting my own delivery business", so I removed it.


(this page may be reached via j.mp/ridec and go.zodian.net/courcust)

advertisers

A bicycle courier job keeps a rider constantly on the road and in the public eye, more often than not in heavy traffic and areas with higher income per capita than average. As a participant in one of the most traffic-jammed cities of North America, the bicycle rider needs to be visible as a condition of their survival. This creates an excellent opportunity for advertising.


A bicycle can be "decorated" with several decals, such as can be seen in this photo of a Toronto Bike Share bicycle. This does not have to come at the expense of safety, as safety numbers for shared bicycles show. Additionally, a rider can wear a branded t-shirt (or a decal over the chest and back) as well as branded pants, while a courier can have additional decals on her backpack. For more examples, have a look a the 101 years of Tour de France, especially the latter years.


One could also be wearing LED lights or signs which can only increase one's visibility. In particular, wheel LED lights can even display complex images: instructables, Amazon, GeekLED.


I would be willing to wear all the above both on myself, my backpack and my bicycle for $1 for the first month as long as the printing costs are supported by the advertiser. I can help with the design or find a designer if necessary. I would also provide tracking data of my routes. For subsequent months, I would auction off the advertising space over a 2-5 day period before the start of the month.


If the advertiser is not successful in securing space for another month, I could mail at cost the decals to the advertiser or give them to another cyclist. I have spoken to other couriers and they might be interested in such an arrangement.


If you are either an advertiser or a courier interested in becoming a part of it, email me or complete the form at go.zodian.net/bikeadv

I will also be publishing shortly a media kit, much like what's described by bm, ala or mp.

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