Saturday, December 15, 2018

Not Dashing Back

This time of year, we may think of "dashing through the snow," and I've done my fair share of that, but the kind of dashing I'm thinking about now is the kind done by those of us who are "independent contractors" for Door Dash, a food delivery service. Not working full-time outside the home, I've been occasionally driving to get a little extra cash. Being new to the area, it's also a way to get paid to explore and get to know the area better, so there's a bonus.

In general, Door Dash has been fine. On a good night I might average around $15/hour, and it's usually at least $12 or so (though I did have one time where I was "Dashing" for two hours and didn't get a single order (Saturday mornings are hit or miss, I guess). Here's a downside, though. With Door Dash, as with services like Uber and Lyft, you can opt to turn down a request, but if you turn down too many, it's apparently not good for your driving career. The thing is, there are definitely areas not too far from me where I don't feel particularly comfortable making deliveries, especially after dark. East Cleveland isn't the safest place to go, and it's also dangerous for your car because of the car-sized pot holes. And there's another area where I literally witnessed a gun fight going across the road in broad daylight on a Friday afternoon. So yeah, it's not a neighborhood I want to revisit, particularly after dark. And the Door Dash app isn't very helpful, because the map is so tiny that it's hard to see exactly where you're going, especially when you're a noob who doesn't know the area that well anyway. And there's a clock going tick-tick-tick for you to make your decision of whether or not to accept. It's a lot of pressure.

But anyway, it's all generally been fine. Last night, though, was pretty terrible. It started off okay, with a short delivery close to home. I picked up food at the local Ethiopian recipe and took it a mile or so down the road, where I parked illegally in front of an apartment building. I had to call the guy to come down (good customers in apartment situations are tracking your movements and come down to meet you--just sayin'), and when he gets there, he apologetically tells me that the restaurant called him to say that they had mistakenly given him two orders, and that I should bring the other order back.

Are you kidding me? One, I barely get paid enough to deliver this stuff, and I don't get paid anything to bring it back to you. And can they even legally serve that to someone after it's been out of their custody for 10 minutes or whatever? From a practical perspective, once I mark an order delivered, Door Dash could call me for another order, and then the clock's ticking (I get graded on "on time" deliveries). So I decided that I'd do this: I'd head back in that direction, since it's a hot spot for orders, and if I didn't get an order before I got back, I'd return it. Or I'd get an order and some (presumably) delicious Ethiopian food for an evening snack. No such luck, though I don't know what they did with it.

I found myself sitting around for a little while, but I did get another order before too long. It was a couple blocks down, so I drove down there... wandered around unable to find parking closer, and ended up back at my original spot walking a couple blocks to the place. That delivery took me out of my area, though, and then it was a looong time before my next order came in. I decided to drop in to CVS to get a drink, because as usual I'd forgotten to bring water with me. I bought coconut water, but I got the cheaper one with coconut pulp in it, because that didn't sound bad. And it wasn't for the first half or so. Then it was terrible.

Then I got an order headed to what I'm 90% sure is exactly where I saw that shooting, so no thanks. It's kind of stressful to say no, though. And sometimes that same order will come back around to you, and then you have to either take it or have it count against your acceptance rate twice. I mean, I get it, they've got to get someone to take the order, but it still doesn't seem quite fair. So I drove to a different area to wait for orders. And wait and wait and wait. I finally got one, and I made another bad drink choice (I thought it was just green tea, but it tasted like burnt rice) and again I had to wait a long time for someone in an apartment to come down and get their food. Come on, people.

I drove around looking for a grocer that was open, as it was getting toward the end of my scheduled "Dash" and I knew we needed eggs for this morning. No orders, no orders, no orders. I ended up at Walmart getting eggs. As I approached 10 pm, it looked like I was going to conclude 2.5 hours with just three orders netting me about $18. And then an order came through with 10 minutes to spare. A little over $7, and while it was taking me further from home, it didn't look like it would be too bad, so I might as well take one more and get my average back up a bit.

Spoiler alert: that wasn't at all how this was going to go.

The GPS had trouble finding the food place, and I wasn't familiar with it, so there was that. Wandering around looking for the place and for parking, which was't close. It was fairly busy, though they seemed to have plenty of staff, but it still took 20 minutes after I got there for the food to be ready. It had to have been ordered at least 10 minutes before that. And we're not talking about gourmet food here: it was fries with a bunch of stuff on top of them and wings. I texted the customer to let them know that it was slow going, but didn't hear back.

There was another Door Dash driver there, and he's like "Man, I was just gonna take one last order..." And I'm like "Right?! Me too!" The staff wasn't particularly helpful or even apologetic. When it was finally ready, I asked if everything was in there, and they said yes, so I hustled it out to my car. It didn't seem like much, so I opened it up, and there was a big box of fries and exactly one wing messily wrapped in foil. I'm thinking "Is this right?" Because really, who orders one wing? So I trekked back to double-check, and they looked at me like I'm the biggest idiot they've ever seen. Yes, they just ordered one wing.

So as I'm making the drive, in the back of my mind, I'm wondering if the customer screwed up their order and if they'd be upset with me for their mistake. It seemed reasonably likely, all things considered, with how the night was going.

The delivery was going to this complex of several huge apartment buildings, none of which were particularly well indicated with signs. No street numbers above the main entrances, nothing. But judging by Google maps, I thought I found the right building. It's locked, of course, and I don't have information about which apartment it is to buzz them to let me in. So I call the number Door Dash gave me and... nothing. It goes to voicemail. You've got to be kidding me. I waited all this time, drove all this way, and now the customer has gone to sleep or let his phone die or whatever? There was actually a second number listed for the customer, so I called that one and got an identical voicemail response. So I cycled between the two (and left a message for good measure).

I have no idea how this works: will I get paid for all this nonsense if I'm unable to deliver the order? I suspect that's the case. And I do not want to go through all this for nothing when I could have been home a half hour ago for the same nothing. Finally I get an answer and the guy sounds completely out of it. "Oh great," I think. "He sounds like he's high or drunk," which would explain not answering his phone. He says something about trying the door "on the right" instead of the center door, and that his apartment is 601.

So it sounds like he's expecting me to bring the food up to the sixth floor. Great. But first I have to get in, and I'm thinking maybe I should park my car legally if possible. So I find a parking space on the right side of the building, but the side door there is locked. He calls me back at this point, and and says that the door on the left side from the front is usually open. So I hustle over there, and it's locked. Now he asks me what I see inside, I describe it, and he tells me that, no, that's not his building. So I go back to my car, and apparently it's a couple buildings over from where I am and, oh yes, here is finally the first first sign I've seen indicating which building is which. But apparently the guy can't buzz me in, so I have to bang on the door and get a couple women who didn't look entirely like they trusted me to let me in. Lobby smells like pot, by the way.

Up to the 6th floor. The apartment that appears to be 601 doesn't have a number on it. Seriously? Every other apartment has a number on it, and this one has nothing. It has to be 601, though, right? I knock. Nothing. I wait and knock again, nothing. Well, what the heck? Is this not apartment 601? Nothing else looks more like it could be 601, but there's no number. I could be banging on a broom closet for all I know. I knock again, and finally the door opens.

The man who answers the door is in a wheel chair, has a nasty-looking sore on/above his upper lip, and the apartment smells strongly of weed. So, okay, I guess there are reasons why it's been hard for this man to help me out here, but it also doesn't change the fact that it took me a good 20 minutes from the time I got there to actually drop off the food. Some clearer directions would have been helpful (people do that). Answering your phone would have been helpful (that too). Since, you know, you ordered food and all.

So let's see, by the time I got home, it was almost 4 hours that I'd been out, and I got $25 for my trouble. When you take out gas and all that, it barely beat my salary working at McDonald's in high school. When the minimum wage was $4.25.

On the flip side, I had a phone interview for a full-time job that I would absolutely love, and not just because it's better than driving Door Dash. But also because I'd be happy to never Dash again at this point.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Waitr is new here and I've often wondered what it's like to be a driver and if it's as easy as it seems. Uh, no thanks!