If you’re ordering chicken nuggets or pad thai, even though the air quality is officially listed as “hazardous” for inhalation, you should probably tip more. (And the same goes for any other natural disaster, of course.)
Food suppliers are hoping this is the message people will take to heart after smoke from wildfires blanketed the Midwest and East Coast earlier in the month, causing terrible breathing difficulties for everyone outside.
It was particularly bad in New York City, where some 60,000 people Make deliveries for apps like Uber, Grubhub, and DoorDash.
Gustavo Ajche is one of them. During the worst of the wildfire smoke he was out on his bike delivering groceries. Tips are a matter of luck, he told HuffPost.
“I’ve noticed that people tip a little more – maybe $6 or $7 instead of $4 – but there’s no shortage of people who don’t tip, and as a delivery driver, that frustrates us because we rely on tips. said Ajche, who delivers for DoorDash and GrubHub and also does construction work.
Ajche, the founder of the working group Los Deliveristas Unidos and member of Project “Workers’ Justice”, A group fighting for better working conditions and higher wages for immigrants was masked during his deliveries, but it was impossible to keep the smoke out of his eyes.
It’s not the first time he’s been exposed to extreme weather or environmental conditions during his work, and Ajche doesn’t expect it to be the last. As climate emergencies become more common in the United States—hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and high winds— even in unexpected places ― Delivery drivers are becoming a new class of indispensable workforce. (Of course, during the pandemic, we’ve also become heavily dependent on them.)
“Our jobs are vital works that make life easier for thousands upon thousands of people who may not be able to go out,” Ajche said. “Personally, I have been on the road several times during major winter storms. In 2010 there was a big snowstorm where I remember it was very difficult for me to get to my house, everything was closed and there was no public transport.”
Ajche said, “Here in New York, the delivery man is always on the street.”
Adam — who, like others in this story, only asked to use his first name to protect his privacy — is another New Yorker who’s weathered it all.
“I rode my bike in temperatures around 0° Fahrenheit. I’ve delivered in snowy weather, and I’ve delivered in rainy weather, and a few weeks ago I delivered while NYC was struggling with pollution from Canada’s fires,” he said.
The snow hasn’t been that bad in the past two years, but Adam recalls times in 2013 and 2015 when the snow got so heavy that his heels slipped off the pedals and he to avoid injury , jumped off his bike while simultaneously balancing hot food.
“The snow can clog the bike’s drivetrain and make shifting a lot harder,” he explained.
He also struggles with slippery stairs in the winter, as most customers expect their delivery to be delivered right to their walk-in apartment.
The apps have implemented policies to prioritize the safety of their drivers. When the wildfire smoke was at its worst last month, Grubhub reportedly alerted motorists that they would not be penalized if they did not feel safe making deliveries and reminded those with pre-existing conditions to stay indoors.
DoorDash automatically interrupts operation during major emergencies, including snowstorms and hurricanes. In response, the company activated the protocol Hurricane Ian, Major winter storms in the United States and nearby forest fires Vancouver in the last few months.
But gig workers like Adam say there’s some incentive to drive or bike even when the weather is bad, but not quite so bad when you suspend operations.
“Sometimes the apps offer workers a higher base salary because fewer people want to work in weather like this,” Adam said. “It’s one of the reasons I try to work in bad weather. The ball is more in the hands of the delivery drivers these days. Even on difficult days, customers may tip more.”
Depending on the app, delivery requests indicate that drivers receive tip estimates. So when Adam sees an order with a low tip or no tip at all, he refuses.
However, delivery drivers don’t have much time to pull out their phones, navigate to the ringing app, and decide if they want to take an order.
“We might get 22 to 30 seconds for most delivery requests,” Adam said. “Sometimes we’re already on our bikes and depending on traffic, we have to slow down and go through this process or stop altogether. The apps don’t take the weather into account in the time we have to evaluate requests.”
In the past, Adam has received no tip at all in hazardous weather, and has also been meager ($1 to $3). One of his worst experiences was last winter when someone ordered three packs of Polish spring water — twenty-four 16.9-ounce bottles — and only tip him $8.
“It was store and pay delivery and the water weighed about 75 pounds,” he said. “I had a bike rack and a big backpack so I could carry it, but now I’m more selective about certain orders.”
As for how much more customers should tip, Adam says distance, weight of the order, and weather conditions should be taken into account.
“I know customers are being charged on top of the higher app prices, so it’s not cheap,” he said. “In the winter and inclement weather, I’d like at least $7 for a delivery about a half-mile maximum distance. So on a $2-$3 base salary, that equates to at least a $5 or $4 tip.”
On that day, when New York City air quality was at its worst, Bimal Jhale attempted to squeeze through some Grubhub deliveries in the evening. (Early this afternoon, Jhale, father of a five-year-old, said he was too dizzy to drive across town after finishing his shift at a restaurant.)
“We can’t afford to take a day off, so we’re the ones who take all those risks when the weather’s bad,” said Jhale, a Justice for app workers Member who replied via email.
“People have their own needs, but we want people to think about our safety and understand the situation we find ourselves in,” he wrote.
He and other members of Justice for App Workers believe that customers should tip about 15% to 20% more in hazardous or unsafe conditions.
Jess, a delivery driver in Portland, Oregon, has battled wildfires every year since she started driving in 2020. She struggles with eye and lung irritation from the particles in the air, distracted drivers on the road and added stress to her car. (For example, vehicle air filters must be replaced immediately after the smoke clears, or during wildfires when conditions are prolonged.)
On days like this, Jess told HuffPost that she tends to see a slight increase in her tips by the end of the evening, but that’s usually due to a few big-tipping outliers.
“Most people tip the same as they always do — even if it’s zero,” she said. “Yes, people don’t tip at all, even in wildfires.”
Typically, the apps charge when there aren’t enough drivers on the road, but Jess said it’s usually just a dollar or three more per order: “It’s not great, but it’s worth it in the right situations.”
Jess, mother of a 5-month-old, said she would love it if people changed their attitude towards tipping on delivery apps. She said that it shouldn’t be called a tip, it should be called a bid.
“From the driver’s perspective, it works like this: They offer a certain dollar above reserve for better service and faster delivery,” she said. “A good driver is more likely to accept an order with a higher bid than with a lower bid.”
However, tipping is still optional for the customer.
“You think if $5 is good enough for the Domino guy, why not do the same thing for the UberEats guy too, regardless of the terms?” she said.
The drivers we spoke to realized that the app companies should reward their employees appropriately. Delivery drivers who are organizing, like Ajche and Jhale, say they will continue to campaign for better wages through the apps. (They scored a win earlier in the month when New York City took a… Minimum wage of $18 an hour for food suppliers.)
However, customers must remember that delivery is a luxury, especially in dangerous conditions.
“I don’t mind if people order in inclement weather. It’s the bad tip that’s frustrating,” Adam said. “People shouldn’t suffer and be tipped outside so others can relax at home while they eat and enjoy Netflix.”