About a year ago I wrote my initial post shortly after I’d signed up to be an UberEats delivery “driver”, but instead of using a bike or car, I did it on foot. Walking. It’s a much lesser known way and I can tell you the past year has been a whirlwind of learning how challenging of a gig this really is. I’m going to try and remain fairly diplomatic in fear of retribution from Uber – which should tell you all you need to know right out of the gate.
Where I left off was after my second night out delivering. I was in pretty good spirits realizing I could make a couple bucks on the side just for walking around the city dropping off relatively crappy takeout food to people while burning calories. My views now are… well.. far different. As it stands today, I’m up to 1700 deliveries since late September 2020. I stopped somewhere in early May 2021 save for a few days afterwards where the weather wasn’t all that warm. I decided slugging a food delivery bag around town in the heat & humidity just wasn’t for me. As the weather got colder in October of this year, I’ve been back out getting my steps.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.
When you decide to deliver with UberEats, you’re not relegated to a single area, or time, or shift. You have the freedom to work wherever you’d like, whenever you’d like, and take or decline whatever orders come in. That freedom, I’ll admit, is quite excellent. I initially set out in Chinatown as it had such a high concentration of places to pickup from. I’d walk in circles, and mainly was delivering from 8pm onwards when the streets weren’t as busy. I was making around $20/hour on average including tips (which, I should add make up about 1/3 of my total income).
As time went on, I began to change my approach. I’d head out around 530pm and go for about 4 hours most nights, turning in around 930pm, sometimes a tad earlier, sometimes as late as 1030pm. I changed my focus to be more towards the entertainment district of downtown. This meant a considerable portion of my orders were being delivered to the various condos in the core. I can now safely tell you almost every hidden passage way, tricks to get in/out of buildings, and especially shortcuts, but I’ll get to that later. I rarely if ever accept an order that sends me south of Front St (or, the train tracks), North of Dundas St, West of Bathurst, or East of Yonge St. It’s a box I try and keep myself in as getting too far outside of that will result in a long walk back to where there’s a high concentration of pickup points.
The whole thing is pretty simple. You get a notification when an order comes in with the name of the restaurant to pickup at, the closest intersection you’ll be dropping off at (it’ll never give you the exact address prior to accepting the order), and what you’ll be paid for the order. At the time of writing this, the floor price is $3.00/delivery, however I’ll never take those. What you get paid changes order to order and is dependent on things such as distance from the restaurant to the customer, the current “surge” rate (For downtown Toronto, this is typically an additional $1.50 on the low end to $6.00 on the high end), and any promotions they may be running (which is basically never). Typically during the dinner rush I’ll make anywhere from $5.00 – $7.50 for any delivery, with the most I’ve made topping out at $8.50 I believe. To give context, as a walker, I will only get offered orders that are under 1.5km from the restaurant, with a majority of them being under 1km – that takes about 10 minutes by foot.
So, you accept the order, head to the restaurant, pickup the food (if it’s ready), and then the app will give you the exact address of the delivery. You head there, deliver the food, and typically take a photo within the app, and complete the delivery. If alcohol is being delivered, you need to verify ID within the app, and it’s the same procedure. There’s some caveats, but that’s the gist. Then, you wait for your next order to come in, lather, rinse, repeat.
Any tips you’re given will come in approximately 1 hour after your delivery is complete, and the app will notify you of how much you were tipped. You’re paid every Monday, and the money will show up in your account on Tuesday. That’s about it. So, now to the finer points…
There. I said it. Basically everyone who uses that app to order food is a moron. I can’t think of a single good excuse to order food using UberEats besides sheer laziness. What it all boils down to is that you’re getting mediocre (if not downright terrible) food, at inflated prices, with ever increasing “fees” being tacked on. You can argue there’s some good places on there, and there is, but they’re few and far between. The cost of the food has to be the same as the restaurant’s actual menu prices (aka, they can’t mark it up for Uber). Uber then adds on additional fees such as a “service fee”, and of course the “delivery fee”. That $8.99 meal deal from McDonalds is suddenly costing you $21.00 after all the fees are applied with taxes. Tip not included.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I drop off a bowl of ramen or a pound of chicken wings, looking at the bill, seeing what it costs, and fully well knowing that person is paying an additional $10 or more after all the fees are tacked on. What that tells me is two things: People are downright lazy, and people have too much disposable income. I’m not here to shame people over avocado toast, but it’s outrageous how addicted to just picking up their phones and blowing $30 on a lukewarm dinner people have gotten. If they only knew (or cared enough) to realize walking 5 minutes down the street, they’d save all those fees, and most restaurants (well, non fast-food chains) will typically offer you 10-20% discounts on picked up orders. That $35 chicken dinner delivered by UberEats would only cost you $15 if you picked it up. You just paid $20 for delivery, bro. Congratulations on pissing your money away – but honestly, part of that is going into my pocket so whatever. Keep racking up the credit card, I guess.
Those in the service industry, especially servers, will likely be able to relate to this – however it blew my mind coming to this realization myself. Wealthy people are notoriously fucking cheapskates. While my primary delivery zone I target is a lot of the condos in downtown Toronto, I’d estimate an overwhelming majority of these people are 50/50 male/female, most in their 20’s and 30’s, and likely living with just enough disposable income to keep themselves afloat. After all, that’s kind of the demographic of most of the Toronto’s core. However, there’s also a couple community housing developments (lower income), and of course there’s a couple very bougie condos.
I’ve delivered everything from a single Tim Hortons bagel costing $1.50 to a $300.00 meal complete with a bottle of wine from a high end restaurant. Would you be shocked to know I was tipped $4.00 on that bagel, yet that $300.00 meal only tipped me $1.00? I was at first, but now – that’s what I expect. Delivering to lower income areas almost always will get you a 10-15% tip, with some people even pushing 20-30%. I now refuse to deliver to the St. Regis (the old Trump Tower), which is by far one of the most expensive condos in the city. Of all places, it’s the one in which I’ve been stiffed on a tip the most – most notably by this alcoholic guy who always orders a pound of wings, a bottle of crown royal, and a bottle of Stoli vodka. He’s rude when he answers the door, and scoffs when you ask him for ID (it’s mandatory – we have to take a photo of it to complete the order). He’s never tipped me, once – and I’ve delivered to him 4 times now. I refuse all of his orders now, and they’re easy to spot. The Fox on John, to Bay & Adelaide, always comes in around 8-9pm.
However, on the flipside, when you’re going to lower income areas, and especially immigrants (evidenced by their names, and lack of ability to speak much English), I rarely walk away with less than a 15% tip – and on an order of $50.00, that’s a cool $7.50, making that 20 minute delivery a cool $15.00 or so. Just the other day I delivered a decent order of sushi to a family who could barely muster out “Thank you very much” through a VERY thick accent, and I was tipped $20.00. I wanted to go back and personally thank them – but I can’t. Meanwhile 2 deliveries later, I was quite literally tipped $0.01 by some jackass who I delivered a literal 24 case of cider to from the Wine Rack. Could you imagine being a server and coming back to the table to see a single penny there? Classy move, asshole.
Before I begin to explain the countless problems people face on the app, I should take a minute to explain how Uber “supports” it’s drivers, and restaurant “partners”. Let’s make something perfectly clear out of the gate, they don’t give a single fuck. It’s merely all smoke and mirrors so they can tell the various regulatory bodies and governments trying to crack down on them that they provide all these support mechanisms to keep things in check, fair, and balanced for everyone involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s all one big lie, which on paper looks wonderful, but in actuality it’s an excellent way to raise your blood pressure and plant thoughts of gruesome murder into your brain. Granted, I only have experience from the “driver” perspective, but I’ve been told by countless restaurant employees it’s the exact same from their end.
When you call their support line you’re likely to wait on hold. This isn’t unique. Their automated system requires you to speak instead of use digits to say your name, birthdate, and “briefly describe why you’re calling”. This is especially hard to do when you’re on a busy street, trying to yell your birthdate into your phone with people standing all around. Further, try saying “the restaurant won’t have my order ready for 30 minutes”. Finally you give up and keep yelling “agent” into the phone until finally you wait on hold some more and someone picks up the phone, barely audible, clearly using a computer based VoIP solution on budget SIP trunks, so half the time you can’t hear them because of garbled audio. “I’ve been waiting for my order for the past 20 minutes and they can’t give me an ETA. I need to cancel this order”, you tell them. At best, you’ll get them reading from a script “we’re sorry you had this experience, let me put you on hold so I can investigate”. There’s no reason to put me on hold. They come back 5 minutes later “we suggest you wait for up to 15 minutes as sometimes our restaurants can be busy with other orders”. “I’ve already been waiting 20 minutes. I need to cancel this”. “Let me put you on hold so I can investigate”…. “Ok, so are you having trouble finding the restaurant?”. “No, I’m already there, I’ve explained my problem. I need to cancel the order”. This continues and sometimes they manage to get it right, but by this point you’ve been on the phone for 20 minutes, and the better part of an hour is wasted during the dinner rush – your main chance to make money.
I’ve sat on the busiest street corners, during dinner rushes, with no orders coming in for an hour straight. This is absolutely not right. You call support “we have reports some people are not getting deliveries”.. “Can you notify me when this issue is resolved”.. “you’ll be notified by our engineering staff once it’s resolved”. Spoiler: You never get notified. Ever. Not once. But, you DO get an email from their system saying “your issue has been resolved, please rate your support experience”. You give it a 1 star, to get a prompt “Thank you for your feedback, we’re always trying to improve”. No chance to actually provide feedback. You can’t reopen your support case “sorry, closed cases can not be reopened”. The whole system is rigged to look like they’re doing something, when their entire support department are kids in 3rd world countries being paid pennies a day to simply answer the phone and read from a script. I wish I was being dramatic here, but that’s quite literally what it is.
If only it were that easy. If you cancel an order within the app (which you can do), for whatever reason – you get put on notice. I’ve literally shown up to a restaurant, another drive accidently took my order instead, and I cancelled within the app with the reason “another driver took my order”, which is an option. Minutes later I get a notification telling me if I cancel too many orders, I could be suspended from the platform – For an issue that’s not my fault. Amazing.
The only way to not be penalized is to call their support and waste 20-30 minutes trying to get them to do it for you. The system is completely broken. If it’s your fault, you’re at fault. If it’s not your fault, you’re still at fault. The messages are insanely passive aggressive. It’s completely demoralizing, yet framed as this positive message. They know what they’re doing.
Another excellent example is a particular ramen place. They tried to give me a bowl of hot soup in a bowl that had a very shoddy fitting lid, something that would definitely fall apart in my delivery bag. I told them I needed them to secure the food in a better container or I couldn’t accept it as it would be a mess. As a result of not accepting an unsatisfactory order, I was penalized and a new passive aggressive message appears “Other: We can’t share specific information, however if you’re looking to improve, we’ve heard professionalism and attention to detail can go a long way.”
Did you know that it’s a driver’s responsibility to ensure all items are included in the order and nothing is forgotten? Well, we do get a list of what’s supposed to be included in the order, but how exactly am I supposed to check it? What we get handed is a stapled shut brown bag, tied up plastic bag sealed with a sticker, or on very rare occasions a clear plastic bag. I can’t open them because that’d be tampering with an order. So, how do I do this? If an item is missing, I’m held accountable – yet I’m not allowed to actually verify the order. Did Subway make you a roast beef sub when you ordered a ham & cheese? Guess who gets a notice that they should have checked the order to ensure it was correct. Me. Do you want your Uber Driver to unpack your sandwich, then check what meat is on it? I sure as hell don’t, but Uber feels we should. Except for the part where they tell you that you’re not allowed to open any bags. If my order showed up and it was clear my driver was rummaging around in my bag, I’d be pissed too. It’s a catch 22, and they damn well know it. The system is rigged against you.
Better yet, you’re basically never told what the feedback is in regards to. Even the slightest thing will get you on notice. After every pickup and delivery, you’re able to rate the restaurant or customer a thumbs up or a thumbs down. A thumbs up means nothing, but a thumbs down and you’re on notice. More than 5% of your ratings being a thumbs down? You run the risk of being kicked off the platform. More than 10%, and you’ll likely be banned. It’s that simple. Even if it’s not your fault.
It really doesn’t take long to start to understand the ins and outs of the system – but more-so places to avoid. I’ll tell you right away that it’s rare I’ll accept an order from Pizza Pizza, McDonalds or The Burger’s Priest. Almost every single time the order isn’t ready and it’s a 15-20 minute wait, burger’s Priest being the absolute worst. Outside of the staff being rude as hell, a lineup of drivers all crowded around this little window, and the slowest possible service I’ve ever encountered, their food is absolute trash.
This place came onto the fast food scene as an independent joint with one location. They made burgs, and they were pretty damn good, I’ll admit. They branched out to a few more locations downtown, and then got bought out by “Crave It” foods who more or less figured out how to squeeze every last dime out of that place. Naturally quality plummeted, and costs were cut at every corner. Much more recently Recipe Unlimited bought out CraveIt’s share in the company but little has changed. I’ll give them the fact they do use good meat and it’s fresh. But that’s about where it stops. Their burgers are small, the condiments they use are poorly cooked and the fries are absolutely terrible. But I don’t care about the quality, I just deliver this shit.
What I do care about is the paper thin bag that is soaked in grease to the point you need a priest to pray this bag doesn’t disintegrate before you get it to the customer. Or that the milkshake that’s held together with a fountain pop lid doesn’t even slightly move in your delivery bag and spill everywhere. Or the actual items in the bag don’t fall out of their wrappers creating a burger salad at the bottom of the bag because they’re just in little pouches. They quite literally seal their single ply toilet paper thin bags with scotch tape. Seeing this poor helpless girl fumble with tiny strips of scotch tape, endlessly sticking to her plastic gloves that are 3 sizes too big for her tiny hands is painful to watch. I’ve straight up asked “why don’t you use a stapler?”… “We’re not allowed”. The place is run by complete morons – at least the one on Adelaide & Duncan.
Going back to last year – and still one of my most “interesting” deliveries was a pizza somewhere up at College and Bathurst. The order came in around 1am and I figured it’d be my last of the evening. Reading the delivery instructions was something along the lines of “123 Fake St – White house go side backyard alley go left window kitchen pass the light on”. What.The.Fuck? Well, I show up, open the alley gate, and see into someone’s bedroom with a sliding glass door for a walk-out to the backyard. Nobody is in there. I knock a few times. It’s clear it’s an old style Toronto house with multiple tenants as it’s split up into 2-3 apartments. Knocking on the front door wakes everyone up, so I keep to instructions.
Suddenly a early 20’s woman appears, and VERY confused as to my presence. I tell her I’m from Uber, delivering for [basicwhitegirlnamehere], and ask if that’s her. She looks even more confused. She tells me to wait a second, calls a name, and another 20 something year old girl appears, only she’s beyond trashed. She whips open the door, asks who I am, I explain, she grabs my phone to try and look at the name on the order, then begins to walk off with my phone. What.In.The.World. I follow her to the front yard where the previous woman opens the front door, drunk girl realizes she forgot she ordered a pizza, and sober girl apologizes profusely. I hand the pizza to sober girl, at which point drunk girl begins to paw at my chest. Insists that I come in to have a drink with her, and when I decline suggests I just have some pizza a really cute guy just brought her. Her friend is still standing in the doorway, mortified, and giving me this look of “I’m so goddam sorry for my friend right now”. Drunk girl tells me we should make out while harnessing every last bit of her remaining motor skills to prevent falling face first into her front porch. I tell sober girl it’s OK, and then convince drunk girl that if she can only go inside with her friend and get me a plate, I’ll have a slice of pizza with her. Sober girl takes the hint, leads her inside, gives me a approving nod of thank you, and I head back into the night.
Honourable mentions go to the multiple women who have answered the door in varying degrees of nudity, the multiple men who have answered the door in varying degrees of nudity, the woman who had a 5 minute heart to heart with me about her dog, or the freshly married couple who ordered a cheap bottle of Chardonnay from the Wine Rack to a hotel only for her to answer the door in her wedding dress, unable to find her ID, so I awkwardly made small talk with the groom who was wearing his tie around his forehead like GI Joe.
But who could forget Jeffy Bro. Seriously, that was his name in the app. It was a pickup from a convenience store and he’d ordered what I can only consider to be him stoned out of his mind loading up on sour keys, gummy worms, whoppers, a 2L thing of ice cream, a bunch of chocolate bars, and a vitamin water. Usually I just drop the stuff at the door, knock, take a photo and leave, but I sure as all hell needed to meet this guy. It was everything I wanted and so much more. Jeffy answers the door wearing a fishnet wife beater, board shorts, a mesh back trucker cap (secretly I wanted it to be a Von Dutch hat), and I immediately hear Sublime – Santeria playing in the background (yaaa bro). A super chill “Heeeehhhheeehhhheeeyyyyyy man” greets me, I hand this guy his stoner loot bag, give him a fist bump (tip me, bro!), and I’m on my way.
Those are the good ones. However, for every amazing delivery, they’re easily 10 terrible ones just waiting to ruin your night.
We all know Karen. The middle aged mom of 3, that Kate-Plus-8 haircut, and she’s mildly overweight. But Greg – Well Greg is her equally shitty husband. The one who wears socks with sandals, drives a duelly truck that has truck nuts, has been trying to seduce the easily influenced babysitter with no luck, yet behind his back Karen is banging her yoga instructor (she only does yoga for the ‘gram). Greg takes his anger out on anything resembling a service or retail industry staff member by threatening to kick their ass and get them fired. Karen backs him up by threatening to call the police over getting a Dr. Pepper instead of a diet coke. Their marriage is a sham, and their sex life is less interesting than the story of when I lost my virginity (spoiler : it wasn’t good). And you can bet your ass there’s ample Gregs and Karens out there.
If you don’t want me to knock on your door, put a note in the delivery notes. I read that shit. If you want me to tuck your food under the chair on the front porch, I got you. I’ve navigated condos that force me to take 2 different elevators, walk a 1/4 mile down a hallway, then call you instead of knocking so I don’t wake the baby. I got you. But when I knock on your door, put the food safely in front of the door in the middle of a global pandemic, and take 5 steps back waiting for you to open the door to get your food (you know, because the note said “leave at the door”), I don’t know why you open the door and yell at me for leaving your food on the ground.
Of course, there’s the infamous people who never leave buzzer numbers. No worries, I’ve made friends with almost all the concierges, and I know a few tricks to get into various condos without having to be buzzed in. But when you know your food is showing up, answer the damn buzzer. If you say you’re coming down to get it, don’t make me sit there for 10 minutes while you finish jerking off. Did they forget to include your drink? Screaming at me will do absolutely nothing besides me calling Uber Support (fuck, not again) to tell them you’re a piece of shit customer and that you verbally abused me.
Don’t be that guy who berates me for being an Uber Walker, not on a bike. Here’s a pro tip Greg – it takes me less time to walk 2 blocks than it does some moron on a motorized bike who needs to find a place to lock it up to some lamp post, get your food, unlock his bike, lock it up again near your place, and get your order to you before it’s a soggy mess of overpriced Chinese food. They’re out there, and they’re assholes. If the slightest thing isn’t perfect in their minds, you can be assured you’re going to get a passive aggressive message from Uber with yet another “Delivery Pro Tip”.
We’re “independent contractors” which basically means we’re slaves. The money we’re paid, it’s before being taxed. Uber reports your earnings to the government, so they know you’re making cash on the side. You need to claim this income. But, how? Well – on your income tax (at least in Canada), you need to claim this as other income. Based on if this is your primary source of income, or what your income is elsewhere, it’ll be taxed using the usual graduated tax system. Meaning – if you make $100k somewhere else, your Uber earnings will be taxed heavy. If you make $30k at another job, you’ll be taxed a lot less. Either way, that $6.75 delivery is actually paying you more like $4.00 into your pocket.
But, there’s ways to help cut that back. As an independent contractor, at least on foot or on a bike, you can claim up to $17.50 a day for meals. You best know that you should be writing off as much of that $17.50 each time you’re out delivering as you can. Buy a delivery bag? A new pair of shoes? Winter socks to keep you warm? Phone chargers? A portion of your cellular bill? It’s all an expense, and you can write it off come tax season. The important thing here is to know your rights when it comes to what you can and can not claim. Effectively think of it as “if I needed to buy this thing to help me do my job, it’s an expense”.
In the end, this is not a job I would suggest for people to even attempt to make a living wage at. You’d be working your ass off, dealing with countless problems, and having to do it upwards of 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, before you were able to pull in much more than $50k a year. You’re putting a ton of wear and tear on your body (and car, if you use one), you’re being exploited by a disgusting and deplorable company that only sees you as a dollar sign, and it’s honestly not very good work.
However, if you see it like me – as a guy who can get by with what I make elsewhere, and am only really doing this to fill my spare time in the evenings as an excuse to get exercise – It’s not all that bad. I’ve made upwards of $12,000 over the past year with little to no impact on my social life (granted, this was during a pandemic where I was seeing very few people), although I’ve dealt with more shit in that time than I have over the past 10 years working in IT roles (anyone in IT can attest).
Sure, these morons pissing away their money is just helping me financially. But, they’re morons, and if you’re ordering with Uber, you’re a moron too. Sure, it’s easy and convenient – but give me a break. What did people do 5 years ago, and for the rest of eternity before food delivery apps were a thing? Buy groceries. Cook for yourself. Plan your meals. Use the restaurant’s in home delivery, walk to the place, pick it up on your way home, anything.
This comes down to laziness and nothing else. UberEats is triple if not quadruple the price of making a far better meal at home yourself. If you’re that busy with work, buy pre-made meals from local places you can nuke. Just last night I made 12 lunches for about $40 – and this wasn’t some shitty boxed pasta. That got me 4 x roasted tomato soup, 6 x chicken thighs with onions & mushrooms in a cream sauce, roasted peppers, & brussel sprouts, and 6 x grass fed beef red curry stuffed peppers with roasted zucchini & parm. I’ll be liberal and call it $50 because I used some stuff I already had at home, but those 12 meals costs about the same as 2 UberEats orders from McDonalds. Food delivery apps have made people insanely lazy and reliant on just putting everything they ever need on their credit card. It’s toxic and it’s ruining your life. Most people that I know who use UberEats on the regular couldn’t tell me the first thing about how to cook a chicken breast. They’ve never used their oven, and the stove has only really ever been used to make Kraft Dinner.
Stop looking at the problem, and look at the solution. This isn’t just Uber. It’s SkipTheDishes, DoorDash, Fantuan Delivery, and Postmates. It’s disgusting and you’re only feeding into it. The only app I can actually recommend is Ritual – an app where you order and pay for your meals on your phone, and then pick it up yourself. They take very little from the restaurant, and they offer you small rewards as an incentive. They’re a Canadian brand popular in Toronto, but they’re expanding and I urge you to check them out if you’re that desperate.
End of the day, you’re sending your money to rich pricks who couldn’t give a shit about you, the driver, the restaurant, or anyone else but themselves. That money is leaving your wallet, and it’ll never come back. It’s leaving Canada and finding itself in offshored tax havens, fueling some prick’s yacht around the coast of the Florida Keys.
Call your local restaurant. Make friends with them. Become a regular. Offer them honest suggestions on things you’d love to see on the menu. Get to know the staff. Support your neighbors. Stop buying Applebees, or McDonalds, or Burgers Priest. Ask your favorite places to eat if they offer their own delivery. Ask them how you can get their food without using Uber. If everyone did this, I’d be out of a side hustle but I can safely say that I’d be a hell of a lot more happier – because the world would be a better place.