I should preface this by saying that I am a fairly covid-conscious person.
I’m obviously not quarantining since I’m a delivery driver, but I do always wear my mask in public, wash my hands often, and avoid being physically close to people outside of my own household. Not everybody shares the same level of respect for Covid-19 safety measures, so I figured I should outline my own practices before diving into this article.
I should also say that this is more of an opinion piece than anything else, a sharing of my own experiences that I have observed as a delivery drive in the Phoenix area, but of course others may have different experiences.
Finally, I just want to say that though a lot of this may sound like I’m complaining about my chosen line of work, I fully understand that other people are in far worse situations than mine, and I am in no way trying to say that my problems are worse than anybody else’s.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get started.
Being a gig worker during a pandemic presents a unique set of challenges.
Interacting with various restaurants and people throughout a wide urban area has been a constant test of my own adaptability. Different merchants and different customers present a wide array of obstacles.
The restaurants have a financial incentive to be as absolutely safe as possible to avoid having an outbreak among their staff and having to shut down. And yet, there are varying degrees of seriousness about instituting safety measures.
Most of them at least have signs up saying that they require masks inside. However, I’ve never seen a restaurant worker ask a customer to put a mask on, even though I’ve seen countless customers refusing to wear them.
Granted, I don’t expect the average restaurant worker to be confronting customers. This is probably something that managers should be doing. And yet, again… They don’t. At least not in my experience.
The general rule of thumb is that customers eating in dine-in restaurants aren’t expected to wear their masks while eating. Okay, fine… But what actually seems to happen with most people is they come in with masks on (almost as a ritual gesture) and then take them off as soon as they’re seated, regardless of whether they now have food or even a drink in front of them. And nobody calls them on it.
Now you might be thinking, “Well Moe, if you have a problem with it, perhaps you should call them on it.”
Number one, I’m not an employee of any restaurant and I’m not an authority figure of any kind in that space.
Number two, I’m there to pick up food and get out as quickly as possible.
Number three, I’m certainly not getting into any altercation with somebody who clearly hasn’t been following CDC guidelines at all, thereby risking my own health by interacting with them.
In my opinion, businesses and their managers should be enforcing rules about masks and distancing, and the local health departments should be making sure businesses are doing this.
That’s another thing, distancing.
Some businesses have half of their tables blocked off to force people to stay distant when seated. Some completely close their table spaces and are carry-out or drive-through only. Many have those stickers on the ground to show people what six feet should look like. Some do literally nothing about distancing.
And honestly, I’ve stopped picking up orders from restaurants where I know people are going to be packed together. Lack of distancing is especially problematic when I also know it’s a place that doesn't offer curbside pickup and never has orders ready when I get there, so I’m going to have to stand around inside the busy restaurant, waiting for an unknown length of time.
That waiting isn’t just annoying like it would have been before the pandemic. It’s now also unsafe, and I do my best to avoid unsafe situations. Learning which restaurants are unsafe is a trial and error process that happens slowly over time.
On the customer side of things, I have had far fewer issues. Most orders are ‘leave at door,’ meaning I never even see the customer.
I did have an order the other day that was for groceries, and this old woman asked me to physically come into her house and put the groceries on her table. I did it even though I was uncomfortable, mostly because I knew I would get dinged for fraud if I dropped the order in the app at that point, and that I was likely to get a bad rating if I refused the customer’s request.
Quite frankly, I didn’t feel like I had another good choice. In terms of Covid risk, that’s the worst experience I’ve had with a customer (which is to say, I haven’t had very many bad experiences Covid-wise with customers). That said, it does annoy me a bit when a customer puts ‘hand it to me’ or ‘meet at door’ for seemingly no good reason. And they almost never wear a mask or stay distanced from me.
The thing is that I have no way of weeding out customers who might present an unnecessary Covid risk.
I can avoid restaurants that I feel are unsafe, but I have almost no information about the customers until after I’ve picked up the food, at which point I’ll get accused of fraud if I drop the order. So I suppose I’ve probably been pretty lucky that I haven’t had a slew of bad experiences with customers, and I hope that luck holds out until I’m vaccinated.