Technology has been a boon for convenience, but maybe not so much for common courtesy.
We never have to be on time anymore. (Text: “Running a bit behind. Leaving the house now!”) We can break up, apologize or berate someone without any of that old-fashioned, face-to-face awkwardness. And now we can send total strangers into a blizzard, facing spinouts and crashes on the road, to pick up our eggs and milk.
Last week’s two-day snowstorm drew dire warnings from state officials and meteorologists to hunker down and stay off the streets. No matter your thoughts on whether the pre-game messaging was overkill or just right, we had plenty of time to prepare.
But there’s always someone who follows half of the advice — Stay home? Sure! — while thinking nothing about tapping their phone a few times to farm out the dirty work to a delivery driver.
“The sad part is that those who really do not plan ahead and forget things to the last minute have typically been the ones who don’t tip well,” says Chris, a 36-year-old food delivery driver from Minneapolis. “You’ll see an order come through where they get $500 worth of groceries, and they either don’t tip or they add a tip of $2 or $5.”
That’s an ice-cold slap in the face to a shopper who spent an hour and a half stockpiling their cart, only to fishtail their way through slippery conditions. Tips are primarily how these workers get paid (Chris said he considers 20% of the grocery order a fair tip). And veteran drivers say those new to the job often are the ones who end up accepting orders that pay terribly.
Chris, who has been running food and other deliveries for about six years, asked that I withhold his last name to protect his privacy and shield himself from any retribution from platforms like Instacart or Shipt. He stayed busy with deliveries during the storm after determining the roads were safe enough for him to maneuver. He refuses to head out when the conditions are too treacherous.
But it’s not unusual for him to hear about fellow drivers, especially the ones who need the cash, who get mired in the snow.
“They’re driving a used old Honda Civic thinking, ‘I gotta make good money one way or another,’ and then they get themselves into even more trouble because they’re that desperate,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of these big national companies rely on that.”
Of course, storms can be profitable for delivery drivers. Platforms may pay elevated rates when demand surges for their services. Alex Davis of Willmar, Minn., a driver for DoorDash, said that on Thursday he made $80 over three hours, more than what his day job as a youth corrections counselor pays. DoorDash boosted his regular base pay from $2.50 to $7 per delivery during the blizzard (but it did suspend deliveries at the height of the storm in his area).
Davis said last week’s nasty weather brought out tippers on both ends of the spectrum — generous givers who were grateful they didn’t need to leave the house, as well as first-time app users who apparently “didn’t know they were supposed to tip.”
Carrie Myers of Hugo said she also got stiffed by some zero-tippers while DoorDashing through the snow Wednesday and Thursday.
But on the whole, Myers enjoyed couriering meals to Minnesotans buried in snow. In good weather, she considers $5 a decent tip for short trips in her area, and advises adding at least a dollar per mile for distances longer than 3 miles. Customers were tipping her more than $20 during the storm. “It was kind of like being at the casino,” she said. “You were making money, and the orders kept coming in.”
In this age of convenience, some people don’t panic the way they used to: They know that just about anything that their heart desires — from chicken biryani to toilet paper — could be delivered to their front steps in a massive snowstorm. But if you’re going to outsource your errands in a major weather event, think of your driver, Myers advises. Turn the porch light on. Make sure your house is numbered. Shovel the walkway. And if you can’t do those things, tip accordingly.
“It gives us a job,” she said about working in inclement weather. “The drivers kind of count on it. We have no problems doing it, just as long as we get respect from the other end. Most people are generous, but others are not.”
Now that the storm has subsided, Myers is on the road again, ringing doorbells and handing off meals. How are the tips?
“Now we’re back to reality,” she said with a laugh. “Today’s orders are awful.”