Monday 23 January 2017

Grand Theft Deliveroo

The more I ride my ebike on my deliveroo shifts, the more and more it feels like I am riding the bmx from Grand Theft Auto III just like back in the day.

With similar goals between deliveroo and GTA3; you ride from point to point across the city, picking up and dropping off goods, following the little map in the corner of the screen. Last night, I have officially started to merge this in my dreams, waking up to each new day with thoughts that I am Carl 'CJ' Johnson. There is such a thing as Deliveroo Addiction? The challenge of the game? Leveling up, scoring points, getting there.

One major difference between me and other deliveroo riders in my area is that I am electric. I see others pushing their bike up hills with their big pizza bags on their backs while I am free wheeling up at 18mph. Whereas the push bike riders are exhausted and averaging barely two deliveries an hour in my area, I am averaging four an hour. If everything from a to b goes smoothly and without delay I think I can average five, but this delay thing is starting to gripe me. You see, I'm not getting exhausted at all on my shifts, but i'm getting cold. It is just like riding a petrol scooter (a bit colder due to lack of wind protection) but without the added costs of Tax, annual MOT, Insurance, Gas/Petrol refilling, Driving test, Licence, Zero emissions too. My carbon footprint is tiny. I'm not getting exhausted at all. I don't feel very much difference from when I set off to begin a period of work, to when I finish. I just feel colder and hungrier. But I like it this way, I like that I could begin another shift If I wished to without feeling totally exhausted.

And then there are the annoying delays. Ones which I have no control over. One or two restaurants I arrive at to collect, are always always making me wait 10-15 minutes before I get handed the order and this is starting to annoy me. It is every time. And they do not care. They do not care that I am being paid per delivery and that each delay they serve me is effectively losing me a payment. All I get is barely a weak waiter's apology. I am learning which places are fast and which are slow to hand over, but the App I use does not officially allow me to decline a restaurant order. The app presents an order to me, I have to swipe to accept it. If i sit and wait for three minutes the app (in a round about way) tells me I am slow, and my performance is slipping, and then it cancels that order and makes me wait ten minutes as punishment. Either way, I lose 10-15 minutes waiting. I wish I could do something about that. But I am noticing how restaurants and waitresses look at me like I am lower on the social hierarchy. I get given commands, whereas, as a customer I get treated royally. 

I do enjoy seeing such a wide array of classy restaurants though. I could probably write a guide book. I personally like the Thai restaurants in Streatham and Crystal Palace. The waitresses are really beautiful. I also like some others for their nice atmosphere, but i'm not promoting them right now. Why should I?

So how does one become a Deliveroo rider?

Well, you apply online first of all. You submit an application, then you get a phone call from them briefly discussing what bike you ride, areas, and setting you a time to visit one of their offices (I was told there are three in London at the moment but expanding).

At a later date, you ride your bike to their office, lock it up, and go inside. In the office nobody is over 23 years old. You will feel like a pensioner. They will look at you with confusion. You will then hand over your passport to be copied, and a utility bill showing your home address as proof of eligibility to work. Once they have copied these, you will meet a 21 year old proficiency test rider who will take you on a short proficiency test. Whereas the proficiency test is basically impossible to fail, presenting your ghetto ebike will make the 21 year old feel nervous, almost failing you due to his own fear of assigned obligations. I also feel that you might meet the deliveroo mafia rider crew who don't want ebikes taking their orders away from them. You are all fighting for orders effectively and the greater the number of riders there are, the fewer orders you will get. Put it this way, if you had the keys and were hired to pass or fail new riders, would you also be smart about who you allow to pass? It is surprising how easy it is to create a fault in somebody if you want to.

But, I passed after a little bit of hassle and questioning about my ebike. 

What caught my eye a little about my assessor, was that he explicitly told me that I could not ride on a pay-per-delivery term. When I asked why he (somewhat desperately) claimed "It is just too popular" and "there are too many doing it". My bullshit-o-meter wasn't falling for it. and indeed, when I asked at the office later on there was no problem to do this in my area. The staff showed me a London borough zone map with green highlighted areas which they allow pay-per-delivery, and areas they allow only hourly pay. I attempted to take a photo on my phone of it, but was told off and the map was snatched from me. But basically, in zone 1 boroughs, there is no pay-per-delivery, and in outer surrounding areas (Brixton, Clapham, Tottenham etc) these are green highlighted. So, if you're thinking about earning megabucks in Chelsea and Kensington, then think twice as it is only pay per hour according to the map I was shown. Maybe they have different maps? Maybe they tricked me into agreeing to certain areas, and they allow Chelsea residents pay-per-hour? Seems there is lots of sleight of hand to get you to fit the path they want you to be on. Anyway. Onwards. 

After passing this mafia in-the-club test, you then go back to the office and sit at a computer, to complete a very large number of safety and awareness (think liability) videos and click screen tests. How to stop at a junction, how to handle food, how to manage problems. It goes on for hours, but you're alone and unsupervised so you can eat a sandwich too. You can not really fail these tests as they allow you to redo them until you get the required score. Sometimes, I didn't even watch the videos, I just clicked with common sense to get through them more quickly.

Once these tests are done, almost four or five hours have passed, and you are led to the gear room where you are provided with a selection of deliveroo branded goods for your ride. You can choose to have a backpack or a pannier rack box. I would choose the rack pack everytime due to my own happy personal experience bike touring with panniers. Not having to carry the actual bag on your back is much more free and comfortable to ride with. The gear rep commended me on my wise choice. He feels baffled why most kids choose the backpack. There is a video of the gear here.

Other gear you get includes a jacket, a couple of shirts, a phone holder, This Antec powerbank (which is quite good -You need a powerbank just like you need one when playing Pokemon Go!; it saps your battery and phone data), led lights, and thermal food bags. The company also makes you (flexibly) pay for these items by deducting from your bi-weekly pay an amount until you have paid them £150 cover. This cover is refundable when you return the items back to them should you hang up your boots. Items are also freely replaceable if they get damaged, or if upgrades are offered. It's really not that bad to be fair. They say they will not take large amounts of your pay, to enable you to still have some take home pay at the end of the week.

Once you have all the gear, you are text messaged a link to download the official deliveroo rider app which is not available on any app store. The app is called 'Driveroo' (an .apk file). And you can't login until your first shift a few days later. They have the power to control your login. The app looks like in this video here.

Deliveroo also make you do two 'trial' shifts (paid). Two four hour shifts the first on is designated, the other of your own choice. After this, you just log in when you want to and at the end of the shift you are emailed a summary of your days order tally.

Out on your bike, you wait in a designated area of town (close by to you) until the app offers up a job. You swipe to accept it, then use google navigation to guide you there. I use a bluetooth headset to provide voice directions which I really like. I barely look at the map screen mounted to my handlebars.

Busy days provide lots of jobs, quiet days few jobs. And that's right, common sense tell us that weekends are busy, and Monday to Thursday are quiet. At least in my zone. I expect Brixton, or Soho is busy all week round.

Out on my ebike, it feels easy. I arrive and leave locations without fearing hills or exhaustion. I am easily faster than every other cyclist on the road. I especially enjoy racing past the rich city guy on the carbon Pinarello Dogma fixed-wheel, sometimes they try to keep up, but they eventually fail. My gripes out on the road are winter cold - I have to basically wear ski gear, and the car fumes/pollution - some days it really hurts your lungs making them feel raw the next day. I think London pollution levels are worse than Delhi or Kathmandu.

My other gripe is Deliveroo's network error outages. Almost every night between 8-9:30pm there is a server outage in London. Deliveroo then sends to you an automated text message confirming this and telling you to sit and wait. They then send you another message to tell you that they will 'compensate' you with two gift deliveries per hour of outage. But that is still not good for me as I am aiming for five an hour, effectively making me lose-out for their problem, there is nothing I can doo. If I have just collected a multi order at the moment of server outage, I am stuck with these orders in my box getting cold, until the system comes back online; I am unable to get the delivery location. Once I had to phone call the customer (once back online) and apologise that I was unable to deliver their order, it has gone cold, and they should contact deliveroo. I also tried to call deliveroo rider support but no answer, of course. I gave the cold food order to a homeless man and called it quits on my shift that night. I am still waiting to see if Deliveroo are going to fine me for their impossible situation they set me. I have never been given a set of instructions of what to do when the server is down. I had to improvise (and also foot the phone call costs). I wonder what causes their server outage. Is it a DDos attack? Or just not paying for the server upgrade package to handle peak times? I guess only they know, but the outages are almost to the minute accurate from one day to next, which might suggest an automated ddos attack.
And so, here we are, a few weeks in, and i'm starting to have dreams that I am a walking, living, in-game player of Grand Theft Deliveroo.

1 comment:

Sarah Leslie said...

I am curious how these businesses will be changed by a decent data science platform, in terms of predicting orders, routes, new won't make the delivery guy obsolete, for not now, but it might improve operations for that guy.