Postmates amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

I drove for Postmates amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. This is what it’s like


Life on planet Earth sure has changed since COVID-19 decided to make its unwelcome appearance. From shuddering at scary statistics to coming up with creative ways to pass the time under stay-at home-orders, we’re all doing our best to cope with the situation, while trying to avoid catching and spreading the dreaded coronavirus.

Rideshare and delivery drivers have a whole lot to think about under this new set of circumstances. Whether you’re a veteran of the door-to-door pool, or are dipping your toes in due to the severe drop in regular rideshare services customers, we at Gridwise figured you might like to know what it’s like to deliver in this new and strange environment.

Our goal is to give you some things to think about, as well as smart strategies for protecting yourself, your customers, and your loved ones. We’ll also cover some items and practices you’ll need to use if you decide to deliver during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’re going to assume you’re already signed up with a delivery service. If not, we advise you to sign up sooner rather than later. It takes a few days to get a background check through, and in some cases the services have more drivers than they need, so you could be placed on a waiting list.

Before you go, weigh the risks

Making the decision to deliver or not to deliver isn’t as simple and straightforward as you might think. First, you have to understand the risk you’re taking by leaving your home, going into various restaurants and stores, and then delivering food and other items to people, even if it’s just to their doors. 

Although the amount of contact you’re asked to make while delivering is relatively limited, there is some face-to-face, and sometimes hand-to-hand and hand-to-surface, contact you simply cannot avoid. So … you have to be very honest with yourself about your own risks and the risks you might be bringing to people around you.

Obviously, if you have a weakened immune system, are in an at-risk group due to age or underlying medical conditions, or are around friends or family members who fall into these categories, you should not drive.

You also need to be sensitive to the people you’ll meet while delivering by being hyper-aware of how you’re feeling. It’s a good practice to check your temperature before leaving your home. If you’re running a fever, have a cough, or any other symptoms of COVID-19, STAY HOME.

Along with not driving if you suspect you might have COVID-19, there are a couple of other facts to remember about contagion …

  • If you are infected and don’t know it because you have no symptoms, you can pass the virus along to others;
  • If you are not infected but have been around someone who is, you can pass the virus along to others.

If it turns out you can’t work due to these or other circumstances, pursue the government benefits that are available, such as the newly available unemployment compensation for gig workers, including rideshare and delivery drivers. You can read more about these options in this article.

If you do decide to go …

Whether you’re motivated by the money you’ll earn, or the good deeds you’ll be doing for your customers, or both, you need to take measures that will allow you to avoid getting or spreading the virus. You won’t benefit anyone if you get sick, and you’ll cause a whole lot of problems if you make others sick. Here are some things you’ll want to have with you before you go out to make deliveries.

Protective gear 

How can you best, and most practically, protect yourself from the coronavirus? Lots of people go straight to gloves and/or a mask, while others feel guilty about using these resources when they’re so desperately needed by medical professionals and first responders. 

Whether to wear protective equipment or not is a personal decision. If, for example, you already have these items on hand and they wouldn’t be of use to anyone else, using them isn’t going to do any harm.

Be judicious about disposing of them, though. If you’ve been compliant and haven’t been outside your home, maybe you haven’t seen how many gloves and masks are lying around on the ground. It’s not a pretty sight–nor is it safe. Don’t let yourself  become a contributor to that mess. Carry a plastic bag in your car to dispose of protective gear, tissues, napkins, or anything else that might carry even the slightest trace of infectious material.

Hand sanitizer is a must. Keep it in your car and/or in your pocket. If you’ve run out of it and can’t find any, wash your hands as frequently as possible, and avoid touching your face.

A cleaner car

Keep disinfectant wipes in your vehicle. These are just as important as having hand sanitizer on hand. If you can’t find disinfectant wipes, you can use a disinfectant cleaner (or alcohol or peroxide) and a paper towel or cloth.

Make it a regular practice to sanitize the surfaces in your car, including door handles, controls on windows, locks, and gas caps. Make sure you have a clean car key, as well. Even with hands-free starters, you might touch the key in your pocket or in your car’s console.

You might believe you’re the only one who’s touched these things, but you don’t know what might happen when you’re not in or around your vehicle. Have you ever tried to open the door on a car you would have SWORN was yours—and it turned out to be a car that just looked a lot like yours? Uh-huh, thought so! People do it all the time.

A bag and a box

Most delivery services provide you with a thermal bag. In normal times, this bag is great for keeping hot food warm and cold food fresh. In times like this, the thermal bag does double duty. It can be a protective layer between you and the restaurant workers, and you and your customers.

If you’re new at the job and don’t have a bag yet, you may have one lying around the house or in the garage that you can use. If you have to buy a few, the bags are very inexpensive and well worth the investment.

The box—or better yet, a plastic crate—is awesome for keeping everything in order. If you can place it in your trunk or on the floor, you can avoid the ugly, foul-smelling spills that aren’t going to make your or your customers happy. 

You can also use the box as insulation between the hands of the restaurant or store workers and your customers, as well as your own.

Proof that you’re an essential worker

Let’s be practical rather than political here, and just state how important it is to be able to prove you’re in compliance with a stay-at-home order. It isn’t common for authorities to check for written proof that drivers are essential workers, but the time could come when it’s standard practice. To prepare for this eventuality, many companies are issuing letters to their employees and contractors so they’ll be prepared if/when restrictions become more stringent.

Here’s an example of such a letter that was issued by Postmates. Check the app you’re using, and you’ll likely find the same or a similar letter there. Print it and carry it in your car with you at all times.

What do deliveries in the COVID-19 age look like?

Delivery used to be blissfully uncomplicated. You’d get a call, answer the call, complain a little about the traffic, struggle to find a place to park, pick up the food or packages from a store, and deliver the goods. You could smile and chat on both ends of the delivery, and hope for a nice tip when it was all done. 

The scene on the outside

Now, with the immense and understandable fear of COVID-19, delivery is not such a happy scene. It’s almost eerie to see how empty the streets and highways are. 

Bars and restaurants are C-L-O-S-E-D except for take-out. People aren’t going to work or school, so they aren’t coming home from work or school. Very few people are traveling to the airport, and the sea of humanity that used to thrill and irritate you during every rush hour is nowhere to be seen. It’s not quite like the scene of a zombie apocalypse … but it’s closer than most of us ever expected to see with our own eyes.

An eerily empty Pittsburgh

The upside

As tough as this situation is on us all, it’s sure easier to get around now—and parking is unfathomably easier now. In most cities and smaller municipalities, the enforcement of parking laws, both for fees and alternate side of the street rules, have been suspended. Check with the town you’re in before you make any assumptions, but for the most part, you’ll be thrilled to know you have far less to worry about than before.

Customers recognize what you’re doing, how hard it is, and how much risk you’re taking. So … they TIP way more than usual. You’ll notice this right away, or as soon as your app notifies you of the tips you get.

The difficulties

While people are still asking for deliveries, business is nowhere near what it was before the COVID-19 crisis. You’ll get calls but there won’t be massive orders, and they sure won’t come in rapid-fire pings. There are other annoyances too:

  • Many restaurants are open for takeout orders, but aren’t technically open for business. You could get caught taking a delivery, then calling in the order and getting no answer. Worse yet, you could get to the restaurant and find out it’s totally closed. You’ll need to contact the customer to deliver the bad news.
  • People tend to change their minds more often, for reasons you as a driver may never know. You might change your route to go in for a pickup, only to get that disappointing signal from your app, announcing that the order has been cancelled.
  • Not everybody takes the COVID-19 situation seriously—meaning, they don’t take precautions with their own safety, let alone yours. You really do need to keep at least 6 feet away from people, so if someone tries to approach you to put something in your hands or take their delivery from you, stand your ground and protect yourself.

Inside the establishment

There will be other people standing around, waiting for deliveries. Whether you use gloves and a mask or not, you’re still going to want to keep your distance from the people inside the dining or other establishment, as well as other drivers and customers who are waiting for their orders.

In some establishments, the orders are placed on tables to avoid close contact with the employees. In others … the employees will expect to walk up to you and hand you the order. This is where you’ll want to use your bag and/or box.

At the very least, you can have the restaurant workers place their bagged items in your thermal bag. Also, when you pick up any bag, either thread your arm through the handles to lift it, or grab it from the sides and bottom with your arms, rather than using your hands.

Driving it out and getting to delivery

If, while in the restaurant or other establishment, you touched any surfaces, picked up any bags, or came into contact with another person, CLEAN YOUR HANDS. Sanitize your steering wheel, gear shift, and anything else you might have touched or are about to touch. And please—sanitize your PHONE. You probably touch that more than you touch anything else during the course of a day.

There will be delivery instructions in your app. Make sure you check them before you start to drive. In many cases now, with the precautions we’re taking, you’ll be asked to leave the delivery at the door. That makes it easy, because you can use the same devices and techniques—wearing gloves, avoiding touching the bags, and leaving the bags at the door. It’s an excellent practice to take a photo of the bags at the door before you leave. 

If your customer is there to meet you to retrieve the bags or packages, use your thermal bag and/or box, and ask the person to remove the order. 

It may be necessary to touch some of the merchandise, especially if you pick up straws or napkins, or have to dispense a beverage for the customer. Be aware of where you touch these objects, and ask the customer to take it from you on some part of the surface where your hands did not touch. Even with gloves, your hands can carry germs. Be aware, be alert, and be kind and compassionate to the people you’re serving. Times are just as strange and surreal for them as they are for you … we’re all in this together.

You’re doing a good deed.

Going out of the house under stay-at-home orders isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But if you’re healthy and you have no chance of infecting people in your close circle of family and friends, and you’re willing to take the risks and the precautions that can help keep you safe, you can do a much-needed service and make some money doing it.

Let us know if you have more ideas, tips, or help for delivery drivers. We love hearing from you! 

Here to help

The Gridwise app is here to assist you as you conquer the world of COVID-19 as a rideshare or delivery driver. New features let you add your earnings for multiple platforms. Here you’ll see how one driver entered earnings from Postmates, and is now able to see the trend for different days in the week. What a great way to figure out the best times to get out there, wouldn’t you say?

Once the market for Uber and Lyft frees up more, this driver will be able to enter earnings from all the services, and see where the best times and places are for making money.


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