Gig Economy: Q&A With a Delivery Guy

By mornings, Nathan St. Arnaud was a line cook at a popular Granville Island restaurant. In the afternoons, he zipped around downtown Vancouver, dropping deliveries for Uber Eats on his bike. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, though, St. Arnaud, who grew up in North Vancouver but now lives in East Van, has been working exclusively for Uber Eats. We caught up with him for a Q&A to see what life is like on the other side of the app.

How long have you been working for Uber Eats?

About a year and a half. I started doing it to make a bit of extra money on top of my regular job. It’s been good; I bank all of my paycheques and use the Uber cash for spending money.

What’s a normal haul?

Well, for instance, I started working today at 12:30 and did my last order at 2:45 and made $85. Usually I’ll make somewhere in the $30 to $50 range per hour.

Does everyone make that much money or is there a learning curve?

With Uber, it’s all ratings based. It’s the same as the car service: if you have a good rating, you’re going to get all the money trips. My rating right now is 98 percent. I had to explain it to a guy one time. He was waiting inside this West End restaurant hoping to get a pickup. He saw me make three or four consecutive pickups, and finally asked why I was getting all the trips when he was literally sitting inside the restaurant. Turns out he had a rating of 46 percent or something.

How has the job changed during COVID?

When I was first doing Uber, nobody tipped. I’d maybe get one tip a shift. Now, during the pandemic, everybody is tipping. Almost every single order I’ll get tipped on. Uber is also offering more promotions for drivers as an incentive to get us on the road. Right now, there’s a lot of ordering and not that many drivers.

Have you been more worried, from a health and safety perspective?

It’s always on my mind to sanitize my hands after every order and wear a mask during shifts, but Uber provides both of those for free, so that’s nice. And there’s a lot of no-contact options for customers and drivers so it’s been pretty easy to stay safe.

How do you get a good rating?

I make all my trips and I make them quick. And I try to be as nice as I can—polite on the phone, address people by their name, stuff like that. There are guys, I’m sure you’ve experienced it, who’ll be like, “Hey, here’s your fucking order.” That’s unprofessional. And the merchants, the restaurants, they can also rate you, and you can rate them.

Ever had a bad interaction?

Not really. I’ve had two complaints. One was on my first day when I accidentally swiped “delivered” while I was looking for the buzzer number. So it took a little longer to get the person their food. The other one was when someone said something was damaged.

What restaurant have you been called to most?

McDonald’s, far and away. Not even close.

What’s the weirdest order you’ve ever picked up?

The funniest order I’ve ever gotten was at the 7-Eleven at the corner of Smithe and Beatty. The guy ordered a large Slurpee. And he lived across the street. I left my bike in front of the store, grabbed the Slurpee and walked over. He’s in the penthouse suite and answers the door in Louis Vuitton slippers and a Gucci robe.