The pandemic has hurt almost every business it would seem except for one up-and-coming one : delivery services. Those guys and gals who pick up your food at a restaurant or supermarket and bring it to you are doing a booming business in the past year, and this Thankful Thursday I’m thankful for them.
With the advent of smart phones, many entrepreneurs had similar ideas in the past decade. Namely that they could get things and deliver them quickly and efficiently to time-strapped consumers. Door Dash began in 2013 (in techy Palo Alto) , Uber Eats, the food deliver division of the company that almost singly destroyed the “taxi” business, in 2014 (in Toronto, according to Forbes because there was less competition than New York City), Shipt, which deals more with store deliveries, also in 2014, in Birmingham, Alabama. And of course there are a variety of others – Grubhub, Favr and on and on. What they had in common besides similar services was that through 2019, business experts said they all lost money hand over fist. That began to change last year, in a big way. People couldn’t go and sit in a restaurant, were afraid to walk up to the counter to order and likewise weren’t crazy about the idea of going into a crowded grocery store or Walmart to shop for an hour no matter how many “social distancing” footprint stickers were placed on the floors. Covid made people a lot more content to stay home and have someone else bring take-out or grocery orders to them. The services tended to quickly tailor their services to the crisis, offering things like delivery to the door without having contact between the driver and purchaser, all the better to prevent spread of viruses.
I used to think them utter wastes of money, and assuredly some people use them rather indiscriminately to the detriment of their budgets. But more and more, I like the concept. We all have times when we’re pressed for time and buying a week’s groceries isn’t convenient… but neither is having no bread, milk or dinner makings in the house. Or the times we really don’t want to cook, but are hungry and too tired, tipsy or otherwise occupied to head out the door. Times like these were made for the new delivery companies.
In our city, the dominant supermarket delivery company charges about $15 to bring an order to you. Obviously not a smart choice if you only want a box of Pop Tarts…but not a bad option if you’re shopping for a family for days. I tend to still don a mask and go in to get our stuff myself, but we used it a couple of times last year and were impressed enough. They got the order right and by and large picked well. I had wondered if anyone was going to be able to pick good tomatoes, peppers or cuts of meat. Turns out, they can. Last night we ordered in a big meal of burgers, fries and those sorts of tasty but not ideally nutritious dinners we – admit it – all like to treat ourselves to once in awhile. True enough, we could have gone out to get it, but the car has been acting a bit wonky, it was feeling like a 100 degrees outside and the idea of four miles in evening rush hour traffic to wait in a drive-through lineup wasn’t quite as appealing as staying in, cracking open a cold one and having it brought to us – quicker, as it turned out, in my estimation than if we’d gone out ourselves. And in the process, we were helping some ordinary guy make a few bucks.
Yes, I know that these type of “New Economy” service jobs have their problems – no job security, usually no guaranteed wages or holiday pay, all of which is truly a shame and should be rectified – but they still offer people a way to make some money on their own schedule. This is indeed the Age of the “Side Hustle” after all…and I’m thankful for those out there “hustling” to make life a bit easier for us from time to time.