When contact decreases, drivers see deliveries increase

Delivery drivers everywhere have found themselves to be more in demand than ever amid the COVID-19 crisis.

As restaurants and bars remain closed, drivers have been forced to put in more work in half the time, while maintaining new sanitary standards to keep themselves and their customers safe. With less staff and more regulations, drivers have found themselves facing their share of challenges while doing their best to serve the community as essential workers.

“Even though we’re working less hours it feels like we’re putting in double the work,” said Calie Keeler, the manager and delivery driver of the Jimmy Johns in Issaquah. On top of having to cut hours they’ve “had to cut 50% to 60% of staff,” she said.

While most people are upset over the staff cuts, others say “it’s nice because while you’re in the shop, you’re in a lot less contact with people,” said another Jimmy Johns driver Jacob Wentz.

While the lack of staff has been frustrating for workers as their orders increase, it has allowed those who are still working to feel safer and focus on their jobs, they said.

Delivery drivers say they have become frustrated with what appears to be a lack of consideration for their wellbeing. While the contact may be minimal within the shop, some “careless customers” are making orders that several drivers would consider to be very high-risk.

“I had a delivery driver bring sandwiches to the emergency room, and [the customers] wouldn’t come outside so he had to go in and drop them off,” Keeler said. “Unfortunately he came in contact with someone who had the virus.”

Although some employees have sent emails to their staff asking them to wear proper protection such as gloves and masks, many employers do not require the use of such items by their drivers.

VikingFood delivery driver Tanner Draper said while he uses proper precautions, “they’re not really explicit about it, like you could do nothing, you could not use hand sanitizer, not use masks,” he said. “There hasn’t really been any communication about the issue.”

Regardless of whether protection is being mandated, drivers still choose to use different forms of protection.

“I use hand sanitizer when I go in and out of restaurants and always use a mask when I go to people’s doors,” Draper said.

While drivers have expressed concern for their health, they have also expressed much gratitude for their customers that continue to tip. Draper said some of his tips have exceeded his expectations.

Keeler agrees.

“I really enjoy seeing how grateful some people are,” she said.

However, with many customers telling their drivers to leave their food at the door, they’re feeling less of an obligation to tip.

“It’s frustrating because that’s kind of our incentive to drive,” Keeler said, “but, at the same time, people don’t have jobs right now so it’s understandable.”

Another way to assist drivers in their work is to let them know it is okay to leave their food at the door. This reduces contact between customers and drivers and puts everyone more at ease.

Keeler also requested that people practice empathy when delivery times are slow.

Occasionally “we have two people working at a time, a manager and a driver, so it can be a bit overwhelming.”

“I’m just trying to make money, so I’m grateful,” Keeler said.

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