Uber Eats is a kind of post-capitalism. The consumer asks for a meal, it gets delivered by some guy with spare time and a bike, and the company takes a small cut. And we’ve removed the money hungry capitalist! Hurray for that. In your face Ayn Rand, suck on it Warren Buffett.
Well in theory that’s how it works. In practice there’s some kinks in the system, to say the least. If you’re currently marginally unemployed (possibly as high as 10% of the population), Uber Eats is probably not going to pay your bills and put that shitty $4 Coles brand mince beef on your table. So if you’re about to sign up as a delivery partner, or are just curious as to how the system works, here’s a detailed low-down on the average Uber Eats experience. Note that I have been working as a bicycle delivery partner, and therefore scooter or car delivery partners may have different experiences. Also note that I’m operating out of Melbourne, Australia. Different cities around the world may have different conditions for riders and consumers.
The General Gist:
Let me begin by saying that as an Uber Eats partner you’re essentially taking part in a two-tiered pyramid scheme. At the top of the pyramid is Uber. At the bottom is you. Signing up to ride means that Uber has essentially given you license to use their name, but operate as an individual business. This means they have no responsibility over how much you get paid. Which also means that minimum wage rates do not apply to you. Which is a scam. Now I’m not going to say Uber are literally ripping off their delivery partners. When you sign up, you know what you’re getting into. If you don’t do any deliveries, you don’t get paid and perhaps that’s fair enough. Or at least, you’d have to be a fool to not understand that you’re not entitled to the same privileges as a casual or part-time employee. But that been said, if somebody offered Uber Eats working conditions in contract form, it would be super illegal and totally exploitative.
The App works by linking you, the delivery rider, with restaurants and cafes who are signed up to Uber Eats. It does this by preference of location. As far as I can tell, the closer you are to the restaurant, the more likely you are to get a delivery (Uber are sketchy on the details as to how these algorithms work exactly). This means that popular restaurants are often swarmed with Uber Eats delivery riders, loitering out the front waiting for their phones to notify them of a job. In practice, I say it’s kind of like Tinder. With Tinder you’re swiping right on every single person, then waiting pensively and hoping to god that somebody is willing to date your pathetic ass. With Uber Eats you’re sitting next to a restaurant looking like a pathetic ass, staring at your phone pensively and praying for somebody to order a kebab so that you that can afford to buy red meat this week.
At the moment in Melbourne, Uber have flooded the market with delivery riders. This means that a lot of the time there are simply way too many riders competing for a relatively small demand of food deliveries. The run-off effect of this is that riders are making very little money. To counter this Uber provides “incentives” during what it assumes will be peak-times. Usually these “incentives” are something like:
During 12pm – 2pm you WILL earn $23.50/hr BUT YOU MUST…
– Not reject any delivery requests (Easy).
– Complete all accepted deliveries (Easy).
– Complete two deliveries per hour (Fucking Impossible).
I think I’ve got the incentive rate twice and I’ve been riding for two months. 90% of days, you’re earning about $7 an hour if you’re lucky.
Look, I’m not going to complain and say ‘ohhh woe is me, life is so unfair, post-capitalism is slavery’. There are positives of this kind of work. For example, I get to enjoy the outdoors and my quads are now basically made of steel. But it is a bit of a kick in the balls when Uber send you emails being like ‘Hey you’re gonna make mad bank this weekend!’ and then you end up sitting in front of a Fish and Chip shop for 10 hours watching beautiful couples hold hands and laugh and walk through the park, and you go home, always alone, having earned $40 for the day. Thanks Uber.
The Optimal Timetable:
Here’s the million dollar question. When should you get on the bike, and when should you just say ‘fuck it’ and go see your parents or punch bulk cones, or do something productive instead.
My advice is this:
Work when nobody else wants to.
Incentive periods normally see all of the Uber Eats hot-spots (Lygon Street, Smith Street, Brunswick Street, the Hoddle Grid, etc.) literally swarming with riders. However demand is usually also pretty high during these times. So you might get a couple of requests (today I got 3 trips from 12pm – 3pm whoop-whoop) but not the numbers you would expect. The point here being that the math rarely adds up. You’re getting high demand but even higher competition.
Outside of incentive periods provide a more stable money making timetable. Riding from 7am – 12pm or 2pm – 6pm means you get the breakfast/brunch/late lunch/early dinner crowd with minimal competition from other riders. Supply is notably less though, so don’t be surprised if you’re not swimming in requests. I find about 4 rides in 3 hours is average. During these times, bring a good book and sit in the park between rides. Life is beautiful brah.
You should also keep an eye on the weather radar. Rainy days are basically the jackpot, and when I have made the majority of my coin. You might get soaked, but that same rain keeps the competing riders away and the punters reluctant to leave their houses. This is a winning combination. I’ve seen literally hundreds of backed up orders in restaurants on rainy days because there are simply too many customers and not enough riders willing to brave the elements.
I have yet to try riding late at nights, but I assume there is money to be made here.
So if you clock on at 9am and work until 9pm, you can probably expect to make around $80, give or take. If you do the math, that’s not very good money in a country where the minimum wage is something like $22.50 p/hr, and the average pint of beer costs $12. But overall, it is what it is.
I like to operate on the assumption that all people are good. Because I’m a giant hippy and grew up in an area with zero crime. But also because I like people. The following is intended to be bitter and cynical, so please take it with a grain of salt.
Who You’re Delivering Too:
People ordering Uber Eats fall into one of a number of categories:
– Wealthy International Students to whom money is no object: When you go to the penthouse of an apartment building on Queen Street and a pimply teen in socks and sandals opens the door, you don’t have to be Zhuge Liang to know that Daddy’s probably footing the bill on that Nasi Lemak. I like these guys, but I don’t like how they never speak to you on the intercom, just buzz you up and hope for the best, like Guai Lo ain’t worthy of no casual conversation.
– Wealthy inner-city white people to whom money is no object: Usually this is office workers who look like their lives consist of Friday night nose beers, near-impossible to achieve house deposits and working such long hours that the suns rays never directly touch their skin. I know that feel. Tough gig, pour one out for the homies man.
– Not-so wealthy International Students who really shouldn’t be getting expensive delivery food: When you go to the inner-city apartment of a bloke name “Ahkmal” and there’s about 20 pairs of shoes in the door of what should be a two bedroom apartment, you really start to question the fiscal priorities of these kids. Fuck I feel for em’, they probably think its normal to get charged $200 a week to sleep in a room with six other dudes.
– College Kids: I like to tell the Melbourne University College students that I too used to study at Melbourne, and accordingly, that they should look forward to their future employment… riding a bicycle for Uber Eats.
– Last night’s cookers and the currently stoned: Nothing says ‘I haven’t eaten or slept in three days’ like a a HSP delivered to a white guy with blood-shot eyes in Fitzroy on a Sunday afternoon. Just as nothing says ‘blaaaaazzzzzeddddd’ like a HSP delivered to a white guy with bleary eyes in Fitzroy on a Wednesday night.
Who You’re Delivering With:
Your delivery co-workers also fall into one of a number of categories:
– Backpackers: Individuals with limited English skills who just want to earn a buck. Hey I dig it, we’ve all been there. I feel bad for these guys though, as discussed above Uber Eats is not a great way to make bank. They’d be better off washing dishes for an illegal wage in a Chinese restaurant. And that’s saying something.
– Full timers: Mostly consisting of jaded dudes from the Sub-Continent on used REPCO mountain bikes from Target. I saw one of these guys who earned $1000 bucks in a week, he literally must have been pulling 16 hour days, which is cray cray.
– Confused white kids: I don’t know why you’d deliver hamburgers on a Giant Defy while kitted out in full lycra… but people do. White people mainly.
I’ve learned a lot of things riding for Uber Eats. Namely, post-capitalism actually kind of sucks. But also, there is no such thing as a quick and easy buck. So go get an actual job you bum!