Dublin Deliveroo worker: 'I fell off my bike... when I rang the call centre, the first thing they asked was if the food was okay'
A former Deliveroo rider writes about her experience at the coalface. A full-time student, she was working part-time with the on-demand app but chose to leave when they started paying by delivery, and not by hour.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was pedalling fast to pick up a delivery from a restaurant in Dublin city centre, when I fell off my bike.
I wasn't badly hurt, but I was shaking like a leaf. Falling off your bike is never a nice feeling, especially if you've been clipping along when it happens.
As soon as I'd pulled myself together, I immediately phoned the Deliveroo call centre. I wanted to let them know that I'd been delayed and the reason why. No sooner had I said to the operator that I'd just fallen off my bike, than they were asking me if the food was okay. That was the priority - making sure nothing had happened to the food. Me - the person delivering the order and the only human point of contact a customer would have - just didn't seem to matter to the person who answered the phone to me.
I worked with Deliveroo for a few months and I left around the time they changed their payment policy. Originally, they offered an hourly rate of €6.50, and €1 for every delivery, but then they moved it to a situation where you would only be paid for the deliveries you made [€4.25 on midweek days and €4.75 at weekends]. And, in the course of some three-to-four hour shifts, you might have very few deliveries to do. It was not uncommon to receive no pay for an hour where you've made yourself available to work.
Companies like Deliveroo talk about the benefits of being free to set your own time, but you really should be paid during those times. It's not like you can do any other work when you're supposed to be waiting by your bike for a notification.
When I think back to my time working for them, I think of how stressful it was. When a pick-up request appears on your phone, you typically have 30 seconds to swipe 'yes' or it could be reassigned. There's a lot of pressure to get to the restaurant quickly, to load up and to get the order to the person as fast as possible. I found myself breaking red lights, and it's not uncommon to see riders with a Deliveroo box on their back cycling the wrong way up one-way streets.
They sent us emails talking about rider safety, but when the amount you earn is largely based on how fast you are, is it any wonder that people break lights and maybe take unnecessary risks? I mean, breaking that light might be the difference between making an extra €4.25. In my experience, every second customer would tip you. They'd either do it online when they placed their order or give you a euro or two in person.
When I first started the work, I enjoyed it because it's lovely to be out and about and being paid to cycle, but it stopped being fun early on. I got to know a few other riders and they also talked about feeling pressure to get to restaurants quickly and deliver quickly.
And, even though we were told we wouldn't have to deliver anywhere further than 2.5km from any given restaurant, I found myself having to cycle a lot further than that on a number of occasions. One time, it took me 30 minutes to cycle from the restaurant to the drop-off, so there's no way that that was within a radius of 2.5km, which you'd easily do in half that time. So, in a model where you're paid per delivery, it's obviously not ideal to have to spend longer making a delivery and getting back than you would want to.
I'd been thinking about leaving before they changed their payment policy back in April, but that really was the final straw. I think a lot of people left at that stage, or in the weeks afterwards when they realised that there were certain shifts where they might make very little money.
I can see how such a practice is beneficial to a big company like Deliveroo, but surely it's not ideal to have a situation where there is a high turnover of staff - or should that be 'independent consultants', as they like to call us.
It was interesting to see that Deliveroo riders in London protested about pay this summer. That might have helped make people think differently about these on-demand apps.
I don't know if there'll be a similar protest in Ireland. As a rider, you do feel quite isolated from other people working for the company, and as a lot of us are students, there's a sense that this is just temporary work that we can walk away from at any time. I'd feel sorry for anyone who was trying to make a living full time in this sort of work, because that can't be easy.
Since I left, I've been getting emails from Deliveroo saying that if I ever reconsidered and wanted to work for them again, they'd be delighted to have me, but that isn't going to happen. I had my experience there and don't want it again. Why would I go back and do something in which I'd started to dread every shift?