I Was A Postmates Courier For A Day

I’ve been a big fan of the PostMates Get It Now delivery service ever since it was launched more than a month ago, and use it every couple of weeks to order lunch whenever I’m feeling particularly lazy, when I’m jonesing for some food that’s not within walking distance, or when I have a limited amount of time in between meetings. I’ve got much love for the PostMates couriers who bring me things that I wouldn’t have gone out and gotten for myself. And so, when they asked if I wanted to spend an afternoon as a courier myself, of course I jumped at the opportunity.

Which is how it came to pass that one Friday, I spent about 3.5 hours biking around, picking up mostly lunch orders and delivering to various startups and tech-savvy customers in downtown San Francisco.

So what was it like? Well let me tell you.

Let’s start with the setup: PostMates delivery folks bring their own bikes and gear, but are outfitted with an iPhone running a PostMates app that alerts them to new jobs and shows them where to pick up and drop stuff off. The startup also gives their couriers a pre-paid credit card so they can make purchases at various stores around town. Couriers get a little bit of instruction, then go on a few practice jobs just to get the hang of the system, and then they’re off!

So once you’re on your own, you accept a job, and off you go! For my first job, I was tasked with picking up a couple of “sushi burritos” from Sushiritto on New Montgomery, and delivering them to a customer named Chloe on Kearny and Sutter. Ok.

The line at Sushiritto. I spent a lot of time in line.

Now usually, Postmates receives the order and then calls in to the restaurant while the courier is in transit, so that he (or she) can just walk up and pay for it. But I received a text message from the Postmates helpline not long after I left, informing me that they couldn’t reach Sushiritto by phone… So I’d just have to wait in line like normal people. That was fine until, well, I got to the shop and saw the line.

It took about 30 minutes to get through the line and receive the order, after which I had about 17 minutes to get to the first delivery stop, which, just a few minutes away, was no problem. Chloe told me it was her first time ordering from Postmates, which was awesome, because it was my first time delivering for them. Win-win!

Right after I finished that job, another delivery came my way, which I accepted — picking up a burger and fries from Super Duper downtown. Again, I received a text message alerting me that I would have to wait in line because that place also doesn’t pick up its phones during lunch hours. So I was ready for another long wait. What I wasn’t prepared for was wiping out on my way to Super Duper.

Right before I wiped out. See those dudes peeking out from between the two cabs? I didn’t.

The Postmates Helpline, after not receiving a text back from me right away, called while I was in transit. And so I picked up. While biking. Not the smartest move, of course.

So there I was, riding down Stockton and just hanging up when a few guys walked out from in between two cars, right in front of me. I stopped as quickly as I could, but that basically meant being bucked off my fixie and tumbling into the street.

Note to self: Don’t talk on the phone while biking through traffic.

I brushed myself off and rolled over to Super Duper, and waited there in another tremendously long line. Based on my limited experience, delivering for Postmates means you spend more time waiting in line than doing anything else. Once I got the food — a cheeseburger with fries and three types of homemade mayo — I rolled out to Third and South Park.

Waiting in line at Super Duper meant that I was a little bit late delivering the food. After a phone call, I was directed to the third floor, where I met the guy who was waiting at the door and apologized profusely and then — Hey, wait… I’ve been in this building. I had an interview there once upon a time, when I was applying for a job at Wired.com. So yes, I was delivering food, on camera, to an employee at a rival publication. Fun fun.

Yes, I’m delivering lunch to someone at Wired.

I was just about to call it a day when I received one more job come in — this time with a name that I recognized. A friend of mine, knowing that I was running around town doing the Postmates thing, had put in her own order for me to pick up chocolates from the Ferry Building and deliver them to her office. What was I gonna do? Say no?

So I booked it over to the Embarcadero and found the fancy chocolates store she was sending me to. After some confusion over what I was getting — she had pre-paid and pre-ordered some stuff directly from the store — I wrapped up and made my last delivery, to an office around Kearny and Pine. After a few minutes of hanging out around her new office and chatting, I decided to log off and not take any more jobs.

You can see my approximate route below… All in all, I logged about five miles biking around San Francisco, making three deliveries in just under three hours. I would have made about $8.00 in tips from the first two deliveries — my friend didn’t tip! — but to be honest, I’m not sure what I would have made for the deliveries themselves. Postmates recently changed its pricing policy to charge users based on the difficulty of the job, and it declined to disclose how much it pays its couriers for those jobs.

To be honest, $8.00 in tips isn’t a lot for three hours of biking around town. But I got stiffed on my last delivery, it was pointed out… And I was told by Postmates HQ that couriers typically do multiple jobs simultaneously, which increase the amount they receive. I was just unlucky in that I had to wait in line for ridiculous amounts of time at two of the locations, otherwise my tips would have been higher.

Anyway, all of which is to say that, while it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed my day as a Postmate, I probably won’t be quitting my day job and becoming a courier anytime soon. I do, however, have a lot more respect for those guys, and will be sure to tip well whenever I order something from them in the future. (You should, too.)

By the way, I want to give a shout-out to TechCrunch TV producer John Murillo, who shot and edited the video and somehow didn’t crash while following along behind me (and he’s on a fixie with no brakes!). Also to Ashley and Bastian at Postmates for giving me the opportunity to do this, Jeff for showing me the ropes, and the folks at GoPro, who gave us the camera that a lot of the footage was shot with. Thanks all!