Ordering food as a Grabfood or Foodpanda customer is a minimum-click process. Open the app, eye the offers that jump out, and decide on a meal that s
Ordering food as a Grabfood or Foodpanda customer is a minimum-click process. Open the app, eye the offers that jump out, and decide on a meal that suitably satisfies hunger. Add it to a cart, select any of multiple coupon codes to chew away at the total price. Tap, click — and the food will be here in 25 minutes from a restaurant 7 kilometres away.
The biggest challenge with a food delivery service is its scalability. To have an efficient and reliable food delivery service, you need to have an abundance of delivery riders.
When a customer orders a meal from a restaurant, the restaurant will need 15–30 mins to prepare the food. Next, if there are no delivery riders on standby, you will need to send that delivery rider to that restaurant (which takes approximately 5-10 mins min), then the rider picks up the food and will likely need approximately 15-20 mins to reach the customer. And finally another 15-30 mins to travel to the next restaurant.
Do you see what I mean? What if you get another two to three orders from the same restaurant within that time period? One delivery rider isn’t enough, one order will keep one delivery rider occupied for at least 25-40 mins, depends. The solution? To increase the number of food delivery riders on standby. But still, what if that restaurant has had no orders for the whole day? Then the expenses spent on the delivery riders’ pay will be a total loss.
The dilemma continues to stack as you expand your delivery service to other areas. The more restaurants you have, the bigger your customer base and thus, your delivery operations have to expand as well.
Using these platforms is designed to be fairly easy, maybe even a mindless process and deliberately so. The customer is carefully protected from a performance happening in the wings: of we summon to the “hot zone” before our first kilometre kicks in, depriving us of charges owed for a first kilometre; we getting told off by restaurants to wait while they preparing the orders; we getting stuck in traffic that Google Maps didn’t anticipate; we feeling our phones buzz incessantly, messages reminding us of the exact addresses; we have to contend with security guards about parking and take a separate lift or hurry up the stairs of Flat Polis Badrudin, adjust our mask, and hand over the order to an unmasked customer. After this song and dance, the order is delivered.
We are still not off the hook. If we are not at the mercy of an AI bot, we are now relying on a customer’s good rating, which will make or break our performance and get us closer to an incentive. But more often than not, the customer simply forgets unless he or she is nudged gently by the app and who’s going to do all that when the customer is busy digging into a bakuteh or seasoning a pizza?
Many customers know little to none of the actual performance that leads up to the meal in front of them. On one side of the door, we leave, our rating perhaps forgotten, our incentive now farther away, our next meal way off. On the other side, the customers rip open their package: it’s time for dinner.
What used to be an exchange of goods and services (i.e. food for money) now became dressed up as an emotion: platforms deliver happiness, convenience, satisfaction. The customer is at the heart of everything we do.
And now, the “customer is king” motto stretched to its limits; lightning-fast deliveries; mind blowing discounts; premium perks, pandering to them on social media has resulted in the invisibilisation of an entire community of people who form the backbone of the business: delivery riders.
Responding to the invisibilisation, we demand for increased transparency, clarity on cancelled orders with unreasonable compensation and complaints about deflated delivery fares and bonuses especially during peak hours.
To add on, there are cases where we have been forced to go all the way to the open doors of customers who had COVID-19; customers who grab the packages and slam the door without so much as a thank-you; and even one of my customers recently who, not having change, made me go to a shop nearby, get the change, and come back.
In my view, there’s no effective grievance mechanism to address these kinds of issues even if a delivery rider can navigate the labyrinthian mess of contact forms and different customer service personnel delaying help, how would one even begin to complain of an entitled customer who might have affected the delivery rider’s hours or health? Customer is king.
Of course, every job comes with irate customers and overbearing bosses but when wages were higher, incentives better, and pay-outs more reliable, dealing with arrogant customers was at least worth it.
What’s got us where we are now because the customer is spoiled in a way, delivery time is less, the choices have increased, the prices of things have come down with discounts and things. Five years ago, you wouldn’t have thought of having pearl milk tea every day.
In short, what the rider sees and experiences of these platforms is unpredictability, “intransparency”, and arbitrary and gamified targets. What the customer sees and experiences is the effort to mask any evidence of that: it could be through well-timed discounts or free delivery offers.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.