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By Dana Cadey

For the past few months, the job market has been rocky for just about everyone. Principia students with on-campus jobs were forced out of work when the campus shut down nonessential operations and transitioned to remote learning. Many students looked for jobs to step into back home, only to find their local businesses laying off their employees at unprecedented rates – if not closing entirely.

However, one job option has actually been bolstered by the pandemic: food delivery.

Independent food delivery sites like Postmates and DoorDash quickly became more relevant as restaurants around the country closed their doors to inside seating. And some Principians are cashing in.

Jack Adler, a sophomore who lives in St. Louis, has fully leaned into the food delivery lifestyle. Adler began as a Postmates driver last December, after hearing about the company through a friend, and decided to sign up as a fast way to make some money without having to commit to a more traditional long-term job. After most students were forced to leave campus in March, Adler picked up driving again with the assumption that even more people would need food delivered to their homes as they shelter in place.

“Early April, for like two weeks, there was no shortage of deliveries,” said Adler. “Plus, I was getting really good tips from a lot of people. I felt like [doing deliveries] was not only helping me, but also companies that wanted to stay in business and the people that didn’t want to leave their houses.”

Adler explained that base pay – the money a driver makes before promotions or tip – is calculated through a few key factors, including the actual pick-up and drop-off of the food as well as time spent and distance driven. DoorDash and Postmates both pay around the same for each delivery, typically between $2 and $10. Bonuses are offered to drivers who complete deliveries when their areas are experiencing a high volume of orders. Adler said that one recent DoorDash “Peak Pay” period guaranteed him an extra $4 per delivery. Both Postmates and DoorDash let drivers keep 100% of their tips, although there is no minimum amount that customers are required to tip.

Adler has made more than 570 deliveries with Postmates and more than 80 with DoorDash. He boasts an impressive record of 24 deliveries in a single day. He’s also had the opportunity to visit a number of memorable locations while on the job, including a $6 million estate in St. Louis. For only a few hours each night, three-to-four times a week, Adler sees the pay as well worth the effort.

“I was used to having baseball practice or games for two-to-three hours in the evenings,” said Adler. “And I was like: ‘Well, if I’m used to having practice, I don’t see why my activity in the evenings can’t be delivering for a few hours and making a few extra bucks.’”

Driving food around your city or town can also turn into a fun bonding experience if you convince your friends to sign up as well. Adler often teams up with a “squad” of other drivers who hold competitions to rack up deliveries and see who can earn the most money. This squad includes junior Caleb Grow, sophomore Seth Arens, and Upper School graduate Jeremy Fox.

“It’s kind of like an outing,” Adler said. “It’s fun just to leave the house.”

Adler is unsure whether he will continue doing deliveries into the summer, at least at the same volume at which he operates now. He encourages anyone interested in food delivery to experiment with Postmates or DoorDash.

“I would definitely recommend it,” Adler said. “I’ve been spoiled to do it during this time. It doesn’t hurt to just test out your market and try it out. In college, any money helps, and this is such an easy way to do it. It’s a ‘why not’ kind of thing.”

Some Principia students were working for these companies even before quarantine heightened the demand. Freshman Coben Lutton turned driving for Postmates and DoorDash into a full-time job while he was based in Denver a few years ago.

“I was able to pay for my college tuition with DoorDash,” said Lutton.

In order to get this money, Lutton would drive for Postmates and DoorDash (often simultaneously) six days a week. From 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., Lutton would hop in his car, go “online,” and make deliveries periodically throughout that timeframe. Lutton set $150 as his daily goal, since he needed to make that much to justify working full-time. When factoring in the cost of gas, this meant that his net income was approximately $800 per week.

“If you just want to use [DoorDash or Postmates] for money here and there, it’s a great option. You set your own schedule, you can work whenever you want,” said Lutton.

Lutton explained that most delivery companies (Postmates, DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, etc.) are contract jobs, meaning that employees must pay self-employment taxes. Lutton wasn’t aware of this initially, so it came as a surprise when he realized he had to take a significant amount out of his paycheck once tax season rolled around.

Lutton also pointed out that the main difference of Grubhub and Uber Eats – and one reason he didn’t drive for those companies – is their stricter employment standards, such as needing a valid driver’s license for two years (Grubhub) or owning a specific type of vehicle (Uber Eats). Postmates and DoorDash have no such restrictions, simply requiring eligible drivers to have a driver’s license and pass a background check.

“I loved working DoorDash because I also liked the social interaction of it,” said Lutton. “Getting to meet new people, finding different restaurants you never heard of and eating there for breaks … it was super fun.”

Featured image by Dana Cadey.