Inside the mobile-only, on-demand market (and gig economy), Part II
Editor's note: Read Part I of this three-part series.
If you missed the first part of this series on Tuesday, the premise was simple: I wanted to get better insight into how mobile apps such as Postmates work from both a consumer and worker perspective. And I did this by working for one of the platforms.
The mobile-only, on-demand market continues to grow each year since Uber debuted in 2011. And, as that area grows, so does the gig economy.
Thousands of people have turned to Lyft, Postmates, Uber and similar services to put money in their pocket by acting as the middle man, so to speak.
So, I decided in October to do some side work for one of the platforms. Postdates was an easy choice for multiple reasons, mostly because I didn't need a car to do it. However, I did complete deliveries using my girlfriend's car during a 30-day period.
In Part I, I wrote a little about Postmates' brief history, as well as the onboarding process for becoming a Postmater. In this entry, I want to address Postmates' consumer-facing app and some of my delivery experiences. Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up the series.
Postmates' consumer-facing mobile app is easy to use. It's frictionless, as the suits like to say these days.
One of the reasons for this is a simple, intuitive design. The app is self-explanatory in many ways.
You open the app and nearby food options immediately greet you on the first screen. If you don't like what you see, you can use the search function to find just about anything.
And when you do find something, it's easy to add items to your cart, pay (especially if you're using something like Apple Pay) and track your delivery. The app will notify you when Postmates finds the nearest courier, when a courier is at the pickup location, when the courier is on their way to you and when the courier arrives.
When your delivery is completed, you can go back into the app, rate the courier's service and if you're inclined, add a tip. The latter becomes an obsession of sorts for Postmaters, as you can understand. A $10 payout is a lot more attractive than $7 when a consumer adds a tip to the order.
My worst experience
You don't do 60 deliveries in 30 days without running into some bad experiences as a courier. It's inevitable. Thankfully, I only had one bad experience during that span and it was brutal.
The problem started when I decided to "stack" my deliveries. Stacking is inside Postmates talk for accepting a new delivery before the current one ends.
Postmates uses the fleet app to determine your location and if there is another delivery close to your current drop-off spot, the app will alert you to a new delivery. It's up to the courier to accept the new order.
My bad experience began almost immediately, and I take full responsibility for how it played out.
My first mistake was not properly screening this particular order.
Postmates gives you the option to see the details of a particular order. While you can't see where it's going until after you accept the order, you can see any special instructions from the consumer and where you're picking up the food.
I accepted the order as a stack (first mistake), and didn't check the special instructions from the consumer.
The delivery I was working at the time took longer than I expected because of downtown Chicago traffic. Then, I had a hard time finding the stacked order because Google Maps didn't want to cooperate. By the time I picked up the order, at least 30 minutes had passed.
Meantime, I texted the consumer through the fleet app to tell her I was running late. By this time, the pizza she ordered was already cold. It would have been nice if the place I picked it up from kept it warm, but they didn't.
The next part of this bad experience occurred when I had trouble finding her residence.
At this point, I'm already more stressed out than I needed to be. Postmates isn't how I make a living. I was doing it to help my girlfriend secure that $350 reference bonus I mentioned in Part I. But I was stressed because I needed to maintain a 4.7 rating in order for her to get the bonus. This particular delivery wasn’t going to help.
I eventually had to call the customer, and she was rightfully upset. I would be, too. She gave me some sass on the phone about finding the place and then started talking down to me. That I didn't appreciate it. But it would get worse when we met face-to-face.
I did my best to apologize to her, but she wasn't hearing any of it.
"I looked up the directions, and it showed the place was only 10 minutes from here," she said.
"I understand that, but that doesn't take into account the traffic I ran into," I said.
"What were you doing this whole time?" she asked, and then proceeded to look me up and down.
That's when I lost my cool.
"I was trying to get here as fast as I could," I said. "This is just a side gig for me and I'm doing my best. One bad delivery isn't the end of the world for me."
And that's when she closed the door in my face.
I understood why she was angry, but that didn't entitle her to talk to me the way she did, as well as make assumptions about who I as a person. That was my one and only bad experience, but it stayed with me for a while.
As a Postmater, there are certain restaurants you don't accept an order from because they can be difficult to deal with for multiple reasons. I wish Postmates allowed you to reject orders based on the drop-off location, but that’s not allowed.
I forget the exact details of the order, but I couldn't stop laughing when I rolled up to the address in my girlfriend's car: Trump Tower.
Now, this was about two weeks before Election Day, so I didn't have to deal with protesters, but the whole experience was surreal. And little did I know when I walked through the lobby doors that things were about to get more weird.
Firstly, I walked past a Chicago Cubs star player in the lobby. This delivery happened during the height of the Cubs' World Series run, so that was kind of cool, even as a Mets fan. But then the situation got a little stranger.
A security guard accompanied me to the customer's apartment in Trump Tower. This was a first.
When we arrived at the front door, I knocked and a woman answered. I gave her the delivery, said thank you and was on my way back downstairs with the security guard.
As the elevator doors were closing, the security guard told me why he had to accompany me to the apartment. The dwelling belonged to a top Chicago Blackhawks player. The woman who answered was his girlfriend.
Now, we were told at orientation that something like this would happen from time to time. And I've read stories about how some Postmaters run into famous athletes and celebrities all the time. Chance the Rapper is a common one.
But to have it happen to me, especially at Trump Tower, was bizarre and cool at the same time.
Join me next week for one last look at this topic.
Will Hernandez Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.