The circuit breaker is an especially difficult time for GrabFood riders, as this youth discovered after trying out the job for a week.
The reliance on food delivery services, such as GrabFood, looks likely to continue since dining out isn’t allowed in Phase 1 of Singapore’s exit from the circuit breaker.
But what are things like for GrabFood riders during this time?
Niklaus Teo, an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, was curious to find out. The 23-year-old, who had just started his summer vacation, signed up to work as a GrabFood rider for a week from May 2 to 9.
“The job was definitely way harder than I thought it was going to be,” said Niklaus, who was used to a more sedentary lifestyle as a full-time student.
He shared that being on the road for hours at a time isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, he clocked up about 1,000 km on his Vespa during the week.
“To put it in perspective, 1,000 km is like riding to Kuala Lumpur four times on a bike. And it’s also a lot of starting and stopping, not just cruising on a highway,” he said.
As tiring as the job was, the one thing that struck Niklaus was how kind customers were.
“It was really shocking, I would have people giving me drinks and sweets, almost on a daily basis. Tips as well,” he said.
The other riders he met also noted that they have been receiving a lot more gifts from their customers during the circuit breaker.
Niklaus said: “Sometimes they would offer you a cold packet drink, which is perfect because you tend to get dehydrated when you’re riding for a long time and it’s hot outside.
“There was this lady I was doing a delivery for at 9.30pm, and outside her house was this permanent box of treats, like candies and biscuits, for people doing a delivery. She gave me a red packet as well,” said Niklaus.
In his week as a GrabFood rider, Niklaus experienced a sense of community among delivery riders, and how they were always willing to help each other.
On his first delivery for the week, he met another rider that parked behind him at the block he was supposed to deliver to.
“He asked me if I was delivering to a specific address, and pointed out to me which elevator to use. And I was like ‘Oh how do you know?’, and he said that he comes here really often,” said Niklaus.
Beyond coming into contact with many people throughout the day, and potentially exposing himself to the virus, Niklaus realised that being on the road under stressful circumstances can be very dangerous.
During one of his deliveries, he almost met with an accident when the car in front of him braked suddenly on a merging lane.
Niklaus said: “There’s no way you can make a merchant cook faster, so the only way to make yourself more efficient at your job is to ride faster.
“But by doing so, it’s a trade-off with your safety. It’s easy for people to resort to riding as fast as they can.”
Niklaus made slightly over $1,000 during his week, but said he probably would not continue doing this job full-time after experiencing the long and hard hours required to make that amount of money, as well as the safety risks involved.
He was keen to continue working on weekends though, as he earned twice as much as he did on weekdays.
Niklaus hopes customers can continue showing empathy and patience towards their delivery riders. This is especially the case with more people staying in to order food and the circuit breaker measures, like having to record one’s temperature before entering malls, slowing down the delivery process.
“At the end of the day, most of them are doing this to support their families or themselves during this trying period,” said Niklaus.
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