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View from the Frontline: the Deliveroo rider

Deliveroo rider Calum Laing on what it’s like being a key worker delivering takeaways and groceries

Isabelle Aron
Written by
Isabelle Aron

I’m a university student and I usually do Deliveroo on the weekends. I’ve been working with Deliveroo since 2016. I’m now in my second year of university and going into my third and final year. I’ve been able to do more Deliveroo work during lockdown because, as exams have finished, I’ve had less to do. It’s been good being able to keep busy.

It’s definitely been a change of pace; I'm having meetings and lectures online for university and then the next hour I’m out on my bike doing deliveries, but it’s good that I can switch that quickly.

The response from customers has been really positive. I’ve noticed a change in the attitudes that people have towards me. When I go to their doors people are more appreciative. They’ve been leaving little thank you notes and tips on their doorsteps. It’s nice to feel appreciated.

At one point, I was out delivering during the NHS clap and the people on the street ended up clapping for me. I was riding down the street and they started shouting ‘Go on, Deliveroo!’ 

We’ve been doing contactless deliveries, which means we leave the food on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and then step five metres back. Then they take the food and we go. But I almost feel closer to the customer now because they have that kind of ‘we’re all in this together’ face. 

Sometimes you can tell that someone’s really been in isolation for a while and hasn’t spoken to anyone. It’s good to have that chit chat – it’s really nice for them to catch up with a person and it’s nice for me as well because obviously I do my job alone too, so it’s nice to talk to other people at a safe distance. They just want to talk about the weather, classic British smalltalk; it brings a sense of normality.

I’ve definitely noticed an increase in delivering to elderly people, especially with shopping for groceries, now that Deliveroo has teamed up with M&S and Morrisons. We get a lot of orders for shopping during the day. Before this, I didn’t often deliver to elderly people, but it’s nice to see that we can get them their shopping without them having to leave their house.

When I pick up the food, I don’t touch the bags – the restaurant staff put it into my bag so that avoids a bit more contact. I don’t touch what the customer touches. Some restaurants have developed a system of having a dedicated worker to take orders from outside so we don’t even have to go in.

One big change is the safety regulations that Deliveroo has put in place – reminders to stay contactless and giving us PPE kit so we’ve got masks and hand gel. It’s different wearing that around, but it’s definitely necessary. 

I’m in lockdown with my parents and when this all started, it obviously crossed my mind that I wouldn’t want to risk their safety but with the measures in place it feels pretty safe to work. You just have to be careful. As long as I’m careful, it doesn’t worry me too much. It’s quite an isolated job so I’m cycling on my own most of the time. I’m definitely covering more miles than I usually would. It’s probably about 50 miles a week at the moment, but it really depends.

The biggest change I’ve seen is from customers and the attitudes they have towards us as key workers. You see a lot more smiles around and the odd thumbs-up, which is nice.

Read more from this series:

View from the Frontline: the TfL worker.

View from the Frontline: the pharmacist.

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