Mean streets, tense work

Delivery executives don’t have it easy — they have to brave the harsh weather and deal with customers who become irritable. But how is it to deliver food to people when they themselves are hungry and don’t have the time to eat?

The recent ‘scandalous’ sighting in Madurai of a delivery executive from Zomato, who had parked himself on a side street and was indulging in one of the meals that he was supposed to be delivering, sent everyone into a tizzy. Discussions took place and commentaries were passed on social media. Is it or is it not okay for a delivery boy to sneak a taste of the meal he is delivering, if he is so inclined?

Zomato was trolled heavily for this and even tweeted a public apology — stating that even though the action was based on individual judgement, they take this behaviour seriously and had removed the offending delivery boy from the platform. They also released a statement saying, “In our commitment towards mitigating any possibility of tampering with food, Zomato will soon introduce tamper-proof tapes, and other precautionary measures to ensure we safeguard against any chances of tampering of food. Zomato has a zero- tolerance policy for tampering of food.”

In addition to this, recent reports suggest that Zomato has even hired a psychiatrist for their delivery executive force to counsel the individual who was filmed in the act. Not only has he become a public nuisance, but has also been tracked down and interviewed on camera.

Is this truly a concern for the massive population that relies on take-out and food delivery apps for survival, or is it a one-off? Are Zomato executives the only ones we need to worry about this or has this viral clip lifted the curtain on perhaps many delivery boys who are guilty of the same?

Patriot speaks to some of these boys to ask them what conditions they work under and what could have prompted such an action.

Raju*, has been working with Zomato for the past seven months. He says that by night his morale really dips.

“Khaas kar ke aaj kal raat ko bohot thandi hoti hai, bike par kaafi taqleef hot hai kabhi kabhi,” he confesses, on a break, waiting to collect his next delivery from the restaurant (It is especially difficult to work at night these days, it gets tough riding the bike in this weather). On asking him about what he thought of the recent incident he says that he does agree that the Zomato delivery boy was in the wrong. “It is our job to deliver the food, it is definitely not okay to disregard that duty. What he did was wrong.” At the same time, he also adds that they really don’t get much time for themselves. There are times when they have back to back deliveries with no time to stop for their own meals. And there are times when they get hungry. “It is human, madam, to feel a little greedy,” he says ruefully. “When you cannot make time for a meal, and have to carry around boxes of food, you might want to eat it. But he should not have succumbed to it. That is wrong,” stresses Raju.

Keeping the ethics and morals of it aside, it is also quite unhygienic to open and repackage food after already digging into it. Many were disgusted by that alone, saying that not only is he cheating the customers by giving them unpackaged food, but he was also contaminating the food with germs.

Kumar*, who has been working with Swiggy, was unaware of this piece of news when asked about it. “Yeh toh badi gandi baat hai ji,” he says, shaking his head (That is really bad). He seems surprised that he hadn’t come across this news before and says he must tell some of his co-workers. “They will keep a look-out for such people, and if any of them do it then maybe they will get scared and stop,” he adds.

When asked about the kind of stress that comes with the job, he opens up a little more. He agrees that the job is sometimes demanding. “Our numbers are available to the customers so they can call up anytime to ask for updates. When we have two or three deliveries in the same area, and one restaurant is a little slow, we keep getting calls, asking about their orders. That becomes difficult sometimes,” says Kumar. He goes on to say that oftentimes because of traffic, or some road accident, or even restaurant delays, the customers appear very irritable when they arrive at the doorstep. Even though it was no fault of theirs. “Bura lagta hai kabhi kabhi.

Kyunki uske baad bhi humein aur bhi delivery karne hote hai,” he confesses (It does hurt sometimes because after that we have to make many more deliveries that day). However, Kumar doesn’t neglect to add, that a smile and a thank you from the customers feels equally good.

Clearly, the morale and the nuances attached to hiring massive numbers of men for delivery executives could stand a closer look. There was a whole gamut of speculation about whether or not the aforementioned Zomato delivery boy who suddenly shot to fame knew the households or people to whom he was delivering. Was he really just hungry? Was he curious? Or did he know which bag he was eating out of? The extent to which this issue snowballed is quite unimaginable. However, a better or more elevated work environment for delivery boys, which provides an environment conducive to honest work, is definitely on the books for our beloved food apps.

*Names have been changed

+ posts