Today, I went out on duty for the second time on Postmates.
I turned the app on at 7:30 PM. I’m still new to this on-demand courier thing so I’ve been avoiding traffic hours while I’m learning the ropes. I was excited to complete a job this evening because I was on duty during Postmates’ Blitz Pricing, which offered a 1.25x higher payout.
Only after four minutes of turning on the app, a job became available. The pick up location was Firehouse Restaurant in Northeast Portland. I typically don’t ever drive up to this area of town, but the location didn’t bother me.
I arrived at around 7:40 pm. No servers or hostess greeted me at the front. So I walked into the seating area, and looked for the first waitress I see. I saw a skinny young lady working at the kiosk (she looked very busy) and walked up to her and said “Hi, I’m with Postmates, I’m here for a pick-up”.
And here’s where we got a problem. She looked at me and said “I’m sorry, we’re not affiliated with your company”. Then she grabbed some food from the kitchen and headed toward a table. As she walked away, I stood there confused as what just happened. Clearly the customer ordered from this restaurant’s menu through the Postmates website. What did she mean, “Not affiliated”?
As I stood there, another waitress walked up to me from behind and asked if I’ve been helped. I told her about Postmates and showed her my phone and that I have an order for this restaurant. She looked around and hesitantly said “Alright, let me take your order.” I quickly asked her “So you guys don’t usually get to-go orders?”
She sounded annoyed. As she was scribbling down the order that was on my phone, the first lady came back and said “Please tell Postmates to stop sending people here. It really disrupts our work flow on busy nights.” I was dumbfounded. What’s going on here?
This is when I realized the power of the PEX card in Postmates’ business model. Postmates doesn’t sign contracts with restaurants like their competitor(s). In the Portland market, a perfect contrast is Caviar. Caviar signs contracts with restaurants. As a result, restaurants knows when an order is a “Caviar order” and they expects a Caviar courier to arrive at their restaurant.
Postmates add popular restaurants in local markets into their database without informing restaurant or business owners. The PEX card, which is used like a debit card by courier enables this. From the perspective of the cashier or restaurant worker, couriers would be just another regular paying customer. A regular customer ordering to-go and a Postmates courier do the same thing: they arrive, order, pay, and then leave. So effectively, the PEX card, although it adds a degree of hassle to the courier experience, lets Postmates turn couriers into any restaurants’ delivery fleet with or without the restaurant’s’ knowledge.
But that’s not all. Apparently users who order food from the Postmates website aren’t aware of this either. As I waited for the food to be prepared, I got a text from the customer at 8:07 pm. Apparently it was taking longer than he had hoped. You can read the brief conservation here:
Shortly after this text exchange, the food was ready. I made the delivery with zero problems. The customer apologized to me when I arrived. He wasn’t expecting that I’d run into problems with the restaurant. I found out he had tipped me $4.53 for this delivery. I made $5.00 for this delivery with a 1.25x Blitz. The Blitz Pricing added $1.00 to this order. If it wasn’t for the tip, this would not have been worth my time. Especially since Firehouse Restaurant is very far North of Portland.
I learned this evening that Postmates might be providing convenience to people who want their food delivered within an hour, but in the process they’re potentially creating inconveniences for restaurants on busy nights when staff are limited and unexpected to-go orders come in from Postmates. Unless Postmates come up with a way to inform restaurants ahead of time to expect additional business from the Postmates website, Postmates might be disrupting more than just the logistics industry, they’re also disrupting the work-flow of restaurants. This is interesting. These on-demand platforms are still figuring out their business model and I look forward to learning more about each platform as they grow their market share in the city of Portland and elsewhere.