Delivery Entitlements – Less than 30 minutes or it’s free!

Tipping in America, while not unique to our country, is certainly different than many other countries. Like many other transactional interactions in the US, this difference is not accidental.

What started as a customer initiated gratuity to encourage quick and excellent service, reward great looks, etc., quickly became an opportunity for employers to inflate the potential earnings of a position while actually decreasing the paid wage. Much like salespeople are lured in with the promise of high incomes based on “expected” sales production, tips offer hope to lower paid workers seeking higher income opportunities. The waitress isn’t being paid $2.13 an hour, she’s actually making $15/hour with tips. And so it goes.

Except, you see the problem, don’t you? Only the $2.13 an hour is guaranteed. There’s no promise of an income beyond that $2.13. Even busy locations will have people that, for whatever reason, don’t tip. Many employers like to claim an average tipped wage, usually much higher than minimum wage, in order to advertise a higher pay, but without looking at the data, you have no idea where that average is derived from. Shift times, section placement, daily specials and more all affect the server’s opportunity to interact with a customer and thus have the possibility of earning a tip.

All of which leads me to this little gem right here. I’m not endorsing the NY Post in any form, but it’s gone viral and that was an easy link. What I really want to talk about is what it’s like to be a delivery driver.

I deliver pizzas. It’s my side gig, my side hustle, my pathway to a better life that exists when I utilize that grindset mindset. Ha! Ha! Ha! What it actually is, is my 2nd job in order to make ends meet whenever my regular, well paying job, runs out of money before it runs out of month. Which happens way more than it should, but that’s another story.

I joke that I do the job for the glamour and adulation, but what I really do it for is the money. It pays minimum wage plus tips, which in Montana means actual minimum wage, not the Federal Minimum Tipped wage of $2.13/hour, which is still paid in some states. And, believe it or not, there are some requirements to get a job like this one. Indeed, you will have to pay out of pocket in order to even qualify.

For example, one needs a vehicle in good running condition. My old vehicle recently died, so I needed to purchase a newer one. Monthly payment of $420. You also have to carry a higher level of insurance on said vehicle, the better to protect the company from excess liability if an accident occurs. In my case, that costs me an extra $40 a month on top of my regular premium. So, a monthly insurance payment of $160(don’t forget that required Full Coverage). Plus gas and maintenance. I have a Prius so I’m paying approximately $25/week in gas and another $70/month in overall maintenance costs. And thanks to changes in the tax laws back around 2018, you can no longer deduct those work expenses.

So, my barrier to entry for this position is approximately $750 per month. For some it’s less, for some more, but that is the real cost of qualifying for this job, for me. For those doing the math at home, a full time delivery position in Montana is guaranteed $1560/month before taxes(was $1472 but they just raised it, yay). Whatever will I do with all that money left over? And, since I don’t work full-time, the guaranteed income is actually about half of that. Side gig, remember?

OK, so we know what it costs to be a delivery driver, what do we get in return? Well, as mentioned before, we do get that guaranteed minimum wage. And typically some sort of discount on food, most often around 50%. And, if you’re a full-time or near full-time employee, possibly a few extras like a no match 401K, an employee health plan(which you’ll have to pay for) and perhaps even vacation accrual after your first year(minimum wage, not adjusted for tips). Of course, there are a few hazards, too, which weren’t mentioned in the job description.

Many years ago there were a rash of armed robberies- specifically, pizza delivery people, that resulted in the deaths of said delivery people. Much was made of this and at some point it became the industry standard to advertise that the delivery driver carries a maximum of $20-$30 on their person in order to discourage would be thieves and murderers. I don’t know if this actually worked, or not, because “Delivery Driver” still ranks around 7th or 8th place for most dangerous job in the United States, ranking roughly 7 places higher than “Police Officer”. I do know, as delivery drivers, we’re not allowed to carry any means of perceived self-defense on our persons, or in our vehicles, while making deliveries. Incidentally, traffic accidents are the largest killer of both police officers and delivery drivers, not violence, but the potential for a violent outcome is most definitely there.

Did you know the average salary of a police officer in the United States is $4,849 per month, according to I wonder if they’re required to buy their own patrol car? At least they don’t have to conceal their weapons from their employer.

So, back to the benefits of being a delivery driver. The money! We know it’s not coming from the employer, they don’t pay any more than they legally have to. Seriously, I once had a territory manager tell the whole driving crew to be thankful that we didn’t live in Wyoming, or we’d be paid less. The quiet part said out loud.

Tips really are why I do the job, average them out, and you’re likely going to do relatively well compared to other jobs offering similar flexibility and potential danger. Definitely better than your typical Uber driver or Door Dash guy, especially after paying self-employment taxes, etc.

Whatever the situation, whatever the weather, I will risk life and limb to deliver food to your door in the hopes that I didn’t do it for free.

As an “entitled” delivery driver, I will show up to the door not knowing whether I just paid for your delivery out of my own pocket, or if I will get somewhere between $0.44 and $5.00 for the “privilege” of dropping off your order. And it will be in any kind of weather, in just about any neighborhood, at almost any time, day or night. I have delivered in 30 below weather during storms that the city has literally put out a no travel advisory on. About half the houses won’t have a visible house number in the dark, about 1/3rd won’t have their porch light on, and I will never know who I’m delivering to, or what kind of situation it will be. A drunk asshole in a bad neighborhood acts just like a drunk asshole in a million dollar house; trust me, I’ve seen both, and I’ve seen far worse.

Incidentally, on the average, most of my best tips come from lower middle to lower class working types, straight up. Explain it away however you have to, but blue collar working class types tend to value my work more than my white collar or above customer. And a working waiter/waitress? They always tip. That’s anecdotal, of course, but my experience just the same.

So, at the end of the night, I will hopefully average somewhere between $10 and $30 per hour in tips, which if you’re doing the math, means I’ll potentially be making a tip adjusted wage of around $20-$40. I’ve had great nights with tons of deliveries that all seemed to pay at least $4 or more. I’ve also had nights where I’ve averaged a little over 1 delivery an hour, or where I’ve had 4 stiffs($0 tips) in a row. If you’re thinking of becoming an International Delivery Driver of Mystery, base your plans on $20/hour over time. Individual results will vary a lot. So, at the end of the night – Full time Delivery Driver $3200 a month and a Full time Officer $4849 a month, before expenses.

So there you have it, what it’s kind of like to be a delivery driver. The risks, the rewards, the glamour of it all. And let’s not forget the entitlement.

By Dan Granot

I chose the Shorter Whitman because of his work, "Song of Myself" and because of my self-deprecating sense of humor. I am under no illusion that I can write successful essays or poetry, but I have been known to write them anyway.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *