In Chinese cities, people in yellow or blue suits riding e-bikes are easy to see. They dart between traffic, rushing from restaurants to homes and businesses, regardless of wind or rain. They are food deliverymen.
Although they make our life more convenient, this can come at a cost for them.
“The food deliverymen are trapped in the app.” This is the headline of an article in the Chinese magazine Portrait, which has ignited a discussion online recently. The title accurately echoes the author’s conclusion after interviewing dozens of people in the food delivery business.
The article pointed out that on food delivery service platforms Eleme and Meituan, the time limit and route for each delivery order is calculated by an algorithm. But the algorithm doesn’t consider real-life situations, such as red lights, speed limits and fully occupied elevators.
Based on the algorithm, the deadline for a delivery order within 2 kilometers is 30 minutes, according to China Daily. Within that time, a delivery person has to pick up the order from the restaurant and deliver it to the customer. In fact, the time limit for deliverymen has been gradually shortened in recent years.
Delay could mean a deduction in pay. So deliverymen rev up, often breaking traffic rules, putting not only their own lives at risk, but the lives of others as well.
Many people criticized the platforms and asked them to improve the regulations imposed on the deliverymen. In response, on Sept 9, Eleme announced it would add a button to the app, which allows customers to prolong the time limit for their order, and encouraged customers to show more respect for deliverymen. But this only created more heated debate, as some felt that the company was dodging the problem and diverting attention.
The Shanghai Customer Council commented that the move was illogical, adding that the deliverymen are following rules made by their employers, and problems should be solved between the companies and their employees.
Some felt the company was putting the responsibility on the users rather than solving the problem themselves. Also, even with the ability to allow more time for delivery, some users felt this would not fully address the issue. “If I give them five more minutes, they would not use the time to ride slowly or obey the traffic rules. They would only use it to take one more order. This is not the ultimate cure to solve the problem,” Shanghai resident Tian Bei commented.
Wang Kerui, 19, from Beijing Normal University, said that campus policy requires deliverymen to wait for students to pick up their food at the gate. “Most students can’t show up in time but deliverymen need to be responsible for the delay. It’s unfair for them,” she said, adding it would be better to optimize the platform’s system and the delivery mechanism.
Besides, market regulatory departments should prohibit companies from setting tight schedules for their delivery drivers and keep them safe on the roads, commented China Daily.