Side-Gig Jobs Get Hit by Downturn
Valley rideshare and delivery drivers see less demand for rides, more demand for delivery as a result of pandemic
Shannon Asp’s average day consisted of him offering 24-30 rides to locals through Uber and Lyft – companies he has been driving with since these “side-gig” jobs came to Eau Claire about three years ago.
Now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Asp is lucky to give 12 rides a day – a reducation of at least half.
“A lot of them are short runs,” he added.
Asp is one of many drivers for Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, Bite Squad, and other rideshare and delivery services in the Eau Claire area that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Between fewer people needing rides and more people joining the side-gig economy to make a little extra cash, long-time drivers now grapple with how to make ends meet – with many turning to delivery services, which has faced an increase in demand.
“There has been a huge increase in orders. At the same time, there has also been a decrease in tips, unfortunately. And as a driver, tips pay a majority of our bills.” –Josh Buchholz, a driver for Bite Squad
“Coronavirus increased the demand for deliveries greatly,” said Josh Buchholz, a driver with Bite Squad. ‘I have noticed that Instacart grocery delivery has also had a huge increase in orders.”
According to Dean Turcol, the media relations representative for Bite Squad, the company has doubled its delivery zone in areas of Eau Claire, now partnering with 42 local restaurants, which means more possible delivery options. Initially, Bite Squad noted a decrease in delivery orders around mid-March, but the number of orders grew throughout the end of March and April to levels higher than before the pandemic. According its latest earnings report, Bite Squad and sister company Waitr received about 44,700 orders in April– a 19% increase over the first quarter of 2020.
“There has been a huge increase in orders,” Buchholz said. “At the same time, there has also been a decrease in tips, unfortunately. And as a driver, tips pay a majority of our bills.”
Many people are under the impression that what a rider pays is what a driver gets, Asp said, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. About 48% of that money goes to the corporation, Asp said. Tipping is important because the corporations don’t take any of that money – all tips go to the driver.
Asp said the habit of riders not tipping has been on the rise in the past 10 or so years. “Before, everybody tipped,” he said. “I mean, it was no problem. ... A dollar goes a far way.”
Jim Rizzo, a driver with Uber and Lyft since the two companies first came to the Chippewa Valley, agreed.
“We depend on tips,” he said.
Drivers also have to cover the costs of vehicle maintenance and insurance, meaning it can be challenging to make enough money to support themselves, let alone break even, Asp said. He also cleans his vehicle at least once every day – perhaps even more now, he added, which costs additional money.
“I got to get the bills paid,” he said.
Uber and Lyft also have strict requirements for drivers to wear masks, and Rizzo said Uber even scans them to ensure they are wearing masks. But riders are not forced to wear masks, which frustrates many drivers. Asp, for example, recently welcomed a newborn grandson into his family and worries that he may get sick and infect his family – or not be able to provide for his family.
“It’s been very rough for a lot of regular drivers,” Asp said.