Harsh weather, traffic snarls, confusing addresses, fuming customers… A first-person account of what a pizza delivery boy braves to have your snack delivered to you piping hot

A pizza delivery boy is stuck in the evening traffic. He is slowly snaking his way through the cars, and picks up speed. The pizza has to be hot, and delivered within a time frame. But what happens when it’s not?

Gokulraja started off his career as a delivery boy about seven years ago and is now the store manager of a pizzeria in Besant Nagar. He recounts his experiences delivering pizzas from many big pizza chains in the city.

In his first job, where he stayed for two years, Gokul delivered 20 to 30 pizzas on a weekday and up to 40 on a weekend, and says it is a high-pressure job. “We would get a lot of customer complaints if the pizzas weren’t delivered on time. Usually, it takes 10 minutes to make the pizza and 20 minutes to deliver it. But if there is delay in the kitchen, the delivery guy has that much less time to make up for it,” he says. And the lesser the time, the faster they drive. “So many delivery boys are involved in accidents because they drive rashly; two of my friends died on the job.”

Another problem that delivery boys face is the number of deliveries they have to make simultaneously. If they are late for one, they are invariably late for the others as well. “Sometimes we are stuck in really bad traffic and can’t make it on time. But even if we are a minute late, the customers expect the pizzas to be given for free.”

And that’s not all. “They expect us to carry small change. And if we are doing more than one delivery, we run out. They get angry and shout at us,” he says matter-of-factly. Gokul has also reached an address on time, only to find the customer not home. “When we call, they say they are out and ask us to wait a few minutes.” This delays other orders. “It takes time to find addresses, and sometimes the door numbers are confusing. Actually, some customers get angry even if we ring the doorbell!” Gokul says shaking his head. But, he says, he understands it from their point of view. “They are hungry and we all realise that.”

Weather is another thing that the delivery boys have to contend with. “Whether it is rain or sun, we have to deliver. When it pours, nothing helps, not even a raincoat. We still have to be at their homes on time, dripping wet,” he says. In big chains, the focus is on numbers. “There are offers and promises to increase the number of orders, which increases our delivery count as well,” he adds.

As a manager, Gokul decided that none of his delivery boys must go through what he did. “We deliver within a radius of five km and use bicycles. While this mode is not faster than a bike, it ensures that the number of accidents is less. We also don’t promise to deliver within a certain amount of time though we do try to deliver within 30 minutes of the order being placed,” he says. And since his pizzeria makes pizzas in only one size, it doesn’t take time. “It’s easier to plan the delivery.”

Gokul says he has made at least 10,000 deliveries in the five years that he was a pizza delivery boy. His highest record so far is 102 deliveries on New Year’s Eve in 2005. “I did them all without delay,” he smiles.

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Ajay (name changed) is a 21-year-old delivery boy with a popular restaurant chain in the city. Among his friends are a few delivery boys in pizza outlets across the city. From them, he often hears instances of accidents. He says two of his friends have been involved in accidents while trying to deliver on time. “One of them skidded in the rain. I often ask him if he is not scared of driving so fast, and he says he is but has no choice,” says Ajay. The responsibility of delivering the pizza falls on the delivery boys. “In some companies,” he adds, “They tell the delivery boys before they join that any accident injury or problems with the bikes have to be taken care of by the delivery boys. The company does not pay.”