The delivery rider's life: hectic and hard

There are nearly 10 million riders working as delivery men across the country in a sector now worth an estimated 200 billion yuan (US$29.5 billion) a year. 

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

According to statistics released by Ele.me and Meituan, there are nearly 10 million riders working as delivery men and women nationwide.

Sitting down on the steps in front of a shopping mall in the Xujiahui commercial area at 9:30pm, Fei Chengdong, 29, had just come off duty.

Starting at 10am, he delivered food over 40 times during a sweltering day at 35 degrees Cesius. But Fei still thought he wasn’t hardworking enough.

Statistics released by Ele.me and Meituan, two leading platforms offering online food delivery, there are nearly 10 million riders like Fei working as delivery men across the country in a sector now worth an estimated 200 billion yuan (US$29.5 billion) a year. 

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Normal mealtimes are usually the busiest for food delivery riders. So, they usually choose to gulp down their lunch before 10am or after 2pm.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A delivery man scurries along Shimen Road at lunchtime. During the busiest hours, the average time for handling an order is less than 10 minutes.

Most of the riders are the post-1980s and post-1990s generations. Before working as a delivery man, Fei, from Anhui Province, tried many jobs after graduating from high school — from online customer service to electrician and waiter. 

“Compared with my previous jobs, being a delivery man gives me more freedom. I don’t need to stay in a closed space for the whole day,” says Fei.

“Pin (拼) (hardworking) is one of the characteristics of delivery men. We try our best to deliver faster so we can handle more orders.”

Receiving 40 to 50 orders and riding 70-80 kilometers every day, Fei earns around 6,000 yuan a month. But he says others start at 6am in the morning and return home just before dawn and earn 10,000 yuan a month.

For most food delivery men, the busiest time is from 11am to 1pm so they normally have lunch at 2pm. During the busy period, each generally deals with around 15 orders, which means the average time for one order is less than 10 minutes.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A delivery man sleeps on his scooter while waiting for orders in the late afternoon. Riders eat and rest when business is quiet.

“The public may blame us for running red lights,” he says. “We don’t mean to do it but we have no choice ... Customers often urge us to hurry up. Though we sometimes suffer injustice, we have to put up with it. This is our job.”

Despite the pressures and the challenges, Fei loves his work — partly due to some of the kind customers that he meets. “Delivering food can’t be regarded as a lifelong career,” he says.

“I plan to return to my hometown and start a small business in few years — with the delivery man’s spirit: willing to suffer hardships,” he adds.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A delivery man works during a downpour in Shanghai.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A delivery man pulls over to check his mobile phone for orders at midnight on a still busy street. Ele.me said that during this year’s FIFA World Cup, orders in Shanghai for midnight snacks tripled from the previous month. 



Special Reports
Top