Pitt students on wheels deliver meals


Garrett Aguilar

(Illustration by Garrett Aguilar | Staff Illustrator)

By Caroline Bourque and Rachel Glasser | News Editors

On the first night of her new job, Harley McCain witnessed a high-speed car chase.

“This big black SUV comes flying by at like 75 mph, and of course it’s a 25 mph street, and I’m like what the heck,” she said. “And I turn around … like, what is happening. All these cop cars going flying by, like chasing this car down.”

McCain then got back in her car and set off to make her next delivery.

“I got to see my first high-speed chase, so that was pretty cool,” McCain said. “That was my first experience with goPuff.”

McCain, a senior environmental science major, started driving for food delivery apps UberEats and Postmates simultaneously in early August 2017, then switched to goPuff in September. McCain estimates she’s completed several hundred trips in the short time she’s been a driver.

She said she made the switch to goPuff because they offered a structured schedule for her delivery times and locations — with set shift times of three to four hours available any time of day.

“The managers at goPuff make your route for you, so you’re going in order and you’re saving gas and saving time.”

goPuff functions differently from UberEats and Postmates, which allow delivery drivers to purchase food from restaurants and deliver it to customers. goPuff has its own warehouse stocked with merchandise for customers to order through their app — offering everything from ice cream to condoms.

“I guess the most exotic thing I’ve delivered was hookah tobacco, and coals for hookah,” she said. “We have to card the people then and make sure they’re over 18.”

Tim Platts, a senior computer science major, became a delivery driver as well — but for UberEats — when he returned to Pittsburgh this summer and discovered the company was hiring on Craigslist. Two days after he applied, he was approved.

“First day I tried it I was like, ‘I guess I’ll keep doing this,’” Platts said.

Platt works two to four evenings a week now, for about eight to 16 hours per week. He said the flexibility of scheduling and the convenience compelled him to continue driving into the semester.

“It fits around my classes, I can do it whenever I want,” Platts said. “It’s a nice way to make some money on the side while I’m in school.”

When he has the app on, Uber will ping him and Platts will receive a notification to either accept or deny the request. After accepting, Platts drives to the specified restaurant to pick up food and then delivers it to the client.

Because Platts has a small car, he’s disqualified from being an Uber driver that carries passengers. But Platts is content to transport food rather than people.

“It’s a lot less stressful than driving people around I feel like,” Platts said. “Because 95 percent of the time I don’t have to do anything except drive.”

But his small car is sometimes an issue even when delivering food. Once he had to pick up a pizza from Benny Fierro’s — a restaurant in South Side known for its 28-inch pies. After taking the box from the employee at the restaurant, he discovered he couldn’t fit the pizza in his car.

“I had to prop it up on the window and rest it on my cup holder. It was covering more than half the car,” Platts said. “Even the guy who got it was like ‘this is way bigger than I thought it was going to be.”

Jay Pitser, a junior computer engineering major, probably won’t have any concerns over fitting pizza in his car — he delivers from his bike. He works for Jimmy Johns about 12 hours a week and spends about eight of those hours on his bike running deliveries.

Jimmy John’s employees use bikes to deliver food. (Photo by Wenhao Wu | Assistant Visual Editor)

While Pitser enjoys biking and being able to work outside, he said it’s not always easy. He said biking to upper campus and places such as the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare system hospital at 4100 Allequippa St. can be physically demanding.

“Those hills,” Pitser said. “We have to go to VA a lot. I actually took a delivery up there last night.”

Pitser said sometimes by the time he arrives at his destination, the customers have forgotten they even ordered from Jimmy John’s.

“Yeah, sometimes we have to call them when they don’t come down to get their stuff, and they answer like “oh, yeah, I totally forgot I wanted that,” Pitser said.

McCain referred to herself as a people person — never shying away from her unpredictable line of work.

“It’s always an interesting experience, I think, because you’re out driving around, you’re going somewhere, and you kinda just get to observe everything that’s happening,” McCain said. “Especially in Oakland.”

Contributed reporting by Janine Faust.


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