Things you have to explain to people who've never delivered food

Andy Kryza
Andy Kryza

Being a delivery driver is one of the more underappreciated gigs in the service industry, no matter how glamorous the job might seem in adult films. The reality is this -- the delivery person lives an impassioned life full of temptation (food) and drama (money) -- and it can certainly drive away the uncommitted. But once you get used to the fast-paced lifestyle, it can also be a truly rewarding experience.

To paint a better picture of what these meal messengers endure day in and day out, we polled a bunch of them from around the country and found out all the things you might not have known about the delivery business.

dominos stopped by police

You get (partial) immunity from the law

Cops are sometimes willing to excuse minor speeding if they know that the driver is a delivery guy out to get his order to the customer on time. Sometimes it reminds them that they’re hungry, and you might end up delivering to the station later that night.

You always remember bad customers

Chances are, there’s a blacklist back at the restaurant with all of the bad tippers, people who complain more than is warranted, and plain ol’ meanies on it. If you consistently get your order late, it might just be on purpose -- and you should probably take a look in the mirror.

There’s a lot of “me time”

You will have a lot of time out on the road to think, so be ready for some serious introspection. Rust Cohle must've been a deliveryman in a past life.

pizza delivery car dominos

Occasionally, bargoers will confuse you for a taxi

If you’re driving a car with one of those light-up signs on top, and you’re driving through an area frequented by partiers, chances are this will happen more than once.

It can be a dangerous job

Car and other vehicular accidents do happen, but encounters with violent customers are much worse. Now, these are pretty rare, but it doesn’t hurt to always have a backup container of ranch dressing in case someone forgot to pack it for that belligerent dude on Maple Street.

You’re basically just like an ER surgeon

Always on call, and providing potentially life-altering aid to people in need.

pizza delivery trunk boxes
Flickr/Vivian Evans

Thursdays and weekends are the busiest

Folks at house parties gotta eat! Especially ones where both Kid and Play are in attendance. These are also the worst days to call out of work; all the other delivery drivers will hate you for it.

Sometimes you get tipped in... favors

Being invited into parties, receiving free booze, and being given smokeable substances are some of the tamer things that have happened to delivery drivers in lieu of being tipped.

The only prank orders are from your friends

If your buddies know you’re working, you’re bound to get a few calls from people with extremely familiar/exaggeratedly ridiculous voices. Just know that I.C. Wiener is most likely a fictional human being.

winter pizza delivery scooter
Flickr/Bruno Cordioli

Small tips on large orders are the bane of your existence

Unlike in a restaurant, customers are alone when they're tipping on a delivery order. Therefore, there’s less shame associated with tipping a small amount. Which happens more often than you would think, and on some of the largest orders. A delivery charge isn’t a tip, people!

You know the best ways to get sympathy tips

Pretty much, if you’re braving a type of weather listed by the post office (except “shine”, duh), people will tip you better. You can sometimes milk it by lingering in the rain or snow a bit.

The car repairs come out of your pocket

If you accidentally get a flat tire or nick a fast-moving mailbox that totally came out of nowhere, the restaurant’s not going to pay. So you should probably start smiling wider to get those larger tips.

pizza delivery man smiling

A smile goes a long way​

You'll meet some interesting, friendly, funny people on this job, but there are some who react to everything with attitude. It seems trivial, but something as simple as a smile can help diffuse tension.

You actually have very little to do with the time estimate

Most of the time involved with a food delivery is taken up by actual cooking, so if a place guarantees that it can get the food to you in 30 minutes or less, that’s most likely a reflection of fast cooking rather than speeding delivery drivers. Or an unholy combination of both, in which case... there might be some mishaps.

The food is irresistible to you, too

Can you imagine being cooped up in a tiny sedan with a container full of piping-hot pizzas, subs, fries, pad Thai, soups, etc. for hours on end? Sometimes, a fry might “accidentally” fall out of the bag. And right into a waiting mouth. Man, these roads sure are bumpy, huh?

pizza money

Booze can make people much better tippers...


... or it can make them into the worst ones


Sometimes the delivery time isn’t in your control

Flukes happen, and occasionally there are mishaps in the kitchen that can delay an order. Don’t shoot the messenger!

And sometimes it’s completely in your control

There is a blacklist, remember?

wallaroo eating pizza
Flickr/Renee Whelan

You see some sh*t

Naked peeps (and naked Peeps, if it's around Easter). Kinky sex stuff. Illegal pets. Intense arguments. Delivery people see and hear things that would make the skin of lesser beings crawl. Respect them for their sacrifices.

Damaged goods are one of the best perks

If someone sends back food because it wasn’t up to their standards, or it wasn’t exactly what they ordered, the abandoned food usually goes to the delivery driver. Even though they'll likely have to go back out to complete the order, they'll be happier (and fuller) when they return.

pizzaiolo in pizzeria kitchen
Flickr/Zagat Buzz

It’s usually a temporary gig, but you end up learning a lot

How else are you going to learn every shortcut known to mankind? How else will you hone your quick change skills? How else will you be able to commit entire orders, addresses, and directions to memory?

Most people aren’t in the delivery business for a long time, but it's certainly a learning experience -- plenty of successful pizzeria owners and pizzaiolos started out as delivery people. And you meet some interesting characters along the way.

Just stay away from Maple Street.

Adam Lapetina is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and orders pizza about three times a week/is eternally grateful. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.