DO you say "thank you" to the person who delivers your takeaway?
Some one-third of delivery people expect such politeness, but not all of them get it.
We tend to take delivery people for granted. We see them every day, in bright yellow or blue uniforms, shuttling around at top speed on mopeds to deliver meals according to a time-frame imposed by their bosses.
Our communication with them is limited, and few of us have any insight beyond the facade of the people who underpin the success of this booming segment of e-commerce. Who are they? How do they view their demanding jobs? Do they have families to support?
Meituan-Dianping, a Beijing-based online food delivery service, conducted a survey of 118,000 people across China about food delivery. Its report provoked heated debate after "Lanxi," an Internet celebrity with more than 1.25 million followers on Weibo, posted his opinion.
"The three things food-delivery people want most to say to customers are: 'pick up your phone on time,' 'write your address correctly,' and 'say thank you when receiving the food'," Lanxi wrote in his post. "The three things I want to say most to them are: 'don't spill the soup,' 'don't spill the soup' and 'don't spill the soup'."
Although Lanxi's obsession might lie with the soup, the issue of saying thank you to delivery people quickly soared to the top of the "most searched hashtags" on Weibo, with more than 2 million instances of involvement.
Opinion is divided. While most netizens seem to believe that everyone should show their appreciation, others hold to the view that paying for food delivery is appreciation enough.
"'Thank you' is just a throwaway phrase," says one netizen with the screen name Mumu. "I say it when shop assistants package the things I buy, when waiters serve dishes and when food deliverymen show up with my order. There is nothing to fuss about."
Another netizen, whose screen name translates as "don't want to be peeped," says he never thanks food-delivery people.
"They're only doing their job, and I don't want to communicate with them," he says. "Send me the food I ordered and mission complete. That's it."
While some netizens say they do show gratitude when the food shows up, they said they think it is inappropriate for delivery people to "request" a thank you.
Annual reports from Meituan-Dianping and Fengniao food-delivery platforms give us some insight into who delivers our takeaways and how they feel about all this.
The reports show that more than 5 million people are engaged in food delivery around the country, with 92 percent of them men and 77 percent of them originally from rural areas.
Most of them deliver 20 to 40 orders per day, chalking up about 50 kilometers. Although some delivery people actually earn more than entry-level white-collar workers, most make 4,000-8000 yuan (US$594-1,190) a month. That compares with Shanghai's average monthly income of 7,132 yuan.
Luo Zhe, a deliveryman with Meituan-Dianping, says the job sometimes depends on sheer luck. Negative feedback from customers can result in docked wages. Delivery people are under great pressure.
"What we fear most is unexpected emergencies, such as a moped breaking down, meals being stolen or traffic slowed by accidents," Luo says. "We have to adjust to every eventuality. So when a customer shows gratitude or even just smiles when we deliver an order, it really warms our hearts."
Wu Pingxian, a sociologist with Zhejiang Wanli University, says common courtesy goes beyond social status.
"It is not shameful to say thank you for services rendered," she says. "It is a way of showing acknowledgement, respect and encouragement."
Social media clamor is rising for food-delivery platforms to do more for their workers and take responsibility for decisions that affect the service.
Low wages based on numbers of deliveries mean that delivery personnel are under pressure to take on as many orders as possible. At the same time, many platforms promise clients delivery times that are almost impossible to keep, and when food fails to arrive on time, it's the delivery person who takes the blame and even faces penalties.
Tight time management is blamed for road accidents involving food deliverymen. In 2017, 76 food delivery people were killed in Shanghai traffic accidents. Most of them were related to running red lights or speeding.
Similar traffic incidents have also been reported in cities such as Beijing and Nanjing.
Many still recall the 2017 online video of a despairing deliveryman crying in an elevator.
Between sobs, he said he would be "fined" if he didn't deliver meals on time, and he had three orders to deliver at the same promised time. The video received millions of clicks.
At present, there are no laws or regulations related to the safety and interests of delivery people. There was a proposal submitted to Shanghai People's Congress last year calling for some oversight of delivery service platforms.
"The platforms often call on us consumers to be kinder to delivery people, so we call on them to be kinder, too," says a netizen whose screen name is "Hufflepuff Fairy." "They can't be the elephant in the room, hiding behind a curtain and shifting their responsibilities to others."
(c) 2019 Shanghai Daily Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info)., source Middle East & North African Newspapers