Riders on the storm. Braving Thuisbezorgd

We’re writing this story as a couple, because we have a lot of shared work experiences. There are segments containing our individual stories, where singular form is used.

A promising start

We started in November 2020. Since Arnhem was a new city for Thuisbezorgd, the planning team didn’t know yet how many riders will be needed, and as a result it was easy to get all the shifts we wanted. There was no pressure, the people were incredibly nice. We would often just sit in the hub with fellow riders, talk and tell stories which were very diverse as quite a big amount of us were foreigners. Even though the pay was shitty, especially for us, ‘under-aged people’ (namely 7.50 per hour), the job was generally pleasant and rewarding (in the end we’re feeding hungry people). The bikes were working great as well, and it was a fun experience to ride e-bikes.

Where it went to shit

Soon the trouble would begin. The city ended up being extremely busy. Suddenly our close, small team became a huge group of strangers, we stopped getting the shifts we wanted, the management changed completely and wasn’t supportive anymore, the bikes were very overused with a service person coming only once a week for a few hours. And also, the winter began. Do you remember the great Dutch winter in 2021? As some say, the worst winter in 20 years? With roads, sidewalks and bike lanes covered in snow, we were ‘asked’ (forced) to come and work as if nothing happened. Often it was impossible to deliver on the bike due to issues occurring from low temperatures (the wheels would stop spinning, literally) and our phones/powerbanks would shut down. Some of us asked the management about the winter gear and decisions for the snowy days, but our comments would get deleted (we were communicating on Discord). In theory, we would get additional ‘warm up breaks’, but often we would be driven out of the hub or told that we can warm up after we finish our shift (which we never really knew when it would happen). It’s good to remember that we had to do it all in hazardous environment for 7.50 an hour on an agency contract with no job security. And by writing ‘we’, we mean RIDERS, not management who would sit in the hub with a warm cup of coffee literally ordering food via Thuisbezorgd that we were forced to deliver for them, only writing on discord how good of a team ‘we’ are for working so hard!

But don’t you worry! We actually got rewarded for all this hard work and long, freezing days full of accidents. We all received a voucher worth 5 euros to use in Thuisbezorgd. Good move, team!

‘Are you ashamed?’

I had one memorable situation which to this day makes me question my existence. It was just a normal work day. It was quite chill, not that much orders coming in. I brought lunch with me and I was about to heat it up in the kitchen in the hub. I was looking for a fork or a spoon, and as it was my first time eating in the hub, I didn’t know yet where these are exactly. I opened one of the drawers and I saw… pads and tampons. It was quite an unexpected discovery, and thinking of the people who might not feel comfortable walking with tampons in their hands in front of people who drink coffee and eat pizza in the kitchen I decided to ask on Discord why these are not in the bathroom. I got no response and soon after I saw that my message was deleted. I didn’t think much of it, it wasn’t the first time when it happened. I just rolled my eyes and forgot. The next time I came to work I was asked for a ‘private talk’. I was told that it’s inappropriate to talk about ‘such things’ in public and that I should ask the management directly. Also, I was put in an insecure position and asked whether I’m so ashamed to use tampons. What the actual fuck? When I’m writing this ‘article’, I still feel like I did something wrong and I question whether I should put it here. And I’m writing it exactly 9 months later. These managers sure have a great training in successful manipulation.

‘Increase your efficiency!’

After the crazy winter all couriers had a ‘feedback talk’, which later on was supposed to take place every few weeks. Basically, we were all given a ‘mentor’ that was responsible for talking to each of us about our progress at work, statistics, efficiency, etc. It is important to mention that I’m not a big or very strong person. Most people describe me as rather tiny. When I saw my feedback report, it was almost all red, which basically means that my work lowers the standards of the company. I value my safety and I drive responsibly. But it didn’t matter for the management. I was only a number in the system that was a problem. I was told to improve my efficiency by the end of the week. When I asked if I should start running the red lights or marking the orders as delivered before it actually happened, as I was already doing all I could, I was told to simply drive faster. It’s unbelievable for me that I’m treated the same as much stronger people who can actually fit the big bikes better. It was so overwhelming, I felt terrible every time I was a bit late with an order, even though it was never my fault.

I left this job soon after the feedback. When the agency asked me for the reason why I want to leave, I didn’t have enough courage to tell the truth over the phone, as I was already too scared of them. I simply said that I found a better job. I was asked to write an email about my leave so that they have it in text. I decided to write what the real reason was. I mentioned the lack of interest in the well-being of the drivers, poor management, being late with pays and so on. The response was something like ‘I’m shocked by your email! You didn’t mention this over the phone! Well, I hope you’ll be better at your new job!’. Wow, really, wow.

Read the second chapter.