These stories are heartbreaking and many customers talk a good talk about ethics and boycotting such delivery firms but the truth is that when it comes to the crunch we expect to receive our goods as fast as possible and when we are selecting our delivery options few of us stop to think of the consequences of the delivery, just how cheap it is. Did you know the cost of a Same Day Delivery includes a short term hire of the entire vehicle, the courier and all the incidentals? And as the company will most likely be like the aggressive, corporate one that used Jerome, the courier will often receive far less than the national minimum wage for his hard work. So you are paying less than necessary but there aren’t 100’s of other parcels going with it to share the cost down through efficiencies of volume. Even so in large cities like London the cost matrix of deliveries to other postcodes are cheap enough but try sending it to Peterborough and your eyes will water at the rate you pay for a motorbike to go 100 miles up the A1. It’s no surprise to us you choose an overnight carrier. You are cheap and we are not. We accept you don’t want it delivered today when tomorrow is cheaper. But if tomorrow simply isn’t good enough then you must realise the price of fuel and rent and living has risen, along with the cost of your courier. That’s for you to accept.
How have things changed?
The government commissioned a review of the gig economy and pledged to help workers by improving rights but as of yet no legislation has been implemented. Some courier companies are now offering workers the choice to remain self employed franchisees or be classed as an employee. Couriers are often paid per delivery but have no employment rights, if they become employees they are privy to the benefits that come with employment such as sick pay and holiday pay.
What can delivery companies do?
The gig economy is a cut throat world driven by price and profit and a need to fulfill customer expectation. Customers are not suddenly going to accept slow or delayed deliveries but what can be done to ensure tragedies like that of Jerome and Don don’t become the norm?
Change is possible and having the option to be classed as an employee and therefore gaining the same rights as all other workers is one way to go for overnight carrier companies. It is also important for companies to ensure couriers are fully experienced and knowledgeable of the industry. Communication is key, from both sides.
What can we do?
We live in a fast paced world, we want everything now and want it as cheap as possible. Perhaps we need to take some of the blame for the state of the gig economy and really think about how we shop and our expectations. We have seen our market share slowly decline as more and more owner-drivers try to improve their turnover by approaching our customers direct. The only winner here is the customer. Because the owner-driver makes it cheaper yes but cannot deliver multi-vehicle capacity so they turn away extra work through necessity. The customer then scratches around for somebody other than the original courier company because they simply believe it’s too expensive. Paying more to cover the cost of living as a courier is too expensive for you is it? Let that sink in for a minute and reflect on the death of Jerome who commited suicide over a traffic violation that got out of hand because he couldn’t earn enough with that large courier company; because you want it cheaper. Were those the ethics you were talking about? Is cheaper really better if it leads to people like Jerome dying over debt?
"That pang of guilt on signing for a parcel and recognising the company name from some grim headline is all very well, but it’s a bit late by then.”