Brief Notes on Lunar New Year

Also: not every delivery driver gets an insulated courier bag

I didn’t have much of a relationship with Lunar New Year growing up. Our family unit was small—just me, my mom, and my dad (and my cousin who’d hang out with me on Saturdays). And even though my grandparents and one of my uncles lived a few streets away, I rarely saw them. So when the Lunar Year would come around, it was treated as any other day in our household, except for the singular instruction to not bathe that day or else I’d wash off all my good fortune for the coming year.

It wasn’t until my 20s when I would view Lunar New Year as more than just any other day (although it really is a 15-day affair).

Before the pandemic, the restaurant would host, for its staff, the holiday and celebratory dinners that I never had as a child. The dishes that were familiar in a patchwork framework of distant family friends’ weddings were presented in a different context, one that was embedded with the values of hard work and camaraderie. The kitchen would prepare this feast while slinging out regular orders of dim sum for the first half of the day, then switch over seamlessly to execute a feast for over forty people. To see so much merriment and joy—especially in conjunction with the free-flowing cognac—in such a large gathering left me in awe. It never occurred to me that Lunar New Year could elicit such feelings of excitement and gratitude—feelings that I would not normally associate with “just any other day.”

And while there’s no large format dinner to be had at the restaurant or the usual large-scale Chinatown celebrations this year, my awe and gratitude for this hard working community and their perseverance is greater than ever.

Cheers to the Year of the Metal Ox, and may it bring the stability and calmness, especially after this past year.

Does every courier get an insulated delivery bag?

I’ve always wondered about the branded bags that I see the delivery folks wearing. Is it free? Do you get one right after you sign up? Where do you get one?

If you browse through Reddit, the answer is: it depends on the platform. According to the OP of the previously linked thread, Uber Eats does not provide a free insulated bag, whereas DoorDash will provide a bag. When you spend a little more time on /UberEATS, you’ll see that a lot of members recommend picking up an insulated tote from Walmart or use a competing platform’s bag to transport hot food orders. Old threads suggest that it’s possible to purchase bags from a Greenlight Hub. But given that the closest locations to me are in LIC and Bronx, it makes my visiting these hubs an unlikely scenario.

What popped up on my screen last week, though, was the offer to purchase a “limited-edition Uber Eats-branded backpack”. The bags, designed by Kinara, cost $47 before shipping and taxes. Couriers are presented with two options to pay for the bag: you can either purchase it outright or pay a deposit of $5 and have the remaining cost deducted from your weekly payout in $5 increments.

$47 for a bag when you are earning less than $10 on average per trip is hefty, but that’s not the final kicker. The heavy hitting costs come in after you input your address. With shipping costing more than half the bag (and being taxable), you end up shelling out almost $80 for what should be considered a necessity for the job. Yikes.

Why do some orders take a while to find a courier?

Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of evenings in the dining room of the restaurant during dinner service. There would be times, usually when the weather is lousy, when the delivery platforms would be left in an endless “searching for driver” loop. I attributed these long waits to the lack of couriers on the road, but what I had not accounted for was drivers not wanting to take trips that they weren’t adequately compensated for.

Take a look at the below example where I’d be expected to bike 2.3 miles in a light drizzle for an order that’s compensated by ~$2 base fare, $2.50 surge pricing, and variable trip supplement. In sum, this calculation leaves the potential delivery driver with no tip for a 15-minute bike ride.

As a reminder, if you are tipping in cash, hats off to you, but you should still tip some % in-app since couriers choose their trips based on these estimates.

Items for your consideration: