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What’s the human cost of having your meal delivered to you? Zomato, Swiggy delivery workers take to Twitter to answer this question

The two anonymous Twitter users highlight the plight of delivery workers by alleging low wages, unreasonable penalties, lack of safety, and ill-treatment by customers. 

“I really don’t know how they continue to function without a single probe from any human rights authority,” was one of the many tweets against online food delivery platforms Zomato and Swiggy.

Delivery workers, two in particular, who go by the names Delivery Bhoy and Swiggy DE and claim to work for Zomato and Swiggy respectively, have taken to Twitter to make serious allegations around issues like pay and safety of delivery workers.

Here’s a round-up of the allegations that they have made so far.

Why it matters?  Zomato had a blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) and Swiggy raised a staggering $1.25 billion in its latest funding round.  But their success appears to come at the cost of the hundreds of thousands of delivery workers who work for these companies. “Bringing you the human cost of having your meal delivered to you,” Delivery Bhoy’s Twitter bio reads. If the allegations below are true, these companies need to do better and the government needs to step in to ensure that.

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Earnings of delivery workers

  • No minimum wage or other benefits: Since delivery workers are classified as contract workers and not employees they do not receive a lot of the benefits that employees get such as minimum wage, provident fund, insurance, etc. “Our lives will change only when they treat us as their employees,” Swiggy DE tweeted.
  • Payouts of around Rs 20 per order: Swiggy DE shared a screenshot showing earnings between Rs.10 to Rs.30 per order. Another delivery worker from Belgaum tweeted saying he receives Rs. 20 for 5 km and only one order per hour.” All we want is a better payout. Rs 8/km or Rs 35/order,” Swiggy DE tweeted.
    • Swiggy responded to these allegations saying “the payouts shared here are selective and do not include other major components such as incentives” and that the “average delivery partner payout in Hyderabad was Rs 65 per order last month, with the highest performing partners making Rs 100 per order.”
  • Not properly accounting for rising fuel prices: Despite fuel prices crossing Rs 100 in many cities, Swiggy and Zomato are not accounting for the increase. One rider shared a screenshot showing pay of Rs 35 for an 18 km delivery ride. He claimed that the petrol cost to deliver and come back is Rs 200.
    • Both Zomato and Swiggy responded to Economic Times on this allegation. While Zomato said it has redesigned its rate card to factor in rising fuel prices, Swiggy said extra payment for petrol started in July. But riders say these measures don’t go far enough.
    • Swiggy is giving 10 percent of incentives earned as a bonus amount rather than increasing the per km delivery rate, Swiggy DE said. If a driver receives Rs 2000 in incentives for the week, he will get Rs 200 as the fuel bonus, he stated as an example. “On average we travel 120-150 kms per day to reach our daily targets which cost us 320rs for petrol. But Swiggy is paying 100-140rs weekly,” he said in another tweet. “To ‘assist its riders with mounting expenses’, between 31st May and now Zomato has added a whopping 25 paise to my rate card! So grateful, I could cry,” Delivery Bhoy tweeted.
  • Rs 100 on bad days, Rs 300 on good days: Delivery Bhoy claimed that he earns around Rs 400-600 for 12-hours and spends Rs 200 on fuel and Rs 100 on food, leaving him with Rs 100 on bad days and Rs 300 on good days.
  • Customers not shown actual amount given to the delivery worker: Swiggy DE shared a screenshot showing Swiggy collecting Rs 22 from the customer saying “Delivery Partner Fee” and only passing on Rs 20 to the delivery worker and keeping Rs 2 as commission. “Customers need to know how much you are paying to us,” he tweeted.
  • No pay for the return trip to the base: Delivery Bhoy alleged that Zomato and Swiggy pay only for picking up and delivering the order and not for the distance travelled while returning to the base, to which if they do not return, they are logged out of the app.
  • Extending zones to avoid paying return bonus: Swiggy offers a long-distance return bonus if the worker has to deliver outside of his designated zone, but Swiggy DE claims that the company is extending zones without consent to avoid paying this bonus.
  • Not passing on rain charges collected from customers: Swiggy DE alleged that Swiggy collects an extra fee from customers if it’s raining in that zone but doesn’t pass it on to the delivery workers. Shaik Salauddin, General Secretary of the Indian Federation Of App Based Transport Workers, shared a screenshot showing Swiggy collecting Rs 15 as rain surge from customers but only giving Rs 10 from that to the delivery worker.
  • Tips not reflected accurately: Delivery Bhoy alleged that although tips from customers reach delivery workers, the model is inherently flawed. “For instance, in cases when a customer adds the tip along with his final payment, why does ONLY the tip amount reflect later, sometimes the next day, sometime at the end of the week?” he asked.
  • Preventing delivery workers from reaching incentive targets: Swiggy offers incentives if the delivery worker reaches a certain amount for the day. Delivery Bhoy alleged that Swiggy’s algorithms are designed to deter the worker from reaching this amount. Swiggy DE also shared a screenshot of a delivery worker alleging that he stopped getting orders once he met the incentive criteria. “I’ve seen it first hand because at a restaurant everyone around me started getting orders but not me,” he said. “You never go beyond a certain figure even after a 14-hour workday,” Delivery Bhoy added.
  • Many incentives are no longer given: Swiggy DE said that Swiggy has stopped giving weekly and monthly incentives which it used to give before the pandemic. Another worker said Swiggy also stopped giving incentives it used to give to delivery workers with top ratings and also the minimum guarantee it used to provide for workers who logged in for more time.

Safety issues that delivery workers face

  • The algorithm decides how fast food should be delivered: Delivery Bhoy tweeted that “a ‘complex’ algorithm decides how fast the food is delivered” and riding slow is not in the hands of the delivery worker.
  • Calls urging delivery workers to deliver faster: Zomato claimed that it does not urge its workers to deliver faster, but Delivery Bhoy shared a recording of an IVR call he received while on a delivery telling him that the order is running late and asking him to try to deliver it as soon as possible.
  • Many delivery workers die on the road or suffer from disabilities: “I saw my fellow DE’s dying on roads while delivering orders. That scene wrenched my heart. Those people were trying to feed their families. Till now how many DE’s died while on duty? People need to know about this!!” Swiggy DE tweeted. Many workers also suffered from temporary or permanent disability from accidents that occurred while on the job, Kaveri Medappa, a researcher studying gig workers, added.
  • Long work hours: Delivery Bhoy tweeted that the delivery workers put in 15 hours of work every day just for a few more rupees.
  • Cyclists made to ride long distances: One Twitter user shared a screenshot showing Zomato giving delivery workers on cycles, locations that are 7-9 km far. “Is 38 rupees for almost 9km on a bicycle an opportunity to ‘earn more’?” Delivery Bhoy tweeted in response.
  • Incentives designed to make workers ride faster: Swiggy DE alleged that some incentive programs run only for a few hours, making delivery workers rush to get them, putting their lives in danger.
  • Delivery bags are not big enough, causing workers to carry food unsafely: Delivery Bhoy tweeted that if the orders don’t fit in the bag provided by Swiggy, delivery workers have to “take life risks placing them on tanks etc.”
  • Penalised even for cancellations due to accidents: Delivery Bhoy shared screenshots showing his Zomato record tainted because he cancelled an order due to an accident. The company was not willing to rectify the situation despite him explaining the issue.
  • Insurance coverage is inadequate: Swiggy’s insurance coverage for its delivery workers has been reduced from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, Swiggy DE claimed. He asked for it to be increased to Rs 10 lakhs.
  • No rules for restaurants or customers to wear masks: While Swiggy asks its delivery workers to take pictures of themselves wearing a mask and show vaccine certificates, it does not ask the restaurants or customers to do the same, Delivery Bhoy said.

Unreasonable penalties and charges levied from delivery workers

  • Charged for leakages due to bad packaging by restaurants: Swiggy DE said that sometimes due to issues with packaging, damage or spillage occurs, and even though this is not the delivery worker’s fault, he is penalized for it.
  • Charging delivery workers for branded t-shirts and bags: Delivery Bhoy shared a screenshot showing Zomato charging its delivery workers Rs 350 for two branded t-shirts and Rs 500 for a bag. The workers have the option of paying upfront or paying out from their weekly earnings. “We have no choice but to buy from them their own branded clothes and in turn advertise for them,” he tweeted.
  • Penalties charged if the order is cancelled for valid reasons: Medappa shared examples of how delivery workers were charged a penalty equal to the value of the order in cases like order leakage or when the driver had a puncture that didn’t allow him to complete the delivery. Another user tweeted that sometimes delivery workers are penalized if an item is missing even though the package is intact and it might have been the restaurant’s fault.
  • High-onboarding fee: Kaveri Medappa, a researcher studying gig workers, shared a screenshot showing Zomato charging Rs 1600 as onboarding fees. “He takes Rs.120 from customers and pays us 40. For the 2 tees + bag which probably cost a total of 600, he takes Rs.1600 from us. Who will not become rich if they eat others’ money like this?” was a worker’s response to Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal’s wealth.

No proper redressal for delivery workers

  • Delivery workers are afraid of raising their voices:  Delivery Bhoy tweeted that delivery workers fear that they will be deprived of work even if they raise legitimate complaints. In another tweet, he said that workers are afraid to raise their voices because they know Swiggy will block their IDs.
  • Slow response to issues raised: A Swiggy delivery worker who was locked out of his account raised an issue with the company but did not receive a response for over a day even though the stated resolution time for such issues is 10 minutes. “24-48 hours of no pay. Welcome to the world of Swiggy and their ‘partnerships’ with DEs,” Delivery Bhoy tweeted in response.
  • Slow response even for live orders: Another Swiggy delivery worker from Bhopal shared his experience of waiting for more than 30 minutes to receive a response for an issue related to an ongoing order. “The absolute pleasure of waiting mid-order for someone, anyone, to respond. The reason the Swiggy delivery app is quite the opposite of the ordering app is because… Who cares about the rider anyway, right?” Delivery Bhoy commented.
  • Delivery workers not allowed to speak to media: Delivery Bhoy shared a tweet implying that Zomato’s training videos instruct delivery workers to not talk to the media.
  • No system to penalise customers: When delivery workers cancel an order or do not deliver on time they are penalised. But “it’s important to listen to workers who suffer abuse and disrespect almost every day and see what systems/ procedures are put in place by platforms to penalise customers. Will Zomato block customer IDs on workers’ complaints?” Kaveri Medappa, a researcher studying gig workers, asked.
  • No way to raise issues related to tips and surge fees: Swiggy DE shared a screenshot from the Swiggy portal showing that delivery workers can only raise complaints related to first mile/last mile issues or restaurant waiting time. There was no way to raise issues related to tips received or rain surges or long-distance pay. Furthermore, there is no option to reopen an issue once Swiggy resolves it.
  • Tracking those who speak out about the company’s payouts: “From now on I won’t be able to share earnings screenshots. Swiggy is trying to track me in their systems and I can’t afford to lose my job,” Swiggy DE tweeted

Ill-treatment by customers

  • Bad ratings even if delivered on time: Delivery Bhoy said that delivery workers receive bad ratings even if they deliver food faster than promised and customers keep calling and harassing delivery workers to hurry up despite the app showing that the food is being prepared.
  • Customers expecting other favours: Delivery Bhoy said that numerous times customers have asked delivery workers to buy cigarettes or alcohol on the way, promising a five-star review in return or a huge tip.
  • The conundrum with apartment guards: Delivery Bhoy wrote a blog post where he shares his experience of dealing with situations where apartment buildings do not allow workers to deliver at the door but customers expect this service and badmouth the security guards or the workers if this doesn’t happen.
  • Customers expect delivery workers to carry change: Delivery Bhoy shared an experience where a delivery worker was spoken to badly because he didn’t have change. Delivery Bhoy said in another tweet that Zomato and Swiggy must ensure customers specifically request for change and for what denomination.

MediaNama has reached out to Zomato and Swiggy for comments, and we will update this article if they respond.

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