At 2:30 pm on September 14, the magic city was shrouded in gray rainstorm. The red light was on, and a red battery car slowly stopped by the roadside. As the car leaned, the water on the raincoat fell down and wet the legs of his pants. Small electric donkeys with blue and yellow incubators galloped past, and the calm road caused splashes. Only the red battery car is hard to move.
The rain came on, making it difficult to open your eyes. To make matters worse, the spectacles were covered with water drops, and the front view was blurred. “Forget it, give up.” This is the first day that the IT Times reporter experienced takeaway delivery, but he chose to back down before it went online to take orders.
In the eyes of many people, takeaway riders are a group of protesters. They race against time, fight against extreme weather, and sometimes even ignore traffic rules and race against death.
In August last year, a Shanghai takeaway rider was electrocuted in a parking lot in an industrial park on Guilin Road due to a typhoon.
Not long ago, the article “Takeaway rider, trapped in the system” in People magazine blasted the circle of friends. The article defined the behavior of the rider as a product of the algorithm.
According to the data from iiMedia Consulting, as of the second quarter of 2020, the two platforms Meituan and Ele.me have taken over nearly 95% of the takeaway market, and a duopoly has gradually formed.
Two reporters from the “IT Times” registered on the Meituan crowdsourcing and Ele.me Hummingbird crowdsourcing platforms to experience the food delivery experience of the takeaway riders, trying to find a way to break through the constraints of the system.
After contacting a number of takeaway riders and merchants, the reporter found that in this monopolized market, although they were silent, they “fighted” in their own way in silence, just like Neo in The Matrix. , Become a rebel, and try to find a circuitous way in the system and algorithm.
Someone poured in, some left, and the riders wanted to find their own voice.
The reporter caught in the anxiety whirlpool seems to have forgotten that he is experiencing the interview
Run, blur. . . . . . Staggering, shaking. . . . . .
This may not be a qualified video
But it’s a real experience
Newcomer: Reporter = Are you hungry? Meituan takeaway riderAnxiety resonance When the rider runs the red light, we even want to follow suit
This is a contest against time. The level of tension is as intense as when you just entered the station before the train departs. When the airport gate is about to close, you are still 50 meters away, and the red light will light up in 5 seconds before you walk on the zebra crossing. …
People always want to seize the last opportunity to play a game. In this experience, the reporter did the same, especially when he saw others rushing forward. This is a resonance of anxiety.
At 11:43 a.m. on September 14th, the reporter clicked “Grab an order” on the Hummingbird crowdsourcing app, and the reporter hadn’t even had time to prepare to become a “windy woman”.
The pick-up point is not far away, only more than 300 meters away from the newspaper office. At this time, it was the lunch peak. There were noisy people to pick up the food. Eight or nine take-out riders surrounded the narrow storefront. There are 12 orders ahead of reporters.
Anxiety is sometimes contagious.
“How long will the number 100 take? Can you help me get the number 100? If it takes too long, you can cancel it! I don’t want it!” A rider approached the shop and asked repeatedly. In the noise, the riders spoke quickly, deliberately pulling their voices open for the merchants to hear. At that moment, the reporter felt his hands trembling, not knowing how long he would have to wait.
“Hummingbird crowdsourcing is coming for a new order.” The Ele.me App on the mobile phone made new order prompts from time to time, and the soft female voice became harsh and faint in her heart.
Finally, the anxiety broke, and the reporter began to learn to urge: “No. 74! Is No. 74 ready?” The last word dragged a long tone.
Unable to meditate, it seems that every second passes for a long time. Although it took less than 10 minutes to wait for the store to ship, it was like spending half an hour in the noisy environment.
At 12 noon, the reporter received the takeaway. There is also a small episode here. Since Ele.me platform needs to enter the four-digit verification after the order is picked up, but as a “moe new”, the reporter could not find the order number in the receipt and had to ask for help Takeaway brother, after 2 minutes, the operation was completed, and the reporter almost ran all the way to the little eDonkey.
At this time, there are only 27 minutes left before the deadline specified by the order, 2.3 kilometers away from the delivery point, and 10 traffic lights to pass. If you stay at each traffic light for one minute, the reporter still has 17 minutes.
Among them, asking for directions and going upstairs are subtracted. The time left for reporters does not seem to be sufficient. Can this order be completed?
The reporter once thought that taking the meal might be the most stressful part of an order, but during the ride, you will find that the system prompts sound from time to time, seeming to keep urging you to fly. Are you hungry? So is Meituan.
The battery car stopped at an intersection with a red light on the opposite side, but there was no car passing by, and the riders around them began to restless. One rider took the lead through the red light, and other riders followed suit one after another. For a moment, the reporter thought “Go!” in his mind, but finally chose to obey the rules.
Arrived at the food delivery location, parked the battery car, trot all the way with the takeaway rider, and asked the security guard to find the correct floor. At 12:18, the order was finally delivered to users, 9 minutes earlier than the time set by the platform.
Click to confirm delivery, the reporter earned 6.9 yuan, minus the 3 yuan insurance premium paid before receiving the order, and actually received 3.9 yuan.
Reporters are still thinking about whether they can be more calm the next time they receive an order. When the system keeps prompting, they can choose to mute them. When a group of people crowd in front of the store, they can choose to go out and take a breath. It’s just that on the occasion of anxiety and resonance, the brain is already blank, and all that is left is to follow the trend and follow blindly, becoming a mob.
Rainy day paradox: orders cannot be completed, no new orders are rejected
At 16:19 on September 14, the heavy rain in Shanghai gradually stopped. Perhaps because of extreme weather and lack of manpower for riders, platforms and businesses have given weather subsidies and red envelopes to encourage them. The page shows that the Meituan crowdsourced riders can earn 30.3 yuan after completing a 14-km order.
There are two types of Meituan riders, special delivery and crowdsourcing. The former is a fixed order, belonging to a Meituan site, the latter can be online at will, and the reporter is the latter.
After going online, the task will come automatically before it has time to grab the order. The reporter needs to go one kilometer away to pick up the takeaway, and then deliver it to a community 2 kilometers away. But the time given by the system is only 36 minutes.
For reporters who are not familiar with Shanghai’s roads, this is the first test.
The more difficult point is that the minimum number of orders received by the Meituan system at the same time is 2 (you can only take 1 order if you are hungry). This means that when the first order is completed, the Meituan system will allocate other new tasks to maximize the use of rider resources. You can choose to cancel, but the system only gives you 45 seconds to refuse. If you miss the rejection period, you can only bite the bullet.
This setting allows veterans to receive more orders, but it is not friendly to novices. Novices who should be familiar with the distribution process have to do two things at once. If the delivery is overtime, novices will have to face the fate of being deducted 3 yuan, and under normal circumstances, the income of a short-distance delivery order is only four or five yuan.
At the first attempt, the reporter decided to send only one order, turn on the volume of the phone to the maximum, and keep an eye on the new order prompts. This is not easy.
At the crossroads, people came and went, and there were multiple speed bumps on the road. The battery car was driving slowly and crossing the road was not smooth. The green light will go out after five or six seconds, and new orders have been poured in. Do you park your phone in the middle of the road? Of course not, you can only move forward slowly with the flow of people until you find a stop.
The right hand quickly opened the App, and the new order was cancelled in the last 3 seconds.
The reporter felt fortunate. The pick-up point for the new order is not on the way. At this time, there are only 20 minutes left before the delivery time of the first order. It is very likely that money will be deducted due to overtime. If the first order is delivered and then picked up, it will greatly squeeze the delivery of the second order.
The Meituan App’s map was not accurate. It took 5 minutes to ask for directions, and the order was delivered 9 minutes faster than expected.
But after canceling two orders in a row, within half an hour, the reporter did not hear the reminder of “the order is coming”. Actively canceling orders will be punished, and the system will restrict the dispatch tasks. There are two types of riders receiving orders: dispatching orders and grabbing orders. The current one is restricted, while the latter cannot fight for the veteran. The novice can earn a limited amount of living expenses in a day.
Of course, there are also riders who choose to transfer orders. If the nearby riders do not respond within 5 minutes, the order still cannot be rejected. The price you pay for this is more time.
In the Meituan crowdsourcing rider community, many riders posted messages expressing confusion. Rejection means that there is no order to accept; accepting, facing overtime penalty. Every novice will encounter this paradox, but the answer is still missing.
Because of the anxiety of running two orders at the same time, the reporter chose to go offline in an attempt to break free from the predicament of rejecting orders.
Unlike reporters who only have an experience mentality, more newcomers have to obey the system settings. Faced with the pressure of life, they can only choose this low-threshold, higher-paying job.
With a monthly income of over 10,000, it is not easy to accomplish this goal. They need to race against time to take as many orders as possible.
At 6 o’clock in the evening that day, the reporter clicked on the Shanghai Riders Ranking. The number one rider sent out 91 orders. It is hard to imagine what the rider will experience in the wind and rain.
02 Veteran: the other side of the algorithm prison
Bypassing the platform and users “private”, take a breath under the weight of efficiency
The reporter’s experience seems to be ordinary to many old riders. Although subject to delivery time constraints and platform algorithm control, the system is not an impenetrable cage. “The system is dead after all.” Meituan rider Yang Jie (pseudonym) told a reporter from IT Times.
When entering the industry, Yang Jie was trembling, most afraid of complaints and bad reviews. Once, at 12:30 in the morning, Yang Jie received a call from a user while riding. The other party was very puzzled. The platform showed that the order had been delivered, but it still didn’t see the takeaway. It turns out that Yang Jie delivered the takeaway to the wrong building.
In that dark night, Yang Jie was very entangled. It didn’t make much sense to look back. He still had an order to send. He could only apologize to the user, with a cry in his voice.
Yang Jie added the other party’s WeChat, begging the other party not to point negative comments, and transferred more than 30 yuan to compensate the user for the lost hamburger. The other party chose to forgive him.
Nowadays, making mistakes while busy is still inevitable, and Yang Jie has learned “crisis public relations”. Add WeChat and Alipay to transfer funds as soon as possible, in order to prevent users from clicking on the App to apply for a refund. Because if the user clicks on that step, it will result in a deduction for the meal loss, and he will be fined.
This is the side that the system cannot detect.
Meituan will be fined 50 yuan for the rider’s early click delivery. But the rider will basically call and communicate with the user, indicating that he is already downstairs in the community, and asking the user if he can agree to click and deliver in advance. Most users are still tolerant.
An Ele.me rider told the IT Times reporter that sometimes when he meets a talkative user, he will request to put the takeaway in the elevator and let the user go to the elevator downstairs to pick it up. This can save him time up and down the stairs, and it is convenient to deliver other orders. Although he knows that these practices sometimes cause user inconvenience.
In the rider community, there are veterans who share their experience. When the delivery of the food pick-up is slow, you can click to arrive first, and then rush to the other fast pick-up place and return to maximize the use of waiting time.
The riders tried to bypass the system supervision with circuitous tactics in order to catch a breath under the pressure of time and efficiency.
Resist the algorithm to take 12 orders in one breath, just for rewards
Mature riders are adapting to the system algorithm and looking for profit.
September 15 was another torrential rain day. There were no rushing figures in and out. At the door of a Panda Star Kitchen specializing in takeout, nearly 20 takeout riders held their phones calmly. Most people’s screens display a grab order page.
Ele.me rider Wang Hao (pseudonym) is one of them. He specializes in take-out stalls in this area. After collecting 7 orders here, he chooses his familiar route and completes all orders as quickly as possible.
This is the survival method that veterans have explored. “Seven or eight single trips are not cruel. Today I saw someone deliver 12 orders in one go.” Wang Hao said.
The platform provides rewards based on the daily delivery volume of takeaway riders. Take Meituan crowdsourcing as an example. 7 orders, 10 orders, and 16 orders will be delivered from 0:00 to 8:00 on the same day. The Shanghai riders can get rewards of RMB 9, 18, and 28 respectively; and complete them from 10:00 to 14:00 3 orders, 6 orders, 12 orders can receive 3 yuan, 10 yuan and 23 yuan rewards.
Ele.me Hummingbird crowdsourcing Shanghai riders will receive 26 yuan, 48 yuan, and 90 yuan rewards for delivering 10 orders, 14 orders, and 18 orders from 7:00 to 10:30 in the morning.
Li Hui (pseudonym) was not lucky that day. He grabbed the order for more than half an hour. He was still waiting for the order in the direction of Shanghai Railway Station. He is familiar with the 4 km route with “Panda Star Chef” as the center. Such operations sometimes deviate from expectations. Some orders may not appear on the page, and they may be snatched away by peers with fast hands.
But he knows that being closer to picking up the food means that suitable orders may be given priority to him by the system.
Sun Ping, an assistant researcher at the Institute of Journalism and Communication of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the IT Times reporter that although the platform and takeaway riders do not have a strong say in the relationship, they have gradually explored a set in the delivery process. Strategies against algorithmic “discipline”.
Each mature takeaway rider is a living map. Compared with the route planned by the system, they will know where to take shortcuts and where they don’t have to wait for the red light based on their own experience. “This is also a manifestation of the inverse algorithm.” Sun Ping said.
“The people dominated by the system are alive.” Sun Ping believes that sometimes takeaway riders will be anxious because the soaring orders in their hands are too late for delivery. They will privately allocate orders with other peers, negotiate delivery, and so on. All takeaway riders resisted the system.
A little resistance, in order to strive for the maximum benefit.
Merchant: outsider in the cage
40 minutes “bottom line” on typhoon days, pick meatballs among 200 refunds
When the business was too slow to eat, the takeaway rider clamored for the business to cancel the order. This is their safest choice. In the platform system, the merchant is the better protected party.
Many merchants said that canceling orders after communicating with users will not be punished by the system, because tens of thousands of merchants are the foundation of major food delivery platforms.
However, the rider outsourcing team of the takeaway platform will still focus on the shops in the area with large orders but slow meals, so as to communicate to increase the meal rate. “Some film directors will even provide in-store guidance to speed up the meal delivery.” Sun Ping said.
In the face of food delivery platforms, merchants are also emotionally complicated, and they are mixed in the relationship between the platform and the rider.
At 10:30 on September 15th, the voice of the sweet girl in the takeaway system sounded for the first time, and Gao Nan (pseudonym), the manager of a spicy hot pot, trembled unconsciously. He will face a battle that lasts three hours.
Within 15 minutes, 20 to 30 orders poured in, cooking, boxing, and packing were done in just a few steps at one go. On average, 300 orders per day are forcing the shop assistants to increase the operating speed step by step.
It must be controlled within 5 minutes from receiving the order to the completion of the packaging, and the skilled worker will be even shorter. If there is a “explosive order” situation, there will be nearly 10 takeaway riders in the narrow aisle.
“Anxiety” is a common emotion shared by merchants and riders during the peak hours of food delivery. In order to get through the peak period with peace of mind, Gao Nan asked the employees in the store to try not to drink water after 10 o’clock. “When one person leaves for a few minutes during the busiest period, the whole team will be in a hurry.”
“No order” is what Gao Nan is most worried about. 15 minutes is a red warning line. If the rider does not accept the order, Gao Nan must make a compromise-give a tip.
He understood the logic of the platform, and often the three parties restrained each other, “If the rider refuses to do it, and we are still too strong, the loss can be more than a one or two yuan tip, but the entire order.”
Typhoon days are a crazy time for the food delivery industry, with orders bursting, but bad weather magnifies the risk of food delivery and insufficient riders. “Tipping is not enough. Some businesses even increase the tip to 5 yuan, but the effect is very little.” Gao Nan said.
40 minutes is the deadline given by the takeaway system to the merchant. If there is still no order, the order will be automatically cancelled and refunded. At this point, if the merchant has already served meals, it will consume a portion of the cost of takeout.
When Typhoon Lichma struck last year, Gao Nan’s take-out stall was refunded 40 orders, and the Mala Tang next door was refunded more than 200 orders. In the once crowded aisle, the Mala Tang shopkeeper did not wait for the takeaway rider who came to trot all the way. He had to pick the balls out of the ready-made takeaways and reuse them.
Why not wait for the rider to take the order before eating out? Gao Nan didn’t think about this plan, but when forty or fifty orders flooded into the system, he didn’t have time to estimate which order would not be accepted. This is a random event.
“It’s not practical to start construction after receiving the order. If you don’t eat at the normal speed, the rider will be impatient.” The merchant understands the temper of the rider. The longer the waiting time, the more riders line up for the meal, and the atmosphere at the stall. The more nervous they are, it will also affect the speed of their meals.
They also need to take care of the rider’s emotions.
Struggle under high commission
“Take advantage of the fire” during the epidemic, choose one to reappear
Although the status is higher than the takeaway rider, the merchants still feel that the takeaway platform attitude is too strong. High commissions are an example.
Boss Zhu from Dongguan mainly cooks beef steak dine-in, and only 10% of orders are used for take-out delivery. For each take-out order completed, the platform will draw a commission of 17 points.
Gao Nan’s store only does takeaway delivery, and the takeaway platform has a higher say, with a commission of 20%, which is almost the ceiling of the industry in the near future.
The rise in commissions for food delivery platforms has always attracted widespread attention from the society, and some merchants have left the market because they cannot afford the platform commissions.
“IT Times” previously reported that some merchants said that it is difficult to make money due to rising platform commissions, but exiting the platform means losing a group of customers. Biting the bullet and doing unprofitable business has become a pain for many businesses.
The reporter learned that the commission for Meituan Takeaway and Ele.me has reached 15%-21% in some areas.
The pain of commission is more obvious during the epidemic. Dine-in is banned, business is declining, and merchants are struggling, but takeaway platforms have increased their commission rates. According to the “Technology and Financial Times” report, Ele.me unilaterally raised the rate from 18% to 27% in April this year.
Although under the frenzy of public opinion, the platform agreed to reduce commissions and rebates, but it cannot directly withdraw cash, and can only be converted into marketing and promotion expenses for merchants.
Faced with a strong platform, businesses are also helpless. In July of this year, the battle between Meituan and Ele.me was reopened. Some businesses were forced to go offline because they were unwilling to stand in line. Although standing in line could reduce commissions, they could not obtain customers from the other platform.
No matter from which point of view, the platform still firmly controls the right to speak and is the profit-making party.
Not long ago, Meituan issued a mid-year report for this year. In the second quarter, revenue from food delivery business increased by 13.2% year-on-year to 14.5 billion yuan, and its operating profit margin increased from -0.7% in the first quarter to 8.6%.
Meituan stated in its financial report that it will further improve the algorithm of the intelligent scheduling system and optimize the network operation capabilities at the distribution end to improve the effectiveness of distribution. In addition, the reorganization of transportation capacity and favorable weather conditions across the country has enabled Meituan to reduce the amount of seasonal rewards paid by delivery riders compared with the previous quarter, thereby achieving control of the delivery cost of each order.
In the first half of this year, Meituan’s riders increased by 87% to 2.952 million in the first half of the year, but their expenses increased by only 8.7% year-on-year, which seems to imply that riders are earning less and less money.
Behind the bright numbers of the platform is the struggle of riders and businesses.
At 6 pm on September 14, the red battery car was parked in the carport. The two reporters never went to deliver food. After one day of experience, both of them escaped from this “monthly income over 10,000” industry and the anxiety of being dominated by the system.
However, there are still some people who are testing the market monopolized by the two giants, some are exploring the experience of countering system algorithms, and some are leaving the market silently.
Reporter’s notes: Meituan, hungry, besieged in another “system”
During the epidemic, the value of food delivery platforms began to highlight. The ban on dine-in, “contactless delivery” under the premise of ensuring the prevention and control of the epidemic has given the catering industry hope for recovery.
Founder Securities believes that, as a new infrastructure for the catering industry, takeaway is responsible for the mission of stabilizing employment and expanding the scope of hotel services.
In February of this year, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security included “online delivery personnel” into the national occupational classification catalog, and “Brother Takeaway” had a new professional name. This reflects the country’s recognition of this industry.
However, when the market was firmly controlled by Meituan and Ele.me, under the pursuit of profit, both of them went wrong.
How does the platform view the rider? If the answer is coolies under the control of the system, it is not difficult to explain the origin of the food delivery actions such as the takeaway boy going retrograde, running red lights, and extreme challenges.
When aroused public opinion, Meituan and Ele.me gave takeaway riders 8 minutes and 5 minutes flexible time respectively, but pointed the problem at the user side.
Users do not want to “carry the pot”. At the beginning of their birth, in order to compete for the market, the two platforms continued to shorten the delivery time to improve user perception and stickiness. The consequences of the competition between the two can only be borne silently by weak riders.
Brighter data, better-sounding capital stories, and the eternal pursuit of “first” are also the “systems” that besieged Meituan and Ele.me.
If the tolerance of giving riders time is a good gesture of the two platforms to public opinion, what they need to reflect on is how to make the rider deliver more safely. I believe that most users are willing to wait for an intact takeaway, rather than sprinkling soup and water after speeding.
At present, the total number of Meituan riders has reached 3.99 million, but under the glamorous new professional Title, full-time takeaway riders have never been able to obtain five insurances and one gold. In the 2019 social responsibility report, Meituan did not mention how many riders are insured.
This requires two platforms to think and solve.
On the other hand, although the two major platforms have monopolized the market, they have not yet curbed their ambitions for profit. When the two have the right to speak in the market and compete with each other, it is not difficult to understand that the two ignore the predicament of the catering industry to increase commissions and force businesses to choose one of the two. The logic behind standing in line.
What Meituan and Ele.me really need to pay attention to is the humanistic care and social responsibility of the enterprise, and the respect for millions of riders.
Author/IT Times reporter Sun Pengfei Li Danqi Xu Xiaoqian