Edinburgh Workers’ Observatory

Deliver food in Edinburgh? A network of riders have been working with the Workers’ Observatory to share tips and information, discuss conditions and rates, and get to know each other.

We are developing tools for sharing insights about the city under our wheels. We are using this to strengthen and inform the network of couriers and delivery riders in Edinburgh.

Reverse Surveillance

The guild is developing tools and tactics to empower us to map and monitor our work in the city, focused on gathering data. Some are unique, others draw on precedent elsewhere.

Data Mapping

Informed by MyData, we have mapped the data we know Deliveroo have about us, or that we think they have, and we have worked out the key questions we want answered. To find out more about this research, get in touch through the form below.

Obtain Your Data

Every gig worker has a right to access personal data. Find out why it can be a powerful tool, and how you can go about obtaining the data you need.

Pay Monitoring

We have coded a programme called RooParse to read our pay from the information provided to us by Deliveroo.

Join the group

If you are a rider or driver in or around Edinburgh and want to get involved or find out more, get in touch with us here:

    Insights of a Courier

    We Don’t Need the Company

    I get a totally different perspective of Edinburgh on the bike. Different people, different customers. Sometimes you know what the customer is going to be like from the restaurant you have to go to. For example, most of the time when I went to Kentucky Friend Chicken it was for Craigview, a pretty working class area. Wagamama tends to be for posh places. But it’s not always the case.

    Nobody, honestly, nobody loves to work on a Friday night

    How do you find the attitudes and tipping habits of customers?

    For me, there are two kinds of customers. Some give you a tip, and others don’t. That’s the big difference! It was quite surprising to find out that people here are not so tip friendly. Compared to what? Compared with what I have in my imagination! Maybe one in five or six leave tips. Two years and three months I’ve been riding now, and I wouldn’t say there’s been any change in tipping culture, not even during the pandemic. The only thing you can feel is a change when there’s really bad weather. During the snow, my record was ten pounds for a pizza that cost five.

    I’m from Galicia, northwest Spain. My mum always told me that the guys that are delivering, you have to always give them change. I think the impulse comes because you know they are not getting rich with the job, and they have to pay for their own motorbike and stuff. It’s good for me that I am with my family, at home, eating pizza, Friday night, you know – so a tip is some justice in the world. So I think my mum was thinking about this when she told me to give a tip.

    Nobody, honestly, nobody loves to work on a Friday night. 9 o’clock, everybody’s hanging out, and you are out cycling, going here and there, and then you finish at like 11 o’clock and you have a shower and then you go with your friends and all of them are fucking drunk, and you have to start then, a-glug glug glug glug, no, nobody’s happy. The people start drinking in this country around six, and they have been drinking for six hours, you know, and that’s the situation all the Saturdays and Fridays in your life.

    With students, I can say that over two years I have maybe had 10 tips. Working class areas it’s more, of course. And when someone at a posh house opens the door I think they have this sense of duty, that exists in this country and that you cannot find in Spain, in the south. It’s the same thing that you can feel when you think about how charities work here. It’s totally different, totally different. We don’t have these kind of charity shops, but second hand places you can go to and sell and buy things. Here the people go and donate, you know, clothes, televisions, LPs, things in good conditions, books, you know, everything. There, there is a market but here the market is thanks to the donations. So, it’s something that I’ve noticed, this is a much richer country and you can feel it in things like that. For us, something like a shelve, or a mattress, or books are not so cheap. It’s totally different.

    You can think of tips in the same way. The rich people feel that they can share a little bit of what they have, in order to have a more cohesive society, and this is their commitment to maintain this. They think that it is good for everybody, and it’s good especially for them, because they stay in the same position sharing little bits of the crumbs, of the real wealth which is really not what a Deliveroo rider can make with a bike. I think that’s the idea that the rich people have in mind when they are giving a good tip, or when they are collaborating with a charity. It’s crumbs off of the table.

    What is stable in the job and how do you see things changing?

    It’s crumbs from the table of Deliveroo, Ubereats, Just Eat, and the others as well. The company knows that it’s a hard job. I think that we are part of the system that is going to be left behind in some ways in the next few years, because the gap between jobs is getting bigger. The middleman and the middle manager are disappearing. I don’t know if the company at the moment is doing well. But, you know, it doesn’t matter what happens for the people who really control these things, Deliveroo or other companies or whatever. If you are a person working in a tech area of Deliveroo or Ubereats, you can get promotions and move in another way. But for us in the long term this is a dead end job. You know what I mean, you are not going anywhere, you are a rider, and if you don’t do anything different you are gonna die as a rider, and that’s all you can do. We are here, and they are there, and there’s nothing in between. Because I don’t even have a manager.

    They need us a lot – not me, they need us

    They say I am my own manager, that’s bullshit. But they don’t know a thing about you. The only thing they know is if there’s problems, or they have some complaint from a customer, or from a restaurant. Then you’re gonna have trouble. And the only news you’re gonna hear from them is in the newsletter. Problems, or newsletters – but they are not gonna be in touch with you because you are a fucking amazing rider. Maybe if they have a promotion they can give you, 20% off in Tesco this week or something, you feel a little bit like you are in the company. But you are not part of the company. They need you, and they know that, because they need us a lot – not me, they need us. And we know that. And that’s the reason that if we could get some more agreement between us, among us, we could do really, really well at this, because it’s pretty obvious that they ned us. But at the same time, they don’t need me. They can say I need you, and you, but I don’t need you, and I don’t need you. So because more people can open the app and many people are afraid of the situation, especially with Brexit, it’s a mess. At the moment, if I lose this, it’s a really huge problem. I used to have three, four jobs. I was a drum teacher, a musician playing in the pubs and streets, a tour guide – it’s all gone. This really is the only thing that I have at the moment to earn something.

    If we could run our own company, everybody could see it. If we were all in a union of course it would be underground. The problem with Deliveroo, is that if they are suspicious, you can have huge problems. They can send you a notice, and you know the next day, suddenly… Because you are self employed. So they don’t have to explain a thing if they want to terminate the contract. Trying to build a union in these conditions, we are something like cats who live in the street. You know, always going here and there, carefully, doing what we do, but you can’t always see us. You see us, then suddenly whoosht, we’re gone. We are like street-cats. Of course cats are solitary animals, they love to be alone, but we need to unite the cats in order to have something better.

    What have you seen on your visits to homes and restaurants?

    I learn a lot going inside houses, of course. When you are in the hall of a house you know exactly what kind of home it is. Life is totally different when you go to Morningside, Newington, that area. One of the things I find a little bit weird, is when I amn’t able to see anybody. At a house near the Meadows, in Morningside, a big terrace house that you have to go down a little path to get to, the deal was I that I had to leave the bag, and I don’t ring the bell, I just say that the order is complete, and I leave. It was a really huge house, and there was only one family there. It’s something I’ll remember all my life – the place I go sometimes, and I leave my bag, and go. This was before the contact free times. They leave a little tip, as if they are telling you ‘do your job and go away’.

    I’ve been in other houses where you have to go to the basement of the building, where the smell of damp is really tough, and the hall is a wreck. Sometimes these are close to the city centre. You find places that are really fucked in the city centre, in the Old Town. Sometimes I go to places like this and you have the light going on off, on off, like tutututuu, and you go out as fast as you can.

    As for the restaurants, sometimes the owners think they they are your boss, and you have to listen to ridiculious things. I remember once, two months ago, I was leaving a place in Fountainpark, and the manager was there, drinking something – I don’t know if it was with alcohol – and I was going out with the meal, and I’d been chatting for one minute with another rider who was coming. He was Spanish as well, and we were chatting for one minute, one minute, and then the boss came and said something like ‘Are you ok? Do you have the order? Yeah?’ It was really disgusting, the sensation. If I don’t have a manager, a boss, above me in Deliveroo, I’m not gonna have it here with you. Of course most of the people in the restaurants, the waiters and other staff, they are kind people.

    What are the big problems and how can we solve them?

    Mostly the problem sare not from the restaurant but from how the application works. It’s the time you have to wait for the order. They said the order is gonna be ready in 10 minutes. But then if it’s half an hour, and it’s gonna cost you. I feel the Deliveroo boss – it’s a machine. It’s an algorithm. When I am doing something wrong, I imagine my name appears in red in some screen, and someone, that is not my boss, they have to send me an email, or call me, or something. We are many people and they are a few. I am pretty sure that if you are doing well, they don’t know your name, they don’t know a thing. The people that are working there, managing the situation with the computer and a telephone, they of course have their own bosses who tell them what to do.

    If I’m angry I’m angry with the company, with the system, with the structure. I cannot be angry with the people who send me an email, I know that would be ridiculous. They are treating us like we are part of the machine, that’s all. We are doing our thing with the bike, that’s all. I know the system is unfair, and I know that we don’t really need a Deliveroo company. I know because this is the thing, this bag, and you have to get the order from this place to that place, and we don’t need anybody saying to us what we have to do, we can do that. We can maybe hire 10 people that work for the cooperative, working with computers, solving any problems, and they can do that work from home. We could do it, we could have a cooperative of 100 people in this city, we would manage it ok, and we can hire some technicians, we can have assembly control, we can have meetings, maybe two every year, or something, then we can be aware of the problems we have, and we can solve them in a better way, with a little time dedicated to it. I’m pretty sure that’s the solution. I am not annoyed with the people talking to me, I’m annoyed because I know that we don’t need the company.