What’s life like as a food delivery driver?

Grab Food and foodpanda are essential services for so many in Chiang Mai. Get to know one.

By | Fri 11 Dec 2020

Lime-green and hot-pink motorbike riders dart in and out of Chiang Mai’s busy traffic as they race to get their food-delivery orders filled. These drivers battle rain, heat, traffic and the Coronavirus so that you can get your burrito delivered to you on time. But, who are these brave souls who combat the elements to deliver us our munchies via motorbike? Citylife interviewed one of them to see exactly who’s under the helmet.

Wisarut ‘Tan’ Arund is a 23 year old Thai tour guide and interpreter recently turned GrabFood delivery driver. Dressed in boots, a green military jacket, sunglasses and headphones; he’s ready to ride. Tan has been driving his motorbike for GrabFood for about six months and has been loving the work.

“It’s a good job,” Tan said. “It’s better than working in another job because at other jobs I have to be on time. Working for Grab I can choose my own time. I like that.” Grab’s working hours are flexible unlike some other companies that require set delivery times. “foodpanda employees must ride every day,” he said about the competition, “If you don’t ride every day the company will kick you out. And also, I don’t like the uniform. I hate the pink. For Grab, you don’t have to wear a pink uniform.”

Tan rides for the lime-green delivery service GrabFood but other drivers who deliver for the equally popular ‘foodpanda’ sport hot-pink uniforms. GrabFood and foodpanda easily employ the most amount of food delivery drivers in the city but there’s about half-a-dozen other food delivery companies that operate in Thailand.

Tan says he drives over 100 kilometres (62 miles) in a single day, riding his motorbike through all sorts of weather and traffic. Tan said he can rake in quite a bit of money for his deliveries, too. He said, “I can make 500 baht a day or up to 1,000 a day if I ride on a rainy day. I can make more on a rainy day because many drivers don’t want to go outside.” When asked about riding in the rain and heat Tan said, “Never mind, wet is okay. And, for me, the heat is not a big deal. I’m not scared. It’s not a big deal. Everyone else does it and so can I.”

As for his gear, Tan has a great setup. His smartphone is an Android-powered Samsung that is fast and accurate. For his motorbike, he said, “I don’t like automatic motorbikes. They are hard to manage and not good for a long ride. I have a Honda Wave 110cc. It’s quick and easy to manage.” His Wave is cherry-red with a green Grab delivery box strapped to the back. The box is decorated with a few stickers and a handwritten pro-democracy slogan written in magic-marker.

A normal working day only costs Tan around 50 baht to fill up his Wave’s gas tank. ‘It’s so cheap, man,” he said. It’s conveniences like these that Tan enjoys most about the work, “It’s a good job. I plan to work for them for a long time,” he said.

But, making deliveries isn’t always so rosy for Tan.

“I love riding for Grab,” he said, “It’s easy, but sometimes I find some crazy customers.” Tan nervously laughed as he explained. “One time, I brought some food to a guy. He sent some texts to me saying ‘If you give me [a sexual favor] I will give you 500 baht.’ It’s nasty! He called me to his room and tried to have me. I just dropped the package and left. I had to report him to the company. I always find crazy customers after midnight.” While Tan said his crazy encounters with customers asking for extras are relatively infrequent, he understands dealing with the public during late hours comes with the territory.

When Tan isn’t battling the weather and dealing with higher maintenance customers he enjoys playing video games, attending pro-democracy protests and hanging out with his girlfriend. Tan reiterated his passion for flexibility as a delivery driver. “I want to get a house if I have enough money,” he said, “I really love this job.”

As for the issue of tipping, Tan said he doesn’t get that much. However, he said that when he does receive a tip he appreciated it very much; He just wished he got them more often.

According to the Thailand Development Research Institute, Tan is one of over 20 million motorcycles currently on the road in Thailand. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder Thais have started using their motorbikes to make income. Tan rides about five days a week and sticks to a pretty strict personal schedule. With a new girlfriend and a flexible work schedule, Tan feels confident about his future as a motorbike delivery man.

He just asks that customers don’t ask for anything extra.