Delivery men on motorbikes, known locally as “shippers,” are becoming more common in Vietnam.
Countless “shippers” snake their way through Ho Chi Minh City’s traffic every day to deliver goods to eagerly awaiting customers.
But as with most jobs, the delivery business is not a walk in the park.
At the end of his sophomore year, Phan Van Dao’s parents bought him a motorbike.
That was three years ago. Since then, Dao has spent his days receiving orders via cellphone and transferring goods to customers.
Every now and then, Dao’s work day stretches to 11:00 pm as he battles traffic and picks up late orders.
Though his work hours are spent driving through dusty streets on hot, sunny days and battling floods in the rain, the flexibility is just one of the reasons Dao has stuck with shipping.
Nguyen Hoang Hai is also a keen shipper.
“We make up to ten deliveries every day so we need to be constantly picking up and delivering goods until late at night. Sometimes we even have to leave unfinished meals to pick up delivery orders from customers. After driving around the city for a whole day, our faces are covered with dust. At least we can wash our faces. I can’t even imagine what is going to happen to our lungs,” Hai joked about his experience.
Like any other job, shipping is not always smooth sailing.
At times, Dao is in such a rush to deliver packages that he runs a red light and is stopped by the police, turning a VND15,000 (US$0.7) payday into a VND300,000 ($13) fine and complaints from angry customers about a lack of punctuality.
But racing against the clock is normal for a delivery driver. Certain parcels need to be delivered within two hours – barely enough time for the shipper to get to the warehouse, pick up the parcel, and make it to the customer.
Beating other shippers to accepting is another added stress of the job. A driver who takes his eyes off the app for just a few moments may miss the chance for a lucrative payday.
The riskiest part of the job, however, is delivering food.
Being in a hurry has led to several situations in which Dao let the food become too messy for the customer to accept the delivery. In those cases, he is forced to eat the food himself to keep it from going to waste.
Another challenge these delivery men face is traffic jams.
“Traffic jams are the scariest,” Dao says.
“I usually calculate just enough time [for the parcel to be delivered], but when I see a traffic jam I know I am in trouble. It is alright when the customers are easy-going, but some demanding customers refuse to pay for the goods and the delivery service. Even if they do, I am still marked in the system as ‘late.’ I receive a penalty if that occurs too often.”
On the other hand, being a shipper does have its perks.
“Working as a delivery man, I do not have to wait until the end of the month to be paid because I’m paid directly after delivering the goods. It is a really good feeling to have the money in my hands, but there are times I have to pay the price,” Dao says.
According to Hai, a hard worker can make a considerable monthly income in the shipping business. On the flip side, bigger paydays come with bigger competition.
“I didn’t accept delivery orders made late in the night or ones with low shipping fees and bigger deposits. However, these days I pick them all or else other shippers might take the offer. There are even freelance shippers who agree to lower prices,” Hai said about his job.