Not to burst any bubbles, ladies and gentlemen, but the sandwich runners, pizza boys, grocery truck drivers, and sundry other food delivery personnel of the world are not in it for the love. We do not bust ass, destroy our cars, and work with a culture-spanning selection of clueless co-workers because it is fun, for generally speaking it is not. We are in it for the Benjamins, the green, the cold, hard, tax-free bills that sit heavily folded in our pockets after every soul killing seven-to-twelve hour long shift. We are in it for the tips.

Which presents an important question for most anybody in the business: Where should I go for maximal gratuities? Hopefully this writeup will answer it for you, with knowledge from the more than four years of collective experience between myself and a few of my friends. Since that experience is limited to a small city/suburban environment (with a relatively large university, but I deliver during its off season too), that's all this will be able to entail. Inner-city, industrial or business sector, and small town delivery information is thus sorely lacking. Ideally, though, others will add on their own insight in writeups below, until we have all the coverage that one could need.

Low-end. These are the places to avoid whenever possible. If it's a choice of taking two orders on a run here versus one order on a run to a high-end area, chose the high-end delivery every time. Tips here are often non-existent, but may range up to one dollar. Hooray, a dollar! Only 399 more and I'll have rent...

  • On-campus apartments: Ugh, in any college town I guarantee these are every driver's absolute least favorite place to take deliveries. Admission requirements insure a healthy mix of foreign students and student-athletes, neither of whom are very well off with regard to money. Foreign students especially often have never been told how or when to tip, so they can hardly be blamed for simply not doing it. If you are into such things, one perk can be getting to see your favorite sports players up close and personal; the other day I held the door for the entire men's basketball team, campus heroes all.
  • Trailer parks: Believe it or not, trailer parks have a much worse reputation than they deserve, even among seasoned drivers who should know better. Although generally the tip is either nil or a very few cents, on about every forth or fifth delivery the recipient will be hugely generous, and tip three or four dollars. My pet theory is that these folks are trying to make up for the other residents, who they know can't afford to tip.
  • Low-income housing: Same rules as the trailer parks, only with fewer generous people and more crazy/dangerous ones. Try to only take deliveries here on your way to or from another delivery.
Mid-range. The meat of any delivery job is mid-range deliveries. Joe Six-pack and company love their fast food, especially when it comes right to their door. Fortunately they don't mind spending a little extra for good service, either.
  • Middle-class suburbia: Surprise, deliveries to this ubiquitous majority of any town make up the bulk of the mid-range. This works out in many ways; each tip is almost always average, the people are rarely rude or scary, and often you can take two or three deliveries to their part of town at once. Those deliverers who work for a grocery store deli or whatnot do even better here, since they usually deliver $30+ of food and the never-fail tip rate for them is 10%.
  • Apartments: Usually young, single or co-habitating people live in apartments, at least in small cities. They've probably worked vile minimum wage jobs too, and tip more than they can afford more often than not. Even though this is usually only two dollars, it's pretty good considering.
  • Dormitories: As with the rest of these college classifications, the people who inhabit dormitories are students, and thus poor. Saving dormitory residents from the low-end is the fact that on dorm deliveries you can take two or three deliveries in the same time it you would use to take one elsewhere. Even with the fifty cent tips, when multiplied by three and added to any mileage rate you're making, this can work out in your favor.
  • Fraternities and sororities: Not much to say here, fraternity deliveries usually pull in $2 or $3 and sorority sisters often tip a dollar or less, so it averages into the mid-range. Plus, it can be a fun, shallow thrill to deliver to a whole house full of people of whatever gender you're attracted to.
High-end. These are the deliveries that any driver should jump to take. They average is three or four dollars, and tips have virtually no ceiling. I've gotten 20% tips on fifty dollar orders, and a friend once got to "keep the change" from a twenty dollar bill for eleven dollars of sandwiches.
  • Upper-middle-class suburbia: Mmm, conspicuous consumption. Cars that cost more than small houses. Houses large enough to bowl in. These folks are the fruition of the American dream, and they often show it through their tips. Unless they made their money by being frugal, in which case the tip is closer to average. At any rate, due to their culture people in rich neighborhoods always tip at least a buck-fifty, which is the important part.
  • Businesses: Generally just a nice, above average tip. Sometimes a department or meeting will place a large order. In this case two things may happen; either a you get a juicy tip because the stipend comes from Somebody Else's Money, or b you get stiffed because one of the suits is paying for it on their own. As far as I can tell, knowing which a delivery will be is impossible, but the majority seem to be of type a.

Here's some big city places that order food:

  • Strip Clubs: Er, um, gentlemen's clubs. Usually a great tip. You may have to wait a few minutes if the customer has a customer of her own. Sometimes the doorman might cover the bill for her, and that's a good way of getting screwed out of most of your tip.

    The girls are usually very appreciative, and tip well. They are members of the service industry and often abide by the code, which means that you tip extra coz assholes don't.

    Not always the run come true, some of the nastier places the girls just "aren't making any money tonight" and stiff you, thinking that the sights are tip enough for you. Generally when that's their attitude, there's an obvious reason that they're not making bank.

    I have actually delivered vodka to a stripper at work. She requested that I take great pains to hide it from the bartender. Yikes.

    Generally, a preferred run.

  • Hotels: Again, the nicer the place, the nicer the tip. People may be sleeping, showering, smoking pot, entertaining hookers and tips are almost always mid-range and up, coz people who don't have money don't stay in hotels. If of course you get college students, well, they save up all year so that they can buy beer and bunk weed.

    What people staying in hotels don't realize is the extra effort that runners take to get the order to them. Yes, the elevator ride (or stairs!) and long hallways cost us time. If you can run 8 deliveries per hour under normal conditions, four hotels would be a stretch.

    Can be worthwhile, but don't miss a confirmed good run over it.

  • Office buildings: These are tricky situations. Not only do you have to do the elevator/hallway thing, as in a hotel, but your timing is crucial. Lots of people need to be fed during the lunch hour, and tempers can flare from the people on the low end of the corporate hierarchy.

    I've delivered to people on the verge of losing it from a 2-hour deviation from their regular feeding schedule. These customers are either completely appreciative of your existence or maniacally greedy.

    Of course, you can also get the occasional platinum card run. These are usually good, especially if it's a corporate lunch.

    (somewhat) OT: Now that I work in an office, I generally wind up tipping the driver even if I'm not getting food. I may want to someday. I've instructed my cow orkers on the what to do, but I'm having a hard time getting them past the "kill the courier, the food is wrong" impulse.

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