Get Paid for Your Commute Home? Crowdsourced Delivery and Mobile Payments Make it Possible.

March 5, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

A commute is a lot like a job itself, except not only do you not get paid but you also pay for the “privilege” since you have to buy your own gas and such. What if there were a way to turn that unpaid job into a paying one? New developments in mobile payments and crowdsourced delivery are making that possible by turning America’s legion of commuters into very, very part-time delivery people.

Roadie, one company who’s engaged in such practices, has managed to make some strange connections in the interim, yet connections that make a kind of sense. For instance, one Roadie arrangement features a ticket agent with Delta who delivers traveler’s misplaced bags, assuming they’re on the route said ticket agent would take anyway. The deliveries aren’t frequent—just once or twice a week, reports note—but it’s enough to get the ticket agent a little extra cash and improve Delta’s perception in the process.

Grocery stores and big retailers have also jumped in, turning to Roadie’s brand of “data science” to take advantage of employees’ otherwise unproductive commuting time to serve as delivery people. Roadie can even arrange for several staggered deliveries to the same address.

Sure, there will be some folks who don’t mind turning their drive home into another job, and for that, they should be compensated accordingly. But how long before feature creep sets in? How long before enterprising businesses look to make an extra buck and dragoon employees into doing the job? After all, a lot of job descriptions have that insidious little “and other duties as may be required from time to time” clause or its variant contained in them. In fact, the employees may not even get paid for that work at all, especially if you’re talking about salaried staff. And what happens to the positions of paid delivery staff or drone pilots when businesses can simply bully staff into making “one quick delivery on your way home”?

The idea isn’t inherently a bad one, but it’s one that can go very wrong very quickly. Are we looking at the start of a great new way to get goods where they need to be? Or the start of another stick in the eye of American workers?