Life of a Thuisbezorgd delivery person

‘It’s the same Subway again!’

First-year student of media studies Jano Černák (20) is one of the many students, most of whom are internationals, who sign up to the ‘orange army’: the Thuisbezorgd delivery people. UKrant followed him around for a day. ‘A four-hour bike ride really clears my mind.’
Text and photos by Zuzana Ľudviková
29 November om 16:29 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 30 November 2022
om 12:09 uur.
November 29 at 16:29 PM.
Last modified on November 30, 2022
at 12:09 PM.

The first order of the day takes Jano to the Subway in Paddepoel. He started working for Thuisbezorgd in October. They gave him one lesson with instructions and then sent him on his way. ‘The weather is often crazy, but what makes the job so chill is the freedom’, he says. There’s no boss keeping an eye on you, and all you have to do is go where the app’s algorithm sends you. 

The work of a delivery person involves just as much cycling as it does waiting. Jano walks up to the register to announce whose order he’s picking up, and then it’s just a matter of waiting until it’s done. If he’s lucky, the waiting time is just ten minutes, but it can be a lot longer during the dinner rush. 

Unlike many other delivery people, Jano doesn’t have his phone mounted on his handlebars: he plans his route beforehand and counts on his memory to take him to his destination. Sometimes, it fails him: ‘I have no idea where I am right now’, he says halfway through his first ride. Fortunately, he’s not that easily stressed out. ‘A four-hour bike ride really clears my mind’, he explains.  

Twenty minutes after he went to Subway, he delivers the order to the customer. He hits ‘delivered’ on his version of the app and immediately gets a notification for his next order. ‘Oh no, it’s the same Subway again’, he exclaims. 

Jano gets paid per hour, plus compensation for every kilometre he cycles. But that’s not enough to live off, so he also works as a bartender. He doesn’t want to be financially dependent on his parents. He’s got a busy week: two Thuisbezorgd shifts, three bartending shifts, as well as an exam, volleyball training, and a game. 

After Jano has delivered a pizza, Thuisbezorgd calls him: could he work over Christmas? Alas, he’s already bought his ticket back to Slovakia. ‘That’s what happens when you employ mostly internationals’, he says. If Thuisbezorgd hired more Dutch people, they might just be able to work on Christmas. ‘But they’d probably have to pay them more.’  

His next order comes up: Subway again. In the sandwich shop, he runs into a colleague he also saw the previous two times today. They laugh at how much Dutch people love their bread.  

The Thuisbezorgd orange army is a close-knit community, says Jano. ‘Everyone is really nice.’ Whenever they have to wait together, many of them have a chat, although some delivery people use that time to study. ‘I should probably bring my school notes here and be productive, too’, Jano says, smiling and embarrassed. He usually just looks at stuff on his phone, though.

The job takes Jano all over Groningen: today, he’s biked through parts of the city he’d never been before. He gets to go to the weirdest places: once, he delivered food straight to a dance floor. Another time, his customers were hanging out outside a weed shop. ‘And I’ve delivered to a creepy building on the edge of town with nobody to pick up the food. It was the perfect horror scene’, he grins.

At twenty past seven at night, after nine fulfilled orders and thirty-two kilometres of cycling, Jano is done. He delivers his last order and signs off from the app. Before cycling home through the rain, he checks out the tips he got today: ‘Not bad at all!’