Food courier apps need to curry more favors
Published: Sep 11, 2020 06:33 PM

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

To better relieve pressures put on food delivery couriers, Eleme, Alibaba's flagship takeaway-ordering app in China, announced on Wednesday measures to give couriers more time to deliver the orders. The announcement came a day after a controversial story published by the Chinese-language Portrait magazine which revealed how food delivery has become a highly dangerous job owing to tight delivery time limits — which are assigned by the algorithms of takeaway-ordering apps. Eleme said the new feature will add a button - "I am willing to wait five or 10 more minutes." - on the consumer's page after making payment. However, this new app might give couriers more time on the way, it will not change the algorithms that calculate the shortest duration needed to manage a delivery, nor the suggested route to the destination. It also overlooks actual route conditions including traffic flow and traffic lights. This is a move to duck the platforms' responsibilities to consumers. Companies like Eleme are obligated to protect the couriers, who are actually their employees. To address the problem and better protect all the couriers, the platforms should work with consumers to come up with a better evaluation system to ensure the rights of all three sides.