Confessions of a Paper Carrier

I’ve worked quite a few different entry-level jobs and now I’d like to share tips from my experiences.  The job I’m sharing today is paper carrier.

I work for less than minimum wage. – The paper hires me as an independent contractor.  This allows them to forgo hourly pay, minimum wage, benefits, and tax withholding.  They still report the wages, and I’m still responsible for taxes.  I’m paid by the paper delivered.  With dwindling subscription rates among newspapers, I can expect approximately $500 a month pre-tax for 28 hours of work per week. That doesn’t include the gas I spend.  I have to use my own car.

It isn’t my only job. – For the above reasons, Newspaper delivery is only supplemental income.  I have to work elsewhere.  My free time for the week is nil.

I get up early. – My day begins around 2 a.m.  The main pages of the paper are the last to arrive, usually between 2:30 – 3:00.  I then have to assemble every paper for my route plus three, one for me and two extras just in case.  The I bag the papers and load them into my personal vehicle.  I have until 6:30 Monday through Friday to complete delivery, 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday.  The extra weekend hour is due to the higher volume and increased page/section/ad count (this adds to build time).

I’m motivated. – The sooner I complete my route, the more time I have to eat/sleep before I go to my other job.

I pay close attention to the weather. – Not only does this tell me how to dress, but whether I’m going to double bag.  The cost of the bags is charged to the route, cutting into my already low pay.  I don’t want to waste them.  But if it’s wet out and I don’t double bag, that’ll hurt me in the long run with dissatisfied customers and possible loss of route.  Also…

I am not the postal service. – Yes, I’ll be out in nasty weather.  But if the hail is the size of a golf ball, or the streets are impassable, it isn’t worth it.  Also, it is a federal offense for me to put anything in your mailbox.  Do not request I put the paper there.  It isn’t happening.  Try getting either a mailbox with a paper slot or a dedicated paper box that can mount to the post.

I walk a lot. – I’m not allowed to just toss the paper onto your lawn.  I have to deliver to a box, a hook, a door, or some location that you specified.  I drive my car to one section of the street, deliver to a bunch of houses on my list (on foot), and then I drive to the next section.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

Your paper box may not be as obvious as you think. – Most are, but there is one on my route better hidden than some military bases.  When he sent a picture in with his complaint, and highlighted the slot, it was actually pretty helpful.

Complain calmly. – I’m just human.  I may be new or made a mistake, but the is NEVER any call to get nasty and cuss up a storm in your complaint.  You have a right to report poor service, but I do see a copy of your letter when the complaint is brought to me. I’ll correct the error regardless of language and getting abusive won’t help one lick.  This applies to dealing with more than paper carriers.

Coffee is my friend. – With my early hours, this is of no surprise.  You don’t have to tip me nor give me gifts, but I know some people still like to do so around holidays.  This is fine and very appreciated, but the gift I could use gift cards to the nearest convenience store/gas station for coffee.  Starbucks isn’t open at the beginning of my workday.  Sheetz and Speedway are.

I will not navigate an obstacle course. – I have a deadline to meet.  I will take the proper path to avoid trampling your lawn, unless that path is blocked.  Then I’ll get to your door by the easiest means available.  I am not as skinny as Pee Wee Herman, I do not enjoy getting scratched up by your hedges, and I will not deal with your pet tripping hazard (aka dog) while my arms are loaded.  I’m trying not to drop and ruin papers.

2 a.m. is creepy and dark. – I know you enjoy Halloween, but turn off the motion sensitive animatronics.  I don’t need startled 20 times every morning.  Also, ensure that you house number is easily seen at night.  It makes it easier to deliver papers in the wee hours of morning.  I can’t deliver to an address I can’t find.  And unlike your mail carrier, I operate in the dark.

I deliver more than one publication. – Sometimes a national publication, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, will have subscribers in your local area.  Other times, people in your area prefer to subscribe to the paper from one major city over.  In either case, they may not have enough subscribers in your area to warrant a local warehouse hub.  In this case, they will often contract with the local paper in your area to use their hub and carriers.  Then I will deliver their publication in addition to the one that originally hired me.


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