Harry here. Our first guest post on Amazon Flex has turned out to be wildly popular so today, RSG contributor Jon Knope is here to give us the lowdown on his experience working with Amazon Flex and how it compares to their new restaurant delivery program.
There are a lot of on-demand companies to choose from these days, but Amazon is one that has been expanding rapidly. Their delivery arm is called Amazon Flex, and it’s always consisted of delivering packages/groceries in two-hour blocks. Recently, they’ve added restaurant delivery similar to services like DoorDash and Postmates.
Here’s the lowdown on what’s new, and what you can expect from the program going forward.
Glossary Of Terms
When Amazon Flex made its debut in September 2015, there was a lot of confusion surrounding the branding, so today we’re going to clear things up. Here’s a glossary of Amazon’s brand terminology to date:
- Amazon Prime: This is the customer-facing brand. An Amazon Prime account costs $99/year, or $10.99/month and it gives customers access to free 2 day delivery and same day delivery in certain areas. These packages are typically delivered by third party delivery partners though like Ontrac or Dynamex.
- Amazon Prime Now: As part of an Amazon Prime account, you also get access to Amazon Prime Now in certain areas. Prime Now gives you one and two-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items from Amazon and local stores. The items may be regular Amazon products, Amazon grocery items, or food from local restaurants and all of these items are typically delivered by Amazon Flex drivers.
- Amazon Flex: This is the driver-facing brand. When a driver applies to Amazon Flex, they’re applying for the opportunity to deliver Prime Now orders using their own car and smartphone.
- Amazon Restaurant Delivery (RSG’s unofficial name for this option): Flex drivers can now be assigned to restaurant delivery shifts where you pick up food from local restaurants and deliver it to customers. Online, you’ll sometimes see drivers referring to restaurant delivery shifts as “Amazon Hot Wheels,” although Amazon doesn’t use this term themselves.
The restaurant-delivery portion of the Amazon Flex program has escaped the brand-hammer so far, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For the purpose of this article, we’ll refer to it as Amazon Restaurant Delivery. But the option is still pretty new and Amazon has barely integrated the necessary features to support restaurant delivery into the Flex app itself. But it’s happening – and it pays. Restaurant delivery has come online in all of the following cities:
San Francisco Bay
Working For Amazon
Regular Amazon Flex shifts come in the form of two-hour blocks. You can set up your availability as you like; you can also sign up for and drop shifts ahead of time as needed. It’s worth noting that here in Atlanta, the Flex program has far more drivers than shifts, so getting hours can be pretty tough. If you’re stuck in the same boat, check out Navigating Amazon Flex by Jason Strauss – he explains how he was able to snag up to 40 hours a week working for Flex, even in area like mine with a ton of competition.
One hour before your scheduled block, the app will give you an address where you’ll need to be to begin your shift. If you’re doing a warehouse shift, this address will be one of your local Amazon warehouses.
Once you get to the warehouse, you’ll see signage for the delivery waiting area. There will be chairs set up, and occasionally they’ll have a few snacks available – an excellent perk! Orders are distributed on a first-in, first-out system, so you may be waiting for 15-20 minutes if there are already a lot of drivers waiting for orders.
The warehouse folks will put an assortment of packages and/or grocery items from the warehouse onto a rolling cart. When you get your cart, you’ll scan each package’s barcode using your smartphone. Once you’ve scanned everything, take the cart out to your vehicle and load up. The app will give you directions to your first drop-off, and you’ll be on your way.
If you’re doing a restaurant delivery shift, the address you’ll be given prior to your block’s start time won’t be an Amazon warehouse. Instead, the app will send you to an intersection, or some other arbitrary waiting point. If you’re on restaurant delivery, you’ll hang out in the area on standby until someone orders something from a nearby restaurant.
When Amazon first started testing restaurant delivery, they didn’t do a very good job of communicating the change – nor did they do anything to update the verbiage in the app itself. When arriving at a waiting zone for a restaurant delivery block, the app itself still says something to the effect of, “You’ve reached the warehouse, tap here to start scanning packages.” But on a restaurant shift, there’s no scanning, and no warehouse! As you can imagine, there were many drivers (myself included) who arrived at their first restaurant delivery shift very confused as to where this non-existent Amazon warehouse could be located.
Once I got going on restaurant delivery shifts, I found it’s a lot like any other app-based delivery work. The app will tell you to head to a restaurant, and give you an address. When you arrive, you’ll find an itemized list of what the customer has ordered. You confirm the items, and the app will provide the address of the customer. You’ll drive the food to them, hand it off, and tap some buttons to confirm a successful delivery. Pretty standard stuff.
As a long-time deliverer of things, however, I did notice some differences between Flex and its competitors.
The Pay Rate
This is the big one: Flex pays well. Amazon Flex drivers make a flat rate of $18/hour – or $36 for each two-hour block. Not only that, but Amazon Prime Now customers have 24 hours to add a tip using their credit card once you’ve finished their delivery – no matter what type of order it was (products, groceries, or restaurant food) and drivers keep 100% of their tips.
When delivering products and groceries from the warehouse, the runs can be quite lengthy – a typical run might involve a 45-minute drive way out into the suburbs, dropping off at a couple houses, and then 45 minutes back into the city. If you get stiffed on tips, that can work out to a pay rate as low as $0.55/mile or less.
Since you will be putting lots of miles on your vehicle, you’ll want to make sure you’re tracking your expenses carefully, so you can come out on top and save money at tax time. We recommend checking out Intuit Quickbooks Self-Employed, which will help you keep all of your income and expenses logged and categorized. It will also track your mileage automatically so you can deduct that at the end of the year
Delivering from restaurants is a whole different ballgame (although you’ll still want to track your expenses). Because restaurant food is more time-sensitive, the delivery radius is smaller – so that same $18/hour will work out to a much higher per-mile rate. Sometimes, no one orders food for an hour and a half, and you just get paid to hang out in your car (or nearby library). Last but not least, people who order food online are more accustomed to tipping – so you can always expect some extra cash on those restaurant delivery blocks.
Since Amazon Flex is still in its infancy compared to other delivery apps, there are a few flaws you’ll need to work around in order to make the most of this gig. Most importantly, the app contains no address links. Instead, you’ll need to A) use Amazon’s navigation app, or B) manually copy the address into Google Maps or Waze. As for option A, I’m here to tell you: It’s not very good. The routes are occasionally flat-out wrong, and often inefficient. As for option B, it works fine – but it’s a bit of a hassle.
Amazon’s poor navigation app causes other problems, too. In order to confirm you’ve dropped off an order, your phone’s GPS coordinates must match the GPS coordinates of the customer’s address. But when the app does a poor job of matching the customer’s address with GPS coordinates, you may find yourself stuck. When you get to the actual location, you won’t be able to confirm the drop-off, because the app incorrectly believes that you haven’t arrived yet. You can either make an extra trip to the imaginary destination just to advance to your next delivery, or sit on hold with support while you wait for them to bump you onto the next screen.
For a company as large and profitable as Amazon, I think they’ve got some work to do to get their app on par with some of their competitors – but with their ever-expanding lineup of deliverables, it’s understandable why the team behind Amazon Flex might be stretched a little thin.
Expansion of services is great news for drivers hungry for more shifts – and at a guaranteed $36 per block I, for one, am more than happy to put up with a few hassles while they work out the kinks. Flex offers one of the highest guaranteed pay rates in the delivery industry, so for that reason alone, they’re definitely worth checking out.
Don’t forget: For more on how to make the most out of the Amazon Flex program, I highly recommend checking out Navigating Amazon Flex by Jason Strauss. It’s full of great tips – not only on how to snag shifts, but also how to navigate efficiently, optimize your car for delivery, and more. Check it out here!
Drivers, what do you think about working for Amazon Flex? Have you done a shift yet with their new restaurant delivery program?
-Jon @ RSG