Ask The Salty Waitress: Should I Expect The Food-Delivery Person To Schlep Up My Stairs?

Dear Salty: After years of living in a rural area where food delivery doesn't exist, I'm finally back in a somewhat urban environment and can enjoy having foodstuffs brought right to my door. It's a life-changer. However...

There's one delivery place that won't actually bring the food right to my door. Instead, they call my cell when they roll up in front of my apartment building and demand—yes, demand—that I meet them out on the front steps to pick up my order.

Now, this is only a minor inconvenience. I play along because I'm able-bodied. It's just that I've never heard of this practice before and I think it's a bit presumptuous. What if I had a disability and couldn't easily leave my apartment? What if I were a single mother with children I can't leave unattended? You see what I'm getting at.

When I asked about it, the driver claimed that it's "a real time saver if people come out." I challenge that. At most, the driver is saving fewer than 30 seconds. I think they're just being lazy or they're on some weird power trip.

Another thing: In addition to a generous tip, I have to pay a separate delivery fee. But I feel like it's not a true delivery if I'm making part of the trip. Should I take a principled stand and request they bring the food all the way to my door?

Thanks,Stand (Still) and Deliver

Dear S(S)AD,

I see your dilemma: food delivery that's convenient but still not quite convenient enough. It's hard to tell from your letter if you're talking about a high-rise or a three-floor walkup. I'm just going to assume it's a walkup and your delivery person didn't want to schlep up three stories.

I have to say, I'm a bit surprised by that restaurant's attitude. I posed your question to a regular who's also a pizza delivery person. He insisted that he would walk right up those stairs to your door. "Service!" he said. "It's good for them, and it's good for me." (I made a mental note to be more attentive about his coffee refills.) But for him, walking up those stairs is a win-win: He might get a bigger tip by going the extra mile. He said that the only thing that might be a problem for him is probably also a problem for you as an new urban dweller: parking. I suspect that might be a major reason why Staying-Right-Here-On-The-Ground driver is reluctant to leave their delivery vehicles unattended, depending on what burg you happen to live in.

I also called my friend Christy, who lives in a sixth-floor Manhattan walkup, for her opinion. I visited her up there once, but only because she's a really good friend. She says she has no problem getting delivery people to come straight to her door, but that's it's probably a New York thing with so many elevator-less buildings. In all her years in that apartment (it does have a decent view, which I remember seeing briefly before passing out on her couch), "The only people I remember bitching about the stairs were the movers who moved me from Brooklyn to Manhattan. One of them took one look at the Jennifer sofa-bed and said 'That's not going to make it.'" The food delivery guys, however, are a-okay, probably because Christy always tips well.

So I don't know what's up with your reluctant restaurant. What I'd suggest is next time your order arrives and the phone rings, don't hem and haw, just say: "Go ahead and come on up, thank you very much." What's going to happen? Is the driver going to refuse and you two end up in a Mexican standoff? Don't make it sound like a request, say it like a statement. If he does come up, tip well—and maybe he'll get the hint.

And what happens if the delivery person makes some excuses and insists you come down? Let me pose a question: Is the food from this place really that great? If it is, then it's probably worth it for you to clomp down the stairs occasionally to pick up the food. Tell yourself it's good exercise, maybe? And yes, you still have to tip, as the service fee might not go back to the driver but to the restaurant itself, and they did drive to your place, after all. I know, if you're a legendary grudge holder like myself, that tip will probably stick in your craw every time. Maybe that delicious pad Thai will make you forget all about it.

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