Much of the East Coast is about to get slammed by a nor’easter, with areas in and around Washington D.C. set to receive up to two feet or more of snow. Schools have been canceled, airports are functionally shut down, and even D.C.’s Metro is set to shutter for the weekend. But you’re hungry, and you’ve either got nothing on hand, or nothing you’ve got would hit the spot quite like some General Tso’s chicken. What do you do?
My first instinct is to suck it up. You don’t want to go out in that blizzard, so isn’t it a dick move to make a delivery guy go out in it? There’s nothing so pressing that it can’t wait another day to get into your belly, or, if you really can’t wait, just go get it yourself.
But here’s the thing: tips are how delivery guys make their living. Under federal regulations, they don’t have to be paid minimum wage, and aren’t. (By law, their employer is supposed to make up the difference if the tips don’t cover it, but you know your hole-in-the-wall pizza joint isn’t doing that.)
The ethical question then becomes: does a delivery guy, who’s at work and on call anyway, prefer to sit around being dry and warm but doing nothing and earning no money, or does he prefer to go out and get cold and wet and get paid?* I suspect the answer is different for each individual delivery person.
*This should go without saying, but if you do get delivery, tip like you’ve never tipped before. Fifty percent sounds like a good start.
The calculus on whether to order food will change based on a few variables. How close is the restaurant? If it’s just a few blocks, maybe it’s not so bad—but then again, if it’s just a few blocks, you can go get it yourself. Do the delivery guys drive, or ride a bike? A car is a warmer, drier place to be in a blizzard, but it’s also less safe. Do you really, really want that pad Thai? You can’t possibly want it that badly. Or maybe you can.
I throw the question out to you. Is it defensible to order delivery in a snowstorm? If so, how much should you tip? I’m genuinely eager to hear from former or current delivery guys on what their preferences were.