Ever wondered if it's worth it to deliver groceries or food?

Posted 3/23/22

We have all heard of a Jack of all trades, but Tonya Ford might be called a Jill of all trades.

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Ever wondered if it's worth it to deliver groceries or food?


OKEECHOBEE – We have all heard of a Jack of all trades, but Tonya Ford might be called a Jill of all trades. Giving up her full-time job at Home Depot after working there for 12 years was frightening for Ford, but she did it to help her mother, who was ill at the time. “I knew I needed something with more flexible hours so I could be there for my mom,” said Ford.

It worked out great though, because she had applied to be an Instacart shopper in July of 2020 but never heard back from the company. “When I applied, I was hoping to make it a part-time gig, nights and weekends when I wasn’t working at Home Depot.” She finally heard back from them in March of 2021 and began shopping for InstaCart. Before she knew it, she was also driving for Uber Eats, Door Dash and Walmart Point Pickup. She recently added a new one called Roadie which is for Home Depot pickups.

For some time, she was the only Uber driver in Okeechobee to pick up people. There were others who did Uber Eats but did not take passengers. After some uncomfortable rides with scary passengers, she stopped doing that part of Uber and stuck to deliveries only.

One of the things Ford knew she had to be careful about was keeping up with her taxes, so she wouldn’t be stuck with a huge bill later. She downloaded an app called Keeper Tax, and now, every day a bookkeeper contacts Ford to ask about her purchases the previous day. Ford has a debit and a credit card linked to the service, and the bookkeeper keeps track of everything for her. The cost of this service is $16 a month, and Ford thinks it is well worth it. She can even file her taxes for free through the service.

There have been some drawbacks with her new jobs. Of course, there were the scary passengers, but there was also the time Walmart tried to squeeze a giant television into her not so giant car. There are also those who do not tip and those who remove their tip after delivery.

“My motto is ‘No tip, no trip.’ It’s not just the money, but those are the people who are most likely to give you a bad rating.” She said if no one accepts an order, because the payment they will receive is too low, then it sits there for a while and the price goes up until someone takes it. Another problem is picking up from Walmart. There are times you sit there for an hour and a half waiting for the order to come out.

Ford and several other drivers said they prefer cash tips, because there is no possibility of any mix up.

Most of the time she can find the places she is supposed to go to by using a GPS. “Sometimes it tries to take me to the wrong place though. I have to pay attention.”

With gas prices so high, she has a policy of only taking trips that would pay her at least $2 a mile, and now with the prices going even higher, she is considering raising that. It’s not a hard and fast rule though. There are other things to take into consideration.

Generally, she leaves her house at about 7 a.m. to begin work. She turns her app on and waits near a popular location such as Dunkin Donuts. “I don’t like to stay idle, so I look at the apps and go with the one that has it going on that day.” Usually, she turns off the other apps while she is working one. “I don’t like to see what I missed.” If she needs to take time off to do something like take her mother to a doctor, she just turns off the apps. She does not have to ask anyone’s permission or tell anyone where she is. “It’s wonderful. I just do what I need to do.” Usually, her day ends when it starts to get dark. “I don’t see that well in the dark, so I might take an order if it was less than two miles, but usually, I don’t work at night.”

Each driver for each company has a score on the apps. It is based on things like how often the driver cancels, their star rating by customers. “It’s hard to stay a 5-star. Customers can be brutal. They may not like the way you look or might be in a bad mood that day, and there goes your rating.” She explained it makes a difference on the orders the app shows you and really affects your income.

Although she prefers to shop for only one client at a time, she has done up to three if necessary. “You have to be very careful not to mix them up.” She has some tricks to help with this. She might ask the bag boy to tie the bags closed for one order, leave another open and bag the third in paper bags.

Ford says she loves working for herself and is making two or three times what she made working at Home Depot full time. It worked out so well for her that her two daughters both quit their jobs and now drive for all the same companies. "It's a family business now," laughed Ford.

Door Dash, Instacart, Walmart Point Pickup, UBer Eats, Tonya Ford