Entitled ‘How To Be a Courier’ which is the catchiest title I could think of but basically it is an article on how to be serious and probably the least fun courier around, but I bring in quality pay cheques and I believe I have some tips that will be of use, and as I come to a courier close I want to talk about them.
I’ve had very little party in me for a couple of years. I have made endless decisions to get a good nights rest instead of staying out late because I am not strong enough to be Messlife and be on top of my messenger game. OR! it could be that my party style doesn’t match that of the Messlife, and I am mistaken to have any party power at all.
I have been couriering for something like 3 years, 2 in London and 1.5 in Sydney. Sydney being the city I was born and raised. Couriering is the biggest influencer in my life, even as I give it up to cycle around the world with my good ol BF, it will be years before I no longer define myself as a courier. It could be at a point now where I don’t know who I would be without the couriering heartbeats I now have. Perhaps that means it is the perfect point to stop for a while? Not knowing who you are without your occupation seems like a bad thing.
These are tips for the endless newbies that come through and also as a bit of perspective for older dudes and babes to show them how I do business.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask.
My greatest asset starting out was a boyfriend who couriered. I shadowed him for a week in London before starting, I lost his trail every second job but it was still invaluable. He’d send me a message to where he was heading next and I would try to track him down. It was a giant city sized game of hide and seek, I would see him in the distance swing around a corner and I would try to chase him down before he swung around the next one.
It taught me:
How he spoke on the radio
I played around on his data unit
Learnt a great number of the companies clients
It shortened my learning time by months. It also makes you look incredible in comparison to people who start without this.
If you don’t have a connection then try to make one, stop a courier or wait for them outside buildings, don’t take too much of their time but ask if you could have their email or tell them you will buy them a pint if it meant that you could ask them a few questions, or shadow them for a few days. I know I would say yes.
Sydney has a greater number then London of buildings where you can walk in the lobby and use the passenger lifts. Generally the bigger the building the more chance you have to use the loading bay, but not always.
I hate to see the new guys circling a building trying to find a loading bay for 15 minutes, just walk in to the building and ask! The security will either stop you at the entrance and tell you where to go or you’ll get to the receptionist who will tell you were to go. No shame in asking, you will only have to do it once, and soon you will be surprised at how many policies and procedures of buildings you know. You will love the efficient buildings and hate when a job pops up that is going to an inefficient one.
Its been 2 years since I couriered in London and it is embarrassing and disappointing how much I have forgotten of it. You truly think you could never forget and even a few months after you leave it starts falling away like autumn leaves from your memory. You feel like you’ve had this really strong connection with the city and it’s dispiriting to realise it was only feeble memory and not love.
So I would like to name a few buildings that were inefficient in London as examples but it seems I only have room enough in my brain for one city. If you are a London courier then feel free to remind me of those buildings on the Facebook page of jambi-jambi.
There are places with management who have small building syndrome and take joy in making it as inconvenient and degrading as possible for couriers. Sign in, squeeze through a narrow side door, feel your way through the dark concrete hallway to the very end, take the lift down the B3, walk down the darker and longer hallway, pass the rancid waste bins to the hulking security guard in his fluorescent office, sign out a lift pass in exchange for your keys, then use the regular, gleaming passenger lift to level 27.
The easiest thing is to be argumentative and frustrated but that will only take more time. Just be as efficient as possible in those situations and if you really hate it… be smarter! Charm the pants off the receptionist in the lobby, or the security guard. Even if it takes months to crack them, being a gracious guest to their building they’re more likely to help you skip a few procedures, they might even offer to take it up for you one day. Being banned from a building happens, I got banned from one in London, again I cant remember which one but the company I was working for thought it was funny and our bike fleet were all banned from a building here and there. It doesn’t matter in London really, the cities so big and dense you are less likely to visit the same buildings more often. In Sydney, the city is smaller and my company more corporate so it wouldn’t be tolerated.
2. Stay off your phone
I don’t use this rule. I am a avid phone user, but its the wrong thing to do. If you compare other professions and how unhelpful and time wasting being on Facebook would be for what they are doing, it’s the same for us. The time and place is when you are empty or perhaps when your controller tells you to stand by and wait for more. Even if you are looking at google maps to see where you are going next you do that shit in the lifts. Dont stand next to your bike looking for an address, if you are busy, organise where you are going and which jobs you are doing next in the lift. There is so much empty time during the day waiting for people to bring packages down that you have no excuse to stand by your bike looking at where you are heading next. This is more for new people though, once you know your rhythms and know how long things take you, there is definitely time to take pictures or write in your notebook or text back to your mum, but your efficiency is going to be very low for 6 months, you need to find your speed first. Also, don’t use google maps in the first place, get a paper map, you will learn quicker, and it is one last connection to paper that couriers have.
3. Dont be lazy
Dont let the laziness of other couriers determine how you work. You’ll see them sitting around waiting for jobs to burn, talking to people but they can do that because they are able to time things better. As a new person you have a limited time to prove to your controller your baseline efforts. You make your own pace and don’t judge it from other peoples. As time goes on you will understand time and constraints better. Laziness will eventually come, so ward it off for as long as you can.
Walk up escalators, run for that lift, charge up the hill rather then trying to find a way to avoid it. Push yourself to go harder and faster and make smarter decisions. It is easier to prove to your controller that you have motivation straight off the bat. A controller can tell the difference between someone being lazy and someone just on the wrong side of time. And what I mean by that is that just somedays Murphy’s Law is unavoidable. The lifts take ages stopping at all floors, or the lights are all wrong and what should be a 2 minute ride turns into a 15 minute infuriating stop and start. Those days are horrible but they don’t last and if you are still on form and trying to do your best it wont do anything to damage the reputation you’re trying to build.
4. Look after your mental state
This applies to every job, but specifically as a courier you need to make sure that the anger doesn’t take over. I started as a deliriously happy courier with all the politeness and patience in the world and quickly the injustices of traffic and being the best subject for the city to projectile vomit all the anger onto, I experienced the courier anger. The battle to remain above it all beginnings once the freshness of the job wears off. It’s not just because it will make you happier to be less negativity influenced by the downers, but you don’t want to be labeled as the angry courier, and you will be, by clients, by other couriers and by your office if you let the frustrations in.
If someone honks at you or yells at you on the street, you need to realise that that person is pissed off at life, and not you. If they were in a happy state of mind do you think they would spit poison? No, they wouldn’t feel the need to honk someone because they took too long turning. They wouldn’t feel the need to say in a undertone ‘ red light dickhead’ if they were feeling all flowers and honey. So the trick is to not take it personally, don’t think about what you should of said for the rest of the afternoon, because it will eat at you. The best way to get back at those unhappy people is to let it not faze you at all. Their life is clearly not going the way they want so they are trying to bring others down. It was a difficult lesson to learn for me, and if you are anything like me, it will take you time to find out how to manage it.
5. Know when to take time off.
This one gets swung around a lot. Or maybe it was a bit of advice I got early on and it just bounces around my head a lot. It’s hard to judge and it’s also hard to make the decision. Probably the main reason would be money, thinking you don’t have the money to have a day off to give your sore knee a rest. but if you don’t it always comes back to bite you. What could of been one day off to ice your knee will turn into 2 weeks off because you knee is just holding on by a thread. Every day we push and push through pain barrier and exhaustion and weather to just get to quitt’n time, it can be really hard to figure out where the line is to stop especially when the game is ‘who can be the best courier’.
My entire couriering career I have experienced peaks and valleys. When the valleys get deeper and harder then I know its time for a break. Go down to 4 days a week for a couple of months, or take a week off or a month and do something else. But if you want to stay on top of your courier game I figure it is a must. And also if you want to continue to love the job, take your well earned breaks.
If you keep going your game will become weak. You will slow down, you will find excuses to not do something, you will become unreliable and you will be too tired to socialise, and it will become harder and harder until you think that couriering is the devils job.
I’m all preached out. There seems like so much more to add. That these 5 points do not and can not encapsulate what I have learnt about city life and my own life over the past few years on the road, but that seems like it could fill a novel.
If you think you have some quality tips for being a good courier, which I know you do, head to the Facebook page and comment on the post there. Or if you have any questions on how to become one, do the same.