Laura D. Field of Reflective Tapestry of Life – June 30, 2016
Our middle daughter was married a few weeks back, June 4th to be precise. One of the stresses that faced them prior to their wedding was who would take on the responsibility of their paper route, which was a supplemental income for them. They were having a very difficult time finding someone who could commit for two weeks. So, I started asking questions and silly me, said to her: “let me talk to your dad about it while you continue to find someone”.
Needless to say, a few more weeks go by, with only a few weeks left before their wedding and departure for their honeymoon, with no one desiring this paid job. My husband decided to go on a few runs with them to see if it was something he could handle. Overall, he said it didn’t seem that bad. Hmmm…
Let’s just say, I did not go on a trial run until two nights before the wedding, after we were committed for the long haul. David drove while I road shotgun. Generally, if I read in the car, I can become nauseated, so I generally keep that to a limit. Well, a paper route, at night, around winding, hilly, and unpaved roads, can make the passenger who is reading the route, passing papers, etc., get a wee bit ill. My daughter, who road with us that night was in hysterics. This is when she tells me that this is common for new drivers. NOW she tells me.
I made the best of the situation knowing that our commitment to help them meant a great deal to them, in allowing them to enjoy a relaxing two weeks on their cross-country honeymoon. By the time we got home that morning, my butt was sore, my body ached, and I was ready for bed with no interest to eat for hours.
Well, they got married and left, with us returning home after the wedding and turning in early. Oops…we are not used to going to bed by 8 pm. So, 1 am arrived before we were ready for the run, but just the same, we rose without complaint (the first morning).
As we took on this task to cover for them, our goal was to also serve their subscribers in a manner in which we ourselves would want to be served. What I personally learned through this experience was both interesting and enlightening. This job that many might construe as a less than valued job, actually miss out on the full spectrum of what these delivery people go through. Let me give you a little insight:
Our basic morning would require that we wake at 1 am every morning to shower in an effort to “wake up”, have a little protein to keep us going, and for my husband, a strong cup of coffee. By 2:15 we would arrive at the dock to pick up our papers and prepare for delivery:
- Verify the papers we needed for the day.
- Count a few of the bundles to make sure we had what was needed
- Learned quickly to grab extra papers due to daily shortages because not all bundles had the same number of papers.
- Review the daily log: New/Stopped services, Complaints/missed deliveries, compliments, etc.
- Determine where on the route the stops/starts were in order to appropriately deliver
- Organize bundles in order to deliver more effectively while on the road, as all papers had to be delivered by 6 am (7 am on Sundays).
- And on Sunday mornings, well, lets just say there is a balancing act of keeping the two sections of papers organized so that they don’t go all over the place.
We generally left the dock by 3 am, yet when the Boston paper arrived late, we could potentially be leaving anywhere between 3:15 – 3:30 am. There were some mornings, we had to leave without this paper in order to meet our delivery deadline. Upon our return home, despite the need to crash into bed and die, a call would be made to the office to inform them of our shortages, so that customer service could explain the issue to any customer who called in. In addition, I would ask for copies when ever possible so that we could deliver the next morning which would be in our box for pick-up.
Since my husband decided to help me with this coverage, we determined that he would be the driver and I would be the co-pilot in making sure we arrived at each destination with the appropriate paper. What my husband discovered about me was my intense administrative and organizational skills. I would not leave until I had the smaller subscriptions all tucked and folded and in their tote for easy access. I also made sure that the route was clearly labeled where the stops and starts were. On Fridays, the bills we were to hand out with the paper(s), were organized by how we drove the route. Once all those details were taken care of, we were off while I continued folding our main paper in preparation for delivery.
Upon arrival of our first delivery, about 1/2 of the local papers were folded, where as at this point I was handing my husband the required paper(s) for each stop, delivered some that were on my side of the road, and by the time the sun was rising, the folding was done. Very few route carriers have a partner to ease their task, so their job is compounded and many do not have the time to fold and tuck their papers. Obviously I am old-school, as this was the method to which papers were delivered when I was a young girl.
Despite the early hours and tedious task of making sure the variety of papers were delivered on time and correctly (we felt bad the days we were shorted in our bundles, making it impossible for all deliveries to be made), we learned a lot about this job.
First, it is exhausting waking at the wee hours of dawn to pick up bundles of 4-5 different publications, reviewing cancellations, starts, complaints (very few thank you), compliments (we really enjoyed those, as they made a great start to our day), along with any other adjustments required for that mornings delivery. And although it was difficult to wake at 1 am, we were happy to do this to provide the confidence our daughter and husband needed in order to enjoy their honeymoon.
Lessons we learned:
- NEVER EVER start a home improvement project while rising early to cover for a paper route. It leaves your body physically tired with you having less time to actually accomplish the goals you had set forth for that home improvement project.
- There is more to delivering a paper than what meets the eye: organization, memory skills, teamwork, commitment, following direction and a desire to serve. These are skills that are most sought after by employers but many employers are blinded by their preconceived notions of what a paper route carriers job entails.
- There are some roads in NH that are like riding a nature-made roller coaster ride with no harness to keep your body from becoming misaligned nor provide a place to become ill due to the nauseous feeling that overcomes you.
- There is no time, nor place to have a bathroom break, so be very careful on your liquid consumption.
What we gained: We already enjoy nature and the beautiful wildlife around us, yet on our journey to serve, we saw/heard deer, porcupines, skunks, coyotes, fox, bear, whippoorwills, woodcock, raccoon, possum, mice, frogs, turkeys, etc. We will not tell you where we saw the bear, but he/she was a gentle bear that simply watched us for a block as we delivered papers. Pretty amazing! Dogs barking, owls attacking, sprinklers showering (please think kindly of where you place these green grass growers, as a cold shower is not what we look forward to while delivering your paper). Delivery drivers get the first whiff of skunk perfume (so glad they did not greet us personally), birds building nests in the paper boxes making it difficult to properly place the paper in their box, and encounter bad road conditions. On the brighter side, one gets to hear the early morning music from the birds singing (whiperills are so cool), the sun rising (sometimes blinding). We also enjoyed early risers who were generous with smiles, waves and saying good morning.
It has now been a little over a week since we drove the route last, and I have to admit, a part of me misses the opportunity to challenge ourselves to improve our timing as well as meeting those we enjoyed saying good morning to. Yet, the reality quickly sets in and I am reminded as we continue our home improvement, that our bodies are simply not as young as they once were, with a limited amount of time in each day.
A route carrier must be organized and time conscious, with the ability to be confident and able to speak up for oneself (because often there is at least one paper that you are shorted on so you need to request for the extra’s you are missing and hopefully they have them), and must be able to change your routine daily without complaint. In addition, you can’t take it personally if someone calls in and complains for non-delivery, even when you know you delivered their paper. Who knows why this happens? Was it the guy out walking his dog that morning who decided they wanted to read the paper they did not subscribe to, or could it be the bear we saw that morning who kept a keen eye on us, or was their a huge wind current that sucked that paper from its tube and tossed it in some inconspicuous landing? The answer is unclear, but occasionally the call will arrive due to a missed delivery.
These are the key skills needed to do this job well:
- Time management – Being prompt, being aware of road blocks, properly adjusting your schedule with weather conditions (Rain requires bagging all your papers, Winter weather you deal with road conditions, bagging all papers, etc.)
- Teamwork – with the office and dock personnel as well as your partner if you are delivering as a team.
- Communication Skills – connecting with the office when shortages occur, and speaking clearly and kindly to the dock personnel when you need additional papers, etc. I always added a personal note to the deliveries that were missed, and although not necessary, it was something I know I would appreciate as a customer
- Reading comprehension – to understand directions and notes provided by the office, along with notes left by customers in their boxes
- Judgment and Decision Making – when you are short, making the decision as to avoid the same subscriber from being shorted, etc.
- Physical strength and coordination – to be able to bend, lift, from the dock and various corners of your vehicle in order to obtain the correct subscription for each location.
- Problem Solving – resolving delivery problems, or taking step to avoid them by acquiring extra papers when available
- Service Oriented – desire to treat your subscribers as you yourself would like to be serviced
- Attention to details – being aware of delivery changes and being able to adapt to these changes
- Commitment – a good source of transportation and a back-up, willing to keep your vehicle in good condition, with a focus on doing a job worth recognition by your subscribers. If the subscribers are happy, they will continue their subscriptions and sometimes provide the driver with a gratuity of appreciation.
The type of individuals who run these routes are retiree’s looking for a little extra spending money to make ends meet, single mom’s, moms and dads working opposite shifts to their spouse/partner, single dads and moms, those needing a second income to make ends meet, those who simply have not been fortunate to find full or part-time employment, etc. The list is endless, but one thing many forget, is that this job requires honest and hard working people who accept a job that does not come with any benefits. There is no vehicle or mileage allowance (albeit can be addressed during tax preparations), there are no health or retirement benefits, and there is no job waiting for them when they do not have a reliable back-up for illness, vacation or broken down vehicle.
If you are up and around when your delivery person comes by, sometime between 3 – 6 am (7 am on Sundays), be sure to wave. If they do not deliver your paper on time, and the weather is nasty out, take into account, that they are doing their best with the road conditions in which they are driving in.
The highlight of our service was the friendly folks who took time to wave and say good-morning, and the elderly lady who would wait by the door, so delighted she would actually be jumping with excitement when my husband brought her the paper. I would giggle in the RAV4 as I listened to her talk excitedly with him. And on our last day, a customer who came to our vehicle, while on his early morning walk, sharing with us how much he enjoyed our delivering to him.
Kudos’ to all the paper route delivery service people in our communities. You have a job that is sometimes under-appreciated, but less so now, by my husband and I who took on the task of wearing your shoes for two weeks.
Laura – Blogger, paid Freelance writer