The last mile

Great news! I got a new computer this week.

I know this is not a big deal to anyone in the world except me. But it got me thinking firsthand about supply chains.

What’s life like now for the people delivering, say, a MacBook on the last mile from the factory in China to my home in New Jersey, in the middle of a pandemic?

It's not that I don't know anyone who's worked for UPS or FedEx, but I don't know anyone doing so currently.

It turns out Ellie Austin of the Wall Street Journal ($) had similar questions. So she sat down with Andrew Mendoza, 30, a UPS delivery driver from Redland, California for a first hand look.

Here's what driving a UPS truck is like during the pandemic:

1. Lots of hours, lots of packages.

Normally this time of year, Mendoza says he delivers 160 packages a day; now it's more like 190 or more, over a 12 hour shift. (That's one every four minutes, all day long.)

"It’s tiring and all the lifting takes a toll on your body, but I know that people like nurses and firefighters work much longer," he said, adding later: "We’re delivering essential things—toilet paper, medicine, water. As long as I’m healthy, I want to continue to help people."

2. Safety and cleanliness.

Mendoza said he shows up to work an hour early so he has time to use disinfectant wipes all over the truck he's assigned for the day. Somehow, UPS managed to get its corporate hands on a lot of hand sanitizer too, he said.

"I was a germaphobe before the outbreak, so I’m very strict about keeping my space clean," he said. "I deliver to a couple of retirement homes, for example. Every day is a risk, but I’ve been lucky so far."

3. Personal comforts.

Interestingly, Mendoza has to take his own radio to work, rather than use one in the truck. He said he's partial to one made by Ryobi, the electric lawn mower company, which uses the kind of battery you'd normally use for a power drill.

His favorite packed lunch "sounds like the kind of thing a 5-year-old would eat," he joked, including “a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, chips and a Gatorade. I’m also trying to pay off debts, so making my own lunch helps financially.”

4. Straight to the washer.

Mendoza said he sees his wife only briefly to say hello when he gets in at the end of his shift, and then quickly puts his clothes in the washer and hops in the shower.

"We both know what I could be bringing home on my clothes," he said. "Only once I’m in a fresh outfit will I go and sit with my wife and our dogs."

5. Positive attitude.

I liked this quote that we’ll end with. It also made me feel a little bit better about ordering stuff online:

"It’s a scary time, but if I have the opportunity to bring light into somebody’s day by delivering something they’ve been waiting for or having an upbeat conversation with them on their doorstep, then that’s what I’m going to do."

7 other things worth your time

  • Seems related: FedEx workers say they're upset their employer isn't giving them masks, gloves, and disinfectant, as promised. (Vice)

  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House had a profit of $42 million on revenue of $468 million last year, and it got $20 million in forgivable loans from the Covid-19 aid program. It’s one of the first companies to publicly disclose its windfall. (Wall Street Journal, $)

  • Two House Democrats have introduced legislation that would give millions of Americans $2,000 per month each during the coronavirus pandemic. (CBS Local)

  • The official unemployment rate might vastly undercount how many Americans are out of work. Newly unemployed people who aren’t searching for jobs — either because they hope their old jobs will take them back or because they think there’s no point job-hunting in the middle of a pandemic—apparently won’t be counted in the stats. (Quartz)

  • You know what seems like a terrible investment these days? Scooter startups. “Ride sharing companies … mass transit and parking services have all seen precipitous declines in sales. Scooter sharing companies like Lime and Bird, which were booming, have suffered potentially fatal blows.” (New York Times, $)

  • Google (really, Alphabet) will “significantly” slow hiring for the rest of 2020. (Bloomberg)

  • The U.S. death toll is now past 30,000. About 11,000 of those deceased were in New York. (Axios)

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