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May 31, 2022

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The lifelines of food delivery endure a hectic existence

A video of Shanghai deliverymen spending nights under Wuning Road Bridge recently went viral, highlighting the difficulties of the city’s food-distribution network during the lockdown that began in late March.

Shanghai Daily talked with two deliverymen to find out how they were coping.

Xu Dawei spent four nights under Wuning Road Bridge until his employer, food delivery giant Meituan, lodged him in a hotel room.

The 22-year-old came to Shanghai last month from his hometown of Suqian in Jiangsu Province to work as a full-time deliveryman for Meituan.

“I didn’t expect to be in this situation so soon after arriving,” Xu said.

Xu began work with only his cellphone, charging equipment and pandemic prevention materials provided by the company.

“When I noticed some neighborhoods had cardboard boxes leftover from unloaded supplies, I thought I could use them as a mattress at night,” Xu said.

When he got off work at midnight on his first day, he had to find a place to sleep. He remembered passing Wuning Road Bridge earlier and found a niche there to curl up in.

“There were more buildings around there,” he said. “So I thought it might be warmer than other locations.”

Sleeping under the bridge on cardboard, with his arm a pillow, lasted for several days. On April 5, his manager booked him into a hotel.

“Seeing a tidy room and recalling the cardboard box I had slept on for four days, I wanted to both laugh and cry,” he said.

With so many deliverymen off the job, Xu has a heavy workload. He often delivers 150 takeout orders a day and frequently works until 1am.

“And contrary to rumors online,” he said, “we don’t make tens of thousands of yuan a day in income. I’ve been earning around 800 or 900 yuan (US$123-138) per day lately — the normal range for deliverymen.”

According to Xu, most of the orders are for food, but medicine is also in high demand.

“It frequently takes half an hour to stand in line to pick up medicine at the pharmacy,” he said.

Meituan said the company’s platform has 500 hotels, dormitories and other venues to accommodate deliverymen. All are vetted by authorities. For those unable to stay in a hotel, Meituan provides sleeping bags and tents.

Another deliveryman, Qu Rizhuo, who is in his 20s, hails from Shanxi Province and works for One of the first deliverymen to return to work after full lockdown, he has been staying in a Yangpu District hotel.

“Before we came to work, the manager had booked hotel rooms for us,” Qu explained. “The accommodation is good, but we find it hard to eat properly.”

Qu leaves the hotel at 7am and works until 11pm. Qu said he is exhausted by the end of each day and doesn’t have enough food for himself. He’s been surviving on instant noodles.

“I buy 12 boxes of instant noodles at the hotel for nearly 100 yuan,” he said. “There isn’t anything else that I can get there.”

Xu told Shanghai Daily that he has received meals from kind-hearted residents.

“A lady I used to deliver to has been buying me meals for days,” he explained. “She places an order in advance and tells me to pick it up.”


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