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An Afternoon in the Life of a BAEMIN Delivery Driver

Every few seconds, Phong’s thumb tapped his smartphone screen, waiting for the assignment that would send him racing across the city to cure someone’s mid-day cravings.

You’ve no doubt seen them; clad in bright, glacial-blue jackets: drivers for BAEMIN, Saigon’s newest food delivery service, are becoming increasingly prevalent. The service’s concept is simple: download the app, browse or search for your food or drink of choice, and in a matter of minutes a driver will show up at your door with your order. But Saigoneer was curious to see how it works behind the scenes from a driver’s perspective, so we reached out to BAEMIN, who connected us with Ngo Nhut Phong.

“A little rain is perfect,” Phong says while pointing up at the clouds gathering in the late-afternoon sky. “People don’t want to go out to get food if it’s raining, but a little rain is not so bad to drive in; that’s the best time to be working,” he shares. Almost on cue, his phone pings: “Oh, got one, a coffee shop just down the street.” And off we go for the first delivery of the day.

Phong, a 20-year old university student and Saigon native, explains that he delivers most mornings and afternoons, but if he has a test or a lot of assignments, he simply takes the day off. This flexibility makes it a great part-time job that provides some nice pocket money. During its ongoing launch and roll-out period, BAEMIN has been offering large discounts and promotions for customers, and these policies extend to improved driver pay. That is the reason why he and many of his friends choose to drive for them, as opposed to one of the city’s other delivery services.

“People sometimes bomb the order,” Phong says when asked why he is so adamant about calling each customer after he is assigned their order. The term refers to people that simply ghost on the delivery, leaving drivers stuck with unpaid-for food that they must bring to headquarters to be reimbursed for. By calling the customer before he goes to a restaurant, he can assure they truly intended to place the order and want it. This is a tip Phong learned from the informal network of BAEMIN drivers on social media that share experiences and advice, such as the best mechanics to use for bike repairs or delicious new food spots they’ve discovered through their work.

Our ride-along brought us to a family-run Japanese dotonbori joint, a ha cao street stall and plenty of coffee chains. Many of the coffee orders were for a single cup, and in one instance the call was placed from a storefront literally across the street from the popular beverage shop. We had expected to watch Phong juggle large food orders, but he reveals he fills most of his shifts ferrying milk tea and lattes relatively short distances to office workers too busy to step far beyond their front lobbies. He also says that he delivers a lot of street food and snacks to college students.

The size, cost or location of the order doesn’t make much difference to Phong. He earns a flat fee per order with a bonus for deliveries that surpass a certain distance. This helps ensure drivers accept each order equally and give them all the same level of care and attention. Moreover, BAEMIN’s strict licensing, approval, monitoring and discipline system keeps them all honest and hardworking.

With as simple an app and concept as BAEMIN, following Phong around for a few hours didn’t offer too many surprises, though we did get the inside scoop on a few tasty-looking food spots to check out. It was also refreshing to see how diligently Phong worked and how happy the customers were to see him promptly pull up. Of course, these drivers are out there weaving through traffic to earn a little extra money, but that human element is important too because after all, as Phong says, the food delivery app is there to make people's lives easier.