"There are no miracles, only hard work and dedication. You might be out of luck, but never lose the courage to keep going. Sweat is the scent of success." Jiang Xiaoxi recently posted that message on WeChat (a social-media app), and those words are a footnote to her growth. Jiang, 23, is a food-delivery driver and team leader of a food-delivery station managed by online service platform Meituan, in Shenzhen's Bao'an District, in South China's Guangdong Province. Jiang, the youngest team leader at Meituan in Shenzhen, leads more than 30 food-delivery drivers, who shuttle the streets and alleys of Shajing sub-district daily as they serve the local residents.
At 10:30 a.m. one day, during the 2023 Spring Festival holiday, Jiang received her first delivery order. It arrived via the Meituan app. She quickly planned her route, fastened her helmet strap, and began what would become a busy day on her e-bike. Many of Jiang's co-workers returned to their hometowns for family reunions, but Jiang chose to remain on duty during the holiday.
Ordinary, but Meaningful Job
In 2018, Jiang moved to Shenzhen, from her hometown, Shaoyang, in Central China's Hunan Province. A short time later, she became a food-delivery driver for Meituan. "As long as you work hard and adapt yourself well to the job, you can earn more than 10,000 yuan (US $1,428) a month," she says. With her mother in poor health and her brother still in school, she needed to earn money to help her father support the family.
She quickly realized, however, the job required more skills than just riding an e-bike. "An order might take you anywhere, and it takes a brave heart to explore every corner of the city," Jiang says.
Unpleasant things sometimes happen. Once, a customer wanted his takeaway to be delivered to his home, but he provided the wrong address, by mistake. Jiang learned of the situation only after she called the customer, after she had arrived at the wrong address. She offered to deliver the food to the customer's home, but she told him it would be 20 minutes late, as she had other — urgent — orders to complete. The customer did not appreciate her offer, and he demanded immediate delivery. Although feeling wronged, Jiang did her best to meet the customer's request.
Jiang has encountered all types of customers, but only heart-warming experiences remain fresh in her memory. "Those small acts of kindness let me know there are a lot of people out there who understand and appreciate our hard work. And that has encouraged me to keep working in this business," Jiang says.
One day, during heavy rain, the drivers could barely handle the orders flooding in, and one customer's order was suspended, without a driver accepting it. Jiang decided to brave the heavy rain, and she delivered the order to the door. Unfortunately, it had been delayed for a long time, and Jiang kept apologizing, as she thought the customer was angry. But the customer didn't complain; instead, the customer gave Jiang some milk and cookies. "At that moment, tears welled up in my eyes," Jiang recalls.
In 2019, during the Spring Festival holiday, a customer, who lived on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator, had ordered a lot of things. Jiang climbed the steps twice to deliver the items. Out of breath, she said "Happy New Year" to the customer and left. Soon, her phone lit up, and a message on the Meituan app indicated she received a bonus of 199 yuan (US $28) from the customer. It was a New Year's blessing for her, and a token of appreciation for her hard work. That gesture made her day.
At the beginning of 2022, Shenzhen was hit by a new outbreak of COVID-19, and many communities were locked down. Couriers and delivery drivers provided a vital service, by delivering food, medicine and other materials, to help locals get on with their lives. They also helped guarantee the city's normal operation.
Jiang didn't take a single day off; instead, she led her team in completing as many orders as they could. "Our efforts could not compare with those of the medical workers and other people fighting the epidemic on the front line, but we were happy to contribute," Jiang says.
Apart from takeaway from restaurants, people also order grains, edible oil, fruits and vegetables, and daily necessities. "A mother was in urgent need of a certain kind of infant milk powder. I was so worried her baby would suffer from hunger, so I searched store by store until I found it," Jiang recalls. The mother repeatedly thanked her, which made Jiang feel warm in her heart. "I want to do my best to help as many people as I could," she says.
Working as a food-delivery driver in Shenzhen has helped Jiang develop a strong will, and she has also formed a deep bond with the city and its people. "I want to do this job well, and to lead a better life here," Jiang says.
Secret to Excellence
As she works long hours outdoors, Jiang looks tanned and well-built, especially when compared with other girls her age. Her bright and sunny personality has gained her the nickname "Big Brother" among her colleagues.
Jiang, who is always full of energy, holds the record of making nearly 100 deliveries in a day. Also, she is ranked first among the delivery drivers in Shenzhen, in terms of the number of orders completed. Her colleagues are so impressed by Jiang that they affectionately refer to her as "Shajing Queen of Delivery."
Jiang is a living map in Shajing, as she knows almost every nook and cranny within her 10-kilometer delivery area. "If someone asks me for directions, my answer is better than navigation apps," she says.
If a driver wants to complete as many orders as possible, he or she needs to know the route. That, Jiang says, is an essential skill. Jiang can plan the route quicker, and complete more orders, than other drivers. In her spare time, Jiang wanders the streets and alleys, remembering house numbers and discovering hidden shortcuts, to help her plan the shortest delivery routes possible.
Food-delivery drivers connect merchants with their customers. A problem arising from either side can obstruct a driver's work. Jiang always tries her best to get along with both merchants and customers. "It is important to keep the communication pleasant and smooth, and to give each other more understanding. Don't make a fuss because you are in a hurry. I am acquainted with people working in nearby restaurants, because I often chat with them if I have time, and we look out for each other when necessary," Jiang says.
In 2021, Jiang became the team leader of Meituan's food-delivery station in Shajing. As a young woman, she felt the pressure to lead a team of men. Soon, she earned their respect, with her convincing work performance. She worked so hard that it seemed she was on the road all the time. "When we are still in bed, she has started to work. When we are taking breaks, she is still riding," says a colleague.
Jiang organizes a work meeting once a week, during which she conveys the latest policies and instructions, and she discusses the problems that occurred during the previous week, such as breaking the time limit on orders, bad reviews, and poor communications with customers. Jiang, who is confident and competent, has proven herself to be a good leader.
Many of the members of her team have worked with Jiang for years. "We admire her, despite her young age. She is a capable delivery driver, and a leader with integrity. She can lead us well," says a colleague. Jiang, however, is modest. "Everyone is nice to me because I am the youngest," she says.
Jiang uses much of her free time to study, so she can improve her skills. For example, she takes computer-training classes, and reads management-related books. She hopes to make enough money to start her own business.
Working as a food-delivery driver has changed Jiang's life. During her first year as a driver, Jiang paid off the debts her family ran up for her mother's medical treatments. During the second year, she built a house for her family in her hometown. She also met her Mr Right at work. They fell in love, and they plan to get married later this year. "What I admire most is her breezy personality and diligence. She is like the sun, bringing bright and cheery vibes to everyone around her," her finance says.
"The harder you work, the luckier you get. The city of Shenzhen is full of my youth. I hope I can build a better life, and realize my dream, in such a vibrant city," Jiang says.
Photos Supplied by Meituan
(Women of China English Monthly February 2023 issue)
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