So how did it go?
Did I reach that 200€ gross goal?
Early Morning in the Village
Blasting through my little village around 8:00 with Bolt gear on got a few curious looks. Sorry guys, no Bolt deliveries here. Next stop’s Tallinn. I’ve got black jeans on… The “corporate” side of me still wants to present professionally. One of my first little mistakes…
10:00 sees me arriving in Tallinn. Way too early for check-in, but the good people at Tribe Theory let me drop my bags off early. My phone and powerbank’s fully charged.
Day 1: First Order – Vapiano to Veerenni
Is this thing actually working? I keep rolling around like a creeper. I’m in the 3 areas the lads in the Telegram chatroom mentioned: Viru Gates, Solaris and Balti Jaama Turg.
Ping! It works. It’s my first delivery from Vapiano Solaris. I accept it immediately. Outside Solaris I lock my bicycle to a pole and enter Vapiano. The staff ask me for the customer’s name (visible on the app) and hand me the food. Everyone knows what they’re doing. Being in uniform makes it easier than I thought it would be.
On the app I mark the order as collected. It’s not until you’ve picked up the food that the customer’s address is visible. So you never really know how far you’ll be cycling. This is a little problematic as I’m in “moped mode”. It could be going anywhere.
Luckily, in this case – Vapiano Solaris to Veereeni is around 1.5 kilometres. A small challenge is finding the customer. There’s an office I need to locate and several floors to navigate… But it’s all over in a couple of minutes. It’s the easiest 6.50€ I’ve made in my life.
As soon as I’m heading back – another order comes through. I accept it, repeat the same process and then another order comes through, and another and then another. I’m getting into a good roll. I’m actually starting to count my orders and the money I’ve made after every order.
It’s really encouraging seeing the money build up (thank you to those of you who sent me encouraging messages! It really helped). But at one point my mileage is building up too. I’m starting to get tired.
I’ve been smashing it. Rushing from 1 job to another as quickly as I can. Sometimes I’m arriving before the food is ready… My front tyre had hit a bit of curb and the tube was bulging out side of the tyre (just a tiny bubble). I thought I’d just see how long it would last. Hopefully the blow-out won’t kill me. I needed the spare tube…
My phone’s battery has been drained several times. Thank god for the powerbank. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to do this job without one. EMTA, you reading this? Make powerbanks a tax deduction for couriers…
Suddenly it’s already past 14:00 and things are finally quieting down. I stop for lunch. I recharge.
Over “Lunch” I’m Rethinking The “Accept Everything” Strategy
Some of the banter in the Telegram chatroom is entertaining, some of it pretty useful too. Thanks to the other Bolt cyclists I learnt the “bicycle mode” was broken so I signed on as “motorcycle” (moped mode) instead. So I’ll give credit where due. However; A bit of advice I picked up will now be criticised – a lot of people are saying the way to get jobs is to “keep moving around so your location keeps getting updated“.
This advice is starting to seem a bit off. It’s wrong. Unfortunately there’s not much information available on the technical aspects behind Bolt‘s app to guide us. So we run on gossip… The app is after all still in the beta version. It’s all very new.
I decide to keep following the “just keep moving around” advice until I finish the day. I know if I’m going to reach my target I really need to get 100€ today. There’s no time to experiment with something new today.
The First Problem: “That Order’s Already Gone”
I ride to one restaurant, early and the staff tell me “oh that order’s already gone“. Huh? LOL. What do you mean? I’m early… The woman in the restaurant shows me a message in Russian (off Bolt‘s iPad). It’s something like: “Я не понимаю русский язык извините.”
I understood it’s a comment to the restaurant from the customer. Usually that comment field is reserved for things like “please make my food spicy” – but in this case the customer’s written something like “hey my friend also ordered too – put our orders together and deliver to us at the same address”.
No… That’s not how it works. But everyone’s actions were well intentioned I’m sure.
Bolt‘s pretty clear on when you call their support line. Basically only if there’s a problem with a live order. They tell me I did the right thing by calling and the restaurant shouldn’t have given my delivery to another rider. But in any case I still get paid. So actually it turned out in my favour. Later Bolt‘s team sent out a telegram reminder along the lines of not taking orders for other customers and to simply follow the app’s instructions.
Cool. Onto the next job, the next and the next…
Tourists are everywhere in Tallinn. You need to duck, dive and weave out of their way to get orders delivered on-time. It’s not always easy. When you ring your bell there’s no saying which way they’ll move – if at all. Sometimes they’re hilarious to watch though. I watched one guy run straight into a tram while looking the other direction. (Luckily he wasn’t hurt). I wonder if I’m as careless of my surroundings when I travel too… Probably! LOL.
It’s Getting Dark Outside
It’s getting dark outside and I’m getting tired. My Garmin GPS battery has now died after 9.5 hours / 70 kilometres. This map from Strava shows the areas I’ve been covering – it’s all over Tallinn… Here’s what most of my day looked like:
Still pressing on with the “just keep moving around ” advice and accepting jobs everywhere, anywhere I’m getting worried now because I’ve started to arrive a few minutes late now for pickups.
Of course I’m tired, it’s dark – but worse I’m riding all over the place. I’m frequently crossing through one side of Tallinn and back just to complete a single order. It’s the worst strategy ever…
The Second Problem: “Ohhh, I put the wrong address”
On this one particular order I’ve just ridden 3K to pickup. I then ride another 3K to the customer’s address outside Tallinn keskus – uphill when I get a call…
I was surprised that I could actually get calls from customers. I don’t like it. I’m on a damn bicycle. I’m navigating. It’s dark. The roads are full of potholes and things to avoid. Time’s of the essence – why am I speaking with customers on the job?
Anyway, while I’m outside her address she tells me on the phone “ohhh, I’m actually staying in the Old Town. Can I change my address?”. Huh!?
It’s almost 11 o’clock at night. I tell her I’ll check with Bolt. I confirm twice that Bolt will pay me for this extra delivery. They agree but later call me back to say they won’t pay me extra but I don’t have to deliver if I don’t want to. Their reason as I understood is it’s “only 3K”. From my point of view though it’s 9K. 3K for the pickup. 3K to the address and then another 3K to the new address.
I decide not to deliver to the new address. On any other day – perhaps with a little more energy I would have loved to have done a nice deed for someone. I was feeling too tired to do that extra riding. The cobblestones of Tallinn’s Old Town aren’t exactly fun.
Bolt said I could have the food and the customer would be refunded.
Finishing Day 1
The next order was my last. By luck it was back in Veerenni. I thought it was ominous to have received a job exactly where I started so I decided to finish it there. After dropping off I went offline and rode back to Tribe Theory for the night.
Remember that cancelled order? On my way back I donated the food to someone in need. It was the most “good deed” I could manage with the energy I had left. I felt I had to make something good out of it for karma’s sake.
Day 2: The App Update and A New Strategy
Feeling proud of yesterday’s effort, I started my day with a good breakfast and coffee at Vegan Inspiratsioon in the Old Town. I was still determined to make money but today I was not going to wreck myself over it.
Problem 3: The App Update “Bicycle Mode”
I was really pleased to read in the morning the “Bicycle Mode” problem had been fixed in the app update. I updated my Bolt Courier app and selected “Bicycle Mode”. I received 1 order from McDonalds Viru – it went easily and then, nothing. Almost 2 hours had past… What a waste of time (and money)!
Bicycle mode wasn’t work. Again. I posted a few messages about it to the Telegram chatroom and I also wrote to Bolt Support (it’s appropriate to write instead of calling for matters not related to live orders).
Brains Over Brawn
I changed my method of delivery to “moped” and began working under my new strategy. I received my first order in 4 minutes using “moped” mode.
My new strategy was simple. Hang out in the hipster areas like Baltijaama Turg, Telliskivi and Kalamaja. Stay in 1 spot. Sit down. Relax and don’t cycle to any “far away” restaurants for pickup.
It worked very well. I was frequently running in and out the same restaurants. I didn’t even need to ride anywhere to collect the orders. Simply walk in, pick up and ride. I never crossed the otherside of Tallinn once. I loved it!
I rejected all orders outside my immediate area. I feel it’s an effective and efficient way to work for both courier and customer. There’s plenty of us Bolt couriers online and looking for work. So the order for McDonalds Viru can go to another guy waiting on that side of town. I’ll take the Wrap ‘N Roll from Baltijaama Turg – thanks. Secondly, it causes no delay to the customer. The moment the food is ready it will be immediately collected. Brilliant!
The Easiest Delivery Ever
Day 1 was tough. Really tough. But day 2 was full of simpler jobs. I had halved my workload… One of the easiest deliveries was from Wrap ‘N Roll at Balti Jaama Turg to Kalamaja. Basically 4 blocks down the road.
I stopped outside a beautiful old wooden house, typical of the area and before I could dismount my bicycle a widow opened. The customer leaned out of the window and grabbed the food from me. It was the easiest order I’ve ever done. Life in the 21st centuary.
Day 2 was pretty much like this the entire day. I was actually enjoying myself now. From time to time I’d run into other Bolt couriers and we’d exchange a few words. There’s basically 3 types of Bolt couriers: Estonians, Russians and Foreigners. We all get along and everyone asks how much everyone’s making/made. The vibes were pretty fun. We even chat with those losers who ride for Wolt. Just kidding! They’re cool too… One guy from Wolt tried to race me to the kebab shop at Telliskivi. Just, no. LOL…
20/1, 13A/2: Street Numbers in Tallinn
Everyone knows about the Stallinst / Communist buildings. The hardest thing about delivering to some areas has to do with finding the apartments. Some of the buildings share the same number. As an example, you might get an address like “Building 20/3, Apartment 16 Kala Street”.
So you go to Kala Street and there’s Building 20. The next is 20/1, then 20/2 and then around the corner or behind one building is 20/3. Once you’ve found that building – you’ll notice it has several doors. Door 1 is for apartments 1-5, Door 2 is 6-12, Door 3 is for 13-16. You’ll need to use the door’s buzzer too. Usually, you just press the apartment numbers (no # or *). Some intercomms require you to press a “call” button. It’s not impossible. You get used to it.
An Early Day
I even had a good lunch break that day. I used the bathrooms frequently to keep myself looking as fresh as I could. So pleased with myself I didn’t even bother working the full day. I did about half a day and went back to Tribe Theory to just hang out and enjoy the Hostel I’d paid for. I was due to check out the following day so I thought seeing as my strategy was working so well – I’d just pick up the remaining euros to get to 200€, jump on the train and head home.
Problem 4: App Offline
It was a good idea I went home early. Later that night I saw in the Telegram chatroom several people complaining about not getting enough orders. The app went offline. Technical issues meant customers couldn’t place orders and couriers couldn’t make any deliveries. Bolt‘s team obviously got straight onto it. I was just lucky that this problem didn’t actually impact me.
Day 2.5: The Final Run
“Tere hommikust!”. It’s time to check out of Tribe Theory. I’m organised and ready to go ahead of time. I figure I’ll continue with my new strategy and I’ll just start even earlier (at 10:00 – not 11:00) so I can make it for the 14:00 train home.
Not so fast…
Problem 5: Flat Tyre
Of course it couldn’t go so smoothly. Damn it. I lost about an hour messing about with this dodgy rear tyre of mine and the flat tube inside it. While I fixed it I made small talk with a couple of guys from Tribe Theory. A lot of people were genuinely curious about how Bolt works and what kind of money’s involved.
With the new tube in – I made off to my favourite area to work and I continued with the same strategy as yesterday. My goal was to reach the final euros needed to get to 200€ and then just take the train home.
Improved New Strategy
For a while the strategy was working pretty well. I even started to learn my way back to the working area without Google Maps. One of the best things you can do is to learn the streets. Navigating without GPS is fast!
I noticed though I was stressing myself out by racing to orders whenever something was available so I started to “go offline” after each order until I was back in my working area. This meant I wouldn’t be compelled to race like a madman all the time. I’d work when I was damn ready.
A lot of orders out of Kalamaja, Telliskivi and Balti Jaama Turg went to the Põhja-Tallinn area. Easy enough but bloody terrible roads. Awful roads. And then…
Problem 6: Another Flat Tyre
While jumping on and off the different paths my rear tyre hit a large chunk of crappy soviet concrete. That cheap crumbly rubbish blew my tube out… AND I was en-route to making a delivery. Damn it!
I had a little luck on my side. I was about 300 metres from the customer. So I just walked my bicycle as quickly as I could to his apartment. I successfully made the delivery and I met another Bolt cyclist who was delivering to the same address. His spirits were high and he was looking fresh. I was feel feeling a little “deflated” as I didn’t have a spare tube… I guess I wouldn’t make that 200€ after all. At least I tried.
Walking back to Telliskivi that other Bolt cyclist zoomed past me. I guess he’s off to make money. Not like me… 😢
Failure? No way! I started this thing so I’ll damn well finish it. Seeing as I was in Telliskivi anyway, I dropped into my favourite bicycle shop – JOOKS Rattastuudio.
It was still early. I put a new tube AND a spare too. I noticed their coffee machine and thought why not? I hadn’t had my espresso yet. What kind of cyclist is that? With my new tube in, espresso down – I was off making money again.
The new strategy continued to work in my favour and the 200€ was achieved. I stopped in Balti Jaama Turg for a burger and sushi (hey, I’ve burnt enough calories. Don’t judge me) before heading for the train.
Problem 7: Remember that front tyre?
I couldn’t believe my luck. The front tube finally blew. So that’s 3 tubes used up over the entire experience. Luckily I wasn’t even on a job and I had a spare from JOOKS Rattastuudio. I fixed the new tube on the train headed home.
In the end – it was a success. I completed the 200€ challenge!
- Day 1: 29 August – 15 deliveries, 98.68€
- Day 2[half day]: 30 August – 9 deliveries, 59.13€
- Day 3[half day]: 31 August – 7 deliveries, 46.20€
- Total: 204.01€ (paid & received on Monday 2 September).
Attitude of Gratitude: Bolt
Firstly a huge thank you to the Bolt team for the gear and accepting me in. Bolt must work tirelessly around the clock to make Bolt Food happen. The app alone is basically online 10:00 – 23:00 so imagine the demands behind that… Then there’s restaurants too, who’ve received some basic training and equipment. There’s also a wonderful team behind support (phones) to keep things moving.
The money being invested into the launch is pretty significant. Consider these promotional / launch prices, bonus and figures. So a customer orders food (a wrap/kebab) for 8€ (example). 0€ delivery charge. The bicycle courier earns 6.50€. Basically, Bolt is basically giving away free food. Of course the wages and bonuses will change. These wages are specific to the launch period… We’ve all been informed but still it’s very generous. Thanks again!
2 Humble Suggestions for Bolt
- Bolt‘s T-shirts are T-shirts, not jersey’s. Take some inspiration from the guys behind Deliveroo and get us some cool cycling jerseys made.
- “Bicycle Mode”…
Pros, Cons, Tips, Tricks: Bolt Food in Tallinn
- If you want to try it sign up fast. Don’t wait.
- Don’t wear denim jeans like I did. It’s a stupid idea.
- Don’t “keep moving around”. Find your area.
- Reject unrealistic jobs. Pace yourself. Build yourself up.
- No. Your phone’s battery is not great.
- You need to get a powerbank.
- So get a powerbank.
- Spend money on your bicycle. It’s an investment.
- I recommend 28mm bicycle tyres.
- Go to JOOKS Rattastuudio.
- Always have a spare tubes.
- Carry a bike pump & a C02 cartridge for emergencies.
- Get a phone mount for your bicycle.
- Stay hydrated.
- Tallinn has no water-fountains. Drink or die.
- Get used to going up stairs to apartments.
- Nobody’s meeting you outside.
- Don’t expect tips.
- Bicycle Mode in app version UA.0.28?
- Pace yourself. Don’t race yourself.
- Go offline when tired.
- Follow the Telegram chat groups.
YouTube for Experience?
There’s also a lot of Youtubers out there you can watch to see what it’s like through their POV. A great way to experience things first hand.