Louis De Belle + Nicolò Ornaghi
Having food delivered to your home while lounging on your sofa is a consumption model imported from the US and now beginning to spread throughout Italy’s larger cities. While earlier incarnations of these platforms merely gathered the providers together in one place, delegating delivery service to workers hired by the various restauranteurs, the so-called new delivery involves whole logistical networks run by the platforms themselves. These networks are made up of people, delivery boys and girls equipped with a bike or scooter, who no longer work for the restaurants but rather for the platforms, in a streamlined business model which allows them to work on-demand, with their own equipment and a kit consisting of a jacket, phone holder, backpack and helmet, all provided by the company.
They work at piece rate (usually 3 euros per delivery) or on the basis of a fixed wage (5-6 euros net per hour, on average). There are bonuses for working during rush hour, designed as an incentive to speed up and get through as many orders as possible. Delivery people are assessed according to efficiency and monitored online via the platform. The delivery community consists of teenagers looking to supplement their allowance (anyone over the age of 16 can do the job), students working in their spare time, and many young immigrants. There are also more than a few middle-aged people who, finding themselves out of work in spite of their qualifications, end up donning a rider’s uniform. There are those who deliver only at the weekend, and others who work every day with shifts lasting as long as 12 hours. Whatever the case, it is the platform’s algorithm that handles timetables and dishes out the work.
The deliverers are easy to spot with their colourful uniforms, backpacks slung over their shoulders, and a knack for negotiating the cars, traffic, noise and mayhem of the city streets. They are kitted out with earbuds, gloves with holes cut for the thumb and forefinger to facilitate texting, inner tubes tied to their saddles, paniers, headbands, improvised baggage racks, and a whole host of portable chargers because if their phones die, it’s all over. The photographs, shot in Milan over the course of last winter, serve as a record of the existence these new workers lead in the city, depicting them on their breaks, in the stolen moments between one delivery and the next.