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Struggling delivery driver breaks down, asks customers to leave tips for service

Riley Elliot's TikTok video sparked discussion on tipping, poor wages, exploitative capitalism, and more. 

Image source: TikTok/@livefreestudios
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The Coronavirus pandemic has made the year difficult for everyone, but essential workers had to put their lives on the line repeatedly during the health and financial crisis. Many customers don't realize the gravity of the risk an essential worker takes for seemingly simple tasks such as delivering food. Not to mention that most of these jobs are mostly underpaid. Riley Elliot works as a Uber Eats driver, and has been risking his life to make ends meet, and deliver food for people. Elliot was at his wit's end after he wasn't tipped enough for a delivery in which he ended up shelling out $3 for parking. He took to TikTok, broke down in tears as he narrated the incident and pleaded with customers to tip essential workers like him during the financial crisis. It also brought to light the poor wages paid to gig workers, forcing them to take on multiple jobs to put a roof over their heads. 

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“Y’all, I wish people who order Uber Eats or DoorDash understood what it’s like to be a driver,” said Elliot, as he teared up in the video. “I just spent 45 minutes on a delivery, and had to pay $3 for parking to bring this person their food because there was no free parking. And they refuse to come out and meet me.” He ended up making no money on the delivery and having wasted 45 minutes on it. “They tipped me $1.50 and Uber paid me $2.50,” said Elliot as he fought back tears. “I gotta prove 3 times the rent for income in 2 weeks, and I can’t. And it doesn’t matter that I’m working multiple jobs, it doesn’t matter that I rarely sleep and can barely afford to feed myself.” Elliot said he was struggling to stay afloat. “I’m about to be homeless for the third time since May, and it’s all because people don’t tip their delivery drivers. Like, how hard is it to throw us 5 bucks?” said Elliot. The video went viral and sparked discussion on tipping, poor wages, exploitative capitalism, and more. 

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His emotional video moved a lot of people to make donations to his Venmo account listed in his TikTok profile bio. “I have been just totally blown away,” said Elliot, reported TODAY. “None of it was expected. I didn’t post the video expecting people to reach out or expecting money or handouts or anything.” He received close to $55,000 at the time. Not only did the money raised from the video alleviate his immediate problems, but it also enabled him to look for permanent housing options as opposed to renting an apartment. Having struggled to make ends meet, he decided to use just what was needed to him to stabilize and then gave the rest to other gig workers.

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In addition, the guy decided to use the rest of the money to help other people in need. “Right away, my initial response was, ‘Oh my god, we can help other people,'” said Elliot. “Once we reached the point where we were like, ‘OK, now we’ll definitely be able to get into a place, we don’t need all of this,’ I started literally just giving money away. We sent money to folks in Texas whose pipes had burst, we sent money to folks who needed medication, sent money to friends who were struggling. We spent about $15,000 that first day, just helping people out with their situations.” He also started a GoFundMe account to help other gig workers.

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While Elliot's video was about him venting about customers not tipping, he added that companies should be paying a livable wage to their employees. “I just wanna take back one thing I said in my video that blew up,” said Elliot in a follow-up video. “It’s not entirely the fault of people who don’t tip. It is absolutely the fault of these companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats who don’t pay their drivers very much.”

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