Getting to know the frontline: grocer Pete Davidson
Pete Davidson, of milk and groceries delivery service Pete’s Farm Run, talks to Jenni Davidson (no relation) about working on the frontline during a global pandemic.
Would milkman be a fair description of your job?
Well, it’s more than that. It’s a grocer as well. It’s really an ethical grocer, but that’s a bit pedantic, because it’s veg as well, and cheese and bread. So, it’s all the stuff that people actually need.
What is it like for you at the moment?
The number of emails I’ve got as is more than I can cope with, exponentially. It’s creaking all systems that I have, which is me doing the admin, me doing some of the deliveries. I can’t actually physically cope with the volume of requests. And you can’t manifest instant drivers, instant vans to increase the capacity, really. Anybody that delivers veg, organic veg boxes, most of them have switched off their new customers requests. So I’m unusual that I haven’t done that. I fit the odd person in. But it’s too much, it’s too much to wade through.
Are you working for a company or are you self-employed?
I’m self-employed. I’m a sole trader. So I just have a milk run that does a very small geographical area in Edinburgh, not the whole of Edinburgh. I’ve got two vans, one part time employee. But now I’ve had to change that to two other part-time employees as well to try and ease things and get it upscaling slightly.
So before coronavirus describe what would be a typical day at work for you?
Oh, a typical day at work would be, let’s say, picking up the stuff in the morning, correlating it all, making any tweaks to orders, people cancelling stuff, increasing it, and then delivering it or setting it up for my employee to deliver a van load of stuff in the afternoon. And doing a bit of admin in the evening.
And has the main difference just been the volume of orders or have there been other changes as well?
Oh no, it’s the volume of orders. Every customer has changed what they get, which is admin time, so a third more will go out in the van, it’s full, it’s chock a block, and then it takes maybe 20 minutes to add a [new] customer because you’ve got to set them up. These are recurring orders, rather than if it was an online pay now, buy a box, get it delivered the next day, which would actually work a lot better for this… With organic veg, it’s all ordered the week ahead for the next week. And it’s okay when it’s recurring because you can anticipate what’s happening. But when it’s exponential growth, you can’t do that… The other tricky thing is because it’s all reusable packaging – it’s bottles coming back, it’s bags coming back – that’s a thorny one now because it could contain the virus.
How do you feel about being labelled a key worker?
I don’t mind that because [laughs] it’s a change of status, you know. It is key work because it is supplying food and there’s lots of people that I’ve got who are isolated customers. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but it’s maybe 10 per cent of people are in isolation. I get requests from elderly people, which is heartbreaking when they’re stuck and they don’t have the capacity to go shopping.