Yes, you can order delivery tonight—and here's the right way to do it

By Virginia K. Smith  | January 27, 2015 - 2:59PM

With the city's travel ban lifted and generalized blizzard panic behind us, we can turn our attention to more pressing urban issues. Namely: is it kosher to order delivery right now, or no?

Mayor de Blasio took the decision out of our hands last night with his decree that "a food delivery bicycle is not an emergency vehicle," but the storm also reopened the ongoing debate on whether it is or is not morally acceptable to order takeout when the weather's awful. Opinions differ, but the consensus seems to be: you can do it, but you have to be very polite. If you're snowed in and Seamless-ing today, here are a few etiquette guidelines to keep your karma intact:

Tip lots. This is the cardinal rule of cold-weather delivery: pony up a few extra bucks as a well-deserved thank you to the guy who just slogged through the slush with your sushi. (It's high time New Yorkers turned around their reputation as shoddy tippers, anyway.) So how much is enough? A GrubHub spokesperson told the New York Observer that 20 percent should do it, but another etiquette expert upped the ante, saying, "Be generous, double that tip." Over at Bedford + Bowery, Dumont Burger's manager suggested 30 percent as a fair rule of thumb. Use your own judgment, but keep in mind that now is the time to err on the side of generosity.

Tip in cash. Service workers of any kind always appreciate a cash tip, but as Gothamist points out, this is especially true for delivery workers, who work in an industry where "tip skimming" on the part of the restaurant is fairly common. Besides, a little extra cash on hand may help ease the pain of a long night spent biking in the snow.

Throw in extras. The Observer's etiquette expert also suggested offering your delivery person a warm cup of tea, cocoa, or coffee for the road. "They're cold, so just be extra courteous," she noted.

Don't get ambitious. When choosing your poison, try to stick with a restaurant reasonably close to home instead of something on the outer edges of your delivery zone. (The one time my technically-out-of-bounds local pizza place ever turned down my order was during the Polar Vortex, and in retrospect, they were right to do it.) Deliveries are slower when there's snow on the ground, and the time spent getting all the way to your apartment will mean fewer deliveries (and less cash) for your delivery person, in addition to the extra hassle. Besides, lots of restaurants shrink their delivery zones when the weather gets rough, so it's best to temper your expectations from the get-go.

Be patient. This seems like an obvious one, but it bears repeating: have a little patience if your noodles take 50 minutes to arrive instead of the computer-generated estimate of 35. Even if your food gets to you a little late, someone worked hard in freezing weather so that you can go a little longer without using your stove or leaving the house. Well worth the extra wait time, if you ask us.


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