For those who know me personally, they know that my husband and I have been newspaper carriers on and off for many years. The first bit was 1999-2002, The economy picked up, I got a nice car car, my now husband had a fairly decent car that didn’t need to be driven into the ground. We decided to leave that part of our life behind, We were tired of having a car payment and repair bill payment that were the same price every month. At one point we went the clunker route, We’d buy a car for about $500-$1000 which was equal to 2-3 months of car payments of our good car.
The reason why we would buy a route car, is because most of the time, the tires, brakes, and all other major components were in amazing shape, it was just ugly, and in most cases loud and wouldn’t pass emissions. We got around that by registering the cars outside of the Chicago-land area just so we didn’t have to be bothered with them. Quite honestly it wasn’t designed to be a nice car, just get the job done, and as soon as repairs exceeded the value of the car, or repairs were being done to often, we dumped the car.
It was an easy job, a nice long drive in the country every night, and it paid amazingly well! In those days, We were paid $0.17 cents per paper during Monday to Saturday, and then $0.27 cents a paper on Sunday, plus a gas allowance for putting on 130 miles on our cars every day, and gas was cheap, So that paycheck was a nice chunk of $600-$700 every week just for doing the route! Come in at 2:30 AM every day, be home in bed by 7:00 AM (or earlier depending on where your route ended in proximity to your home!) I loved it, I had turned 21 around that time, would go to the bars in Chicago, close them down with last call, still walk into work at a decent time and be done by dead line. The only downfall is you had a locked contract of 365 days, and the first $600 of your paychecks (this was broken up) was taken to secure a bond to guarantee you would preform your job duties in your contract. You were required to give a 30 day notice should you want terminate your contract early, or not renew your contract. The last thing that existed in those days was a $6.00 per customer complaint charge. Every time that customer picked up the phone to do anything other that give the paper money, or stop or restart a vacation we the carrier were charged. They could be calling to say I’m a great carrier, or calling to cancel because the sweet little old lady I was delivering to had passed away, and I would be charged! I would then have to file written disputes for each charge to get them put back onto my check. That was the Chicago Sun-Times way of doing business, and while the pay was amazing, the work environment sucked. The carriers were mostly professional, and due to the high pay, all drove nice cars that you’d never know they were paper carriers. Since we were all in a contract that locked our rate of pay, the Sun-Times decided to make us buy our own bags in order to cut our pay even more. These bags came out to 2 cents per paper pay cut, or 4 cents per paper on rainy or snowy days. Most of us went to rubber bands, or found outside vendors to order bags from.
After hitting a deer on one of my rural routes, I left the Sun-Times due to the way the district manager flipped out on me for having the balls to have a broken shoulder from the car wreck with the deer. I went down the block literally to the Chicago Tribune, and stayed there for almost a year.
I had a route, as did my husband and sister in law. The pay went down to 13 Cents during the week, and 18 cents on Sunday, but I consumed a lot less gas and never left the city in which the warehouse was located, plus, my route ended 5 blocks from my house, and my husbands route ended about a mile from the house. It took two of us to make the same salary I made by myself at the Sun-Times, but the expenses were a lot lower, and we came out so far ahead we purchased a brand new Ford Mustang Convertible for cash. The routes we were doing were considered temp routes, as we had not been assigned to a full route, and the carriers were out sick. These carriers suddenly felt 100 times better and able to work again the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in which we were allowed to place our yearly Christmas cards. My family was literally told on black Friday when we got our paychecks that it was our last check, which is why it was so big, because the carriers were coming back, just so they could do their own Christmas cards.
After dealing with all of the paper bullshit for far to many years, I decided enough was enough, took my bond money, a lot of my tax return money, and the funds my husband had earned doing modeling, and we both went to Toronto and stayed there for a while doing a bunch of cash jobs to survive. Gay Marriage had just become legal in Canada and we would always tell customs we were crossing to get married and spend our honey moon, and we were making multiple trips to meet with caterers, or florists; They never questioned anything else after that. As long as we crossed every couple weeks or so, Which we did no one really suspected anything.
We ended up with some newspaper routes in Canada, which even being an independent contractor, were paid very well. You had gas, per paper pay rate, and base salary every week you were paid, the routes were simple in Toronto, you pulled up in front of a high rise, unloaded how ever many bundles you needed on a fold-able dolly. and took them into the building. Get on the elevator, and walk each hallway dropping the papers at the front doors, or in the mail slots depending on the building and day. PLUS you had 1 day off as they had a weekend edition you picked up late Friday night around midnight, and did not have to have delivered until Sunday at 8:00 AM because it required assembly compared to the rest of the week. So when planned out correctly, you could do the route all night Saturday morning, and spend your Saturday nights at the night clubs which we did! I could shut my car off at every stop, go inside to a warm building and deliver 200 or more papers at once, getting paid an amazing rate per paper (50 cents per paper that the customer paid 65 cents to have delivered) Because the building were so hot, and I was hustling so much, I started wearing shorts and flip flops year round, it made me move faster outside, and stay cool inside the buildings.
But alas all good things come to an end, in 2004 my husband and I started fighting a lot due to him not having any friends in Toronto (Canadians don’t like stupid people, and well, he’s not gifted!) and we decided to come back to the US to work things out, 3 months later he moved to Denver, 3 months after that, my mother became very ill, and I went back to work on computers which is what I left to do newspapers because I hated working in offices and dealing with politics.
My husband returned to me in 2007, we were wed in 2009, and still fight like an angry old couple. In preparation for the wedding, we both had decent jobs at the time, but he had just gotten fired from waiting tables somewhere because of his rude attitude (something I still yell at him about nearly every day) and suggested picking up a newspaper route so that he could help earn the money for our upcoming wedding without putting the whole thing on credit cards (which happened anyway) Due to him being a pretty bad driver, we ended up having to pay a lot of money for insurance deductibles, car repairs, brakes, brakes and more tires than I ever want to count again! The pay scale now was 10 cents a paper, 7 days a week, on every single publication you delivered.
All operations had been merged with the Chicago Tribune. So if you live anywhere the Chicago Tribune delivers, it doesn’t matter which publication you subscribe to, it’s delivered by the same driver who’s making a measly 10 cents per paper, and will have $10 deducted from your paycheck for every customer complaints. Due to the TV show extreme couponers you will get a lot of customers who in this recession want extra Sunday papers. The longer we stayed carriers, the deeper we got sucked in this time around, Just when we’d finally start to have a good chunk of money saved, a car would die, get totaled, tickets from cops, which the fines are now five times what they were 10 years ago and would wipe out two whole paychecks. The paychecks averaged $250-$300 and to hit the high number, you did a lot of back breaking work, had helpers you hired out of pocket, and of course $5.00 a gallon gasoline. The only reason to do this, was the car payment became tax deductible, as well as cell phone bill, and a bunch of other things. You didn’t pay taxes, and if you were a student (we both are at this time) you got tons of money back with taxes, and didn’t pay a dime into the system.
But finally it all had to end. I quit on July 30th from my route at the warehouse I worked. My paychecks were $500-600 a week I worked from 1AM until 11AM every day, without time off. Not only did I deliver the papers, I redelivered them to customers who complained. On Fridays I had to deliver free magazines that none of the stores wanted, and most of the time were just thrown away. On Saturdays I had to stuff 2500 Chicago tribunes in preperation for delivery on Sunday, and then on Sunday, I paid someone out of pocket to help me stuff the main section and load my car, for two trips to deliver all those bastard papers. I was pulled over heading into work one morning by a police officer who likes to just run plates at stop lights and found out my license had been suspended due to a clerical error. This clerical error ended up costing me $400 which I didn’t have to get fixed because in Illinois, everyone fucks you in the ass (Which makes me wonder why more gay men don’t live here?) and was fixed within 2 weeks, but in the process of this all going on, I couldn’t think clearly, I knew that driving until it got cleared up was only a ticking time bomb, the only thought I could have was I was going to be stuck in this dead end job the rest of my life as I was fighting to get proper ADHD treatment so I could finish school and go on with a real successful career instead of being a paper boy. The thoughts were racing, I remember sitting on the train the whole way back home to the suburbs where my husband picked me up what would be the proper mixture of pills to die painlessly, what the proper speed and angles to jack knife my car to flip it and know I would die, or where I could find water access for my car to drive into. As soon as I got into the car I had him take me to the ER. After that I switched doctors, got the proper ADHD medication I needed. I could have asked for my job back, but in that time period, my husband totaled his car, the one we bought to replace it ended up being a fucking lemon, and is still parked in my driveway and not reliable enough to do anything other than run fast errands around town.
So he used my car to do his route, until 12/14/2012. The prior week my cars water pump went out, it’s a Subaru *NO* one had it in stock for a one day repair, which it was. It was ordered on a Sunday, shipped on Monday, arrived at the mechanic on Wednesday, and he was back to work Thursday. For those 3 days we were unable to do the route, he was charged $50 per day on the check he actually made for not showing up to do his job. So now the $300 repair ended up costing us $450.00 because of this. My husband flipped out, it costs $170 in gas every week just to do his route, plus $35.00 per week in car insurance. He is the only one working full time with a reliable schedule and as a result, we’ve been struggling every single day trying to figure out where the money to pay the bills will come from next. It’s been killing us. This final kick in the balls made it worthless to stay there. My old route is coming open as the driver who took my route is leaving December 29th I saw the route on Craigslist and I’m considering taking it just to help around the house and not feel like a failure.
So for the people who tipped at Christmas only $5.00 to their paper carrier, How much do you tip a pizza guy who comes to your house 7 days a week? Ad the tips up you cheapskate, anything less than $20 is an insult! Every “advice” or Miss Manners I’ve ever read said $15-$25 for a tip, but yet everyone in Bolingbrook, IL and Lemont, IL has done nothing but tip cheaply this holiday season! I understand the economy, but if you can afford the paper (I know how much you all pay for delivery, even with discounts) you can afford to tip at least $15-$25 for service, more if the carrier has to get out of their car!
And Remember, canceling your subscription over bad service, only takes 70 cents at most out of a carriers pocket! So go ahead and cancel, they’d rather lose the 36.00 a year from you gone, than risk you picking up the phone 4 times a year to complain about something and having their check docked $40.00