Being a newspaper carrier has been a pretty eye-opening experience. I’d never thought much about the people who delivered the newspapers before – back when my mom took the newspaper the carriers were generally middle school and high school kids looking to earn a couple of bucks. There were a few adults who ran routes – usually they were “state routes1.” For the most part, you never saw the adult carriers at all. Our paper carriers were always the kids of people we knew.
Now it is completely different. You have to be an adult, you must have a valid driver’s license, you must have a reliable vehicle, and you must be able to prove that your vehicle is insured. You also have to be willing to work in any weather conditions, work on a deadline, and be willing to put up with a lot of crap in the meantime. Sometimes the papers come out late, but you’re still required to meet your deadline – unless specified when you pick up the papers. On Thanksgiving, I have to give every customer a newspaper, even if they don’t normally get one on Thursday and even if they are a business that isn’t open on Thanksgiving. I get exactly two days per year off – Christmas and New Year’s Day2.
I am out there in oppressive heat & humidity, down pouring rain, severe thunderstorms, blizzards, ice storms, freezing cold, sleet, you name it I have to deliver in it. I even have papers to deliver once a week in the blazing heat of a summer day. And being a paper carrier is expensive. Here is a list of things that I have to purchase for my paper routes that I do not receive any sort of reimbursement from the newspaper for:
- Rubber bands – $2.50 for a bag, I go through a bag a week.
- Polybags for rain/snow/wet conditions – $1.75 per strip, I need 3 strips for every 2 days it’s wet out.
- Gas – I have to fill up about every 4-5 days.
- Vehicle maintenance – Oil changes come far less than 3 months apart now – I put 20 miles a night on the car.
- Vehicle insurance that I am required to maintain at all times – This I have to have legally anyway, but I lose my route if they find out it lapsed, where I have to get caught by the police without insurance before it would affect me legally.
Take a guess at what I get for this? Go on, take a guess. I’ll wait here. Ok, I get $3.50 per customer per month maximum. That’s it. On Thanksgiving I delivered a total of 120 newspapers. Of those, 2 only take the paper 3 days a week and 6 only take the paper on Sunday3. So for the ones who only take the Sunday paper or take the paper 3 days a week, I don’t even get $3.50 for the month.
I make less than $400 per month from the customers I have between two routes. I’ve had my paycheck come in as low as $180 because of having to buy rubber bands and polybags. At least half of every paycheck goes right back into the gas tank. And let’s not forget that because the newspaper considers me to be self-employed, they don’t take any taxes out of my paychecks. That’s right – when it comes to the end of the year, I have to pay the IRS for every dime I’ve made as a paper carrier.
Of course, they say that at the end of the year, I’ll get a 1099 form, plus I’ll get an itemized list of everything I’ve purchased from them to do my route so I can take the amounts off my taxes. I can take the miles I’ve put on the car off my taxes, but I can’t take the price of the gas I put in the car off my taxes. But that’s an IRS thing and not the newspaper’s fault.
The life of a paper carrier is interesting to say the least – but it does have it’s perks. For a night owl like myself, the time of day is perfect. I rarely have to deal with other people4. And come Christmas time, many of my customers are fairly generous when it comes to Christmas gifts/tips5. Not that the Christmas tips/gifts are required, but they are nice because they show that my customers do notice me. One customer even mentioned they appreciated my doing my job because in winter, it’s rather difficult between snow, ice, and freezing cold temperatures!
I like my paper routes. I get really irritated with the paper itself when they make me have to rush to get my job done because the papers are late and I hate doing carrier collects6, but I like my routes. After all, it’s at least a little bit of money in my pocket and it’s a job I can do without having to talk to anyone.
- Out of town/rural area routes. ↩
- For our newspaper at least – it doesn’t publish a paper on Christmas or New Year’s Day. Some papers do, so some carriers don’t get those days off. ↩
- Remember, every customer gets a paper on Thanksgiving, regardless of what days they normally receive a paper ↩
- I’m anti-social at best, downright psychotic when having to deal with other humans at worst. ↩
- Strangely enough, it’s mostly the bigger route that has gifted/tipped me. I’ve received only 2 from the mobile home court route. ↩
- Where I have to go collect a check for the customer’s monthly subscription fee. ↩