All posts by agbrown1@gmail.com

How to Get a Brazilian Tourist Visa as a U.S. Citizen

Simple answer.  Go here: LINK and Find your local consulate: LINK

Not Brazil.  But the Brazilian Consulate is somewhere in there.
Not Brazil. But the SF Brazilian Consulate is somewhere in there.

As US citizen you’ll be required to have a visa before you go to Brazil. It is a bit of a complicated process and I will share some tips of mine to obtain a Brazilian tourist visa as I am planning a trip to Brazil later this year and just got my passport returned with my Visa processed!!

Visa Agency

You can use an agency to process for visa for you, however I did mine myself since I am cheap and wanted to save money and waste time.  If you are in a hurry an agency can save you some time and hassle.

The Self Submission

Brazil makes it a bit of a bureaucratic pain in the ass to get the visa for American citizens why? Because America makes it difficult for Brazilians to visit the USA. Therefore, you have to have your Visa already in hand before you jump on the plane to Brazil.  No magical stamp as soon as you arrive.  Some advanced planning is needed.

However, if you get everything in order the process is rather painless but just takes times.

Plan way in advance.

As the Brazilian consulate website even says: “You may find it difficult to get an appointment with less than one month in advance.”

The visa is good for ten years ( at least mine is) so even if you don’t have a trip booked, you can go to the consulate and get your visa prepared. (see note 7 below)

I live in the San Francisco Consulate area and you have to go in person to apply. You cannot apply by mail with the San Francisco Consulate (other areas I do not have experience with)

What you need:

  1. An APPOINTMENT. For the San Francisco Consulate go here: LINK.  Click on the Visa Appointment on the left under select service.  PRINT YOUR CONFIRMATION PAGE.  You have to have your visa appointment confirmation page to get through the door at the consulate
  2. Fill out the VISA APPLICATOIN on line (within 30 days of your appointment) LINKClick through to the visa request section. Fill it out and PRINT THE FINAL PAGE.  Fairly given, but make sure you bring it
  3. $160 MONEY ORDER form the US POST OFFICE. Pain in the ass, but you have to go to the post office to get a money order, while you are there get:
  4. EXPRESS MAIL RETURN STAMP AND ENVELOPE. This way you will not have to go back to the consulate to pick up your processed passport. (see this LINK for details)
  5. PASSPORT PHOTO. I went to CVS and got one for $11.99. Costco has them for five bucks if you have a membership there.
  6. TRAVEL ITINERARY. I had a trip booked, so I used that, but I have heard you can book a refundable trip and use that if you are getting your visa well in advance.
  7. RESIDENCY INFORMATION. You are supposed to have a copy of your id or copies of utility bills to prove you live in the jurisdiction of the consulate. I had mine ready, but was not asked for it.

 

Make it Happen!
Make it Happen!

 

My Experience:

Bring all your stuff and get to the consulate on your appointed day and you’ll be set.  Once you are at the embassy, get there a bit earlier than your appointment. As it some good old government agency hurry up and wait.

A Monday morning appointment was probably not the best.  I was 20 minuntes early for my appointment and still the 10th person in line!  One one family came prepared for the bureaucracy and brought playing cards to use and play games with while they were in line.

Of the 8 out of the remaining 10 people in line, including myself, were all using our phones. One was actually reading a real book. The horrors!!  2 samsungs and 6 iPhones for those counting.  2 more people showed up after 10 mins wait.  Now with 9 minutes to go, there were are over 20 people waiting. Felt like being in line on black Friday to get all the deals! Tear down that door!!

There was quite a bit of conversation now. And people are much more friendly in line than any other line I have been in. Because of the family and kids?  Maybe. Because it is Brazil? Probably. Like a shipwrecked passengers we are trying to make a common connection to pass the time and survive our waiting situation.

Everyone excited to learn and share stories. One group in front of me exchanged phone numbers to meet in rio and get a personalized tour! Well done!

Two minutes!!  Everyone up!!  No more sitting down.

Ok. The line is moving! It’s 9 am!! One security guard. No metal detectors like the USA process. It’s a bit like the dmv!  Grab a slip and take a seat.  Again. However it is a much cleaner and brighter DMV. Green and blue. Bright Green and Blue

My number V 102. Two visa appointments in front of me. 100 and 101 before me.

7 minutes after 9 and I am next for visas.

912 and I am done. 7 business days I am informed. I hand him my USPS Express mail envelope and we are set!

An added touch to the visit? The bathroom is nice and I am the first one to use it this morning and it is fairly clean.  Has fogged up glass to allow light in.  Red stall doors. Haven’t ever seen that. The Brazilians must like the use of hard colors. Nice tile floor too with flower patterns.

The Colors of the SF Brazilian Consulate
The Colors of the SF Brazilian Consulate

Time to get home.   Waiting for my Uber. What a great coincidence he is wearing a Brazilian soccer jacket!!

“Are you from Brazil?!!” I eagerly ask
“Yes.” is the immediate dry response.
“I was just at the consulate!! I am going to Brazil soon!” I exclaim.
After he realized my excitement of a five year child for his home country, he opened up a bit and we had a great chat.

His tips / takeaways:
“You’re gonna love it you’ll see, Brazil is not like the media portrays it.” “Use common sense. Use cards no cash keep you’re phone in you’re front pocket and you’ll be fine. “

“You’re gonna love the girls in rio, man with their small bikinis!”
“Watch out you’re gonna get fat. The food is great. Bug pieces of meat. Fresh orange juice. You won’t want to come back to the USA!”

Five days later, the final product came in the mail;

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A  wonderful picture don’t you think?

Well, dear reader, if you made it this far, Thank You.  I will let you know how my trip goes when I come back!

Bon Voyage.  Or however it is said in Portuguese.
Bon Voyage. Or however it is said in Portuguese!

What is the best thrift store in Orange County?

Beach Cities.

Beach Cities.

 

Short Answer:
The assistance league.

Long Answer:
I love thrift stores. Like young Jim Hawkin’s in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I am on a treasure hunt whenever I go shopping at a thrift sore. However with a thrift store you won’t find too much booty or gold. Just old clothes and housewares. But, there is still some great finds to be found at any thrift store and if you want to maximize your hunt for the best deal and selection, you need to maximize your time. That is where the assistance League comes in with their great shops.

Better than Goodwill stores is the Assistance League Stores. Goodwill is great, but I think that the Assistance league takes it up a step with their friendly old lady volunteers running the shops. Also the quality and options tend to be a bit better.On the lookout for deal!

On the lookout for deal!

What exactly is the Assistance League (A.L.)?
“Assistance League, a national organization was founded in Los Angeles in 1935, is a nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonsectarian charitable organization. Each member of Assistance League is a volunteer, committed to their community and the collective goal of bettering it.”

Sounds pretty good. So every time you shop there, you are helping out the community.

I have visited both the Assistance League’s Irvine Store and Laguna Beach store. Both are great, however the Laguna beach store is bigger and has a better selection. The Irvine location is a bit harder to find since they moved locations to their relatively new location off Alton. But both have good stuff. Plus the last time I was in the Irvine store, everything was half off! What a deal!

Pros
Locations
No matter where you live in O.C the Assistance likely has a store within only 10-15 minutes of you.
Here are the locations I found courtesy of the A.L. websites.  The locations I have been to:

Laguna Beach.  (Link)
Irvine.  (Link)

Other Locations:
Huntington Beach. (Link)
Santa Ana. (Link)
Tustin / Orange. (Link)
Newport Beach / Costa Mesa. (Link)
Fullerton. (Link)

Selection.
You are getting some goods that are given away from the upper middle class of well to do Orange County. Great deals to be had on some barley used dress shirts and dress pants. I think what makes the assistance league such a god thrift store is that the items there tend to be fairly nice. Not too used or completely worthless.

I picked up a great green polo for 75 cents. Yes! Less than a dollar for a great shirt. I have kept that shirt for 5 years now!

The best find yet.  Only $0.75!
The best find yet. Only $0.75!

Friendly Staff
Don’t let the bad yelp reviews steer you away, the staff is friendly and helpful.

Prices.
Dress shirts for less than $5. Pint glasses for $1.00 Board games for $3.00 Books for $1.00. Dvd’s for $3.00. Dress Shirts for less than $5.00

No Sales Tax!
Since Thrift stores are typically run by charitable organizations, you don’t have to pay sales tax in California. That’s like getting a 10% discount! Yeah! 

Parking.
Like any good store in OC, the Assistance league has parking options a plenty. No circling the block when you are on your hunt.

Sales /E-mail lists. For the really deal conscious, you can sign up to be on the mailing list at your local sore to now of new specials and new arrivals.

Now there are some downsides.

Cons:
Hours.
They are open hours which would be considered non standard. From 10 to 3pm about four days a week (with some open on Saturdays). Most are closed Sunday and Mondays. Not your typical store hours since they are run by volunteers. The hours is really a major downside for those that work standard hours.

Selection.
I know I said selection was a plus, but it is also a negative as it is a thirft store. If you need a gray medium hoodie, you are best to go to American apparel to get it if you need it for sure because as with any thrift store, you never know what you will get.

Set Prices.
For those who are more keen to negotiate (which admitely is not me), you can’t haggle on the prices. I overheard one man trying to negotiate his purchase but the staff became quite upset when he tried to do that. So you have to pay what the price tag says.

So check out the Assistance League
They have such random stuff. Staples, tape dispensers. Like a hoarders dream!  That’s an idea for a reality tv show! Thrift store hoarders. I said it first!

In the words of Sam Walton (of Wal-mart fame) Save Money live Better. Shop at thrift stores.

 

The Cult of Recycling.

Blessings dearest friends. Welcome to Brunch. Today’s reading is from Huffington Post. Page 12 Post 17.3. So let us open our iPads and iPhones and follow with me.

Coffee-Dessert

 

But first let us give hate. To the ones opposed to our cause may they be banned from twitter so that they cannot communicate and spread their demonic message of love, acceptance and tolerance. May they be cursed to eat partially hydrogenated trans oils for the rest of their being.

Now for those that this is their first session of Brunch, let me cover the ground rules. Obviously Brunch is a holy day and you are expected to fulfill your weekly commitment.   Unless of course you have a Tough Mudder, color run, generic physical deformity awareness walk/run/meandering, protest or vegan Greenpeace NPR fundraising telethon to attend. Then after that obviously brunch comes first.

Ideally you will have brought your own utensils and compostable dish ware to this Brunch, but for those that that did not we have some for a nominal fee. The fee of course benefits the terapass carbon offset fund.

Please use the blue recycling bins and the green composting bins to dispose of your left over brunch.  The Landfill bin is never to be used by member of the Brunch community. It is only there to shame the heathens and proles so that we may know the heathens by their acts of disrespect for the blue and green colors.

To the newcomers, please come talk to us after for we have a welcome gift of a BPA free Camelbak water bottle so that you may never use the cancer producing Nalgene bottles again.

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We also have a great event at the end of next week for those interested in becoming f more invloved in this Brunch Fellowship. We will be shaming the community at a picketing of the new Daly City Sprouts Grocercy Store.  Sprouts is an evil corporation that still uses plastic bags at many locations. Shameful.  Do not worry though as we are not actually going to go anywhere but are asking everyone to support our twitter and Facebook campaign. You will not actually have to speak with someone in person to express your rage and hate for yourself and the world.  Your precious Ego remaining in tack from behind your new iMac.

Your Comrades will now pass the collection baskets for this weeks offering to be donated to the carbon offset fund.  Please keep in mind that oil prices are dropping.  This is detrimental to our cause as you may now be inclined to drive your own car. Please do not do this. We want to continue to stress the importance of relying upon your employer provided shuttle or Bart so that you may get to work during the week. Also, we do not want any members having to rely upon the inefficient public bus system, Muni. Lyft but not Uber is an acceptable alternative after today’s mimosa infused session so that you may return safely home in time for football.

As we close this weeks session of Brunch, let us remember to inflict self hate internally and guilt externally amongst the community during the upcoming week.  We are insatiable and must have everyone else reminded of their poor self worth.

In closing, let us be reminded of our oath: One Nation, Under Prius.

In our savior’s name, Elon Musk, we trust.     Amen, ergh. I mean. Waste Zero.

I don’t know what to write.

photo-1416862291207-4ca732144d83

It’s been a few weeks since I had a post.

A few weeks since that when I actually had a good post.  And I don’t have a clue what to write about.

This blog was to be a soul searching let go no holds bar catharsis.  And I did that.  Once.
I got a few likes on facebook from friends about this post: (link)  I felt great.

Nothing like the response I expected.  (which was nothing).  Now I feel that I need to top that somehow.  I have set the high water to myself and I don’t know what to do now.  I have left the momentum drift away.   It will be the harder task to try to re-engage with the same energy I had before.  Like a hangover after a raging party, I just want to do nothing.  And maybe watch a little netflix.  What ever happened to South Park on Netflix?

But I don’t really care.  I got a few likes.  A much better response than I ever actually dreamed of.  So what do I do?  I don’t know.

Everything I want to write sounds the same.  General low level depressive thoughts.  F&cking assholes of the world. F This.  F that.  Piss Off.   But I can’t be pissed off all the time and write about that. No one wants to read a rambling hate filled mess.  And I don’t want to keep spewing crap like that anyway.

Time to change your attitude Brown.  It really doesn’t matter after all.

Happy New Year.  Let’s make it a great year.

How to get your medical marijuana card in San Francisco, California

Today I am going to describe the process of how to obtain your medical cannabis / aka medical marijuana ‘card’ in the state of California.

photo-1415639636295-61ae91a98b39

A few disclaimers

I am not a lawyer, doctor nor really a person of any importance whatsoever, so my opinion should not really be taken seriously.  I really should be giving advice to anyone about anything, however, feel free to enjoy the below for entertainment purposes.

Note to the FBI or North Korea:
I have not used marijuana/cannabis within the past three (3) years, nor have I extensively used marijuana/cannabis over a substantial period of time. ( As described in your job application, so go ahead and please proceed with my job application.  K, thx, bye)

The Medical Marijuana Card Misnomer
There is no such thing as a Marijuana card.  What you are getting is a recommendation from a California state licensed medical doctor that given the patient’s condition that marijuana would help.  And all of that is subject to the doctor / patient’s discretion and confidentiality.  Read: there is ton’s of leeway for what qualifies.

Now we need get some legal background and history out of the way which is boring to probably pretty much everyone but me. Cannabis is still illegal federally so technically the FBI can bust you for having it.  However, under Prop 215 in the state of California which was passed on November 6, 1996, The voters of the golden state of California voted to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  The law states that it is “legal for patients and their designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use given the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician.”  Link.

A legal gray area still given the federal laws, but one that plenty of people across California and especially up north near Humboldt are exploiting to their advantage to make plenty of other green, cold hard cash.

Now some states (Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska) have voted to legalize it and others have medical legalization similar to California But I don’t have the time, patience nor desire to really write about that.  Anyway, more detail here at Wikipedia (link)

 

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Get to the point you nimrod
As stated above, you really only need a recommendation from a medical doctor in the state of California.  But given ethics and all some doctors understandably don’t really want to recommend Pot to their patients.  Thankfully there is a work around as there are some medical doctors who will gladly recommend Cannabis for their patients and throw ethics out the window. Kind of like the old pay for play as the Pros in the oldest industry call it (i.e. those hanging out on polk and eddy streets at 4am on a Saturday morning).

So you go to a special doctor who happens to be a medical doctor at a special clinic.

I live in San Francisco and there are no shortage of clinics to pick from.  Just look at the back of the SF weekly for ads.  I think the ads for the pot dispensaries, pot evaluation clinics and the ads for ‘Massage Parlors’ are probably the only reason that the SF weekly is still in print.  When was the last time you read a newspaper?  Maybe when you were stoned.

Back to the story,  the place I ended up getting my evaluation from was Dr. Francesco Isolani’s Green Evaluations.  Which so happens to be located in a record store in the Haight.  The Haight being the home to the free love hippie movement. The record store being Amoeba Music.  Both quite fitting actually for a cannabis clinic.  Amoeba Music is a cool record shop that any music junkie can get lost in for days, but sadly due to sit and lie laws in SF, the staff will probably kick you out after they close.  Located just a couple blocks from hippie hill in golden gate park where the true cannabis enthusiasts of San Francisco mingle, it really was quite a fitting location.

You will need a California ID to get your recommendation.  Present it to the receptionist  (she will hold on to it for the whole time you are there) and fill out four pages of paper work.  Wait.  Wait for a while.  And then wait a little longer more.  There were 6 people in front of me.  I don’t think you can actually be denied for a recommendation as not one of the folks in front of me was turned down.

I learned during my 45 minute wait that the waiting room and the Doctor’s Office /medical facility if you can call it that used to be the Amoeba record’s Staff break room and also green room for visiting musicians.  Some cool stories of all the graffiti and posters in the old days of the now sterile white walls of the waiting room.

But now it is a rather standard looking waiting room complete with standard office room chairs, magazines and tables.  Granted the magazine selection geared towards the rolling stone and high times variety and not the Newseek or Wall Street Journal.  They even had pot specific zines.  Bringing it back to 1995.

The only remnants of the past use include old Fillmore venue music posters and records hung on the wall.

There were probably about two legitimate people in the waiting room that actually would medically need marijuana.  One lady who chatted with the receptionist for 5 – 10 minutes about her upcoming back surgery and how the pot will help.  Another older man, coincidentally, also with back pain.  Too much Netflix maybe.

Everyone else seems liked they really didn’t have a true medical condition, but that’s not for me to judge but for the Doctor.

Before I went to Green evaluations.  I tried to go to a spot in the mission, Priceless evaluations.  Because they had an ad on the back of the SF weekly and were closer to me.  But they were no way as friendly, clean or what turned out to be as memorable or enjoyable as my trip to green evaluations.  Mission Priceless evaluations felt more sketch and unwelcoming.

At Green evaluations, with all the artwork, records and posters on the wall, including Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and The Beatles it was a bit more chill and ended up being a lot more entertaining.

The receptionist seemed a bit like a lost puppy looking for its owner.  She knew what was going on, but acted a bit helpless and clueless which played to her favor.  First impressions play an important role in life and I was not impressed at first, but with her stories and entertainment, she earned my liking.

“Oh no!!!” She exclaimed after realizing that a dude she sent to wait had not yet filled out his paperwork.

“So you’ll have to fill out the paperwork; I saw you out the corner of my eye.  I can’t have you just sitting there like I forgot about you.

“You are all my family. I have to take care of my family.”

Later when an older man walked in with aforementioned back issues, he started inquiring about the process now.  He said he used to try to get a card 14 years ago, but had to sign up on some list and was interrupted by Lisa as I know learned the receptionists name, replied:

“No honey. Let’s start over.  No. No Record anymore.  No registration with the state.  100% Doctor Patient confidentially.  You have no need to worry”

“Oh, Good. “ He responded.  “Well the old way felt like McCarthyism”

“No, No, No.  None of that here.  Genuine people are rare. Gotta survive.”

Talking about the Samsung iPad to which Lisa the receptionist used to accept credit card payments via square:

“I thought they all should have a pen!”  “Oh, I came from the East Bay.  Two buses and a train.”

People out here are something else. A force to be reckoned with. The people of the Haight.”

Speaking like one who may have ‘medicated’ away some brain cells, it was an entertaining way to pass the time.

After a few more patients and some good other banter between Lisa and the new patients of which I have forgotten, it was my turn to see the doctor. Dr. Desmond.

Thankfully no real physical and just a few questions.
I had tired to prepare myself to get approved, but I don’t think it really matters what condition you have.

“What condition are you here for?”
“Anxiety” was my nervous, timid answer.

“Ok, What else have you used to help with your condition?”
“Sleeping pills.”

“Do you smoke? Drink? Other drugs?”
“Sometimes.  Sometimes. No”

How often do you use cannabis?  Preferred method of taking?
“Periodically.  Smoking”

“How much do you weigh?  How tall are you?”
A real doctor’s office would actually measure those out.  But time is of the essence when there are nine ‘patients’ in the waiting room and you have to print some real green.  Cash.
The only real medical type thing the doctor did was take my blood pressure.  To which the response was “normal”.

After some jotting down on my patient chart, Dr Desmond sent back to Lisa.

Stamp of Approval!
A few minutes after that and $39 I was out the door with my paper recommendation.  I was official and good to go to medicate my worries away.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick up some brownies so that I can sleep better and help my anxiety.

 

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Grateful.

lake-tahoe-114121295399214yTa

 

Thanksgiving.    A hijacked day.  A forgotten day.  Stuck in between Halloween and “the holidays.”  Whatever.  No one gives a shit anyway.

But, I forgot to give thanks.  I almost died.  Seriously.  Because I did not recognize how grateful I am to be alive.

I need to give thanks.  I need to be grateful.  I am grateful for you comments.  I am grateful for your encouragement.   Thank you.

It is hard for me to write.  I never learned phonics.  I hate reading.  I have no attention span.  I don’t even know what to write.  I get scared.  I get self-conscious.

Every time I hit publish I am scared.  I am frightened.  What if no one reads me?   What if this sucks?  Is this just a waste of time? Screw this, I should just go watch South Park.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.   I need to be scared.  I need to be afraid.  Because then that means I have stretched my boundaries.  No more scared little boy.  Time to be a man.  And only then can I get better.

Thank you.  Thank you for keeping me going.  Thank you for reminding me you are out there.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Cal Poly Is an Under Rated University

I am a miserable failure.  I can barely hold down a steady job.  I have had 7 jobs in the last 7 years.  Not all of them I even have the guts to represent on my resume or LinkedIn.  The shortest job I had was for 4 weeks when I worked as a contractor for Google.  I really blew that one and that is a topic for a whole other post.  The short stint was for 6 weeks when I tried my hand at recruiting.   My job was to find other people jobs in finance and accounting.  A miserable crash and burn failure.  If I can’t hold a job how the hell am I supposed to get someone else a job, let alone sell them on that job?  Being a recruiter, I learned a lot.  Especially that I need to work on my sales skills.  And life skills.  You gotta get out and make it happen.

 

Enough complaining.   There are plenty of people actually making it happen. I represent the fearful and scared side of my alma mater, Cal Poly.  Others represent the learn by doing taking action side.  In the past few days, some incredible success and rewards have come to my fellow Cal Poly classmates.  Guys that I would be honored to call friends had I been a better friend.

Cut a Rusty
Cut a Rusty

 

Making Dining and Drinking Better

Pomaikai Shishido is one of the founders of SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant in San Jose, California.   It’s a fantastic bar and restaurant located in the downtown San Jose restaurant and bar scene.  Close to the San Pedro square and close the SAP center / Shark Tank where the San Jose sharks play hockey.   The last time I was there was too long ago, over a year, and it has a great outdoor patio complete with an outdoor bar under the sky.  Plus Kai was making drinks for us.  His experience before opening SP2, as a bartender at one of the hottest bars at the time, Jones Bar, really has done wonders as he made my friends and I feel special at right at home at his restaurant.

Recently, Kai shared some great success recently when Oprah stopped by and poured drinks from behind the bar!  Freaking sweet man!!

Oprah
Oprah
Making Drinks!!
Making Drinks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Real Estate Better

Andrew Flachner and Michael Parikh run RealScout.  As their site says: “RealScout is the platform that powers successful relationships between real estate professionals and their clients.”  Essentially helping Realtors help people buy the perfect home. Home buying can be very emotional and nerve racking and a platform to help locate that special place you are to call home has been created by Andrew and Michael.

I am not too sure how it all works, but it is awesome enough to get them a buy in from some serious players in the real estate and investment community for $6 Million!  (Article)

Donald Trump better watch out.

 

Getting the word out
Getting the word out

 

Thanks for the inspiration Andrew, Michael and Kai.  Keep up the great work so the people rooting from the bleachers like me and everyone else can be proud!

What is it like to be a Postmates Courier driver in San Francisco?

Update: See my updated post from November 2015 here

 

I have been a Postmates Delivery driver or as Postmates calls us, a Courier, for the past 5 weeks.  I drive my car in San Francisco dropping off stuff to the time and money conscious residents of this great city by the bay.

So what is Postmates?

From Google Images
Postmates.  As seen from Google Images.   ET phone home!!

Ultimately you are paying for a delivery service.  Billed as: “Everyone’s favorite delivery service”  You do not have to leave your house and you can get practically anything delivered to you.  Most (over 90% of the deliveries I have had) are delivering people food.  One of the best, easiest and profitable deliveries I had was picking up a pack of Marlboro Lights from the shell gas station in Potrero in dropping them off to a lady in the Dogpatch.  Hey, I understand the calling for a smoke break at 11pm.   Win – Win.  Essentially,  what I have learned is that people in SF have a ton of money and are lazy. And completely willing to pay people like me to bring them their food.

I drive my own car and don’t ride a bicycle like some other couriers (and the cool dude on the Postmates logo).  I only work weeknights and weekends.  I have a day job in an office and have been a courier as a side job to make some extra cash since SF is so damn expensive.

So what?   Well, I have the numbers to back up my claims.  I have 66 deliveries and $1,044.48 in earnings from my time thus far with Postmates.  Average calculated payout being $15.83. Is that worth it?   Bit skewed towards the first couple weeks.  Worked a few nights initially that was blowing up.  Now I lately have been doing about one to three deliveries a day.  The volume and money is not there anymore.  Either that or I am jaded.  The very first day I worked I made $86.  This was working a day where I got 100% commission and that the surge / blitz pricing was in effect (details below).  Sadly, those days are gone.

Being a Courier

Ready to work!
Ready to work!

The company has grown tremendously since I have been working as a driver.  With some negative side effects and reduced earnings as a courier since I started.  One of my first deliveries was a $20 commission fee to me for delivering two burritos.  Sadly that great pay day has dwindled.

Beginning, the Postmates offices were off Valencia and 16th street in the Mission and now they have a huge operations office in Soma off Townsend street with the green Postmates color and the ET looking delivery driver logo.

To become a courier, you have to sign up on their site (link).  Process requires a quick application.  Then you get an e-mail within a couple of days asking you to come in for orientation.  Orientation is an hour and honestly a waste of time.  You go over the app and what you have to do to be a driver.  Postmates community managers then tell you about the employment status, which is one of independent contractor and not employee.  Meaning you work and are paid per delivery/job not by the hour.  This is a tax code thing and works in the Postmates favor as I will point out given the pay is quite low on a per job basis.

I think the whole onboarding and orientation process is to weed out the folks who are not serious and create some sort of commitment on the driver part.  Which is a good sales and commitment tactic on the Postmates part, but the time can be better utilized.  I mean Instacart has youtube introductory videos.

After Orientation is on boarding, assuming you get called back for that.  But as long as you agree to be an independent contractor and sign some other forms, you are good to go I would assume.  Onboarding is a bit more worthwhile.  You go over the app and process more in detail along with details on jobs and other side notes such as payments.  Payments are made with a prepaid debit card called a PEX card.  Receipts are scanned in via photo on your iPhone.  Oh, you have to have an iPhone to be a courier.  If you don’t have one, don’t worry! Postmates will lease you an iPhone 4 for $100!  What a deal.  You also have to provide proof of insurance if you are driving or if you’re a bike courier, show them your bike to get that approved.  (you’ll need a basket to hold your goods).  You have to download the special courier App.  After the session you get a green bag to hold you items on pick ups and you are ready to make some money!  Orientation is a good overview, but like any job, the real learning comes from on the job working.   Like knowing that Japanese restaurants are very slow and that there is no parking in San Francisco.  But you already knew that and that’s why you’re using the app to have me deliver your La Taqueria tacos.

The Good.

Money.  The claim and call of money is why anyone would want to work for Postmates.  Best way to make money is through tips or blitz pricing.

The payout Structure is commission /delivery based.  Postmates pays couriers 80% of the delivery fee charged the customer.  The delivery fee, my presumption, is solely on delivery distance.  The minimum fee to a driver is $5.60 or a $7 delivery charge to the customer.  Within a few blocks it is $5.60 upwards to about a $11 payout to the driver.  I don’t know the inside formula on that one.    Couriers are independent contractors so you are paid by delivery.  No delivery.  No money.  Lately this has  been lagging and the job orders have been lacking.  I think due to a increased pool of drivers as blitz pricing has bee lagging lately too.

What is Blitz Pricing?

Blitz Pricing is Postmates’ version of surge pricing on Uber.  When demand for deliveries is greater than the couriers available its surging or blitzing and higher payouts are in effect.  Postmates charges a premium blitz fee to the customer during this time.  Both Postmates and the courier make extra during this.  I have seen blitz payouts from 1.25 to 2.5 X the normal delivery fee.  Blitz tends to occur at night during the dinner delivery hours or on the weekends during brunch time (10 to noonish) and during the dinner rush.     Blitz is where the money is made.  My best payout was a 2X blitz delivery from the Haight to the border of San Francisco (essentially Daly city) and 6 mile one way trip for a $25 delivery fee.   Add on a tip to that and your golden.  Not too bad for less than an hour’s work.
Tips.
This is a service industry job and tipping is allowed / encouraged.  Without it, it would not make any sense to be a Postmate courier in San Francisco.
So the only way to make more money is to make more deliveries.

The People

The work is interesting and I have my shares of stories.  I thought I knew the streets of SF before, but I know them a lot better now.   I also know some cool spots after visiting them  I also know where I will not be going  That BBQ spot in the height.  That’s you.   “oh, you’re the Postmates guy”  said rudely upon entering.  Well, look, were all trying to make some dough here in this yuppie town.

The people are what make it the deliveries interesting.  There are some downright lazy people in SF.  There are also some people willing to spend a lot of money for food.  $20 to deliver a burrito?  You have to be out of your mind to pay that delivery fee anywhere else, but the residents in SF are paying it.

Or the middle aged woman probably some sort of senior executive or manager at an SF startup ordering six bottles of white wine from Safeway to be delivered to her house party just down the way in SOMA.  Seriously folks, learn how to use your apartment complex buzzer system if you are going to order delivery.  Do not make me use a call box, key code and then have to call to verify on my cell phone.  Get your systems in order.

Some of the people that use the service are not the easiest on the eyes to say the least and I can understand where this service would be a lifesaver for them.
In part I do mean physical presences and look, but also the intangible element that cannot be fully appreciated until you get out on the streets and start knocking on doors.  Like the monday night delivery of a pint of rainbow ice cream flavor peanut butter chocolate chuck to the middle aged fat woman on the fifth floor of the apartment in Soma by the 280.

The two pizza delivery with bottle of Mexican coke and a side salad (really you are going to eat the salad?) from pizzeria delfina in the mission to the 20 something fat girl living three blocks away from pizzeria delfina.  I understand the desire to not want to go out to be seen ordering and then subsequently eatly two pizzas with a bottle of real coke, but you are perpetuating your lifestyle with these choices.

Jobs with parking or drive thrus are great.  McDonalds is a great pick up.  Downside is no tipping.  The people who order McDonalds don’t tend to tip.  Unless it is late at night after 1am and they are high.  Then they might be more generous.  People who order from nice restaurants tip better.  Tacolicious.  Best tips from customers from there. If you are paying for $6 tacos, what’s a few bucks to you driver?

The bad and the ugly

Orders you do not want.  Grocery Store orders.  Seriously lady, you put your two weeks of shopping down at Trader Joe’s and expect someone to pick it up?  For a $5.60 service fee?    Who even eats brussel sprouts?  You live two blocks away from the Trader Joe’s.  Go get it yourself!  Also you are tyring to orderr 20 items at Safeway at 6pm on a Sunday.  The busiest time with a line 10 people deep and expect someone to pick that up?  This isn’t Instacart!  I am not picking up your weekly groceries for $6.

The best jobs are jobs where the food will be ready when you are there.  Job support will place the order in advance and all you have to do is double park and pray the SFMTA doesn’t ticket you while you run in and get the food.  And hopefully are not delayed because the restaurant did not estimate the timing right (Looking at you Blowfish Sushi).  You are really at the mercy of the restaurants at times.  You do not want jobs where you have to place the order yourself BS.    For $6?  GTFO.   I am not waiting for 30 minutes for the food for a lousy $6 to then take 15 minutes to deliver it.

Scheduling.  Scheduling is BS in my opinion.  Postmates encourages (read almost reauires) you to be scheduled or on  asset time slot in order to get priority and get better pickings at jobs. But I have not seen a difference lately.  Also, Postmates managers will send out an email and call if do not log in for shift.  Sounds like a manager calling an employee rather than letting an independent contractor work, but I am not an employment attorney.

Drinks are not fun to deliver.  I have spilled a few and have had to buy new fountain drinks.  But that is the price you pay for someone cutting you off on Van Ness.

The no show.  Second week on the job surge and blitz pricing was in effect and I continued to work .  No one home.  Called Job support. Was told to wait 30 minutes for the dude in case he appeared.  F That!  I am not going to wait 30 minutes form some no show!  After a bit of complaining and job support realizing that the guy was not going to show,  I got to keep the burrito and went home.

The real bummer given that Couriers are paid by delivery is when job orders get cancelled.  I have had at least one order a week  (about 1 in 10 orders accepted get cancelled.  No reason is given just the order disappears.

On Saturday night I had a great payout on a deliver.  $32 during a surge pricing of 2.5X of delivery fees.  $32 to pick up fried chicken!  Are you nuts!! However this was too good to be true and the order was cancelled as it was going to take 45 minutes to make the damn chicken.  Screw you, I want my $32!!

So what? 

Like a lot of things in life, if you get on early and can ride the good times early, things will be great.  But as Postmates has improved in the past 4-6 weeks for customers with improved access and more couriers, this has hurt couriers like me.  The minimum delivery fee to make is $5.60 on a non surging time.  $5.60 and if there is no tip, then that is about $5.60 per hour.   There are also a lot fewer jobs.  I am not sure why, but I do know that when I started my app was blowing up every minute for a delivery.  Now I can go 20 minutes without a delivery.

Postmates’  added tagline is:
“Time is money.  We give you something priceless: time.  Delivery Fees start at $5.  An hour of your time is worth way more than that.”

Well $15/ hour on a non blitz time worth it to you?  Well, as a driver I am going to need more than $15 an hour.   Hell, Minimum wage in SF is $10.74 and you also get health benefits.  Unless there are more jobs or better pricing, I am going to hang up my Postmates cap for a while.
Time to get to work.  I have new Job order notifications!!

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How to ruin your life.

Go Kill Yourself.

Seriously.   It is that easy to ruin your life.   If you want to change and ruin your life, just end it.

I did that.  I ruined my life.  I killed myself.  Not in a physical sense, but I still ended the life that I had.  I killed my old life. Thankfully and by the grace of God, I am still alive, but I killed the life that I had.

Now, I am not saying to go kill yourself.  I don’t recommend this.  Life is precious.  I know that now. I learned the hard way the fact that life is precious.

I effectively ended my life that I had spent 28 years building up in one fell swoop.  I walked into my manager’s office on January 7, 2013 and resigned.  I said I would work out the standard two weeks if needed, which was accepted.  I was working at a computer networking startup in San Francisco, CA.  I was paid fairly well for the region.  I owned my own condo (or the bank did, I just made payments), but hell I was 28 and had my own place that I could afford.  I lived less than a mile from work. I walked to work. No commute.  We had free food at work.  Lunch, drinks even a beer keg on our floor.  Roof deck.  Fun culture.  Great benefits.  It really was actually pretty sweet.  Yet I was unhappy and I gave it all away.  Like a selfish kid I effectively threw a tantrum.  Granted I am still alive.  However almost two years later I am still picking up the pieces from my decision to storm off.

Impulsive decisions left me in a financial situation where I had to take a job that pays and is at the level that I was working at 5 years ago.  One quick decision set me back five years.

Essentially it was quite childish.  Like a 5 year old pouting because he wants to go outside and play but can’t because it is raining.  Well tough luck, some stuff is out of your control.

Was it selfish to quit?  Yes.

Was it attention Seeking.   Yes.

Was it self sabotage?  Yes.

Was it impulsive.  Yes.

Did it do any good.  No.

Not one person cared.    Looking back, I think I wanted someone to live my life for me.  Well, guess what, that is not going to happen.  You have to live your own life.

Life is difficult.  You have to take care of yourself.  Your mental health is key.  I am now seeing a therapist to go over some issues.  I am trying to take the steps necessary to take control and ownership of my life, because at heart that is what really it is all about.  It is your life.  And you have to live it.  With the highs and the lows.

I have experienced great highs in life.  I really have.   I just got stuck in a negative spiral and negative feedback loop.  Positivity is needed.  That is what we live for.  It is very hard to do, but I need to be grateful for the things that I have in my life.

If you are suffering, you are not alone.  I suffer every single day.  Ask for help.  I know I need it and struggle. I need help.

 

The Beginning. I need help.

The only person that ever loved me was my mother and she is dead, so F&ck you, I’m Adam Brown.

I had that thought late at night a couple of years ago.  It sums up a bit of anger and rage that creeps up in me at times.  It also made me realize that I need help.  A lot of help.

My mom died when I was 14.  June 7, 1998.  Just a couple weeks before I graduated middle school and the summer before I graduated High School.  I think that my mom’s passing has affected me in many ways, including my journey through life.    This blog will serve for me to think and write about my thoughts and serve as a venue of help for myself and my soul.  I welcome input that you have as a reader.