Leaving out treats for Santa is a holiday tradition, but what about snacks for Santa's helpers?
Not the elves at the North Pole, but delivery drivers from places like Amazon, FedEx and UberEats who make our holidays run smoothly by working hard to deliver the things we need to make holiday magic happen.
Each holiday season, we see Pinterest-worthy pictures of overflowing snack baskets set out for delivery drivers and catch headlines showing viral doorbell videos of drivers' reactions to treats left along their delivery routes. When I first saw these sweet ideas, I knew I wanted to leave out snacks for the drivers making rounds in my neighborhood.
I started my own version of the act — a basket of snacks and a cooler of drinks along with a thank you note — last Christmas, when delivery drivers were working overtime to ensure holiday gifts got delivered.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stores were closed or only filling pick-up orders, and delivery drivers were inundated with packages and racing from house to house. I was sure that most of the time, these hard-working people never heard a thank you from anyone, so leaving out a basket of snacks and a cooler of drinks seemed like a simple way to show my gratitude, even if I didn't come to the door for every delivery.
And the idea has stuck. As a commerce writer and travel journalist, I get deliveries almost every day, so I've started leaving snacks out year-round. Over the past year, I've become more familiar with my neighborhood drivers and they now know they can stop at my house for a drink or a snack even if they aren't delivering something.
But what does it really mean to delivery drivers when people leave out snacks, drinks and other goodies during the holidays or at any time of year?
Jenny Rosado, a delivery driver for United Parcel Service (UPS) in Stratford, Conn. has worked for the company for 30 years.
"You feel appreciated and loved," Rosado tells Yahoo Life of customers' kind gestures. "You know that they appreciate what you do for them."
Marcellus Chafford, a FedEx driver from Madison, Ala., says some days, these small acts of kindness make all the difference.
"I know it makes a lot of our days because the days are long and the weather's bad and cold," says Chafford. "Once we see the snack boxes on the on the porches or outside of the garage, it brightens our day."
But it's not just delivery trucks and postal workers that make the holidays happen: In recent years, companies like Shipt and Instacart and food delivery services like Grubhub and UberEats have brought delivery drivers to our doors carrying everything from ingredients for our dinner parties to champagne for our holiday toasts.
Charles B., who chose not to share his last name for privacy reasons, makes deliveries in Jacksonville, Fla. for UberEats.
"When I see snacks I rarely take them because I drive after dinnertime," he says, "but I'll always accept a bottle of water or a soda."
If maintaining a snack stash isn't your thing, Rosado mentions she's seen customers leave out other types of meaningful gifts.
"I have a customer who leaves out gift cards for the coffee shop or fast food," she says. "When I have my driver helper with me at Christmastime they can have it and use it for a meal."
"Those are really thoughtful," she adds, "but it's all really thoughtful. Anything given with love is the best."
The colder months also mean drivers are out in snow and sleet with shorter daylight hours, conditions that make deliveries a bit more challenging. When Jack Frost starts nipping at their noses, drivers often seek ways to stay warm.
"During cold weather months I have one customer who makes the best hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows," says Rosado, adding that another leaves out disposable hand warmers.
"Those are great," she says. "I stuff them into my gloves."
For those looking to build the best snack basket on the block, Yahoo Life asked drivers what they most like to see while making their deliveries.
"Bottled drinks like water and Gatorade are the easiest, along with chips and granola bars," says Chafford. "Really anything that's not sticky and doesn't require more than one hand to eat is the best thing to leave out."
The things drivers say they'd be happiest to see along their routes this holiday season are simple: bottled water and sports drinks and pre-packaged cookies, potato chips, mixed nuts, trail mix, gummy snacks and beef jerky. And, for those who live in colder states, a few hand warmers go a long way.
What snacks and drinks are harder to take with you on the road? Drivers say anything sticky or gooey is more likely to get left behind.
"The hardest snacks to eat are the sticky ones – if they stick to the wrapper it makes it tough to eat on the run," Rosado explains. "My hands usually get too sticky and then it gets on my handheld computer."
Chafford mentions canned drinks are hard to drink in big delivery trucks, too: They don't have a lid and don't stay cold very long, especially since he drives in the South, where winters aren't as harsh in northern cities.
And, while homemade treats are always heartwarming to see, things like cupcakes, gooey cookies and caramels can be hard to eat while delivering boxes.
"Besides snacks, the best thing someone can do for delivery drivers is to leave their front porch light on," adds Charles B. "You wouldn't imagine how many houses don't leave a light on for drivers, so I bring a large flashlight with me on evening deliveries."
He also says leaving a note near the snack boxes saying drivers can take what they want is helpful.
"As a food delivery driver, I never know when items are for me or the person who ordered," he explains. "Having a sign directly above or next to the snack baskets is helpful to know what I'm allowed to take with me."
At the end of the route ... or day ... drivers say it's just nice to feel appreciated.
"They are giving us something because they care about us and appreciate what we do for them," says Rosado. "That's really what leaving these snack boxes out is all about, showing someone that you appreciate them and what they do."
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