Jeff Corpora had had enough of corporate America.
“I left the big company I was with in 2012 and got my real estate license,” he said. “But selling houses turned out to be too close to corporate America. I finally figured out I need to work by myself. Seriously.”
These days, Corpora works by himself all the time. As a driver for Haultail, a national pickup and delivery service, he’s spent most of this past year getting things from one place and taking them to another.
If someone calls him wanting a baked potato at 2 in the morning, he won’t do it. “We don’t deliver food and we don’t deliver people,” Corpora explained. “Anything else, we’ll come get it or we’ll bring it to you.”
Last night, he delivered a couch at 9 p.m. “The hours really vary. I might get up in the morning and have zero on my calendar, then by noon I’m running all over the place. I’ll have a pallet of tile at 9 a.m., and a couch at noon, and at 3 I’m picking up junk from a job site. You never know what to expect. That’s what I like.”
Couches were a thing lately. “I’ve got an idea why I’m doing so many couches,” said Corpora, who grew up near Chicago and moved to Phoenix in 2007. “With this pandemic, people are trapped indoors. The first couple weeks, after they started figuring they’d be home for a couple months, giant TVs were flying out of Costco. But then they were like, ‘How the hell do I get this thing home?’ And the Costco people would give them Haultail’s number.”
Once the big-screen TVs were installed, Corpora thought, it was only a matter of time before people wanted a new couch to sit on in front of that TV. And after they got tired of watching television, he said, people usually turned to home improvement projects.
“You start to look around the house and you go, ‘It’s about time we redid this damn kitchen.’ Then you’re on the phone with us and I’m off to Home Depot and its cans of stain and boxes of tile and me delivering them.”
It was always something. One guy ordered a tin shed from a big box store, Corpora remembered. “The thing weighed 385 pounds. I get it to this guy’s fancy house in Scottsdale, and he says, ‘Okay, we have to take this down through the tennis court and past the pool and behind the pool house.’ I’m one person with, you know, one little furniture dolly.”
Corpora didn’t mind any of it, really. He had learned that things went better if he kept his comments to himself. “People buy a lot of ugly furniture from places like Offer Up or Facebook Marketplace. You go to pick it up and it’s the god-awful-est thing you’ve ever seen. It’s not my place to say, ‘You’re sure you want to own this?’”
The sheltering-at-home trend, which Corpora referred to as “this quarantine thing,” lately had created some interesting situations. “There was this one in particular, the whole side of this lady’s house was full of stinky, rancid household garbage. Bags dripping with maggots, and the bottoms falling out of the bags.” The woman had lost her job after the pandemic and couldn’t pay her waste management fees.
“She scrounged up 120 bucks and called us to come get the stuff. It was disgusting, but I kind of do what I have to, and don’t ask a lot of questions.”
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Corpora said there was less interaction with customers these days, and he missed that part of the job. A lot of the communication was done electronically. “In the past I’d go ring the doorbell and the guy would come out and we’d talk. I like to find a connection with people, maybe based on the T-shirt they’re wearing, like a Cubs shirt or a Harley-Davidson shirt. You know, if I’m some zero-personality guy, they won’t like me, they won’t like the company. The pandemic has kind of calmed down the communicating part a bit.”
Today, Corpora’s customers are less likely to hang out talking sports or motorcycles. People are afraid of getting sick. Like the time in early March, he recalled, when he was delivering yet another couch.
“The guy was nice, and I was going to bring the couch inside and unwrap it and put the legs on for him,” Corpora recalled. “This was before everyone was wearing masks and all that. And you won’t believe what happened next.”
Corpora paused for effect. “His wife takes one look at me and literally runs out the back door.”