Making More Time For Work
March 27, 2015 1:13 PM   Subscribe

The Shut-In Economy The dream of on-demand, delivery everything is splitting tech-centered cities into two new classes: shut-ins and servants.
posted by The Whelk (64 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Her old West Village building has limited hot water, she says, so she gets her hair blown out three days a week using Vive, a subscription hairdresser service, for $100 a month.

I would so do this

Also, depressing article

But $100/month? They can't be making money.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:19 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was so depressing.
posted by thivaia at 1:20 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is basically just reinventing the Googleplex (laundry, cafeteria, haircuts, drugstores, all onsite) for people who have moved from the South Bay into SF proper, right?
posted by en forme de poire at 1:20 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


in response...
have I mentioned lately how much I love Lubchansky and The Nib? well, I have again
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:21 PM on March 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Indeed.

You didn't have to be some kind of genius to predict this; in fact, I find the whole "oooohhh, the internet has helped polarize society into entitled Silicon Valley assholes and part-time delivery workers, who could have predicted it" thing to be pretty disingenuous. Lots of people did predict it; it was obvious, has been obvious to anyone who has a worker-centered or working class outlook on the world.

"I will pay someone - an "Alfred", just like a Victorian lady of leisure calling all her maids "Jane" so she didn't have to learn their names - $99 dollars a month to do boring, miserable things so that I can 'add value' at my infinitely more rewarding, respected, more secure and easier job"...I had a whole conversation with a friend about how we find it comforting that at least some day the sun will burn out, you know?
posted by Frowner at 1:23 PM on March 27, 2015 [51 favorites]


And they won't even get $99 a month, either, because Alfred-the-Company will take much of it.
posted by Frowner at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think I remember this from 1960: In the new world of "pizza delivery", you’re either pampered, isolated royalty — or you’re a 20th century servant.
posted by festivus at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean on the one hand, there really are economies of scale with things like cooking. My expenses when I was in a vegetarian co-op in grad school went through the floor, because even with my assigned chore and cooking a huge meal for 50 once a week, it was still way less time and money than being responsible for every one of my own meals (especially because when you're stressed and in a hurry and want to keep body and soul together, those meals tend to turn into regrettable pizza/burrito decisions). I just wish this new era of personalized tech-whatever could be deployed in a way that encouraged more egalitarian structures like that to form.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:28 PM on March 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


I think I remember this from 1960: In the new world of "pizza delivery", you’re either pampered, isolated royalty — or you’re a 20th century servant.

I believe you've described the first chapter of Snow Crash which I'm pretty sure is required reading these days to work in SF.
posted by pwnguin at 1:29 PM on March 27, 2015 [27 favorites]


It's not the article that's depressing, people. It's the way we're running our world.

I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.
posted by ffmike at 1:30 PM on March 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


This is basically just reinventing the Googleplex (laundry, cafeteria, haircuts, drugstores, all onsite) for people who have moved from the South Bay into SF proper, right?

Actually (and I really wish I could find the article I read that made the argument) it's a technology fueled version of the system in India, where the middle class and above utilize the poor as servants for pretty much everything because of the low value of labor there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:36 PM on March 27, 2015 [39 favorites]


Previously.
posted by frogstar42 at 1:37 PM on March 27, 2015


The article seemed like a whole lot of fluff around the one meaningful point found in the middle of the article: that this situation is nothing new at all, what's new is that this sort of lifestyle is now available to the middle class and not just the rich who have always had an army of servants to do their chores for them.

And that's largely something new just for the middle class in Western countries, because even most middle class families in developing countries have maids and servants because there's such a huge pool of poor labor to draw from.

It seems like these developments are just another marker that the brief blip of income semi-equality Thomas Piketty identified as having occurred in developed nations in the 1950-70s is over and the economies are reordering into their natural, unequal state.

Also, some of the pearl-clutching is ridiculous:

The humans who live there, though, I mostly never see. And even when I do, there seems to be a tacit agreement among residents to not talk to one another. I floated a few “hi’s” in the elevator when I first moved in, but in return I got the monosyllabic, no-eye-contact mumble. It was clear: Lady, this is not that kind of building.

This is just how big city apartments have worked for ages. If you live in an apartment in, say, Manhattan, you sure as hell don't really know or interact with your neighbors.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


I understand what this is saying, but there were already whole classes of people who were shutins and had no choice about it. Delivery culture has enabled them to have some semblance of a normal life, especially those who don't live near well-stocked city stores or have others to help them with daily stuff.
posted by Evilspork at 1:42 PM on March 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think I remember this from 1960: In the new world of "pizza delivery", you’re either pampered, isolated royalty — or you’re a 20th century servant.

The difference isn't one of degree, but of kind: If delivery people are employed, and receive benefits, and are paid for the night even if no one orders a single pie, then it's a damn sight better for them than if they're "independent contractors" and have neither benefits nor a guaranteed wage. It's better for everyone when the organization that "disrupts" the bulk of the money into its pockets (and those of its investors) actually adds something to the equation besides an app that allows the Patron and the Servant to make contact.

In the olden days, patrons provided room and board to their servants, and only employed as many as they needed. The new servant economy is worse, period.
posted by Etrigan at 1:46 PM on March 27, 2015 [34 favorites]


Evilspork, but isn't that one of the criticisms of the app ecosystem, that these apps are designed mostly by and for well-to-do young people?

The people who have a real need for delivery services, like the elderly/disabled who have difficulty moving around or people with other issues keeping them inside, very often don't have the money (and therefore often the phone/computer) needed to use them.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Don't we all take turns being the pampered ones? Some days we're the pizza delivery guy, some days we're the customer.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems like these developments are just another marker that the brief blip of income semi-equality Thomas Thomas Piketty identified as having occurred in developed nations in the 1950-70s is over and the economies are reordering into their natural, unequal state.

I don't so much know what's natural about it. I doubt there is a squirrel 1% sitting on top of 60% of the squirrel economy's nut resources.

Now I will believe that certain powerful social interests prefer a more unequal state and have successfully brought one about through public policy. But it is no way more natural, and certainly less desireable, than a more equal society shaped that way by a different public policy
posted by pseudonick at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


The increased access to service (if not actually servants) is a huge marker of the rise in inequality. It's also going to be a barrier in creating coalitions to fight inequality because those benefitting have an incentive to keep it that way.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The sleight about the "dungeons and dragons looking fellow" made me close the tab. The whole beginning of the article sounded like whining and then for some reason he takes a stab at people who play D&D. "OMG THESE SHUT INS THEYRE AS BAD AS PEOPLE WHO PLAY D&D"

Fuck you buddy.

You actually have to be pretty social to play D&D, you've gotta get like five people to meet up in real life on a regular basis!

Whatever, I'm a shut-in. All it really means is that I'm going to die alone. Now I'm supposed to feel guilty for using Prime so I can enjoy my life a little more while I lead it to the lonely shallow pointless death that it was inevitably heading to? Fuck that.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:01 PM on March 27, 2015 [31 favorites]


The difference isn't one of degree, but of kind: If delivery people are employed, and receive benefits, and are paid for the night even if no one orders a single pie, then it's a damn sight better for them than if they're "independent contractors" and have neither benefits nor a guaranteed wage.

This does not describe any pizza delivery job that I have ever heard of; past or present.

The "sharing economy" is seriously terrible, but the foodservice industry has long held the crown for deplorable labor practices. To this day, they have successfully defended a $2.13 minimum wage for almost all of their employees (to say nothing of the culture of tax-avoidance, undocumented workers, and human trafficking that are endemic to the industry)

Uber can only dream of mistreating their workers as savagely as the average mom-and-pop restaurant does.
posted by schmod at 2:17 PM on March 27, 2015 [31 favorites]


It's also going to be a barrier in creating coalitions to fight inequality because those benefitting have an incentive to keep it that way.

What I want to know is if modern advances can be shaped to benefit labor, even create new forms of workers associations to replace the unions that are so dead in the United States.

Technology doesn't have to only benefit mgmt.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:18 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Technology doesn't have to only benefit mgmt.

Sure, it also benefits executives.
posted by Faux Real at 2:32 PM on March 27, 2015


So it just so happens that last night, the owners/management company behind the "37-story tower" discussed in this article (the building in question is obvious) hosted a massive casino night party for tenants and guests. I was there for a little while.

The article indicates that nobody knows each other or talks to each other in the building. Maybe it was just the open bar, but people clearly knew each other and were engaging with each other all over the place.

On the other hand, the party was incredibly well-staffed by a legion of outside help. Caterers, bartenders, casino dealers, security, a jazz band, DJ, and a troop of sword performers and acrobats were all in attendance. It's as if someone replaced all the Munchery and Caviar and Amazon Prime delivery people discussed here with a party/events company.

On the other hand, that's a lot of people working. The article discusses TaNica the Sprig driver who had been out of the workforce for three years. $41K/year in San Francisco with no benefits or vacation or eligibility for unemployment isn't great to be sure, and we need to find a way to do better on the contractor issue to help fix that. That said, it's not nothing.
posted by zachlipton at 2:41 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is the line where service becomes servitude?

If you go to Starbucks and someone makes your coffee, is that servitude?
What if you go to a cafe where a waiter brings the coffee out to your table?
What if someone brings the coffee to your apartment?
Is there a distance someone has to travel with the coffee before it becomes morally objectionable?
Would it be different if that person brought a UPS box? Or a pizza?
If you ride in a taxi, is that servitude?
Or is it only if a smartphone is involved?

I don't ask these things rhetorically. There does seem to be a line, but it is hard to define. Service jobs are nothing new. Maybe what is new is the distancing, impersonal nature of the smartphone, which shifts the power dynamic from a simple business exchange between two people to one where one person has a magic remote control (app) that manipulates human beings to do their bidding.
posted by the jam at 2:47 PM on March 27, 2015 [25 favorites]


foodservice industry has long held the crown for deplorable labor practices. To this day, they have successfully defended a $2.13 minimum wage

It's almost amazing to me that this has held even as cities and states across the country are raising their minimum wages to $10-15/hr and even Walmart has started paying all of their employees at least $9.

I really like the trend of no-tip bars and restaurants that actually just pay their employees, but I think it will be a while before they become the norm.
posted by Asparagus at 2:52 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Manhattan is not a utopia to aspire to.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:59 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you go to Starbucks and someone makes your coffee, is that servitude?

Is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?

What if you go to a cafe where a waiter brings the coffee out to your table?

Is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?

What if someone brings the coffee to your apartment?

Is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?


Is there a distance someone has to travel with the coffee before it becomes morally objectionable?


No, but is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?

Would it be different if that person brought a UPS box? Or a pizza?
If you ride in a taxi, is that servitude?


Tough ones, though is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:02 PM on March 27, 2015 [44 favorites]


Also this picture though is the greatest.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:03 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The "sharing economy" is seriously terrible, but the foodservice industry has long held the crown for deplorable labor practices. To this day, they have successfully defended a $2.13 minimum wage for almost all of their employees (to say nothing of the culture of tax-avoidance, undocumented workers, and human trafficking that are endemic to the industry)

Small point: There is no tipped-employee wage differential in California, where the article takes place. Minimum wage is minimum wage**.

Slightly less-small point: I've had discussions about the minimum wage with West Coasters and people from states where there is a tipped wage. In general, my experience is that West Coasters are incredulous that such a thing is legal. Not because the law can't be unfair—but because the minimum wage is a sort of social convention that establishes what exploitation is.

Rules on wages do more than impact political economy and the distribution of wealth. They also mark acceptable practice and acceptable difference. The wage agreement between employers and workers is specifically that the employer guarantees a constant wage while (a) taking on the risk of unprofitability *and* (b) appropriating the marginal returns to the workers' labor.

Things like tipped wages are a violation of this practice. They not only exploit workers, but are public records that make exploitation acceptable.

But so too are independent contractor jobs like those described here. And it's worth noting that it's not only about wages, but about all the other protections that employment affords workers: unemployment insurance, social security, disability, etc.

Big(ish) point: The rise of the contractor economy creates an absolute divide between "shut-ins" and "servants," absolutely. But it also represents a new form of the withdrawal of the state from the regulation of exploitation and the regulation of the labor market in general. That's why it's so important that Uber, Lyft, etc lose the lawsuit against them.

They might not, of course. But the lawsuit has really, really big coattails, however it turns out.

**except for piece-workers (e.g. farm labor). That there is a piece-work rate below minimum wage is, suffice to say, a racist and classist abomination.
posted by migrantology at 3:12 PM on March 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


What is the line where service becomes servitude?

I think there's a particular American tendency to be uncomfortable being served - I know I am. But I'm hard pressed to say there's anything fundamentally wrong with most of these services. I don't think you need to do your own laundry to be a well-rounded human being. As Potomac says the real issue is the pay and working conditions for the people who do these jobs. If the proliferation of services is driven mostly by labor being cheap and replaceable - which I think it is right now - that is a problem.
posted by atoxyl at 3:15 PM on March 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Tough ones, though is this person a full or part time employee paid by a company subject to employment law or a contractor?

I don't think it's that simple. Someone making tipped minimum wage (in a state where such a thing exists) at a mom-and-pop restaurant may be a part time employee subject to employment law with no guaranteed hours, an irregular schedule, no benefits, no vacation, no sick leave (except the minimum sick leave now mandated under state law), etc... On the other hand, someone making $190K+/year at a tech company may be a contractor (and may or may not be wrongly classified as a contractor).
posted by zachlipton at 3:17 PM on March 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Though I will say again something I said before about "independent contractors." When Travis Kalanick expressed his appreciation for Obamacare - for making it possible for Uber employees to get health insurance without the company, you know, paying for it - he took a lot of heat. But I don't think it should be an employer's role to provide health insurance - it should be the state. In a country that provided a real safety net it would be just fine and dandy to be an independent contractor. Too bad I live in one where the idea is almost anathema.
posted by atoxyl at 3:30 PM on March 27, 2015 [27 favorites]


But I don't think it should be an employer's role to provide health insurance - it should be the state.

Agreed. Related: Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial
posted by Asparagus at 3:39 PM on March 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you're an actor or a musician or a writer or a student, I don't see how delivering someone's dog food is worse than any other day job. Not every one wants a cube job and I'd guess most of these people don't expect to fold someone else's laundry for the rest of their lives.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:05 PM on March 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


An intersecting set of technological and social developments is currently disrupting - no, really - the traditional understanding of labor and its fruits in a way that presents divergent futures. We could all end up living better and working less and being more free in our choice of when and how to work. Or an we could end up with an elite in secure occupations and everybody else scrambling to get by. I understand why a lot of people just want to return to the status quo ante - there are powerful forces trying to take us down the second path - but work isn't going to go back to the way it was in the '50s so we should probably try to figure out how to build a society in which everybody reaps the benefit of technological change.

Unless environmental catastrophe catches up with us obviously but that another whole conversation.
posted by atoxyl at 4:07 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the olden days, patrons provided room and board to their servants, and only employed as many as they needed. The new servant economy is worse, period.

Minimum wage says you can't do that anymore - so it's much more economical to pay people for only the hour you need them for, piecemeal.
posted by corb at 4:09 PM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's much more economical to pay people for only the hour you need them for, piecemeal.

And when they have to go to the emergency room because they couldn't afford to go to a doctor, it's just as economical to pay the next poor bastard for only the hour you need them for. Using the word "piecemeal" to refer to how we should be treating human beings is more or less the antithesis of society.
posted by Etrigan at 4:27 PM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the olden days, patrons provided room and board to their servants, and only employed as many as they needed. The new servant economy is worse, period.

It was really terrible for servants not to be able to afford to live outside of the constant on-call demands of their employers. They often lived in really shabby, terrible, and dangerous conditions.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:38 PM on March 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


Actually (and I really wish I could find the article I read that made the argument) it's a technology fueled version of the system in India, where the middle class and above utilize the poor as servants for pretty much everything because of the low value of labor there.

Oh for sure, I agree with that analysis. I guess I was more speculating that services like this may have become particularly popular lately because of the increasing trend for young tech workers to commute from SF as opposed to living on/near huge tech-farm campuses.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:40 PM on March 27, 2015


Also, no, the minimum wage didn't wreck the ability of employers to kindly house their employees. The fact that living with your boss sucks plus decreased income inequality did that. People still hire live-in nannies and housekeepers for much less than minimum wage in places where they can get away with exploiting a desperate underclass (California) and it's legal to some extent depending on how much you pay.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:44 PM on March 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, live-in servants moved out as soon as they possibly could, even though it was economically disadvantageous to have to pay rent. Living in is a pretty crappy arrangement, even if it's cheap.

In my perfect world, in which the US had a decent healthcare system and other civilized social programs, I think the delivery economy would be nothing but a boon. I am so far from a 1%-er, and Amazon Prime makes my life a lot better, because there are a lot of things that you just can't get where I live, and there are a whole hell of a lot of things that you can only get at Wal-mart. Amazon Prime means that I don't have to spend my free time driving to Wal-mart to buy crap, which I appreciate. Grocery delivery would have made my life so, so much better when I was living on the outskirts of town without a car. I mean, I can't even explain how horrible grocery shopping was when I had to choose between spending an hour-and-a-half on the bus each way or trying to lug my groceries home on my bike. And I think that the gig economy can actually be good for people who want to set their own hours, like parents of school-aged children. It's just that there are so many things about contemporary American society that are totally awful that in practice it's all total shit, like so many other things that shouldn't be shit but are.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:46 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The people who work for these companies presumably do so because they get paid. Nobody is forcing anybody to be an Uber driver, an Alfred, or an Amazon Prime delivery person. If these companies weren't employing them, then presumably they would either 1) not make money or 2) work someplace else as an independent contractor or 3) work someplace else as a full-time employee. The people who work as independent contractors have personally decided that is their best choice.

I am 100% for people getting benefits and health insurance. I think those things should be supplied by the government, not companies. At the very least, the government should force employers to provide those things. The fact that it does not means that we have a problem with the government, not a problem with Uber. On the margin, I'm pretty damn sure that Uber driver (or Alfred person or Amazon Prime delivery person) would rather be making that money and not having benefits than not making money AND not having benefits. They weighed the pros and cons and made a choice, who are we to deny them that agency because we disagree with their employers' practices?
posted by pravit at 5:29 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The humans who live there, though, I mostly never see. And even when I do, there seems to be a tacit agreement among residents to not talk to one another. I floated a few “hi’s” in the elevator when I first moved in, but in return I got the monosyllabic, no-eye-contact mumble. It was clear: Lady, this is not that kind of building.

This is just how big city apartments have worked for ages. If you live in an apartment in, say, Manhattan, you sure as hell don't really know or interact with your neighbors.

Manhattan is not a utopia to aspire to.


Something about all of this mention of Manhattan tickles the back of my brain. That's the thing: We already have a city where you can get a lot of things delivered. Now these apps mean you can get even more things delivered in New York, not just in San Francisco. I guess the degree to which these services are app-enabled and the sheer proliferation and adoption of them in San Francisco, as well as the fact that you can have entire buildings of people supported this way there, is unique—but a lot of the shock and awe over this is misplaced, I think. (And yes, I know the article does mention people in New York, but the "hive of people in a huge apartment building receiving services" that the article focuses on as a set piece is in San Francisco.)

What I'm more interested in, as someone who works remotely now myself, is how work-from-home and coworking arrangements benefit the bottom lines of companies with a largely remote workforce, and how culture and psychology change within companies like that. The fact that our very own mathowie now works at Slack, which supports so much of this remote work, feels like a signpost of the zeitgeist.

Also, I just finished reading The Peripheral and The Circle recently, and a lot of the ideas there feel related to this as well.
posted by limeonaire at 5:45 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


And they won't even get $99 a month, either, because Alfred-the-Company will take much of it.

And just wait until five years from now when some start-up disrupts the Alfred economy with JARVIS, and suddenly swarms of miniature AI drones are dropping off your laundry, bringing you groceries based on your social media metadata, and recording your kid's swing choir performance with added Autotune.

It'll be a dream for the people who can still afford it, and they can rest assured that JARVIS-the-Company is keeping ALL of that money.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:18 PM on March 27, 2015


but a lot of the shock and awe over this is misplaced, I think.

A good point. After all, here was a service available in 1928:
Telegraphic Shopping Service -- In addition to the regular money order service, the telegraph companies maintain what is known as a telegraphic shopping service. As now organized, this service permits of the purchase by telegraph of any standardized article from a locomotive to a paper or pins. The person wishing to make the purchase has merely to call at the telegraph office, specify the article he wishes to have bought, and pay the cost, plus a small charge for the service. Directions will then be telegraphed to the point at which the purchase is to be made, and an employee will buy the article desired. It delivery is to be made in the city where the article is purchased, it will be forwarded by messenger. If delivery is to be made at a distant point, it will be sent by parcel post or express.

The service is utilized by the public in a variety of ways. For example on Mother's Day a person in San Francisco purchased an automobile drive for his mother who was in New York. The telegraph company in New York merely called up a taxi company and directed them to send a car to a certain address at a definite time and take the party specified for a three hour drive.

Through the cooperation of florists throughout the country, flowers may be ordered by telegraph and delivered in virtually any city or town in the United States. Flowers also maybe ordered by cable for delivery in the larger cities of Europe. Candies, books and cigars, etc., may be ordered in a similar manner, though the florists are somewhat more highly organized.

Railway tickets also may be ordered by telegraph. In this case the telegraph company official acts as agent, making the purchase of the ticket and delivering it to the person specified, who usually is a minor or an aged person.
So back in 1928, you could use your telephone to have an order for a good or service entered into a system, at which point a real person would go out and buy it for you, and someone else, who back then might have been a 12 year old boy on a bicycle going to school four hours a week, would take care of bringing it to your door. You might also have regular visits from the milkman, ice man, seltzer man, mailman, paperboy, etc...

None of this is not to say that there aren't real issues with the labor practices of these services today. But it's not really that novel that people, especially those in a dense urban area, many of whom don't own cars, will get a lot of stuff delivered or that human beings will be involved in making those deliveries.
posted by zachlipton at 7:27 PM on March 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


when some start-up disrupts the Alfred economy with JARVIS, and suddenly swarms of miniature AI drones are dropping off your laundry

We're living in a state of technological grace at the moment. For the most part, technology is good enough to help humans, but not quite good enough to replace humans completely in most fields of work. That day is coming, though. Hopefully our economic system can keep up.
posted by the jam at 7:36 PM on March 27, 2015


Remember the flying Asian food junk in Fifth Element? Not so far "fetched." Just wait, they will have to make skyscraper windows that open to accommodate drone delivery.
posted by Oyéah at 7:46 PM on March 27, 2015


.
> If delivery people are employed, and receive benefits, and are paid for the night even if no one orders a single pie

This does not describe any pizza delivery job that I have ever heard of; past or present.


Thats how it works in Australia. Probably most of the developed world, I expect.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 7:57 PM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]



The people who work for these companies presumably do so because they get paid. Nobody is forcing anybody to be an Uber driver, an Alfred, or an Amazon Prime delivery person.
They weighed the pros and cons and made a choice, who are we to deny them that agency because we disagree with their employers' practices?


The claim that workers presented with their choice of poisons are freely choosing is disingenuous to the extreme.

Moreover, we as workers who live by selling our labor time have an interest in ensuring that less exploitative types of labor are not replaced by more exploitative ones, regardless of whether there are workers desperate enough to take the bad deal. This is analogous to the interest that you, as a business owner (am I misremembering who you are?) have in ensuring that other business owners don't dump their products for below the cost of production.

But you knew that already.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:44 PM on March 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would love to have some of these services where I live, we can barely get pizza delivered even though we live in the middle of a city.
posted by octothorpe at 12:42 AM on March 28, 2015


Moreover, we as workers who live by selling our labor time have an interest in ensuring that less exploitative types of labor are not replaced by more exploitative ones, regardless of whether there are workers desperate enough to take the bad deal.

As I've said before, exploitation, especially in the context of labor, is best viewed through the frame of the person providing the offer, not the one accepting it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:54 AM on March 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I should point out that I do not particularly think Uber is committed to campaigning for single-payer or anything - they can support ACA because it costs them very little and I'm sure they don't really care once the responsibility out of their hands. When companies like this talk a big game about freedom and the flexibility of piece work and play down the costs they're handing off to the worker it's absolutely an attempted swindle. I just think that being beholden to a single employer can be as oppressive as anything and that it's significant that there's potential for employees' and employers' interests to align somewhat in support of public services. I guess I'm a supporter of the entrepreneurial/artistic welfare state.
posted by atoxyl at 1:59 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just think that being beholden to a single employer can be as oppressive as anything

This is probably behind some of the opposition to the ACA; business interests wanting to keep workers beholden to them for health care. I have never seen anyone clamoring to get car, homeowner's, or life insurance through their job. Lose your job? No car insurance for you!

The system we have now came about from employers, constrained from offering better workers more money by WW2 wage and price controls, getting the ability to offer health benefits as a substitute incentive. It's as contingent and unplanned as it could be; but, of course, anyone who thinks it's to their benefit portrays it as the natural order of things.
posted by thelonius at 5:06 AM on March 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


The reason that we can't get food delivery at our house not that we live too far away but that we live in a majority black zip code which somehow magically puts us outside the service radius.
posted by octothorpe at 6:38 AM on March 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh man, me too! I live several blocks from half a million dollar houses, but my zip code also includes murder central. I feel 100% safe walking around at night alone, but the only website that accepts my address is Pizza Hut. I am sure I could call around and pay someone a larger delivery fee (or they could look at a fucking map) but that involves Talking To People.
posted by desjardins at 6:52 AM on March 28, 2015


Gordon White does uber.
posted by bukvich at 7:39 AM on March 28, 2015


It started out fine but the main point was not how people became shut-ins due to the internet access. It's closer to how more services are available to everyone else other than the top 10%.

I've spent considerable time in dorms, apartments, suites, and houses. Most people would rather not speak to you the only real exception is the first because you are assigned a roommate and need to share common spaces. And I don't live in NYC either but IIRC most apartments there residents only have access to the specific floor and you need appointments to even enter the lobby. For houses there's a reason people say fences are the key to good neighbors.

The only truly depressing part is how Alfred is taking advantage of part-time employees and not giving fair wages for their work.

BTW: I noticed how the author seemed to be biased in interviews. Really, D&D player? Most people are rarely defined by one single category. Thanks.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 8:05 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there another article on the Blue about how a lot of these service apps end up hiring more young, good looking, and just more white looking people than actual working class and older minorities?

I wonder if that makes the people who feel guilty about using these services better or worse. Better, since the worker probably doesn't look working class, or worse since this person looks more like the customer.

Also, for those that say living alone and not talking to neighbors is totally fine, just remember the Roseto Effect. Of course, I'm guilty of not socializing with neighbors as well, but I'm not defending the behavior at all.
posted by FJT at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2015


Apropos of nothing I just realized Alfred as a name bothers me not only for the reasons Frowner articulated but also because I can't help thinking of Offred from The Handmaid's Tale.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:08 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks to bukvich, I found the piece I mentioned earlier: The Secret to the Uber Economy is Wealth Inequality
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2015


We already have a city where you can get a lot of things delivered.

Yeah, that might be why I'm just kind of bemused by the outrage. I remember when I was a teenager, where you could call up for groceries or laundry or really just whatever the hell you wanted to. I didn't often, because it was expensive, but in NYC you certainly could.
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on March 30, 2015


The outrage, as I understand it, is primarily about the replacement of people formerly classified as employees, and holding the (laughable) protections that capital has been coerced into providing to employees, with people classified as independent contractors and holding none of those protections.

The extra "fuck you" twist that especially annoys people, though, is the tendency among the second-generation wealth that rules Silicon Valley to treat mobile phone displays as if they were magical portals through which law doesn't apply, like the hole in the sheet in those old jokes.

(Extra, extra "fuck you" twist is the assumption among those inherited wealth Silicon Valley types that all people are really just like them, and have the things they have, and want the things they want. Because this statement is on the face of it untrue (Uberesque businesses couldn't exist without the presence of people who aren't like them in that they lack certain resources or features and are therefore seen as available for hyperexploitation), the implication is that the rest of us, the ones who have to fetch things in response to phone requests rather than getting to issue phone requests ourselves) aren't really people.)

HTH HAND.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:58 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Tomorrow Is Steal Something from Work Day!
Oh wait, you work from home? ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2015


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