Good riddance, gig economy
March 28, 2016 8:57 AM   Subscribe

 
fuckedcompany.com, 20-tens version.
posted by Melismata at 9:04 AM on March 28, 2016 [27 favorites]


Wow, that article kinda reads like a rant from a crazy person. Letters to the editor type of stuff. I've got no dog in this fight, but that article is terribly written.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:06 AM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


Got laid off from my government job in 2009. It's taken a few year but the Internet and the gig economy has saved me and my family. No more office politics, and I can (and do) work anywhere in the world. And I can work with anyone in the world. :)
posted by My Dad at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


I feel like the gig economy would have died in the crib if the taxi companies had looked at Uber and said, "Hm, yeah, there are some ways we could be doing our business better...", but rentier capitalism generally makes it easier to protect the monopoly than to make the service better.
posted by Etrigan at 9:12 AM on March 28, 2016 [80 favorites]


that article is terribly written

Indeed: Historical experience shows that three out of four startups fail, and more than nine out of 10 never earn a return.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:13 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


A company can be acquired before earning a return.
posted by Behemoth at 9:15 AM on March 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


I conducted a Twitter interview with its former CEO, Ron J. Williams, as well as with whatever wizard currently lurks behind the faux curtain of the SnapGoods Twitter account,

Huh. Well, that sure is a sentence, right there. Those are words that are strung together in an attempt to convey meaning.

Someone please stop this horrible future, I want to get out
posted by Mayor West at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


From personal experience having tried to help various family members use the gig economy, it's great if you live in one of maybe 5 supercities where that type of work is common.

Try surviving on the gig economy in rural Iowa, Texas or Missouri... there's no Uber, Lyft or TaskRabbit in East Texas, for example.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2016 [31 favorites]


My wife used HomeJoy to clean her company's office for about a year. One day they emailed her to let her know that as part of a promotion, David Hasselhoff would be coming by to clean her office the next week. And sure enough, one week later, David Hasselhoff showed up to mug for cameras and "clean" their office. Three months later, they were out of business. True story.
posted by phooky at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2016 [122 favorites]


Increasingly it seems like more and more of the sharing economy decacorns are operating on extremely shaky terrain. They might be attractive during economic downtimes but they depend on a lot of slack labor in the economy to be able to offer people piece work like driving gigs.

Now that there has been some recovery in the job market the ability to string together a career as a uber driver is largely drying up unless you already had livery driver work and the number of people that seem to be willing to moonlight as drivers with personal cars seems to be going down as the fares decrease.
posted by vuron at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


OK, so maybe the vast majority of gig economy startups are doomed to failure. That is the deal with startups. This is not a sign that the model is broken, at least from investors' perspective.

The whole thing smells like wishful thinking. Toward the end of the article, the author shows his true colors: he just doesn't *like* the gig economy, and he really wants to believe it isn't sustainable:

The current startup model destroys the social connection between businesses and those they employ, and these companies have failed to thrive because they provide crummy jobs that most people only want to do as a very last resort. These platforms show their workforce no allegiance or loyalty, and they engender none in return.

But wishing doesn't make it so. There are lots of reasons to oppose this shift. But let's not be so rosy-eyed as to pretend that under capitalism (or hell, most any other economic system), employers can't sustainably and profitably treat workers like shit. Critique the gig economy all you want, but lets not pretend that the capitalist status quo ante was some Confucian utopia.
posted by andrewpcone at 9:18 AM on March 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm ramping up my own sharing-economy-startup. It's called Cheef. If you need a CEO to burn-through VC capital, but don't want to spend those antiquated CEO prices, Cheef will supply you with an energetic disruptor, eager to spend all that VC money and not show anything for it, for a small fraction of what you might pay for an old-school dinosaur CEO.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:20 AM on March 28, 2016 [180 favorites]


A lot of these companies started up during the economic recession, when the demand for labor was much softer than it is now, especially in the SF Bay Area.

I know some folks who became Task Rabbits because they'd been laid off and needed the money. Now they're getting regular jobs again. That's going to make companies like Task Rabbit a lot less viable at the same price point.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:23 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I feel like the gig economy would have died in the crib if the taxi companies had looked at Uber and said, "Hm, yeah, there are some ways we could be doing our business better...", but rentier capitalism generally makes it easier to protect the monopoly than to make the service better.
I knew a bike messenger who was trying to build a messenger-owned Postmates competitor. I'm sure there were at least a few people at cab companies thinking along similar lines. The problem is, it's expensive as hell to build software, especially software good enough that people will freely choose to use it (if you're writing software that people are going to be forced to use it's a bit easier) and VCs aren't going to give the millions required to cab companies and bike messengers. They're going to give that money to their buddies from Stanford.
posted by enn at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2016 [20 favorites]


I don't see the gig economy disappearing anytime soon, quite the opposite. As usual, labor can't stop the progress of technology but it can shape it by organizing and influencing.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nice try, Thorzdad, but I've already disrupted your CEO-disrupting startup with my own, Toddlr. Whenever you need high-level decisions made about the strategic growth of your VC-backed startup, you contract with Toddlr on a per-question basis. Then, using the revolutionary Toddlr® API, I guarantee you the highest-quality decision making, backed by my 2-year-old who chooses between tough options by hurling handfuls of paint at an easel.

We cut out all the middlemen, and the best part is, it's 100% profit for my own shareholders, because toddlers don't demand labor protections!
posted by Mayor West at 9:26 AM on March 28, 2016 [36 favorites]


Who is John Dot.com?
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on March 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


It seems like the primary areas that gig economy startups tend to do well is by offering an alternative service in areas where the incumbent industry (taxis, hotels, etc) has traditionally used high markups and rent-seeking behavior to maintain a sustainable economic model.

However these types of industries aren't as common as some of the techbro disruptors tend to pretend so the idea that a gig economy start-up can compete with existing but much lower margin industries like home/office cleaning services just kind of seemed too good to be true especially because most of the incumbents weren't exactly making a ton of money previously.

It's hard to generate the hockey-stick ROI that most techdouche CEOs promise if you are mainly looking at surviving by taking a small percentage of profit off of a low margin industry.
posted by vuron at 9:28 AM on March 28, 2016 [24 favorites]


The 15 dollar minimum wage that was just passed in California and is taking hold in other parts of the US is going to be the biggest challenge to 'gig/sharing/insert term here' companies like Uber; Drivers where Uber is currently their second gig will be making more money elsewhere.
posted by zippy at 9:29 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


What an oddly gleeful list of startup failures. And I have no idea what the Ayn Rand connection was, unless it's shorthand for capitalist.

The startup that was doing home cooked meals seemed particularly out of place.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:30 AM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


The article has a point of view, sure, but the story it tells -- sharing economy prices are subsidized by VC money, the sharing economy accelerates a race to the bottom for workers, and many sharing ecomony startups find they have to pivot because they overestimate their attractiveness to on-demand workers -- is accurate. You can criticize tone and sentence quality, but the facts remain.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:31 AM on March 28, 2016 [42 favorites]


Where is GaltsGulch.com?
posted by sio42 at 9:32 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Critique the gig economy all you want, but lets not pretend that the capitalist status quo ante was some Confucian utopia.

Did someone pretend that? Guess I missed it.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:33 AM on March 28, 2016 [7 favorites]




as part of a promotion, David Hasselhoff would be coming by to clean her office the next week. And sure enough, one week later, David Hasselhoff showed up to mug for cameras and "clean" their office

My new app, Pimpr, will connect people with washed-up actors, celebs, and reality stars who are still grasping at another moment of glory. What do you want them to do? It's negotiable!
posted by octobersurprise at 9:34 AM on March 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Silicon Valley is full of Stanford educated technodouche libertarians that have a claim to fame as being disruptors. They are basically following the Randroid wet dream of saying "Us brilliant people can hire a bunch of 20 year old web-designers, design a slick UI, get some VC, and make billions by disrupting existing industries". This is often based upon an extremely shallow view point of how those industries actually operate and are mainly backed with extremely optimistic growth projections (the hockey stick) and a slick VC funding deck.

Now that the VC fund managers are realizing that the vast majority of the gig-economy start-ups are just going to be money-pits and the likelihood of a new decacorn showing up is vanishingly small alot of the these companies are seeing their VC dry up and the cargo cult environment is being revealed for the dysfunctional mess that everyone predicted it would be.
posted by vuron at 9:37 AM on March 28, 2016 [17 favorites]


Now, for commentary on the death of the gig economy, we go to Nelson Muntz...
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:38 AM on March 28, 2016 [33 favorites]


Now that the VC fund managers are realizing that the vast majority of the gig-economy start-ups are just going to be money-pits and the likelihood of a new decacorn showing up is vanishingly small alot of the these companies are seeing their VC dry up and the cargo cult environment is being revealed for the dysfunctional mess that everyone predicted it would be.

Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?
posted by Melismata at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


I conducted a Twitter interview with its former CEO, Ron J. Williams, as well as with whatever wizard currently lurks behind the faux curtain of the SnapGoods Twitter account, and the only comment they would make is that “we pivoted and communicated to our 50,000 users that we had bigger fish to try.”

Of all the things complained of in the article, this is by far the worst. It's "bigger fish to fry". No wonder your company failed.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


This is a poorly presented, Salon-typical response to Farhad Manjoo's much better original. Uber is great because taxi companies (and their cronies in city governments) are horrible. Air B&B is similar, in that insane zoning makes visiting most places either terrible or very expensive. Most of the rest of these startups are stuck trying to squeeze a few cents out of low margin services/markets like groceries and food delivery.

But as with any boom/bust cycle (see 2001, 2008), the individual companies may fail, but the infrastructure will remain and we're better off for it.
posted by mikewebkist at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


The startup that was doing home cooked meals seemed particularly out of place.

"I just can't understand why someone who makes half as much as me would rather make dinner for their own family FOR FREE when they could be making dinner FOR ME for $12. Don't they like money??"
posted by almostmanda at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


....I have no idea what the Ayn Rand connection was, unless it's shorthand for capitalist.

The inclusion of Ayn Rand is a bit subtle, but it's referring to what Lyme Drop just mentioned - that the founders of these startups and the people who use them often don't think much about the people who they want to attract to work for them. They spelled out the thinking of one startup founder who was so focused on trying to make the price-per-hour attractive to the potential user that he didn't think enough about whether the price-per-hour would also be similarly attractive to the workers he was trying to court. And that is what bit him in the ass - the fact that $20 an hour isn't bad if you have a regular 9-5 job, with benefits and a regular schedule and paid time off and all that, but if you're on a gig economy template where you don't have paid time off and you don't have benefits and you don't have job stability and you have to buy your own equipment and you have to pay your own transportation to and from the job site, $20 an hour kind of sucks. The Rand connection was that it felt like the startup founder was thinking of workers as some kind of inorganic thing that would just be plugged in to make the system work, as opposed to being people who had their own needs and desires and interests.

It's taken a few year but the Internet and the gig economy has saved me and my family. No more office politics, and I can (and do) work anywhere in the world. And I can work with anyone in the world. :)

the article touches on this too - that the gig economy was a good stopgap when the economy itself tanked. But - in terms of sustainability, not everyone is cut out for such a self-made entrepreneurial freelance-y kind of life. You have to be "psychotically optimistic", as the article said; able to always focus on the hustle and drive your drumming-up-business forward. And not everyone is that way - I know that I'm not; without job stability I am too worried about the not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, whether I'll have enough to pay for what I need, etc. and I'll be too paralyzed with anxiety to be able to do the very confident self-marketing that I'd need to do. Hell, I got that way even when I was a temp, where such self-marketing isn't even necessary and there's a step up in stability.

The gig economy works for some, yes. But it is not a panacea.

(In closing - I also note with some fury that a lot of the Uber drivers in NYC are city cabbies, who are using their taxis as Uber cars, while on the job as cabbies. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have run towards what looked like a free cab only to have the driver stop me from getting in because he was on an Uber pickup.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on March 28, 2016 [50 favorites]


Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?

Not really. They see themselves as "the smartest people in the room", and they're always sure that this time, things will be different.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:45 AM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


You are acting like the VC fund managers don't like the Silicon Valley equivalent of a pump and dump stock market scheme Melismata

VC funds a potential decacorn, everyone tries to buy-in because what if it's the next Facebook or Google, VC fund cashes out during the high times (maybe holding a small equity position in case the decacorn promise actually pans out), rinse and repeat.

It's the Silicon Valley way of separating fools from their money. The scary thing is that some of the CEOs and VC fund managers actually seemed to be buying into the bullshit this time around.
posted by vuron at 9:45 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]



I know some folks who became Task Rabbits because they'd been laid off and needed the money. Now they're getting regular jobs again. That's going to make companies like Task Rabbit a lot less viable at the same price point.


The growth and success of the gig economy companies would also run the risk of creating a large, well funded interest group that had an incentive to ensure that there was a pool of desperate labor who couldn't find permanent jobs...
posted by deanc at 9:48 AM on March 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


Now that there has been some recovery in the job market the ability to string together a career as a uber driver is largely drying up unless you already had livery driver work and the number of people that seem to be willing to moonlight as drivers with personal cars seems to be going down as the fares decrease.

A lot of the drivers I've talked to are also going to school or doing it as a side job. They all agreed that it wasn't sustainable as a sole source of income, but was a decent side gig that was easy to transition between.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 9:49 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's "bigger fish to fry". No wonder your company failed.

Maybe he meant "try" and right now he's on a boat with his new app MobyDickr.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I believe the "gig economy" used to be called "temping" with the main difference that it was primarily b2b rather than b2c.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


A lot of the gig economy seems to me, from my comfortable office chair in Flyover Country TM to be built upon the notion that Just Regular Folks can, like, have staff. And, as it turns out, maybe not so much, if we want to continue to entertain the illusion that we don't think it's okay to exploit the desperation of our fellow citizens.

I'm just a Flyover resident so I what do I know, but I was raised (by Objectivists even--true story!) to not want other people to do my shit for me because I really am not that special. It's a very midwestern attitude which is probably why you don't find a lot of gig economy hotbeds in, like, Dubuque.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:54 AM on March 28, 2016 [30 favorites]


I was raised (by Objectivists even--true story!)

"I'd like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God"
posted by thelonius at 9:56 AM on March 28, 2016 [28 favorites]


MobyDickr

"Connecting people, doubloons, and really big fish since 2016."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


These taxi sites like Lyft and Uber work because taxis were frequently an extortionately priced rent-seeker controlled market before.

We need more real sharing economy sites like bewelcome.org, craiglist.org, etc. Ain't clear if blablacar.fr should be considered sharing economy given high pricing and acquiring nicer competitors like mitfahrgelegenheit.de.

It's tricky though because real sharing economy sites tend towards being general purpose, like craiglist.org, which makes them not so user friendly. It's clear reasonable to find a house cleaner online, but a house cleaner who can navigate craiglist.org can maybe find a better job.

There is no way Uber could become so successful if they looked like mitfahrgelegenheit.de did. In fact, there would be plenty of bored people with the technical skills to navigate the site to find funny drunk clients to driver around of friday night, but the funny drunk clients would not manage to navigate it.

We need a good open source framework for building non-profit sharing economy sites/tools. In fact, it should be lisenced under at least the GPLv3 or perhaps something stronger, so that free sites can always copy the layout, art, etc. of sites that start charging fees.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:59 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I know some folks who became Task Rabbits because they'd been laid off and needed the money. Now they're getting regular jobs again. That's going to make companies like Task Rabbit a lot less viable at the same price point.

Shouldn't Task Rabbit just do surge pricing until it gets workers?
posted by frogmanjack at 10:00 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


as part of a promotion, David Hasselhoff would be coming by to clean her office the next week. And sure enough, one week later, David Hasselhoff showed up to mug for cameras and "clean" their office

NOW I know what my next business venture should be. Companies can pay me a large sum of money and in return I can send Jedward to their competitors' offices to, well, be themselves. Then those companies can pay me a large sum of money to make them go away.

I'll give Jedward a cut, of course. Seems only fair.
posted by delfin at 10:01 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, now I know who Jedward is, so, um, thanks?
posted by valkane at 10:03 AM on March 28, 2016


I agree w/ andrewpcone.

It does read like sour grapes. For some unknown/un-uttered reason.

Business is complicated & 1 size does not fit all: the Uber model works because it doesn't require a super educated or specialized skill set. All you have to have is a car & an internet connection via smartphone. There's not a tangible product at the end of each gig. All they do is drive from point A to point B. They don't courier goods, they don't make anything, they don't sell anything. But that doesn't mean it doesn't add value, clearly it does. To compare Uber with TaskRabbit to me seems like apples & oranges.

Maybe I'm crazy, but the ones who survive are the ones who adapt. In the building design industry, it has always been feast or famine. For 30+ years I've been expecting the roller coaster to flatten out. It doesn't. You just learn to roll with it by budgeting your money, deciding which jobs to take, which bushes to beat, and try to live within your means.

That roller coaster prepared me well for my own business: in reality work doesn't just appear. Someone has to go get it. And it has to be the right work for what you do. It's stressful as hell, both the highs and the lows.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't want it any other way. It keeps it interesting, makes you appreciate what you do have, and makes you think about whether & what to change.

I guess what I'm saying is that a gig economy in essence is the healthiest for itself, the planet and keeping hubris in check. It sort of mimics natural systems: when strawberries are in season, eat strawberries. If the water supply runs low find another one. Move with the systems, not against them. There's a lot of waste in capitalism.
posted by yoga at 10:03 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Connecting people, doubloons, and really big fish since 2016."
"Mammals."
"Whatever!"
posted by valkane at 10:04 AM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


Also, what is a decacorn?
posted by yoga at 10:05 AM on March 28, 2016


A unicorn with ten horns?
posted by Grangousier at 10:07 AM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


It's a start-up worth over 1 billion jedwards.
posted by valkane at 10:09 AM on March 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Try surviving on the gig economy in rural Iowa, Texas or Missouri... there's no Uber, Lyft or TaskRabbit in East Texas, for example.

So, a serious question: have rural Iowa, Texas, and/or Missouri been hurt by the advent of the gig economy? Or is the plight of rural America something that is separate but running in parallel?
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 AM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's a start-up worth over 1 billion jedwards.

Good grief, that's the equivalent of almost a rupee!
posted by Grangousier at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Nice try, Thorzdad, but I've already disrupted your CEO-disrupting startup with my own, Toddlr.

Nice try, Mayor West, but I've already disrupted your disruption disrupter with my own, Crappr. With Crappr, we get rid of the high-priced labor Toddlr uses and replace it with dogs that we feed dead fish that washed up on the shore of Lake Erie. This produces an nearly endless stream of powerful diarrhea that's perfect for making the strategic decisions that will take your company into the future.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, what is a decacorn?

A unicorn is a startup valued at $1 billion. A decacorn is a startup valued at $10 billion.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


It could also be ten acorns, I suppose.
posted by Grangousier at 10:12 AM on March 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


One decacorn = a posole.
posted by zippy at 10:13 AM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


Ten acorns, seemingly what most start-ups end up valued at.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:14 AM on March 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think that Uber succeeds because they provide a service that no one else was doing. We sort of have taxis here but you can't actually get one to pick you up and drive you somewhere ever so Uber actually filled a hole in the market. The other Uber wannnabees aren't really providing services that have a demand but no other providers.
posted by octothorpe at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I'm waiting for is the consolidation. I want something like in Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs." In fact, I'm still sadly amazed that there isn't such a service already.
posted by BeReasonable at 10:20 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, that article kinda reads like a rant from a crazy person. Letters to the editor type of stuff. I've got no dog in this fight, but that article is terribly written.

Salon's been getting a wee bit hysterical of late. Noticed their election related headlines, esp on Trumpf?

now to RTFA
posted by infini at 10:25 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


This produces an nearly endless stream of powerful diarrhea that's perfect for making the strategic decisions that will take your company into the future.

Nice try, ROU_Xenophobe, but I've already pivoted your disruption with a Soylent alternative that causes 2x explosive diarrhea at 50% the price. We're funded by Mark Wahlberg and the guy who created the original Instagram filters.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:26 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


If all these "gig economy" startups weren't so obviously focused on overly busy and overpaid coastal professionals with more money than sense, I could make a joke about our new economy being based on taking in each other's laundry.
posted by Automocar at 10:26 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?
posted by Melismata


No. Most of them were in kindergarten.
posted by infini at 10:31 AM on March 28, 2016 [21 favorites]


We need a good open source framework for building non-profit sharing economy sites/tools. In fact, it should be lisenced under at least the GPLv3 or perhaps something stronger, so that free sites can always copy the layout, art, etc. of sites that start charging fees.

Especially if designed inclusively to help non young techie males with university educations navigate it. This would be a godsend in developing world contexts, especially for mobile platform.
posted by infini at 10:33 AM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


So, a serious question: have rural Iowa, Texas, and/or Missouri been hurt by the advent of the gig economy?

I hear that AirBrBa is really disrupting the local meth manufacturing networks.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:35 AM on March 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


We need a good open source framework for building non-profit sharing economy sites/tools.

We already arguably have this (and have had for quite some time).

However, the past 10 years of tech trends (particularly the move toward apps and the cloud) have been huge leaps backwards. The current tech ecosystem makes it very difficult to have anything decentralized.
posted by schmod at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, what is a decacorn?

Twenty bucks, same as in town.
posted by Naberius at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2016 [23 favorites]


Try surviving on the gig economy in rural Iowa, Texas or Missouri... there's no Uber, Lyft or TaskRabbit in East Texas, for example.

Here in rural Vermont we don't even have pizza delivery, so we don't miss all these so-called life hacks that the city slickers wet themselves over.
posted by terrapin at 10:38 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?

Ha ha ha oh you. There's this book called Ecclesiastes that you should read sometime.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2016 [15 favorites]


I feel like the gig economy would have died in the crib if the taxi companies had looked at Uber and said, "Hm, yeah, there are some ways we could be doing our business better...", but rentier capitalism generally makes it easier to protect the monopoly than to make the service better.

The problem they had was sort of like the chipotle outbreak though. It doesn't matter if they improve their product and service, because their reputation is already irreparably borked with my generation. Everyone i know associates yellow cabs with thieving scumbags who don't turn the meter on, try and overcharge you, take roundabout routes(which you can't prove) and harass/creep on/assault/generally prey on women.

The rebranding effort and marketing campaign they'd need would be enormous, and would probably involve being so cheap that uber seemed like a ripoff for a while. Probably running them into the ground.

You can't sling a shit product for years and not feel the blowback. Improving didn't fucking matter and even if they were stubborn, it wouldn't have made all that much of a difference.

Once again, this is just from my perspective in one city... But it's true here. Not to mention that the waters have been muddied by the meter-less "flat rate for hire!" cabs that are mostly ultra-scumbags who demand $25 for a 6 block ride and dare you to call them on it.

At least if an uber rips me off i know i'm getting my money back and someone will take my complaint seriously. The city and cab dispatch will condescend to and laugh at me.
posted by emptythought at 10:41 AM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


What I'm waiting for is the consolidation. I want something like in Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs." In fact, I'm still sadly amazed that there isn't such a service already.

The seventh seal has been opened.
posted by zippy at 10:44 AM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


"At least if an uber rips me off i know i'm getting my money back" ...until that sweet, sweet venture capital money stops flowing into Uber, who are losing money on every ride (but making it up in voluuuuuuuuume!).
posted by mark242 at 10:44 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not an especially well-written article, but not wrong either. I am volunteering again this year with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and there are a lot of Uber/Lyft drivers coming for help. Both Uber/Lyft give their drivers a report of how many passenger miles they drove, implying that it's the maximum number of miles they can deduct on their tax return. (It's not, they can also deduct the mileage between dropping one fare off and going to pick up another, just like traditional taxi drivers or traveling salesmen.) Certainly it would be trivially easy for Uber/Lyft to incorporate a more accurate mile-tracker for their drivers. My hypothesis is that they are attempting to avoid excess attention from the IRS and Department of Labor. If the app just tracked all the miles driven, that might incentivize the drivers to drive around to boost up the deductible miles number to reduce their tax burden. If thousands of drivers did this, the IRS and DOL might go after the big fish (Uber/Lyft) rather than the lowly, low-income drivers who are struggling to pay their taxes. It's terrible. I spend time every week coaching the drivers on how to accurately track their miles for the coming year. Many of them, faced with an unexpected tax bill, say that they are going to quit driving because it doesn't make them that much money and they feel Uber/Lyft doesn't care about them. They are not wrong.

But oh the irony - I order Munchery for my husband and kids on those nights. Meals on wheels for the upper middle class.
posted by stowaway at 10:46 AM on March 28, 2016 [19 favorites]


Here in rural Vermont we don't even have pizza delivery

LUXURY! Here at the bottom of the ocean we don't have electricity, or reliably-oxygenated air, but that's OK because it builds character and self-reliance.
posted by aramaic at 10:46 AM on March 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


What I'm waiting for is the consolidation. I want something like in Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs." In fact, I'm still sadly amazed that there isn't such a service already.

There is.
posted by Huck500 at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm crazy, but the ones who survive are the ones who adapt. In the building design industry, it has always been feast or famine. For 30+ years I've been expecting the roller coaster to flatten out. It doesn't. You just learn to roll with it by budgeting your money, deciding which jobs to take, which bushes to beat, and try to live within your means.

Again - as both I and the article have stated - not everyone is cut out for this kind of thing. If you are, you can indeed adapt. But not everyone is able to be this kind of self-starter for a variety of reasons.

And in the past, there were more options for people who were like that, so it was okay. But the danger here is that everyone goes to assuming that "we don't need to worry about job creation, because TaskRabbit" then people who can't function in a gig economy are screwed.

And I submit as my proof: IRAs vs. pensions. IRAs were created for people who were financially savvy, so they could have some control over their investments. But somehow it was deemed that because IRAs existed as a thing, companies no longer needed to offer pensions. The problem is that there simply aren't as many people who are savvy enough about investing for an IRA to be a better option for them than a pension - but too bad, that's their only choice now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on March 28, 2016 [36 favorites]


I'm knocking on wood that this never happens to me, but participating in the gig economy or even having to strike out on my own in any kind of up-and-down industry would be the end of me, mental health-wise. I have a lot of anxiety around money and stability and will always and forever choose the job that pays less but offers more security rather than the other way around. Just the fact that my husband works in the private sector at all (I'm in higher ed) makes me hyperventilate sometimes because the reality of the private sector in 2016 is you can be a rock star at your job, your company can be raking in dough hand over fist, and you can still be downsized at a moment's notice just because someone else somewhere else might be able to do your job for a couple dollars an hour less. The fact that that is the reality that 50% of our household income is based on makes me literally lose sleep at night. So, yeah. I might retire into a freelance self-employment gig but I sure as hell will not voluntarily have that as my main source of income without a bubblegum machine filled with Xanax at the ready.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:01 AM on March 28, 2016 [26 favorites]


Wow, that article kinda reads like a rant from a crazy person. Letters to the editor type of stuff. I've got no dog in this fight, but that article is terribly written.

Yeah, the article states that Luxe, a valet-on-demand type company, is having problems and raising prices, but then links to an article about Instacart instead.

Luxe hasn't raised prices in Downtown Los Angeles. But they probably could, since their full day price ($15) is cheaper than almost all the buildings (less than 50% of what it costs to park in my building, the Gas Company Tower), and is only a couple of bucks more than the cheaper lots.
posted by sideshow at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2016


Every time some group wants to cut services or monetize something formerly cheap/free, there's always a slew of thinkpieces on how it will all be fine for the people who depended on those services, they'll just have "roll with it" and "be more savvy" and you know what, fuck that. I should not have to have all my senses tuned to 11, be in touch with every market trend, be on the bleeding edge at all times, and be willing to work 60 hour weeks every week without any downtime (which is what this boils down to) just to meet my life necessities. I mean, past a certain age, most of us just can't do that anyway; it's younger workers who can fool themselves that that's a sustainable way to live.

But younger workers shouldn't have to live like that either, because it's shitty.

We all work too hard already. We need to stop letting people tell us that it's ok that we'll have to keep working harder and harder just to keep up. No it fucking isn't.

Bread and roses too, motherfuckers.
posted by emjaybee at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2016 [62 favorites]


>Indeed, the reality that the sharing economy visionaries can’t seem to grasp is that not everyone is cut out to be a gig-preneur, or to “build out their own businesses,” as Leah Busque likes to say. Being an entrepreneur takes a uniquely wired brand of individual with a distinctive skill set, including being “psychotically optimistic,” as one business consultant put it.

This is incorrect. "Entrepreneurs" and "business people" are wildly overvalued in our society. I don't like the adulatory phrasing of this passage. You're not pessimistic, or lazy if you don't live the life of a Silicon Valley huckster. However, that is certainly the implication.

People who are the most successful in capitalist society probably tick at least a few boxes on the DMS-V's criteria for psychopathy. Criminally low empathy, overinflated ego; a sense that you are better than others, willingness to sacrifice all other aspects of life in the pursuit of money, these are the skills that you really need to survive in such an environment. Those traits are nothing to aspire to.

I'm tired of our media lauding the values, ethics and personalities of the rich. I can't stand this self-deprecating, collective celebration of wealth and power. It's tantamount to medieval aristocratic thinking, where the poor are lazy by nature, and the powerful are powerful for inborn qualities. The sub-apex classes are being conditioned to believe the current hierarchy is congenital, and fixed. The Bell Curve poisoned our media in the 90's, and now its roots have enveloped our popular culture from beneath the surface.
posted by constantinescharity at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2016 [32 favorites]



At the end of the day, I wouldn't want it any other way. It keeps it interesting, makes you appreciate what you do have, and makes you think about whether & what to change.


That's great for you, but lots of people like and want stable jobs with benefits.

Gig economy startups are premised on the idea that there are tons of people out there who want to work feast-or-famine lives with erratic schedules and ever-falling wages for the thrill of "determining your own destiny!"

That was all a bit of myth making to cover up for the fact that, ultimately, labor is expensive and you have to pay for it, but if you could convince investors that labor was cheap, they'd think your business plan was viable.

Uber is basically building a brand: their model isn't sustainable because their drivers don't have control over their own fees and Uber keeps driving them down. The long term plan is to simply build a customer base of passengers until self driving cars are available. In the meantime, Uber hopes there's a steady flow/churn of new drivers coming in to the system to keep it going until they're no longer necessary.
posted by deanc at 11:40 AM on March 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


"Entrepreneurs" and "business people" are wildly overvalued in our society. I don't like the adulatory phrasing of this passage. You're not pessimistic, or lazy if you don't live the life of a Silicon Valley huckster. However, that is certainly the implication.

If Salon is using laudatory prose for entrepreneurs then the world truly has gone mad.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:41 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


However, the past 10 years of tech trends (particularly the move toward apps and the cloud) have been huge leaps backwards. The current tech ecosystem makes it very difficult to have anything decentralized.

"The Cloud" is decidedly mixed, I think. It absolutely puts a lot of power in the hands of a few huge companies. It has also given me or any other random developer access to all kinds of capabilities I never would have had on my own before and I think there are plenty of examples of "non-profit sharing economy tools" that would be easier to run than ever this way. And it's not like people forgot how to do true distributed/P2P systems if you're not okay with Amazon and Google or they're not okay with you. That's not where the money is but why would it be?
posted by atoxyl at 11:45 AM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


(In closing - I also note with some fury that a lot of the Uber drivers in NYC are city cabbies, who are using their taxis as Uber cars, while on the job as cabbies. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have run towards what looked like a free cab only to have the driver stop me from getting in because he was on an Uber pickup.)

This is an option in the Uber app, it's called UberT.
posted by zutalors! at 11:47 AM on March 28, 2016




If Salon is using laudatory prose for entrepreneurs then the world truly has gone mad.

Actually, I think Salon is using the gig economy to get freelance writers, borrowed content from other sites, and people to donate book excerpts that 'give exposure' to them. If they had an actual editorial stance they wouldn't be in their current political position - half the articles claiming that Bernie is the only person you should ever vote for ever while the next article is claims that Clinton will be a great president and we all have to get behind her (sure they hate Trump consistently, but the majority of conservative politicians feel the same way).
posted by el io at 11:53 AM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I’m going to give this article a Fuck Yeah and half.

Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?

You don’t understand because you’re old and this is new. The internet! It’s different this time. The internet!

I’ve never understood how people thought unregulated taxis, boarding houses, and mail order was a bold new future and not a throwback to the things we left behind for a reason.

Behind all this is a fundamentally self centered line of thinking; everyone should be like me. Everyone should be an entrepreneur. That’s just stupid, a simple minded view of the world. The majority of people do not live to work, they don’t give a fuck about their job. They want to show up, do the work and try to enjoy the rest of their lives. This is what made corporate culture work so well for the last century. People will work hard and put up with a lot of bullshit if you offer them some security and don’t hassle them too much.

The workers are what drive the economy. You don’t have millions of cheap giant TV’s if you don’t have a middle class of workers to buy them. This tech economy does not have a long term vision, it has a cash out vision. None of this works in the long term.

If the taxi system in a few large cities is broken, then fix the taxi system. What’s that thing about the baby and the bathwater?

Now I’ve got to go pull my catfish out of the river and go to town and trade them for whisky and bacon.
posted by bongo_x at 11:57 AM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


Still waiting for a good explanation as to just who pays the taxes and the matching social security contributions for these "shared" economy ventures and how they avoid the laws covering actual "real" employees or we will all have to pay in 40 years for the missing retirement costs when nobody pays into the system. The concept of "independent contractor" has always had rules and I just do not see the IRS letting this go forever without a correction to the plan. Not to even begin to get into the issues of safety, when people can and do sue stores for everything under the sun as regards "employee" behavior, and win, it makes me wonder how Uber will survive a huge settlement if a driver cripples a child to the tune of 5 million in life care costs or in the event of a wrongful death.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:00 PM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


it makes me wonder how Uber will survive a huge settlement if a driver cripples a child to the tune of 5 million in life care costs or in the event of a wrongful death.
As we've seen, they'll just blame the driver and refuse culpability.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:13 PM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


I’ve never understood how people thought unregulated taxis, boarding houses, and mail order was a bold new future and not a throwback to the things we left behind for a reason.

Because regulated taxis are often terrible, hotels are expensive, and uh- it's not so much that mail order is new but that Amazon is really good at it? The most common rebuttal to these systems seems to be “we left these things behind for a reason” (though that doesn’t even apply to mail-order) - I mean, I’ve used it myself. But that does a really poor job of explaining why you, personally, should forego a chance of earning some money when it seems like all you need is a can-do attitude. Tell that to people who need cash now.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:14 PM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


So you’re saying the economy isn’t working, so instead of fixing systems we should lower expectations?
posted by bongo_x at 12:18 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Still waiting for a good explanation as to just who pays the taxes and the matching social security contributions for these "shared" economy ventures and how they avoid the laws covering actual "real" employees or we will all have to pay in 40 years for the missing retirement costs when nobody pays into the system.

I assume that the reason older people have been telling my generation since we were children that Social Security is going to go bankrupt before we get any was to keep us quiet while they loot it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:24 PM on March 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


The problem with the "gig economy" is always going to come down to infrastructure.

Uber and AirBNB have been successful because they took advantage of infrastructure that was already in place. People have cars. Roads exist. People have apartments with extra rooms. All it took was a little software magic to turn this existing infrastructure into money.

And then you got all the follow-ons, the people pitching ideas that were "like Uber for _____." And you can't really fault them for trying. I mean, if you're wanting to found a startup, you need an idea you can turn into a compelling elevator pitch, and "VARIATION ON EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL COMPANY" is not a bad place to start.

The problem is, while it may have gotten easier to add software magic to the equation, nothing about our basic infrastructure has really changed. There may be a million and one errand-running or housecleaning startups, but has it actually gotten easier for someone to shlep across town with a bunch of cleaning supplies and then get home in time to make dinner for their family? Has it gotten easier to deal with the slack times that inevitably occur when you're not guaranteed a steady stream of work?

This was mentioned in the article, but the forces that could affect this situation exist outside of software : a decent social safety net, a certain measure of urban density, the supply of cheap labor, a population that can afford a "gig economy" service whose price point is high enough to sustain a business, that sort of thing.

The idea behind the gig economy is not necessarily a bad one, but it's quite possible that we've exhausted all the viable businesses that don't require new infrastructure or some large-scale social change.
posted by panama joe at 12:29 PM on March 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


So you’re saying the economy isn’t working, so instead of fixing systems we should lower expectations?

No, I’m saying that “don’t people understand that we regulate Taxis for a reason?” is a crappy pitch when regulated taxis are often terrible.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:29 PM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Still waiting for a good explanation as to just who pays the taxes and the matching social security contributions for these "shared" economy ventures"

The independent contractor pays the tax in that case (google "self employment tax").
posted by bfields at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


See also Shannon Liss-Riordan's suit against Uber.
Liss-Riordan is tired of hearing that labor laws should adapt to accommodate upstart tech companies, not the other way around: "Why should we tear apart laws that have been put in place over decades to help a $50 billion company like Uber at the expense of workers who are trying to pay their rent and feed their families?"
The problem with the "gig economy" is that it has been structured to exploit those least able to fight back, the workers, by making them independent contractors with all the risk and liability that entails, when they would have been employees before. Uber may provide better service than the cab companies, but the way it treats its employees is as bad or worse. By patronizing these gig companies, you are contributing to the erosion of worker protections and rights.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:42 PM on March 28, 2016 [31 favorites]


No, I’m saying that “don’t people understand that we regulate Taxis for a reason?” is a crappy pitch when regulated taxis are often terrible.

It's the (de-)regulation (and the regulatory capture) that's terrible. And the gig economy is just as guilty, if not moreso, of doing it as the taxis are. The solution isn't further deregulation, as the gig companies are lobbying for, and the same kind of people in our governments who want government small enough to be drowned in the bathtub are the ones helping those companies along. When your ideology depends on destroying safe and sane labor regulations, these guys are your best friends
posted by zombieflanders at 12:44 PM on March 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


But that does a really poor job of explaining why you, personally, should forego a chance of earning some money when it seems like all you need is a can-do attitude

Renting out a spare room and driving a cab at night are things you do when you're doing everything you can to try to scrape by in difficult circumstances.

But instead of, "Facing economic dire straits, Americans are moving their children into one room to rent out the spare to travelers and driving gypsy cabs at night in an effort to make ends meet," we get, "everyone is an independent entrepreneur with the help of these great apps whose companies are in a constant struggle with their contractors to suck as much money out of them as possible!"

Now, to be fair, I respect Airbnb as a brokering company, because it allows people to set their own prices and matches them with trustworthy customers, whereas Uber doesn't allow drivers that level of autonomy.

But the promise of the commercial internet was the promise of disintermediation: we would be able to eliminate middlemen and get what we needed directly from sellers and service providers without several layers of distributors and marketers serving as the gatekeepers. And while that has happened, we also see companies that seem to be determined to destroy existing capital and infrastructure in industries and keep the surplus for themselves.
posted by deanc at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2016 [22 favorites]


It's the (de-)regulation (and the regulatory capture) that's terrible. And the gig economy is just as guilty, if not moreso, of doing it as the taxis are. The solution isn't further deregulation, as the gig companies are lobbying for, and the same kind of people in our governments who want government small enough to be drowned in the bathtub are the ones helping those companies along. When your ideology depends on destroying safe and sane labor regulations, these guys are your best friends

I’m not arguing for deregulation as some kind of boon. I’m just tired of hearing one particular argument trotted out again & again while never gaining traction. It’s not Uber’s fault that taxis are terrible, and it’s not AirBnB’s fault that people want cheaper hotels or that letting out a room on Craigslist is hard. Or, for that matter, that people want to feel like markets -which are a crap way of relating with people- can be fun or smooth (Lyft). The lawsuit mentioned above seems like a great thing, and I hope it goes well.

But instead of, "Facing economic dire straits, Americans are moving their children into one room to rent out the spare to travelers and driving gypsy cabs at night in an effort to make ends meet," we get, "everyone is an independent entrepreneur with the help of these great apps whose companies are in a constant struggle with their contractors to suck as much money out of them as possible!"

I wouldn’t beef about the the gypsy cab notion, but that “moving our kids to a spare room so that we can make ends meet” situation; that feels like it needs a citation. My assumption has been that most folks are doing AirBnB out of want, rather than need, but I’d be glad to be corrected.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:00 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm still scratching my head about why so many of these startups are pivoting towards things like house cleaning and handyman type work - I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc. Heck, my husband used to run a carpet cleaning company, and they operated almost entirely on word of mouth recommendations.

For example, we were in the market for a house painter, and within days found that our house cleaner's husband and our friend's brother in law are both house painters. All we had to do was ask around.

People in these lines of work have always been entrepreneurs. So this story, "You too can be an entrepreneur, cleaning houses on your own schedule!" is exactly the same thing women have been doing for decades cleaning houses while their kids are in school. Except now there's an app? I don't see where the disruption is coming from.
posted by antimony at 1:04 PM on March 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


My assumption has been that most folks are doing AirBnB out of want, rather than need, but I’d be glad to be corrected.

The problem is that while these sorts of things might start as wants, they can rather quickly become needs. It doesn't take long for pulling value out of the utilization of your home to become the new normal.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc.

I'm guessing part of what's powering the trend is not wanting to engage in actual human interaction. Go here, click here, put in your credit card number, and you get what you want or your problem goes away, with none of that pesky dealing with people that all the entrepreneurial extroverted type-A's are so on about.
posted by Mooski at 1:09 PM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm still scratching my head about why so many of these startups are pivoting towards things like house cleaning and handyman type work - I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc. Heck, my husband used to run a carpet cleaning company, and they operated almost entirely on word of mouth recommendations.

Most likely because the people who create these services are "digital nomads", and thus don't have the network you need for word of mouth - so they try to build it artificially.

And I can understand how that works - I'm in the middle of planning my wedding, which will be in a city four hours away. Because of that, I don't know any of the vendors there, so it's hard to make decisions. Which is why I hired a local wedding planner, so I can use her network to trim down the vendor selection.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc.

There's a reason this is often called the shut-in economy. Right now there's a ton of people who are making good money in tech, who have pretty poor social skills (especially when outside of their skill sets) and who seem to think there really is this huge untapped market in spending money so you don't have to actually, you know, deal with people. It's kind of sad really. (And I say that as a guy working in tech who has some of those same issues, but think the idea of wallowing in them kind of pathetic.)
posted by aspo at 1:10 PM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


There's a reason this is often called the shut-in economy. Right now there's a ton of people who are making good money in tech, who have pretty poor social skills (especially when outside of their skill sets) and who seem to think there really is this huge untapped market in spending money so you don't have to actually, you know, deal with people. It's kind of sad really. (And I say that as a guy working in tech who has some of those same issues, but think the idea of wallowing in them kind of pathetic.)

I am an introvert who does actuarial risk management, so I feel you on not wanting to talk to people. But when I moved to Albuquerque last year it just wasn't such a hardship to ask coworkers "Hey, can you send me the widget report, and while I have you - do you have a dentist you like?" In my experience, people want to be helpful, and they love to recommend people and businesses they have had good experiences with.
posted by antimony at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


No, I’m saying that “don’t people understand that we regulate Taxis for a reason?” is a crappy pitch when regulated taxis are often terrible.

Hark to the tale of EmpressCallipygos And The Taxi From Hell.

Sometime in February, I was running late to work, and tried hailing a taxi. However, it was a very cold day, so there weren't that many (not that there are that many in my part of Brooklyn). Finally, when one cabbie stopped and first asked if I had used a local taxi app to hail him, and I admitted I had not; but he shrugged and said he'd take me anyway. We spent a couple minutes as he drove trying to switch off the auto-biller function in that taxi app, so the person who had called for him wouldn't be charged. I settled back to my seat.

And a moment later, the silence was broken by my driver casually volunteering the information that he "never picks up black guys who use that app."

I blinked, and asked him, "did you just say that you don't pick up black people?"

"oh, no," he rushed to clarify. "I only don't pick them up when they're using that app." He offered some complicated story about a former fare who'd tried to pay for his fare with an expired gift card, and I'm sure he considered that to be a logical justification for his position. I simply nodded, and quietly began writing down his taxi license number, cab number, and other such information. I also made the mental note to refuse him a tip when we got to my destination, and to tell him precisely why.

However, we never DID reach my destination. Instead, the fellow got a flat tire en route - while we were on the FDR Drive. And he handled that situation by calling a buddy of his at the garage in Queens to get him to come to pick me up, and then he kicked me out of the car - on the side of the FDR Drive, which is a major highway - so he could fix his flat. Fortunately, I was not there long - for an Uber driver, who did not have a passenger, was riding by and sized up the situation. He pulled over as well and offered to take me, and I got in. My rescuer only charged me a fraction of what it would have ordinarily been "because it was cold out today". (I also note, with delight, that my rescuer was a young African-American man.)

Now - I tell this story not to disprove the point that "regulated taxis can be terrible." I tell this story to relate how regulation ultimately served me as a passenger.

...As soon as I got to work (and told the story to all co-workers, complete with the intro "I don't know which was worse - the casual racism, or being kicked out on the side of the highway!"), I filled out a complaint form on a web site maintained by the city; that being the regulating body. I relayed the details of the incident, complete with the taxi license number - I noted as well that the gentleman did not have his name posted on the inside of the taxi. (I was later told that that itself is an additional violation.) Within a day or so, I received an email acknowledging my complaint and promising to investigate, and within week or so, someone phoned me to request further details on the incident. A week or so after that, I received a final email that they had decided to levy a punitive charge against the driver, and that they would strongly advise him to plead "guilty" to their charge and to my allegations. He did have the right to plead "not guilty", at which time I could be requested to testify by phone one last time. However, they were quite certain he would plead guilty.

As I understand it, though, if I had tried to do something similar with an Uber driver, the policy of Uber would be to disassociate themselves from their driver and tell me to take it up with him directly.

My point being: regulated taxis can be terrible, but at least there is something that the passenger can do about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:24 PM on March 28, 2016 [49 favorites]


It's the (de-)regulation (and the regulatory capture) that's terrible. And the gig economy is just as guilty, if not moreso, of doing it as the taxis are. The solution isn't further deregulation, as the gig companies are lobbying for, and the same kind of people in our governments who want government small enough to be drowned in the bathtub are the ones helping those companies along. When your ideology depends on destroying safe and sane labor regulations, these guys are your best friends

Deregulation is terrible, except when it isn't. You have to spell out which are the safe and sane regulations. And this is the problem with the rants against Uber/gig economy. So few people are willing to do the hard work and make good arguments for or against regulations, which might go into detail and get tedious, depriving us of our rant rhythm.

Metafilter tends to lean on the instinctive pro regulation side. But frequently there are few non bullshit arguments made. Insisting that workers get treated fairly is noble, except when people actually lose income opportunities as a result. Taking delight in some techbro's failure doesn't help the people who need to find new jobs as a result. Telling the world how unseemly or dumb it is to rent out a room or use their own vehicle treats people like idiots unable to make choices for themselves.

The problem is that while these sorts of things might start as wants, they can rather quickly become needs. It doesn't take long for pulling value out of the utilization of your home to become the new normal.

Pulling value out of your house long predates the sharing economy. But more importantly, what is it to you is someone chooses to do so?

I'm still scratching my head about why so many of these startups are pivoting towards things like house cleaning and handyman type work - I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc. Heck, my husband used to run a carpet cleaning company, and they operated almost entirely on word of mouth recommendations.

There are lots of goods and services I've never needed. There are plenty of apps I have no use for. If you never needed an app, good for you. But why is it a problem if you want to use an app to find these services?

sharing economy prices are subsidized by VC money, the sharing economy accelerates a race to the bottom for workers, and many sharing ecomony startups find they have to pivot because they overestimate their attractiveness to on-demand workers -- is accurate. You can criticize tone and sentence quality, but the facts remain.

This is kind of a weird angle. Lots of commercial ventures are subsidized by VC money. It's been like this for a really long time, and it seems a reasonable system. Commercial ventures, especially new ones, routinely have to switch gears, adding or cutting employees to stay viable, sometimes morphing into completely different businesses. Treating this as some kind of new Silicon Valley invention is silly.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:36 PM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


I do hear & respect different comfort levels & needs for stability as pointed out by EmpressCallipygos, emjaybee and deanc.

It sounds like the higher the stability, the more predictable or repetitive a job might be. Am I off base with that?

I guess I see it from a business owner's shoes more now than when I was younger. When I worked in architectural offices, I assumed there would always be something to draw when I walked in the office every morning. It never occurred to me until I started my own business that a steady flow of work was something that was nurtured months before I ever saw the drawing requirements. I was pretty insulated from where the work came from.

There are limits to my ambition: I can't fathom the pressure of having employees. Until I meet the right partner that can help man the helm, that's just not going to happen because I don't know if I could provide enough for both myself and however many other people.
posted by yoga at 1:40 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Insisting that workers get treated fairly is noble, except when people actually lose income opportunities as a result.
So, we should deregulate to help the economy? That didn't work out very well for the US when we did it to the banking industry.
posted by soelo at 1:45 PM on March 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


It sounds like the higher the stability, the more predictable or repetitive a job might be.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAno. Even in stable jobs, there's still shit to worry about - it's just that the shit you worry about is more about "how to make sure the company actually does well" as opposed to the shit you worry about being "am I going to make rent this month".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


Pulling value out of your house long predates the sharing economy. But more importantly, what is it to you is someone chooses to do so?

One someone? Not much. But get enough someones doing so, and it normalizes the behavior - and then, instead of it being a benefit for those who opt in, it becomes a penalty for those who opt out. Somehow, I'm not seeing how it's healthy for our society to normalize pulling all the slack value out of our lives and funneling the majority of the value to the 1%.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2016 [10 favorites]


So, we should deregulate to help the economy? That didn't work out very well for the US when we did it to the banking industry.

Truth, but it does seem odd that you need a license to braid hair. (This story is from 2012, so the situation might have changed...)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:51 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Still waiting for a good explanation as to just who pays the taxes and the matching social security contributions for these "shared" economy ventures and how they avoid the laws covering actual "real" employees or we will all have to pay in 40 years for the missing retirement costs when nobody pays into the system. The concept of "independent contractor" has always had rules and I just do not see the IRS letting this go forever without a correction to the plan.

That's the "genius" of this system though. Since they're all Independent Contractors, if they fuck up their taxes(and get hit with the bigger tax burden of being a 1099) then it's on them and reflects in no way on uber, nor is it their liability. Isn't it wonderful!

The only hope here is some kind of organized action against uber that they're mislabeling their employees as contractors. And they already have enough money to basically SWAT that one with lawyers for eternity.

I can't even think of any way to solve this that doesn't involve government(or IRS) intervention.

People have apartments with extra rooms. All it took was a little software magic to turn this existing infrastructure into money.

There's something intellectually dishonest about this one to me. No one, ok -none of my peers-, have a spare room. If they even have an extra room, it's because someone skipped on a lease.

And more importantly, we need to be honest about what most airbnbs are now. The "room in a house ones" are not a significant portion of the market and not what people are usually looking for unless they're shopping purely on price. And even then, the whole-house ones have gotten cheap.

The discussion and framing that really needs to be happening when airbnb is discussed is the units being rented(often without the landlords consent or essentially via fraud when they lie about the occupancy/usage) solely to be full time airbnbs. People are purchasing condos just for this purpose as investments.

Is the latter probably ok? maybe. Is the former? That's messy at best. But if we're going to talk about airbnb, we should be talking about how much of it is full time dedicated spaces no one lives in, and below that spaces people vacate when it comes time to rent them.

There isn't a major city right now this isn't running rampant in, and "airbnb is mostly fair" doesn't really paint more than a corner of the picture at best.
posted by emptythought at 1:52 PM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


One someone? Not much. But get enough someones doing so, and it normalizes the behavior - and then, instead of it being a benefit for those who opt in, it becomes a penalty for those who opt out. Somehow, I'm not seeing how it's healthy for our society to normalize pulling all the slack value out of our lives and funneling the majority of the value to the 1%

This is a slippery slope that needs some citations for this specific market. Everyone will have to rent out spare rooms or else they’ll run out of money?
posted by Going To Maine at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Insisting that workers get treated fairly is noble, except when people actually lose income opportunities as a result

No, workers should always be treated fairly, especially when there is an economic cost to someone who could otherwise benefit from screwing workers over (and even when a desperate worker will have to pass up an opportunity to be exploited).

I realize that there are many people who wish they could run a restaurant out of their kitchen or use the ground floor apartment of their two family home as a hotel or can get more work done on his contracting project more cheaply by picking up a few guys waiting at Home Depot and paying them $50 for the day. However, this doesn't make our world better, and slowly degrades our quality of life and removes opportunities from the rest of us. One home-restaurant might be fine, but as it becomes a norm, suddenly we will run into an outbreak of food poisoning. Yes, I'm sure it would be nice to run a downstairs apartment like a hotel, but eventually the law is going to have to get involved to resolve disputes and insurance companies are going to have to cover liabilities for something that isn't meant as a hotel, and meanwhile people looking for an apartment in that city won't be able to live in that unit. Yes, day workers are cheap, but the hospitals are going to be on the hook to take care of their injuries when they get hurt on the job or when they're too worn out to work anymore by the age of 50.

So, yeah, just because someone sees an opportunity to make a buck doesn't mean the rest of us should be on the hook to clean up their mess.
posted by deanc at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2016 [40 favorites]


Is the latter probably ok? maybe. Is the former? That's messy at best. But if we're going to talk about airbnb, we should be talking about how much of it is full time dedicated spaces no one lives in, and below that spaces people vacate when it comes time to rent them.

Yeah I won't claim that nobody rents out a room - I don't have data on that - but one of the bigger issues that seems to have arisen with AirBnB is more about residential property being converted to short-term rental with few regulations.

I don't see where the disruption is coming from

We're talking about the "try to cash in on a minute variation of an existing business model" economy at this point.
posted by atoxyl at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


one of the bigger issues that seems to have arisen with AirBnB is more about residential property being converted to short-term rental with few regulations.

That, and properties being converted in violation of regulations that already exist and that expressly prohibit such rentals. Enforcement hasn't kept pace with their popularity.
posted by cjelli at 2:08 PM on March 28, 2016


On the other hand as I say every time - and this is maybe particular to my own age and background - I'm much more interested in fighting for a real and robust public safety net than a return to the 1960s conception of being an employee.
posted by atoxyl at 2:13 PM on March 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


“That works on Sand Hill Road” referring to the upper-crust boulevard in Menlo Park, California, where much of the world’s venture capital makes its home.

Ah, sly reference to the site of the graveyard where the Tuco dances dizzy circles then digs up the gold named Arch Stanton.

Well they'll all be in the grave themselves before too much longer. While Blondie's in Bolivia with Butch.
posted by Twang at 3:17 PM on March 28, 2016


"Uber for X" really is only analogous when X is regulated for safety (or other reasons) and money can be made not by economic efficiency, but by making an end-run around democratic law. Because taxis and hotels were heavily regulated for safety reasons, bullying or enticing state legislatures to allow unregulated services was successful. But anything where millions of dollars aren't tied up in regulation is neither likely to succeed, nor analogous to Uber. Food delivery, houskeeping, etc, are poorly regulated already, and thus there is little profit to be had. But there are certainly other things which the "gig economy" could be quite profitable at if it managed to sideline regulations though some combination of Republican legislatures and Silicon Valley mumbo-jumbo. Eg, Uber for Heart Surgery; Uber for Home Inspection; Uber for Airline Piloting; Uber for Bridge Engineers; Uber for Dentistry; Uber for Fire Response; Uber for Elementary School Teaching; Uber for 911; Uber for Legal Council; etc. Lots of gig opportunities still to be had!
posted by chortly at 3:58 PM on March 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


Exactly the same thing that happened in the dot-com boom of 1999. Don't people learn?

Learn what exactly?

Millions of people lose playing the lottery every week, and the odds of winning in a stock boom are much higher.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


(And I say that as a guy working in tech who has some of those same issues, but think the idea of wallowing in them kind of pathetic.)

Hopefully you'll get to hang with the cool kids in Heaven. For my part I consider the adjustment of the service economy to account for introverts to be another stage of a process that started when we got people to do most of their socializing via text messages. This has been the best two decades of my life.

Regulation of extroverts is only a matter of time.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2016 [7 favorites]



>>I have no idea what the Ayn Rand connection was, unless it's shorthand for capitalist.

The inclusion of Ayn Rand is a bit subtle, but it's referring to what Lyme Drop just mentioned - that the founders of these startups and the people who use them often don't think much about the people who they want to attract to work for them.
[...]
The Rand connection was that it felt like the startup founder was thinking of workers as some kind of inorganic thing that would just be plugged in to make the system work, as opposed to being people who had their own needs and desires and interests.


Interesting point, thanks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:09 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


frogmanjack: "
Shouldn't Task Rabbit just do surge pricing until it gets workers?
"

Sure. They run into a problem though when the surge pricing that allows them to make a profit is higher than prospective customers are willing to pay. Uber would have a heck of a time existing if unemployment was at 1%.
posted by Mitheral at 4:15 PM on March 28, 2016


> I'm much more interested in fighting for a real and robust public safety net than a return to the 1960s conception of being an employee.

While we're at it, sane housing development policy, along with proper funding for public transportation.

Hey, look, two things we have been terrible at also happen to be two things that were ripe for "disruption"! Take away the housing crisis, and suddenly AirBnB looks like a job running a hostel or hotel. $25/night is decent income, but not quite as nice as $200. Sprinkle public transportation magic over the whole city, keep it clean and run it all night, and Uber becomes reserved for special occasions, especially since you're already paying for a monthly transit pass for commuting.
posted by fragmede at 4:18 PM on March 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Uber would have a heck of a time existing if unemployment was at 1%.

Has this ever been true for the nation as a whole? My impression is that 1% is wondrously low, and right now the per-state levels seem to range from 2.7% to 6.6% (µ=4.73%)
posted by Going To Maine at 4:26 PM on March 28, 2016


I'm still scratching my head about why so many of these startups are pivoting towards things like house cleaning and handyman type work - I've never needed an app to find great people for these kind of services, I just ask friends, coworkers, etc. Heck, my husband used to run a carpet cleaning company, and they operated almost entirely on word of mouth recommendations.

There's a reason this is often called the shut-in economy. Right now there's a ton of people who are making good money in tech, who have pretty poor social skills (especially when outside of their skill sets) and who seem to think there really is this huge untapped market in spending money so you don't have to actually, you know, deal with people. It's kind of sad really.

Uh... less damningly, you might simply work in a major metropolitan area. My coworkers live anywhere within a roughly 75 mile radius around me. My friends are in about a 30 mile radius. Their recommendations are not necessarily useful to me.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 4:29 PM on March 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Uber would have a heck of a time existing if unemployment was at 1%.

Has this ever been true for the nation as a whole?


The lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. was 4% in the late 1990s. This period of low unemployment, not coincidentally, was the last time the real income of middle class workers increased since the 1970s. It is clear that full employment increases worker bargaining power, allowing them to turn down crap jobs like Uber.

This low unemployment was due to the low interest rate policy of Alan Greenspan, one of the only good things he did during his tenure as Fed Chairman. It is worth noting that Janet Yellen fought him every step of the way. It seems that she would rather kneecap workers than allow them to get a pay increase.
posted by JackFlash at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


We need a good open source framework for building non-profit sharing economy sites/tools.

$ rails generate startup MoonLaw industry:legal
posted by ctmf at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Insisting that workers get treated fairly is noble, except when people actually lose income opportunities as a result.

Mostly what deanc said, but also: you could say the same thing about safety. But just because someone is so desperate they would take a job with flagrant safety hazards so the employer wouldn't have to pay for safety measures, doesn't mean we should be cool with that as a society. You could see that as losing income opportunities I guess, but it's also gaining protection from shameless exploitation.
posted by ctmf at 6:41 PM on March 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


. Insisting that workers get treated fairly is noble, except when people actually lose income opportunities as a result.

This is what I think of as "the Hacker News argument for getting rid of the minimum wage and child labor laws"
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:42 PM on March 28, 2016 [21 favorites]


Pulling value out of your house long predates the sharing economy. But more importantly, what is it to you is someone chooses to do so?


I believe I understand your point but on the other hand If the law says that it is illegal to rent for less than 30 days is breaking that law just irrelevant? Also, doesn't it matter how they pull value out? I mean drug house? Informal body shop?
posted by Pembquist at 8:54 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


My previous comment about the gig economy being shit for rural areas is this:

Unskilled decently paid labor jobs -- manufacturing, assembly line work, many kinds of farming, construction, etc. -- are either outsourced to illegal immigrants (strawberry pickers and lawn care workers, for example) or have left the United States.

Young workers without a college degree or those without a higher education can pull together groupings of "gig economy" jobs and survive, though they're without benefits, insurance (usually), or scheduling stability. That shit will not fly once a partner, kids, mortgage/medical debt start kicking in... or they'll work themselves to death on part-time jobs.

Gig economy jobs are the current band-aid for unskilled, legal labor in large cities and tourist-friendly areas in the US.

That shit can't last forever, and when it goes bust, there will be a massive rise in general unemployment again, I think.

Rural areas pretty much are reduced to inherited wealth people, land owners using their resources (cattle, oil wells, farm fishing, livestock, etc.) and health care/medicial industry jobs. There just AREN'T large businesses supporting an entire town of people anymore, and while that's both good and bad because unions/history/outsourcing/NAFTA, it's also shit for the people approaching middle age with no pension, no money to earn a new/different degree, no savings, and slowly failing bodies/minds from the stress.

In other words, this is a Golden Age of sorts. Bust is coming, and I'm especially sorry for Millenials that just don't have the opportunity, inclination or mental acuity for the limited amount of good jobs in STEM and business-related fields. Medical field jobs are on the rise, but that's a lot of college debt and long hours to invest. Most families can't pull off sending multiple kids to any medical or engineering school.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:32 PM on March 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


That’s a good clarification; I take it as meaning that the gig economy is essentially unrelated to the problems of rural areas: it isn’t doing anything for them, and it isn’t doing anything to them (beyond the perhaps-significant effect of helping people continue not thinking about them).
posted by Going To Maine at 11:33 PM on March 28, 2016


gig economy = scraps economy. It's the logical behavior of late state capitalism...lets hope the whole mess falls apart soon.
posted by stilgar at 4:13 AM on March 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, what is a decacorn?

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:21 AM on March 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


The discussion and framing that really needs to be happening when airbnb is discussed is the units being rented(often without the landlords consent or essentially via fraud when they lie about the occupancy/usage) solely to be full time airbnbs. People are purchasing condos just for this purpose as investments.

Yep. I have stayed in an AirBnb exactly once, for an academic conference. We just didn't have enough in the budget to cover one of the conference hotels. I'll be honest - it was amazing - swanky condo near the waterfront, super close to convention center, sweet sauna and hot tub in the building. I loved it.

BUT: when I received the rental agreement, I did a triple take when it spelled out very explicitly that I was not to stop and chat with the security guard, nor to ask them any questions, but merely to wave my fob from a distance; never to speak the word 'AirBnb' aloud; and, if questioned, to state that I was the owner's 'friend'. The agreement concluded that the AirBnb was totally above board, of course, they just wanted to avoid any "misunderstandings".

I'm sure the condo board would agree wholeheartedly, were they to review that agreement.
posted by telepanda at 7:12 AM on March 29, 2016 [12 favorites]


Once the gig economy starts to drain out of the megacities due to lawsuits/regulation concerns, the crippling debt, despair and rates of homelessness/addiction/suicide will suddenly surge in those cities as the economic disparity gap shifts dramatically, like a social tectonic plate movement.

So, kind of like Detroit (before its recent resurgence got a foothold).

Gig economy ain't doing shit to help or hurt rural America now, but when it goes away for the thousands of Millenials, college students, single parents, seasonal workers and people with just a high school education living in large populated cities, it's going to affect the overall economy.

I would LOVE to see something less Randian and more innovative than the current gig economy business model that could work equally well for both city dwellers and rural folk; sadly, I'm terrible at math and economics isn't a strong point, either, so I have no idea what that solution would look like. I hope someone else manages to figure it out.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:37 AM on March 29, 2016


The agreement concluded that the AirBnb was totally above board, of course, they just wanted to avoid any "misunderstandings".

In the last mixed condo/apartment building I lived in, towards the end of my time there, the owners had started to send out regular 'friendly reminders' (their words) that AirBnB (and all other means of short-term rentals) were prohibited by the condo board and by the terms of every rental agreement, respectively, and that 'should they happen to notice any listings online' there would be nonspecific penalties levied against the owners/renters.

Which is an added twist on the legality of listing on AirBnB: even though a municipality might be okay with AirBnB, owners and renters are still not necessarily in the clear.
posted by cjelli at 7:42 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hopefully you'll get to hang with the cool kids in Heaven. For my part I consider the adjustment of the service economy to account for introverts to be another stage of a process that started when we got people to do most of their socializing via text messages. This has been the best two decades of my life.

Regulation of extroverts is only a matter of time.


I'm am introvert too but I'm pretty sure we're creating something hellish and wallowing in anxiety and turning it into a genuine fear of social interaction is not going to end up being in our best interests. But it's a great way for self absorbed introverts to justify slowly exacerbating narcissistic personalities as they toil away feeling self important so that some other more successful introvert can see the world and own a few chunks of it. I text way too much and it's really not as efficient or healthy as people make it or to be IMO. How often does it drag something out unnecessarily or serve as a constant source of distraction? But we say "I like asynchronous communication" and continue to while away the remaining social skills we so desperately managed to acquire. I know some people are genuinely paralyzed by social anxiety but it's a continuum with some amount of control involved and a much larger number of people are setting themselves up for being exploitable Eloi who fancy themselves Morlocks
posted by aydeejones at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2016 [7 favorites]


Gig economy ain't doing shit to help or hurt rural America now, but when it goes away for the thousands of Millenials, college students, single parents, seasonal workers and people with just a high school education living in large populated cities, it's going to affect the overall economy.

Where did we get the idea that the "gig economy" doesn't exist in rural America? It absolutely does, and it has been one of the primary ways the rural economy functions for a long, long time. It just doesn't involve apps and people call it things like "side work" and is often paid under the table.

My in-laws live in rural Missouri, and they get their cars fixed by the shade tree mechanic down the road, who is retired but fixes cars on the side for extra cash. In-home daycares are the norm (Would we call that peer-to-peer child care in the new economy?) They hired their neighbor to pour a concrete floor in their barn. Paying a friend or neighbor a few extra bucks to pick something up while they are going to be in town is normal.

AirBnB and Uber disrupted existing industries because they are bypassing regulatory restrictions, but all of the startups trying to be "Uber for ____" Where ____ is a lightly regulated market like house cleaning, handyman work, or running errands are just a slicker alternative to Craigslist or the message board at the grocery store for advertising the kind of one-off and piecemeal work for hire that working class folks and immigrants have been doing to stay afloat forever.
posted by antimony at 8:48 AM on March 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Once the gig economy starts to drain out of the megacities due to lawsuits/regulation concerns, the crippling debt, despair and rates of homelessness/addiction/suicide will suddenly surge in those cities as the economic disparity gap shifts dramatically, like a social tectonic plate movement.

Am I reading correctly that you think Uber and its wannabe ilk are a major component of the economy in large cities?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:39 AM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Where did we get the idea that the "gig economy" doesn't exist in rural America?

Absolutely right. The trend throughout the U.S. has been the stealth conversion of traditional employee jobs to "independent contractor" status. You might be surprised who is a "contractor" these days. The person who reads your water meter. The person who installs your satellite dish. The person who delivers your packages. The person providing home healthcare assistance. The person sweeping the floor at your office. The person caring for your child. The person unstopping your drain.

All of these people might be wearing company uniforms, but they are paid as independent contractors. You think they are employees but they aren't. They have no minimum wage, no regular hours, no overtime pay, no holiday pay, no vacation pay, no sick pay, no unemployment insurance, no health insurance, no disability insurance, no retirement pension.

This isn't some fabulous new gig economy. This is simply no-wage piece-work, right out of 19th century sweatshops.
posted by JackFlash at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2016 [16 favorites]


I agree with 99 percent of the comments here about these parasitic gig economy companies, but I do find it a little strange that the solution to TaskRabbit-type employers being exploitative is "Do your own errands/housework/[traditionally female chores] or have your wife do them -- you're not that special" but the solution to Uber being exploitative is generally to call a real taxi or pass laws to make them hire drivers as employees, not "stay home watching Netflix or take the bus unless you can afford a full-time driver ."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:44 PM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lots of commercial ventures are subsidized by VC money.

Thanks for the insight.

It's been like this for a really long time, and it seems a reasonable system.

Unless you're a sharing economy worker. That's pretty much the point here.

Commercial ventures, especially new ones, routinely have to switch gears, adding or cutting employees to stay viable, sometimes morphing into completely different businesses.

Again, that's perfectly obvious, thanks.

Treating this as some kind of new Silicon Valley invention is silly.

Sorry, where did anyone do that??

TFA points out that sharing economy companies are finding they must pivot because they don't pay enough to attract on-demand workers, and that problem is only worse when VC money runs out and prices are no longer subsidized by such. The idea is that in many cases, the emperor -- in this case, the sharing economy business model -- has no clothes. If you'd like to dispute that, have at it. Thus far, you're not, not in any convincing way.
posted by Lyme Drop at 4:36 PM on March 29, 2016


Which is an added twist on the legality of listing on AirBnB: even though a municipality might be okay with AirBnB, owners and renters are still not necessarily in the clear.

Or their insurance companies. AirBnb explicitly doesn't cover common areas; our insurance explicitly doesn't cover damage from short-term rentals.
posted by jeather at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2016 [1 favorite]




Which is an added twist on the legality of listing on AirBnB: even though a municipality might be okay with AirBnB, owners and renters are still not necessarily in the clear.

And therein lies the rub. Barring detached houses, or situations in which the actual property owner of a rental complex(or an agent of) are creating the listings... Airbnb is breaking some law or contract.

It strikes me the same way those quasi-legal-but-not weed delivery services were and are in places where either medical weed is legal, or it's just outright legal but regulated. There's some vanishingly small and uncommon scenario in which it's following the letter and spirit of the law and contracts involved, but no one is using it that way.

The smarminess of their avoidance of that fact reminds me a lot of situations like uber dropping people off in portland and then thumbing their nose and going "LOL SORRY WE CANT PICK YOU UP". And what i mean by that, is their entire business is based on poking the bear of city/state government and landlords with "look, this is going to happen anyways, do you want in or not". It makes me think of the sort of progressive sex ed line of "your teen is going to be having sex, wouldn't you at least rather they do it safely in your own home?" but in the dimmest possible light.

If there's one thing i wish these companies got slapped 1000x harder on, it's that break-the-rules-until-they-give-in mentality and approach. They deserve to get owned for that like tweens sneaking onto the xbox after lights out.


I also think it's super duper funny that the apps people "don't get" like the laundry and house cleaning ones are the only ones that are actually not breaking employment/licensing/contract law or contracts themselves. Your landlord likely allows you to let a housekeeper in when you aren't home. There's no way in fuck they let someone stay there for two weeks off the books.
posted by emptythought at 12:05 PM on March 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know some people are genuinely paralyzed by social anxiety but it's a continuum with some amount of control involved and a much larger number of people are setting themselves up for being exploitable Eloi who fancy themselves Morlocks

See, this is why we need to constrain the base nature of extroverts. They've convinced a species for whom encountering 100 strangers across a lifetime would be extraordinary that not being comfortable with that many new faces on a daily basis is some sort of pathology. The privileges of wealth in this case don't allow you to indulge some sickness, they allow you to return your life to the normalcy of 10,000 generations.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:15 PM on March 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait ... wait ... maybe extroverts are Reptilians!
posted by aramaic at 1:50 PM on March 30, 2016


"I think we're in a phase where we're realizing that the people who have been allocating capital thus far have done a horrendous job." (via)
posted by kliuless at 4:32 PM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]




I full agree that we need to constrain the base nature of extroverts.
I mean: It makes life so much more fun in general..
posted by Martinvermeer at 12:46 PM on April 1, 2016


for the limited amount of good jobs in STEM and business-related jobs ... Most families can't pull off sending multiple kids to any medical or engineering school.

Maybe it is regional, but according to every engineer I know, in my province Engineering is not an easy field to break into due to the lack of jobs, and the pay of the full-time permanent position does not reflect the education or years of experience needed. For health care positions there seems to be a glut of applicants fighting for the same precarious part-time jobs. So, at least here, engineering and health care are not the panecea; especially when you look at the impact of future automation happening in both fields.

Creative fields however, DO seem to be experiencing a resurgence; as does the value of a creative education in traditionally non-creative jobs.

This is all anecdotal, and based on what I am observing, as our employment related statistics seem to be showing the effects of under-funding.
posted by saucysault at 9:08 PM on April 2, 2016





Judge greenlights lawsuit on Uber's surge pricing, pointing out that their assertion that drivers are independent contractors makes their pricing price fixing.


Kalanick's response is hilarious.
Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”) is an innovative technology company that connects independent driver-partners and riders through its smartphone application. As a new entrant in the transportation marketplace, Uber has vastly increased options, reduced prices and improved service for millions of Americans.1 Antitrust law has long appreciated the procompetitive benefits that come along with technological innovation and new market entry. Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”) nonetheless invokes that same antitrust law to attack Uber’s innovative technology and its benefits to consumers and competition. The Amended Complaint attempts this feat by continuing to allege a wildly implausible—and physically impossible—conspiracy among hundreds of thousands of independent transportation providers all across the United States (“driver-partners”), based solely on the fact that they agreed to use Uber’s pricing algorithm, and at some point in time accepted ride requests via the Uber App. This lawsuit, if allowed to proceed, would strangle innovation, decrease competition, and increase prices—defeating precisely the behavior antitrust law is designed to encourage. For this reason—and because the Amended Complaint continues to fail to state a claim under the antitrust laws—it must be dismissed.
If you can't respond to the claim on its merits, reinterpret the purpose of the law. AND in one sentence he states both that the price-fixing is IMPOSSIBLE because it's hundreds of thousands of independent drivers(! how could Uber coordinate price fixing to such a mind boggling scale!) while providing the answer to how it happened: those hundreds of thousands of drivers just so happened to use Uber's pricing algorithm.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:02 PM on April 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


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