"stop exoticizing our tech-fueled wealth boom"
April 9, 2019 6:39 PM   Subscribe

In San Francisco, Making a Living From Your Billionaire Neighbor’s Trash (NYT), or as re-titled by The Independent, War veteran who raids Mark Zuckerberg’s bins talks treasure hunting in Silicon Valley, is both "a signpost of the extremes of US capitalism" as reported in the NYT, and as rebutted by the SFist, "an example of the income diversity that still manages to exist in close proximity in the Mission, despite escalating rents." Jake Orta, called "The Finder" by his friends, is also an example of waste pickers, who are represented elsewhere by the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers "with groups in more than 28 countries covering mainly Latin America, Asia and Africa."
posted by filthy light thief (43 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I found the SFist "rebuttal" to be weird. It was almost like San Francisco pride talking as in "New York is just as bad why are they pointing their fingers at us." You can sugar coat it if you like but I don't want to live in a society where people have to scrounge for the cast offs of the wealthy to get by.
posted by Pembquist at 6:49 PM on April 9 [29 favorites]


Just to be clear he found nothing in Zuckerberg's trash and only went there because the reporter wanted him to for obvious reasons and he has a goal of making $30 a day because he's barely surviving.
posted by odinsdream at 6:53 PM on April 9 [30 favorites]


I bet "Mark Zuckerberg's coffeemaker" or even "Mark Zuckerberg's junk mail" would go for a TON of money on eBay. This guy's missing out.
posted by Slinga at 6:56 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


It would be hard to establish authenticity of provenance though. He'd have to go through the hassle of getting Zuckerberg to sign a notarized document at least, or autograph the object itself; either of which seems challenging to accomplish.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:24 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Nah, just take a video of him excavating it from the trash. Britney Spears's chewed gum or something like that went for a few hundred; I'm sure he could pull this off.
posted by Slinga at 7:31 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that SF article is such garbage you couldn't even sell it on the street. Typical out of touch handwaving -- sneering at the idea of SF as a millionaire's city, because "as anyone who's worked at one of these big companies that IPO'd in an earlier era knows, it's only the first 10 or 100 employees that likely to stand to profit mightily from an IPO. A lot of people are probably just going to come into enough quick cash to make a down payment on a home, but not make an all-cash offer on a multi-million-dollar house."

Yeah, jeez! Only a hundred people at each company -- max! -- buying the multi-million dollar homes! The rest are just going to buy homes in the low 7 figures. Get your shit together and write about how the people really live, NY Times!

And oh yes, that "uncomfortable reality" to "see" the people who pick through trash. But when you think about it, what a great example of the income diversity that still exists in "our fair city."

Fuck you, guy. Get fucked, and fuck off.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:35 PM on April 9 [51 favorites]


In college I scavenged Professor's Row on the regs and furnished every apartment I lived in. I was broke at the time but I can also say it was better logistically in the days before craigslist or IKEA, when I had no vehicle. I worked at the thrift store where faculty brought clothes for a time. Oxford shirts and re-soleable shoes for days... It never occurred to me at the time to be ashamed as I felt pretty punk rock about it all. It also did not occur to me that I might have been competing with people who might have needed it more, but me and my roommates did use everything I carried off. [edited: quick typo]
posted by drowsy at 7:37 PM on April 9 [9 favorites]


Nah, just take a video of him excavating it from (where he'd previously placed the random object in) the trash.

Sure, you could just title the Ebay auction "***AMAZING FIND*** for the Credulous!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:37 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Atlas shrugging at Prometheus being chained to the rock.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 7:46 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


The Sfist article seems to be trying to capitalize on the recent success of the LA Times in making fun of NYT coverage of Los Angeles. I don't think it worked. It did, however, succeed in making the phrase "income diversity" sound like a sinister euphemism - as if poor people are a natural category that we should embrace and preserve.

I'm worried about the consequences of this attention for Mr. Orta. Will Zuckerberg get a machine-gun-armed robot to patrol his trash cans now?
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 7:57 PM on April 9 [9 favorites]


Zuckerberg doesn't live in SF, he lives in Palo Alto and I'm pretty sure the dozen security guys who sit outside his house all day in unmarked cars would have a word with anyone who came up to go through his trash.

SF has a big homelessness problem, tech billionaires are problematic, this is barely even a good profile of a single homeless person. I honestly don't know what this article is doing.
posted by GuyZero at 8:02 PM on April 9 [8 favorites]


oops, per the SFist piece, this is Zuckerberg's OTHER house in SF, not his main house in Palo Alto.

Mea culpa. It's hard to keep up with one's various houses.
posted by GuyZero at 8:03 PM on April 9 [5 favorites]


Once, walking through the West Village at night, some friends and I came across a decent laptop in working condition on the curb. We knew it was being thrown out because it a) had a badly cracked hinge and b) was sitting on top of the empty cardboard box that the owner's shiny new laptop had arrived in. We knew it was in working condition because it was still switched on.
posted by phooky at 8:10 PM on April 9 [25 favorites]


In my too-upscale-for-its-own-good southern California beach town, people set out things to be cast-off in the alley. Good stuff is gone in minutes. And there's plenty of good stuff. Not shabby chic. Good stuff.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:17 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


this is barely even a good profile of a single homeless person

He's not even homeless! It's a terrible profile of a homeless person!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:17 PM on April 9 [13 favorites]


Just to be clear he found nothing in Zuckerberg's trash and only went there because the reporter wanted him to for obvious reasons and he has a goal of making $30 a day because he's barely surviving.

This is why I've stayed away from this story since it started buzzing around the last couple days, it's just so nauseating and obvious. "Let us now valorize grubbing for pennies, pennies cast off by zillionaires!" Zillionaires have lots of pennies, so logically the best possible thing is if we can find a regular source of pennies, hopefully by not having to follow them too closely, and then we will know we have "made it."
posted by rhizome at 8:42 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


It did, however, succeed in making the phrase "income diversity" sound like a sinister euphemism

Now, we don't have to wait for pride to be assigned to poor people, we'll just start calling them "diversitistas" and assume that this new economic ethnicity has a good deal of rich history that can now be translated into shirt-cuff patterns.
posted by rhizome at 8:45 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


The real trick is to get on the nextdoor of nice neighborhoods in SF (or so I've been told), because they will give really nice stuff for the cost of taking it away.
posted by gryftir at 8:52 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


It's hard to keep up with one's various houses.

I'm rewatching Game Of Thrones and this is completely true.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 PM on April 9 [10 favorites]


get on the nextdoor

Isn't nextdoor a hive of scum and villainy, I mean a hive of racism and suspicion?

Everyone I've ever known who's been on nextdoor says they quickly got off of it because it was all "I saw this guy LOOKING OUT OF PLACE walking down MY STREET."
posted by hippybear at 9:54 PM on April 9 [9 favorites]


We don't need to derail into nextdoor.

Dumpster diving has been a hobby, an art, and a vocation basically as long as I've been alive. People always throw out valuable stuff. It's just knowing where to look to find it (a skill I admittedly don't have, but I've spent an evening or two with people who do, and our haul was amazing).

This vet going for $30-40 day.. that's kind of heartbreaking. That gigantic military budget, and we can't even pension men like this so they can live with dignity.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 PM on April 9 [19 favorites]


Just make the rich better sort the waste stream: black trash can is for garbage, blue for recycling, green for compost, and gold for expensive trinkets you don't know what to do with now that you upgraded to the newest version.
posted by peeedro at 10:15 PM on April 9 [7 favorites]


"income diversity"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:33 PM on April 9 [10 favorites]


I honestly don't know what this article is doing.

Generating clicks. And outrage.
posted by MikeKD at 10:48 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


OutrageFilter is my least favorite version of MetaFilter.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 PM on April 9 [12 favorites]


*waste pickers and the virtuous cycle of informal reculture (recycle, reuse, repurpose, resell, and repair*

flexes fingers to write thesis
posted by infini at 11:18 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


I apologize for my earlier outragefilter. I spent a few days with an old friend who now likes to constantly bring up Jordan Peterson, and I'm not quite over it yet.

Although I am legitimately outraged by the viewpoint presented by SFist, which reads to me like it was written by a Google bus magically brought to life while blocking a public bus stop. The NY Times article is arguably exploitive of its subject, and a kind of voyeuristic look at poverty. There are undoubtedly many flaws. But the flippant cluelessness of the SFist article, written by someone who is supposed to know the city, digs at me -- if someone's biggest complaint about that Times article is that it's unfair to SF's wealth boom, then we've got very different priorities. I lived in the Bay Area for years, and just left bitterly. That SFist article was partly a reminder of why I left.

(I hereby apologize for telling the author to get fucked and fuck off, although they're still welcome to do so.)
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:46 PM on April 9 [16 favorites]


I watched a fascinating documentary about waste picking some time in the last couple of years, from Deutsche Welle I think, that did a comparison between people in Nairobi and people in NYC. Only one guy in Kenya got anywhere near middle-class living in their respective countries and that was because he was an entrepreneur with others working for him and saved money on top of that by furnishing his entire house with stuff from the waste stream of wealthier people.

IIRC there was also a segment about how in many parts of the world companies are moving in and displacing entire classes of society who traditionally haul off, sort, and recycle refuse for a living. Wish I could find a link to the video.
posted by XMLicious at 11:53 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


SF is, what? 9 miles by 7 miles or something? I once walked from the Eagle in South of Market all the way across the city to the shoreline in Golden Gate Park in the wee hours of the morning tripping on quality 'cid.

It's a different scale from NYC, entirely.
posted by hippybear at 11:54 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I was sort of appalled at the invasion of Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy, but Mark would probably just be inspired that there’s still a frontier of privacy invasion yet untapped by Facebook. Coming soon: Instagram Dumpster Moments
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:27 AM on April 10 [5 favorites]


appalled at the invasion of Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy

Not even an eternity of live streamed Zuckerburg colonoscopy would balance the scales
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:44 AM on April 10 [34 favorites]


Not even an eternity of live streamed Zuckerberg colonoscopy would balance the scales

QF so much MFT there is barely enough bandwidth to contain it
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:22 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Nah, just take a video of him excavating it from the trash.

Sounds like the home version of Storage Wars or Pawn Stars, open to just as much fakery. Or like the police "finding" drugs or a gun on a suspect.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:41 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: Not even an eternity of live streamed Zuckerburg colonoscopy would balance the scales
posted by Mayor West at 4:57 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: an eternity of live streamed Zuckerburg colonoscopy
posted by aiglet at 5:59 AM on April 10 [10 favorites]


The poor aren't just getting a few things from Zuck's trash; they are also getting (so far) $3 billion from his spare change, and he and his wife have pledged to give away 99 percent of their wealth. Yes, that could be viewed as just another rich person working to "preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve", but it is something.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:26 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


The poor aren't just getting a few things from Zuck's trash; they are also getting (so far) $3 billion from his spare change, and he and his wife have pledged to give away 99 percent of their wealth. Yes, that could be viewed as just another rich person working to "preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve", but it is something.

No, it really isn't. This has been discussed in prior threads, but the simple point is that people too often just view philanthropy as a "gift", rather than the expression of power that it is. As we've seen over and over, Silicon Valley money comes with strings, intended to make sure that they control how society is shaped. Or to put it another way - if Zuckerberg has truly pledged to give away his wealth, then society should help him with that by taking it - so that we are the ones making the decisions on how to move forward.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:50 AM on April 10 [17 favorites]


You can also get stuff when the college kids move out. In Boston I heard this called "Allston Christmas"; in Philly it's "Penn Christmas".
posted by madcaptenor at 7:01 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


The curb is the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny of the world. Taking/leaving things from the curb is not the same as garbage picking as a job.

The NYT article feels really goofy and artificial. I doubt that anybody would be going to the empty "pied a terre" of a famous tech robber baron to dig through trash for treasure unless there's a writer in tow trying desperately to find a story. First of all because there's not going to be much valuable trash at an empty house, and second of all because the security risks of getting caught lurking around Zuck's house seem too high given the possible rewards. Like, I'm not going to be digging through the Russian Embassy's trash cans, either. Not even if there's a fair chance of unearthing a pretty good old samovar. In any case, if you want to learn more about garbage pickers/"canners" (in NYC, no less) there's a pretty good HBO documentary that follows a group of them -- it's called Redemption.

But the SFist article is even weirder than the NYT one, because it's all defensive HOMETOWN PRIDE!!1! about devastating wealth disparity. Wut.

Aside from the totally needless, grinding poverty they're recounting/extolling (?!), what's disturbing about the articles, to me, is the massive amount of garbage that they describe getting dumped into "the pit." I mean, even after people comb through it trying to find anything at all of value, there are literal tons of it just getting dropped off daily to molder and slowly rot the Earth. Gives me the chills.
posted by rue72 at 8:12 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Yep billionaires "giving away" money is more often than not a way of creating a tax-free investment vehicle. They set up charitable foundations to employ their own, or each others' children.

You can't take the money out of course and you do have to do some kind of actual philanthropy, but you can just keep growing the endowment and paying the kids about a million per year (which is commensurate with other nonprofit executive salaries so therefore legitimate).
posted by vogon_poet at 9:24 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


Can thoroughly recommend Live Work Work Work Die As some actual tech industry/toxic wealth reportage.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Found the documentary I mentioned above: “The Rich, the Poor and the Trash”
posted by XMLicious at 12:35 PM on April 11




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