The race to the bottom continues
February 15, 2020 2:21 AM   Subscribe

Target's grocery delivery company Shipt has a robust approach to worker relations. Workers who ask awkward questions or express dissent are deactivated, i.e. become ineligible to receive future work assignments because, as is increasingly common, they are not employees but contractors.

Initially commission-based, the pay model has been obfuscated so that workers no longer know how much they will be paid, (less, but you guessed that). Many of their customers are quite wealthy and in a twist worthy of the most dystopian novel, workers are expected to help in "Bringing the Magic", i.e. include extra items to the order paid for out of their own pockets. Doing so results in an improved worker rating, which might then lead to more lucrative assignments.
posted by epo (66 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
It is the year of our lord 2020 why is a grocery delivery company's name disemvoweled?

Also fuck these fuckers, I don't know why anyone would "work" for them.
posted by axiom at 2:37 AM on February 15 [19 favorites]


The reason we work for such companies is because we need a f**n job. And our job market is filled with these type jobs instead of the old-fashioned type job that used to be the normal.

Every retail chain is full of part time and outside contract workers. And we don't have any benefits or any guaranteed hours.

We take these jobs because we need somehow to earn enough money to struggle and juggle for another month.

And the investors and corporate reap the benefits. And we are too exhausted and demoralized and brainwashed to revolt; we see no way out other than to give up and let down our families who are counting on us.

We take these jobs because there is no safety net. And just like the people who have good jobs, we value our ourselves (still, somehow that hasn't been outsourced. )
posted by mightshould at 3:05 AM on February 15 [140 favorites]


Hmm, the final sentence should really read "Doing so results in an improved worker rating, which might then lead to more lucrative assignments." Mods?

I thought I had become jaded to the sins of the new economy but this is truly disgusting.
posted by epo at 3:05 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


[Made that change, epo.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:10 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Squashes dissent by putting rope around neck and holding it.
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:24 AM on February 15 [6 favorites]


Thanks for this post! I'm writing a book about gamification right now, and sadly this fits right in to a much wider theme of manipulative pay shenanigans using bonuses, defaults, obfuscation, constant changes to compensation systems, and much more. Here's a relevant excerpt:
Uber is a little smarter when it comes to its gamification experience. In many markets, drivers have a choice of rideshare companies to work with, so Uber can’t afford to be quite as punitive as Amazon. Instead, its gamification is a veritable bonanza of quests and bonuses, all to entice drivers to keep driving forever. As Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of economic and policy research told the New York Times in 2017:

The optimal default we set is that we want you to do as much work as there is to do. You’re not required to by any means. But that’s the default.

The problem is, if you don’t complete Uber’s quests (also described as “opportunities”) such as making an extra $6 for a 3 trip series, or earning bonuses by working certain regions, it gets harder to make a decent overall wage. According to a 2018 study by Ridester, the median hourly pay (including tip) for Uber drivers in the US was $14.73. But Uber drivers aren’t employees, so they’re responsible for a vast array of costs like car payments and fuel, which Ridester’s estimate was at least $5 per hour. That gets you to $9.73 per hour, which is coincidentally a lot less than the $15 minimum wage paid to Amazon warehouse workers.

Uber isn’t the only gig economy company that plays with its workers’ compensation. Delivery companies like Instacart, Postmates, and Shipt give bonuses as a reward for five-star customer reviews or completing a minimum number of jobs in a week. To achieve maximum productivity at minimum cost, companies tweak the value and complexity of these bonuses constantly, which also has the benefit of obfuscating workers’ overall compensation. An unofficial Reddit guide for new Shipt workers explains how “acceptance ratings”, customer ratings, member-matching, and “promo bonuses” combine to determine which workers get which jobs. It’s a dense 2400 words littered with warnings added every few months that “THIS REPLY IS OUTDATED” and “READ THE STICKY POST FOR UPDATED INFO”. The end result of this obfuscation is that it’s hard for workers to notice when their pay declines, and impossible to predict their pay in future.

None of these quests and bonuses and promotions would matter if gig economy workers’ overall pay wasn’t so low. As it is, a few $6 bonuses offered to you multiple times a day could make up a substantial proportion of your income, at which point they’re not bonuses any more – they’re just pay contigent on following orders. And Uber doesn’t feel any need to play fair, as Harry Campbell, owner of The Rideshare Guy, told The Verge:

They encourage drivers to go to certain places during certain times but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a ride.

There is a guarantee Uber will take drivers for a ride, though.
posted by adrianhon at 5:00 AM on February 15 [66 favorites]


Please update us when your book comes out, adrianhon - that looks interesting!
posted by eviemath at 5:19 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


Thanks, will do!
posted by adrianhon at 5:22 AM on February 15


I misread the sentence about tack on gifts like thank you cards and hot cocoa and balloons as an option that the customer could do for the worker as part of their tip.

When I realized the app was encouraging WORKERS TO BRING THANK YOU CARDS FOR THEIR RICH OVERLORDS I screamed out loud.

and to offer to walk customer’s dogs and take out their trash, as a courtesy.

SCREAMING FOREVER
posted by Karaage at 5:24 AM on February 15 [83 favorites]


Here in the Workers' Paradise we're onto this contractors-who-are-actually-defacto-employees rort to some extent. Australian workplace health and safety law varies by State but most of the relevant legislation is based on the Model WHS Act, and the guiding principle of that Act is that a PCBU cannot contract out of or transfer their work health and safety obligations to another party. Using contractors instead of employees does not generate a Fuck Them Over However You Want licence in this country.

I'm really sorry about inflicting Rupert on the rest of you and our refugee, energy and ongoing colonialist policies are appalling, but there are some things we've done right that would be worth your while pushing to implement where you live.
posted by flabdablet at 5:31 AM on February 15 [14 favorites]


That reddit group is terrifying. I feel so very sorry for anyone desperate to need this kind of work in order to get an income.

And adrianhon, I'd like to know when the book comes out. Being a Brit, it's good to know what our glorious post-Brexit future is going to look like after many jobs go back to the EU.
posted by epo at 5:32 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


how does this not violate one or more labor laws? and if the laws aren't there, how do we get them?
posted by kokaku at 5:53 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


A contractor that's classified independently
Meanwhile, Corporations keeps shittin' on us endlessly
Essentially, they cut pay relentlessly
Then the CEOs turn around, runs a spending spree
They ain't ever gonna let workers be financially free
So there will be a revolution in this century
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:15 AM on February 15 [18 favorites]


how does this not violate one or more labor laws? and if the laws aren't there, how do we get them?

Sounds kinda socialist. Are you a socialist? You don't wanna be a socialist - it's unAmerican.
posted by dazed_one at 6:48 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Who is going to enforce labor laws? That 1099 we get to file with the IRS is often bullshit and they have no personnel either. The safety violation that OSHA is monitoring is easily cleared up.

Nobody with poloitical power wants regulations enforced unless it's hyping up the border patrol...it's the bogeyman imigrant who they point to as the problem so workers focus on those awful people instead of the powerful.
posted by mightshould at 7:03 AM on February 15 [12 favorites]


there will be a revolution in this century

But they deactivate those who fail to comply!
It's in my best interests not to defy.
To question their practices comes at a cost;
Just too many loyalty points to be lost.
I'll be shopping for Shipt til the end of my days,
Bringing the magic with never a raise.

sold my soul to the company store
posted by flabdablet at 7:16 AM on February 15 [12 favorites]


Crap like this is exactly why I won’t support the gig economy. I don’t use Lyft or Uber, I’d rather pay a bit more and take a cab. I don’t use Instacart or Shipt, I drive to the store myself, and pay for my own gas.

But I do well enough that the added cost of a cab isn’t a hard thing to justify. And I both own my own car, live someplace that makes driving possible, and am able-bodied enough to go to the store myself. Not everyone has those options.

I can’t fix the gig garbage by not participating. But at least I’m not encouraging it. People deserve better. Jobs should be jobs, not bullshit independent contractor gigs that let multi-billion dollar companies weasel out of providing security or benefits.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:26 AM on February 15 [31 favorites]


So we're reviving all the varieties of domestic servants from the Gilded Age? But this time it's totally different because it's with the magical technology of the Internet?
posted by clawsoon at 7:30 AM on February 15 [24 favorites]


Also fuck these fuckers, I don't know why anyone would "work" for them.

It's the biggest, unreported lie of our amazing "recovered" economy; these are the types of "jobs" that are driving the supposedly low unemployment numbers.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:33 AM on February 15 [42 favorites]


"these are the types of "jobs" that are driving the supposedly low unemployment numbers."

Have you seen any stats about the proportion of gig jobs vs. traditional?
posted by Selena777 at 8:02 AM on February 15


I am definitely looking forward to an old hand in the gaming (and gamification) industry writing something a bit more even-handed about gamification than the current go-to, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, which is positively Pollyannaish in how gamification can only be good for humanity.
posted by Merus at 8:26 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Work for Shipt, where the "P" is silent.
posted by Floydd at 8:29 AM on February 15 [26 favorites]


Delivery companies like Instacart, Postmates, and Shipt give bonuses as a reward for five-star customer reviews

Reminder: Leave a five-star review unless you want that person to lose their job. (Leaving a 3-star review won't get them fired, but it gets them fewer opportunities, which can eventually mean "lose their job.") All reviews should be either one-star (for "ugh I never want to see this person again") or 5 stars (for "they did at least okay and should be permitted to keep making money at this job").

I take Lyft sometimes; I could probably afford a cab most of the time--but afaik there isn't any one cab service across the greater SF bay area, and a cab won't tell you how much it costs in advance. Lyft works when I visit friends in another county or another state. (However, I've taken to keeping some cash on hand to give as tips, rather than sending tips through the app. I assume tips through the app are taxed, and I know that the companies use the tips when they say "our workers make an average of $16 an hour!" or whatever - they don't mention that they aren't paying that full amount.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:35 AM on February 15 [11 favorites]


Every time I talk to a shipt person about their job it's like they're trying to justify it to themselves. They aren't hustling, they're working multiple jobs because no single one of the jobs they have pays a living wage.

These jobs suck ass, but people take them because they have to. And while it's exploitative to contract these services at a corporate level, Target is doing this to try to compete with Amazon's delivery service. The reality is that most people don't care that Amazon is a terrifying megacorporation bent on destroying all competition. They care that they get their stuff without having to leave the house, and brick and mortar retailers are dropping like flies for this and a variety of other shitty reasons.

If you ask me, regulation of these companies--all of them--and enforcement of that regulation is the only way. I've got no hope that it'll happen, though. So I just fold the t-shirts, have roommates, monetize my hobbies, eat ramen, take on debt...
posted by the liquid oxygen at 8:40 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]


This is full-on, unrestrained, psychopathic capitalism, and will destroy the U.S. more surely and thoroughly than any Donald Trump—and is more likely to sow revolution, too, I expect. What a fucking nightmare. I am fortunate to be secure in an old-fashioned, salaried job, and as far as I can tell, very few of the people I work with (bright, educated folks) have any clue that this is what’s going on all around us, and how it’s just breaking people down, working them to the bone and providing little to no existential or material security or comfort. It is horrible and it will break our society if it’s not fixed soon, because these practices fundamentally violate any version of the social contract that may still exist.

Please update us when your book comes out, adrianhon

Thirding this, and I’ll buy extra copies to send to family and friends. It’s a critically important story you’re telling, thank you for your work in advance.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:49 AM on February 15 [22 favorites]


I thought of this scene from Korean drama Awl, where a labor organizer is talking to fired workers. The drama is an adaptation of a webtoon that took inspiration from the real-life E-Land strike (French retailer Carrefour, which Korean operations were acquired by E-Land, originated the practice of employing irregular workers in its Korean locations).

Rough translation of the speech below:

They say we're 10th largest economy in the world, gross national income of $20,000 is right around the corner, you'd think we were already a developed country, but our lives keep getting harder.
That's because they're sucking our blood. It's their banquet, set up from husbands dying, mothers squeezed dry, and crying children. And then what do they tell us?
They think what they're paying you now is a waste, so they want you to hand over what you have and get out. Do you think your places will be left unfilled after they drive you out?
They'll cut the pay, and then fill them with temporary workers, contractors and subcontractors.
After they take your livelihoods away from you, they'll say it was necessary for the good of the economy.
[They tell you] Things are hard for you because you're not good enough. Why don't you tighten your belts more?
If we tightened them any further, we'd die of hunger on the way to throw ourselves into the Han River, walking because we couldn't afford the transit fare. That's the kind of crap they're telling us.
How can humans be so cruel to other humans, you're wondering?
We're not human.
To them, we're just numbers they can add and subtract sitting at their desks, we're just cattle doing as told, breeding and raising our children to keep up the headcount.
They're not afraid since we don't get angry when they take from us and we don't fight back when they hit us.
Respect for humans comes from fear.
A living person will get angry if taken from, and will fight back if hit.

posted by needled at 8:52 AM on February 15 [22 favorites]


If Mark Fisher were still Alive he could include this in Capitalist Realism 2.0

If you haven't read it, I *highly* recommend y'all read it. It's something we all know deep down, but the way he expresses the absurd bureaucratization and lack of knowledge in the post-Fordist economy is really insightful. I don't know how often I've quoted his bits about call centers or how large corps work as entities internally.

Seriously this is 100% in that vein. All the "contracting" bullshit fits in quite well with his analysis...
posted by symbioid at 9:13 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Selena777: "Have you seen any stats about the proportion of gig jobs vs. traditional?"

Statistics Canada released a study on Canadians in the gig economy just last month. Full research study: Measuring the Gig Economy in Canada Using Administrative Data. And there's a lovely cartoon infographic to go with it.
"the share of gig workers among all Canadian workers aged 15 and older increased from almost 1 million workers (5.5%) in 2005 to about 1.7 million workers (8.2%) in 2016."

"The estimated annual income of a typical gig worker was usually low. The median net gig income in 2016 was $4,303. Roughly half of the people who entered gig work in a given year were not involved in this type of work the following year. However, about one-quarter remained gig workers for three or more years."

"In 2016, 9.1% of all female workers and 7.2% of all male workers were identified as gig workers."

"Workers in the bottom 40% of the annual income distribution were about twice as likely to be involved in gig work as other workers. Gig work was also more prevalent among immigrants than among Canadian-born workers."

(Gig workers are defined as unincorporated self-employed workers who enter into various contracts with firms or individuals to complete a specific task or to work for a specific period of time. This includes unincorporated self-employed freelancers and on-demand workers hired for jobs mediated through online platforms such as Uber, TaskRabbit, Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer.)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:36 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


The saddest thing for me is that this probably started when the normal proportion of decent human beings in any given group saw some nice things they could do for their clients a couple of times to ensure a nice tip. Some of those equally decent clients wrote good reviews thinking they were helping. Some decent analyst trying to do their best job saw those reviews and said hey here's something we could encourage people to do with the algorithm to guarantee more orders to hit our goal this quarter. Its such a sickening perversion of people acting on their instinct to try to help the other human beings they meet.
posted by bleep at 9:43 AM on February 15 [18 favorites]


It’s past time to bring back the sympathy strike. Whether it’s legal or not.
posted by corb at 9:45 AM on February 15 [12 favorites]


Australian workplace health and safety law varies by State but most of the relevant legislation is based on the Model WHS Act, and the guiding principle of that Act is that a PCBU cannot contract out of or transfer their work health and safety obligations to another party. Using contractors instead of employees does not generate a Fuck Them Over However You Want licence in this country.

Here in the US the only thing we can imagine are new ways to fuck people over no matter what the problem we're trying to solve is. In California instead of something sensible like this we just tried to *arbitrarily* *dictate* *across the board* how much work a contractor can do before you have to hire them without first talking to everyone whose livelihoods would be impacted before just blowing up their income streams.
posted by bleep at 9:50 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


If you see a green shirt in your supermarket, get the fuck out of their way. They’re having a worse day than you are.
posted by Etrigan at 9:53 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]


It’s past time to bring back the sympathy strike. Whether it’s legal or not.

I think we're past that, at this point we need a general strike.

Pundits claiming that the unemployment rate is low don't differentiate between people with jobs that pay an actual living wage and people who are working three jobs to make ends meet.
posted by Sphinx at 10:03 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]


"...don't differentiate between people with jobs that pay an actual living wage and people who are working three jobs to make ends meet." And too damn many of them think this is a *good* thing. (For various reasons)
posted by aleph at 10:05 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]


I can’t fix the gig garbage by not participating.

This, but in flashing 50ft tall lettering.

We cannot opt out of capitalism. We have to overthrow it while participating in it.
posted by MiraK at 10:09 AM on February 15 [9 favorites]


I've said it before, but the gig economy is just serfdom using a distributed model. There are still lords and manors, but those are now billionaires and vast global corporations. The serfs, aka "gig workers", are commodities to be traded between the various manors. Delivering food, shuttling people, doing other people's home projects, etc.

If you want to buy into this model, you simply need to "disrupt" an existing market by cutting out the fatty parts like healthcare, unions, fair wages, and pesky government oversight and regulation. The more this happens, the larger the pool of serfs becomes. As a bonus, one serf can now work for multiple manors. In fact, they will probably have to in order to get by. This keeps outrage and activism spread helpfully thin and ineffective.

Serfdom: There's An App For That!
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 10:14 AM on February 15 [21 favorites]


Entirely true, MiraK, but a fair number of us are in a (financial/physical ability) position to take the time/convenience hit of minimizing our use of these services. People are always startled when I say I don't want to use Uber. In Manhattan.
posted by praemunire at 10:16 AM on February 15 [10 favorites]


"...position to take the time/convenience hit of minimizing our use of these services."

Do it when we can. Work on the rest. All choices in Capitalism are not the same.
posted by aleph at 10:19 AM on February 15 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure the times I've used Lyft and there were cookies or bottled water, that Lyft corporate didn't pay for those.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:05 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Do it when we can. Work on the rest. All choices in Capitalism are not the same.

As with gig work, so with carbon emissions. And so many other shitty structural things. Seriously this is like the serenity prayer for the modern American economy.
posted by nickmark at 11:51 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


Lyft didn’t pay for it AND those expenses are not deductible as expenses.
posted by soelo at 1:22 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


How to foreground workers and re-establish workers' rights in America:

1) Ignore press narratives about "electability."
2) Ignore press narratives about the horse race.
3) Ignore identity-based political alignments.*
4) Research each candidate's policy specifics and voting history.**
5) Vote for the person whose policies are beneficial to labour.

How to do the opposite:

1) Vote for [milquetoast-neoliberal centrist Y] because "defeating [indistinguishable-in-any-material-sense fascist X] is the only thing that matters."

* e.g., the Democratic party encompasses the entire political spectrum of most other G7 countries. Identification as a Democrat is useless as a guide to policy alignment. Sanders and Bloomberg are both running as Democrats, for Christ's sake!

* Yes, I know it's a lot of work in the US where your ballots are as long as football fields.
posted by klanawa at 2:06 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


This might be a good time to review the history of the 'Luddites'.

And to consider how that term was turned into a pejorative meaning 'an idiot resisting progress'. Because: who gets to define 'progress' ? (Not the serfs.)

Working for yourself is always the best alternative if that's somehow available to you.
posted by Twang at 2:40 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure if this helps, but on the few occasions that I use a gig worker, I always tip in cash. I’ve heard too many stories about Uber or others harvesting a percentage of tips. And honestly, I hope that the guy who drops off my groceries and pockets my $10 doesn’t report it to their company or to the IRS because he’s working for poverty wages already.
posted by fuzzy.little.sock at 3:10 PM on February 15 [10 favorites]


I wonder if the lesson from the climate change and sex link applies here, too:
The next time someone tells you we must change behavior to reduce GHG emissions, ask them how they changed behavior to reduce emissions that were causing acid rain, smog, dispersion of lead, and destruction of the ozone layer. You will get a blank stare. No one changed behavior. ... The fossil fuel industry and insincere politicians would like nothing better than to delay compulsory decarbonization policies by claiming that we need behavioral change. We must not play into their hands. Instead, we should prioritize the one behavioral change that can make a big difference: changing our behavior as citizens and voters....
Tipping is good, just like recycling and driving less are good. Our most important actions, though, will be political.
posted by clawsoon at 4:48 PM on February 15 [18 favorites]


1) Vote for [milquetoast-neoliberal centrist Y] because "defeating [indistinguishable-in-any-material-sense fascist X] is the only thing that matters."

Are you suggesting that americans vote for Trump in a general election because he'll be better for workers' rights than literally any of the possible opponents? Wha? Thanks, but no.
posted by axiom at 5:01 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


axion, I think they are talking about people voting for centrists in the primary out of fear as the wrong thing to do.
posted by gryftir at 5:15 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Working for yourself is always the best alternative if that's somehow available to you.

For many, including me, working in a job with a strong union is actually much better.
posted by ktkt at 5:48 PM on February 15 [29 favorites]


I'm sure that Target's lawyers are fully ready to argue that these workers are working for themselves.
posted by clawsoon at 6:06 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


I think we're past that, at this point we need a general strike.

You’re not wrong, but workers that have never engaged in any kind of strike in their own workplace are less likely to be involved in a general strike. So think of one as the gateway drug to the other.
posted by corb at 8:33 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Oh, Black Mirror Season 6 is already here?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:03 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


People have become so addicted to the convenience of home delivery and the illusion of a good deal that any action which caused a massive disruption to the gig economy companies would most probably result in a popular call for armed force to restore normality.

This way of life is here to stay so how can we sustainably and effectively disrupt the disruptors? Because that is what is required.

The workers are only doing these jobs because they need the money so strike action won't be effective, there is no way to mobilise the numbers you would need. But you couldn't even get there because unions or some other form of collective representation are too easy to sidestep because there is no way to set up a closed shop.
posted by epo at 1:43 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure if this helps, but on the few occasions that I use a gig worker, I always tip in cash.

I always tip in cash wherever possible and whenever using any service where tipping is the norm. Reason :- I worked in a restaurant as a kid, and I've never forgotten how the owners used to pool our tips, take a chunk for themselves and then distribute the rest among their favourites. I've also never forgotten how being caught taking a cash tip was a sackable offence, so I'm as careful as I can be to ensure nobody sees me giving it.

You'd have hoped that things would have got better in the intervening 30+ years, but there you go.

But there's something worse about internet-driven insecure labour services (no, I won't legitimise the word 'gig' in this context) :- if you do tip in cash instead of online, it is on record that you didn't tip, and that the driver didn't get tipped. The IDILS can then use this data to flag 'bad driver' or 'bad passenger'.

The only way around this is to tip twice. And, considering how the insecure workers are being so viciously underpaid and exploited in the first place, I think that if I'm going to use the IDILS at all, that is the decent thing to do.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 5:17 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Just a reminder that being able to opt out of using these services is a privilege in itself. Sure, the majority of people are possibly able to avoid these services at the cost of their own time/convenience/ability. However, keep in mind how these services bring a vast amount of accessibility and freedom to people, especially disabled people. "Just don't use it" doesn't fix the regulations around labor laws. And having the morally superior attitude when YOU get to opt out just increases the shame thrown onto those who find necessity in these service type industries. And these types of jobs can stay around in a way that protects workers.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:24 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


What's the harm in the majority exercising that particular privilege if they skip the morally superior attitude towards those who can't?
posted by Selena777 at 7:11 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I don’t think there is one, it’s just that skipping the moral superiority often turns out to be the more difficult second step which ends up being missed. Similarly to the recommendations to delete social media in our conversations about Facebook’s abuses, for example.

I read Crystalline‘a comment not as urging folks not to exercise this privilege, but simply to recognize that that’s what they’re doing and remember that fact later (that is, in conversations like this one and at the ballot box, among other time).
posted by nickmark at 9:01 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


Even where the air is full of toxic smoke, one still has to participate in breathing.

And while getting off at the next floor cannot change the fact that the CEO has farted in the lift, doing so is not morally reprehensible and the fact that doing so involves opening the doors does make life a little easier for those whose best option is to stay inside it.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


It's very hard to avoid the gig economy. Yesterday we ordered pizza, from the little independent Indian pizza place in Fremont. Went to their site and ordered there... and they had it delivered by Doordash. Same a few weeks ago from a different small local pizza chain in San Jose; ordered from their site, delivered by Grubhub.
posted by tavella at 11:29 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


[One deleted. Probably best if we don't again go down the path of black and white "There are problems with X: unless you entirely forgo X, you are complicit!" (where X is social media, tourism, travel, home delivery, society, whatever). Cf. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:05 AM on February 17 [4 favorites]


Working for yourself is always the best alternative if that's somehow available to you

Maybe in a country with a functional social safety net? I would guess I'm not the only middle-aged US American here who chose a stable income with health care over an unstable one making more money.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:51 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]


Thought I'd check hacker news to see what they had to say, this story has been submitted about 6 times and as of now has gained zero attention.
posted by epo at 10:53 AM on February 17


In every thread about the gig economy there are people who highlight the benefits of some of these apps/services/etc. for those with limited mobility and various other disabilities, running up against the socioeconomic and regulatory issues of the existence of these things in their current form. I remember people getting frustrated in a thread about Alexa for related reasons.

This is a complicated subject fraught with a lot of emotional weight related to ableism, class, etc., and I think it's often really hard to discuss dispassionately (and shouldn't necessarily be discussed that way; there are reasons to be pissed about all of this).

But contrasting the existence and regulation of these services against the needs of folks who rely on them is a *shibboleth*. It's not either/or, it's how do we make this work without fucking over anyone.

Currently both the workers and many of the people who could take advantage of these services are fucked. The remaining digital divide still makes it difficult if not impossible for someone without a smart phone and a credit card to use any of these services. That's a lot of people with disabilities. Furthermore, it's wrong to separate the two as though there aren't plenty of differently-abled people caught in the gig economy.

There are also class/racial/gender complications around the topic that get really muddled when we're talking about e.g. underused MetroAccess buses or underfunded "meals-on-wheels" programs, where existing "solutions" are losing funding as their (inadequate, unhealthy, low-priority, unsafe) services are losing patrons and funding from more solvent patrons who find paid gig economy services more comfortable and convenient (because they are). And it's not like disabled people can't be racist/sexist/classist, or people from other disadvantaged groups can't be ableist.

At my city council meetings, the policy narrative around this is often shaped by the more financially-well-off, which has implications across a broad chunk of metropolitan service funding, for example when late-night bus routes get canceled due to a narrative that people (unsaid: people who can afford it) are taking Uber anyway. And I'm in one of the most progressive cities in the US.

I find that frankly terrifying, because I'm not really sure how a balance would be struck. A huge part of why these gig services are useful and appealing is their ubiquity, and I have to assume that any regulation with teeth would significantly reduce e.g. the number of actual Uber drivers. And public services in most cities have reputations (sometimes deserved) for being inadequate, dirty, or undesirable. And adequate funding for these services has to come from somewhere, which in many US cities would probably mean "the Federal government." A government that was blowing public funds on a glorified privacy fence on its southern border during a constant refrain of "austerity," last I checked.

Really trying to be thoughtful and considerate here, but again, I know this is hard stuff and I'm sure I have plenty of blind spots. Please flag or respond if this is shitty framing or appears to be bad faith/whataboutism.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:36 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


i.e. include extra items to the order paid for out of their own pockets.

what?! my bf and i use shipt at least once a month for groceries from meijer (a mid-western grocery/everything store). i would never expect someone to buy me something extra for funsies. who does that? of course i'm also sad for the lyft/uber drivers who think they need to provide me water or candy to get a good rating/tip.

i like shipt and other similar services because while they don't save me money, they save me time and anxiety, and i know are helpful for housebound or elderly people, or just people who have too many kids to cart around the store at once.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:50 AM on February 17


And public services in most cities have reputations (sometimes deserved) for being inadequate, dirty, or undesirable. And adequate funding for these services has to come from somewhere, which in many US cities would probably mean "the Federal government."

This is kind of...the real problem with this is the same problem with schools, or transit, or really any existing service that serves people with real needs, which is that you can't fix the conditions without fundamentally reshaping society in every aspect of itself. And in the meantime, people need to live and carve out something for themselves in the shitty society which exists now.

Public services generally have, in my view, deserved reputations for being inadequate, dirty, and undesirable. But the vast majority of that reputation, in most cases, is societal rather than the fault of the specific thing in question.

So: I am a disabled person who uses my own car or Uber rather than public transit, which vastly helps me live with my disabilities (PTSD/physical). But in large part, that's because it protects me from other people who are the main cause of exacerbation of my disability. It protects me from two things: one fixable with money, one fixable with complete societal reworking. One thing that prevents me from accessing public transit routinely is that there aren't enough seats on public transit, particularly ones with my back to a wall or other unpassable space. That's a money issue: because governments don't design public services for comfort, they try to squeeze in the absolute most people in the amount of space. That's why we have people having to hold, standing, onto transit straps on buses in cities where you're not allowed to drive in a car without wearing a seatbelt. Because they don't want to risk having buses not being overstuffed, because then they might have to spend more money.

The other issue is being harassed, which routinely happens on public transit. And it routinely happens on public transit, in part, because people (well, men) are allowed to grow to adulthood without social interventions on acceptable behavior, in part because we don't have enough funding to fund the teachers who would be providing those interventions, and because the places where those interventions are most needed are also overstuffed and understaffed, because governments think "how can we stuff as many kids as possible and pay as few teachers as possible" rather than "how can all children get the educations necessary to make them become happy and healthy, kind citizens."

This is, sadly, not solvable through gig economy regulation.
posted by corb at 8:33 PM on February 17 [4 favorites]


Oh corb I agree entirely, except I think regulation is at least a step in the right direction.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:25 PM on February 17


Another player has entered the race: Walmart employees say they’re preparing for job cuts as retailer rolls out its ‘Great Workplace’ program (Abha Bhattarai for Washington Post, Feb. 18, 2020)
Walmart last spring said it was testing a sweeping overhaul that would make its stores better run and create more opportunities for employees to “do meaningful work.” The “Great Workplace” initiative, the retailer said, would be “the key to winning the future of retail.”

But nearly a year in, workers say the effort, which will reach 1,100 of the company’s 5,300 U.S. stores by year end, has led to widespread confusion.

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is telling employees that it is doing away with certain positions — including hourly supervisors and assistant store managers — and replacing them with a smaller set of roles that carry more responsibilities, often for the same pay, according to interviews with current and former store employees, and internal documents obtained by The Washington Post.

[...]

The changes, executives say, are part of a broader plan to rethink the way stores and distribution centers operate as more sales move online. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Ark., has been investing heavily in advanced robots that can stock shelves, sort deliveries and scrub floors as it goes head-to-head with Amazon to stake out the future of retailing. The company also has spent billions of dollars buying e-commerce sites such as Jet.com and Bonobos, with mixed results. Last week Walmart said it would end its Jetblack personal shopping service and lay off nearly 300 employees in New York. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

[...]

Walmart, which has 1.5 million U.S. employees, is the country’s largest employer. The retail giant raised its hourly starting wage two years ago, from $9 to $11, to keep up with higher-paying competitors such as Target, Costco and CVS. Full-time U.S. employees now make an average $14.35 an hour, according to the company. Walmart does not disclose average pay for part-time workers, who make up about 45 percent of its U.S. workforce.
Make Walmart Great Again = more automation, and the remaining people will do more work for the same pay, or take pay cuts.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:21 AM on February 18


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