Gig working companies create adversarial relationships

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Like most corporations, gig working companies try to squeeze every penny they can out of their workers. In 

a regular job with protection from labor regulations, this can eventually erode morale and lead to jaded and piss-poor attitudes from the employees. Unfortunately, in the gig working world, where the rights of the workers are virtually non-existent, it can also often cost the workers money with nearly zero recourse, sometimes through no fault of their own.

The Us vs Them Mentality

I worked in retail and customer service for 20 years, so I’ve dealt with my fair share of PIA customers. Most customers are fine, but the lousy ones can wear you down over the years. In a regular job, workers generally have protections against false complaints and problem customers. Unless you do something outrageous that is well-documented, your paycheck and your job are generally safe. In a worst case scenario, you might be terminated and at least be able to collect unemployment while searching for a new job.

In the gig economy, there are no such protections. Income and opportunity can be stolen from you for no valid reason whatsoever and there is often nothing you can do about it. Your punishment can be anything from simply having your earnings taken away from you to being booted off the platform. Most veteran gig workers have experienced this to one degree or another and it can lead to an Us vs Them mentality. This is not good for anyone.

Uber and Lyft Issues

I’m most familiar with delivery and rideshare. From what I’ve seen, Uber and Lyft are the biggest creators of the adversarial relationship between drivers and passengers.

Some of the problems I’ve seen are as follows:

False complaints from riders to scam free rides – Uber and Lyft are far too quick to steal a drivers earnings based on unsubstantiated complaints. These can be anything from claiming that the driver picked up the wrong rider to claims of sexual harassment or racism. Often times, Uber and Lyft immediately refund the customers money and take the earnings away from the driver. Although many times drivers can get that money back, it is still wasted time and also counts as a strike against them, even if they have documented proof via dashcam footage that the claims were a lie.

No repercussions for riders who frequently violate Uber/Lyft policies or the law – Three hot button topics for drivers are riders who are underage, riders who insist on bringing children that require booster or car seats without having them, and riders who lie about their pet being a service animal. The first two are against the law in many locations, but Uber and Lyft seem to do very little about repeat offenders. If a driver reports these offenses and has documented footage of it, at the very least, it should be a three strikes and you’re out for the rider. As for the third hot button, I don’t mind toting someones well-behaved and clean pet around, but some drivers do. Unless it’s a legitimate service animal, the driver should have the right to refuse to use their personal vehicle to take the ride and there should be zero negative repercussions. Comfort/support animals are not service animals covered by ADA laws and too many riders abuse the system with no fear of repercussion to themselves, but often file false complaints to Uber and Lyft, costing drivers their access to the platform. The whole service animal thing is broken and need to be amended. If you follow the news, you may have seen that this is a problem in other service industries such as airlines and food establishments.

Allowing riders to scam the system and punishing drivers without due process will continue to degrade the relationship between Uber/Lyft, drivers, and riders. Most drivers and riders are good people, but the companies need to handle complaints on both ends in a better manner.

Food delivery issues – Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates

The adversarial relationships created here have an extra player added. Not only are drivers often placed at odds with the customer, they can often be placed at odds with the restaurants they are delivering for.

Customer issues generally stem from late deliveries, missing items, and problems at pickup/dropoff.

Late deliveries – As drivers, most of our money comes from doing as many deliveries as quickly as possible. Taking our sweet, old time provides very little, if any, benefit. In most cases, late deliveries are caused by the restaurant not having the food ready when we get there or from getting multiple orders stacked on us. Sure, we can decline stacked orders, but there are two reasons we don’t. First, with the generally low pay, stacked orders usually help the profitability of doing the gig. Second, declining stacked orders is held against drivers and could us scheduling access or other “perks” of higher acceptance ratings.

Late deliveries are also a problem when a customer doesn’t tip in the app and the pay is simply not worth picking up the order. For example, through the first few weeks of January, the base pay on my deliveries has averaged the equivalent of just under $0.76/mile and $5.71/hour. That is only counting active miles. When you factor in dead miles, it’s a paltry $0.52/mile, or $0.06 less per mile then the IRS writeoff of $0.58. Now, adding in tips and the occasional small incentives from the gig companies, my average per mile comes in at about $1.78/mile on delivery and $1.29/mile including dead miles. The hourly average jumps to $13.37/hr. Not great, but doable for what I need. I also work hours that aren’t peak or the averages would be higher.

If you’re not tipping in the app pre-delivery, there’s a good chance your delivery will be late.

Missing items – I think most of us drivers make at least a cursory effort to make sure all your items are in your order, but in reality, we often have no idea what we’re looking at. I’ve delivered from over 130 different places with a variety of food. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m even looking at. I ask if everything is in there and people being people, I’m pretty much always told yes. You don’t really want me rooting through your bag of food, do you? The restaurant should be getting it right. In addition, more and more locations are sealing their bags making it impossible to thoroughly check.

Problems at pickup and/or drop off – Some restaurants are notoriously slow in getting orders ready. Again, it’s not in the driver’s best interest to be waiting an addition 10-30 minutes for food to be ready. It’s costing us money and it might be making the customer’s order late. Driver’s get impatient, lash out at employees who may or may not be at fault, and it creates a poor relationship all the way around. In many cases, the restaurants aren’t taking full advantage of the settings in the tablets that the gig companies provide. They can often set estimated wait times, but instead they leave them at a default setting.

At drop off, customers often neglect to provide gate codes or clear delivery instructions. Many people live where street numbers are non-existent or difficult to see. Apartment and condos can be difficult to navigate. Parking can be difficult. Again, cooperation on both ends helps make the transaction more pleasant for all parties.

Can The System Be Fixed?

Sure, but a lot of the issues need to be remedied by corporations who value profits over people, so most of the burden is simply going to fall on the front line workers like the drivers and restaurant employees to make the best of a bad situation and for customers to learn the limitations of these 3rd party delivery and rideshare apps.

Feel free to add your thoughts, experiences, and comments as either a gig worker or a customer. As I mentioned, most of us(workers and customers) are decent people just trying to live life, but many of us have experienced the bad apples. 🙂

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