So here’s a little dialogue from this weekend in the Uber:
Rider: I love your shirt. Are you going to the after-hours club when you finish driving?
Me: I’m going to be the guy picking people up from the club.
How is your bag? Are you making the fat bag?
My bag is not so fat anymore since they cut the rates, but thanks for caring.
Hey man, you picked us up. That makes you part of our evening. I cares about your bag.
Much of what I love about driving is packed into this exchange. Yet for how much longer will this sentiment, this brotherhood of the app, hold true? To summon a car with a flick of your thumb at any hour day or night, in minutes, to whisk you in any condition to any location in the county, no matter how remote, was a small urban miracle. Gratitude was the order of the day. For some, it remains so. But people with no living memory of taxis now consider Uber and Lyft to be an extension of their phone.
In March both Uber and Lyft, operating as a duopoly, cut the mileage and base rate for LA area drivers 30%m without warning. In the middle of a booming economy. Mayor Garcetti, a man given to proclaiming on all Liberal Issues Under the Sun, uttered nary a peep, though he did put in a celebratory appearance at a Lyft IPO event.
Let’s unpack this. The largest employer in LA (it’s not even close) is rideshare. Most are side hustlers like myself. Imagine if Ford and GM announced a 30% UAW pay cut amidst record car sales. Would politicians in Detroit say nothing? At what point would silence be considered assent?
What if GM and Ford began running ads on the radio, buying billboards, soliciting new workers at the new low rates…and as an inducement, leased them the tools? What if they targeted non-citizens for recruitment?
You might start making a list in your head as to who really cares about your bag.