“I Cares About Your Bag”

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.

7 thoughts on ““I Cares About Your Bag””

  1. To paraphrase Barbara Krueger…

    Where is your bread buttered? Who holds the knife? The fact that you’re still driving after the 30% cut says a lot. How exactly do tens of thousands of random atomized gig workers organize? If they did would the bag men care? And when does the The Man send in the Pinkertons? None of this is new. None of it is different.

  2. I always use Lyft as it is widely known that Uber is evil. Even the name tells us so. Uber the law. Uber the people. Uber those beneath our social class. Lyft our spirits. Lyft our asperations. Lyft our society. I guess both the companies are losing money and it’s trickling down. Pox both their houses, but keep picking me up!

    1. I know several people who work (and worked) at both Lyft and Uber at the corporate level here in San Francisco. There are no particularly good or evil characters. It’s all just branding – business with a slick gloss. Public perception is malleable and has no connection to underlying reality.

  3. A major goal of Uber and Lyft is to transition to driverless cars. Then all those pesky humans are eliminated.

    A big problem is drivers are contract workers thus organizing is difficult. If drivers were employees, then it might be different.

    30% is a big hit.

    1. Driverless cars are years away. The mileage cut was a big mistake IMO. Drivers are now ready to support AB 5 as leverage over the company, even though few actually desire employee classification.

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