Uber and Lyft worsen congestion, Instacart's tipping bug, "mass destruction" of bike-share in France


Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy.

If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here. This is issue ninety-six, published February 27, 2018. Thank you to the enterprising Oversharing reader who sent in photos of the Pink Lady Apple Kombucha and Sustainable Seltzer that replaced the alcohol at his WeWork office. Oversharing feels your pain.


I mean this is just a great headline:

Also the lede: "Gobee is a no-go—at least in France." The story is that Gobee, a Hong Kong-based company and the first dockless bike-share to launch in France, shut down after just five months, citing "mass destruction" of its fleet. "We hoped for the best," Gobee writes in its goodbye blog post. "But we were wrong":

Over the months of December and January, the mass destruction of our fleet has become the new entertainment of underaged individuals, encouraged by content broadly shared on social media. In total, it is more than a thousand bikes stolen or privatized, nearly 3,400 bikes broken nationwide, around 280 complaints filed to the French Municipal Police and close to 6,500 repairs performed by our on-the-ground agents and repair partners.

It was sad and disappointing to realize that a few could ruin such beautiful and promising project. We had to come to the conclusion that it could not be viable and there was no other choice for us than shutting down, nationwide.

Poor Gobee, exploited by underage individuals sharing their content widely on social media. Without doubt, it is the victim here, its beautiful and promising vision destroyed by lack of basic human decency. Except, er:

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris does not want Asian bike-sharing operators to burst into the city the way Airbnb and Uber did and plans to introduce regulation to ensure an orderly rollout of new bicycle schemes, a top city official told Reuters.

And, uh:

[Paris deputy mayor for urban planning Jean-Louis] Missika said Paris is in favor of bike-sharing, which it has pioneered with its dock-based Velib scheme, but added he was not too happy with the way Gobee.bike had started operations.

“They saw a gap in the regulation and they jumped in. We cannot blame them, but that does not mean we will leave it at that,” he said.

In the meantime, Gobee says the French police are still investigating some acts of vandalism, and that it expects the vandals "to pay economically and socially for their actions."

Tip for you.

Instacart claims to have discovered a "bug" that prevented some of its shoppers from receiving tips. The company said the bug affected "less than 1%" of orders from late 2017 to the present, and that it takes the issue "very seriously." Here's more from CNBC:

It's a rare slip-up at one of the most prominent unicorn companies in tech, at a time when it's getting ready to battle Amazon in the grocery delivery space.

Instacart is increasingly being seen as big chain grocers' answer to the Amazon/Whole Foods threat. The company has partnered with six of the top seven grocers in North America and just raised a fresh round of funding that values the company at $4.2 billion.

Ah, how quickly the narrative changes. It would be less rare for Instacart to slip up on shopper tips than to handle them smoothly. Just a year and a half ago, Instacart angered its workers when it decided to pool and redistribute tips, instead of passing them along directly on each order. Instacart also made its tipping option hard for customers to find, many of whom assumed tips were included in the 10% "service fee" the company asked them to pay. In March 2017, Instacart paid $4.6 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging multiple labor violations, including failure to pay minimum wages and improper tip pooling. (The system is now apparently better, with customers getting the option to tip before they check out and after their delivery is completed.)

One thing that tends to get forgotten as a startup becomes bigger and more successful, as Instacart has since Amazon bought Whole Foods, is how that scale and success affects its lowest-ranking members. At Uber, the average driver earned $16.90 per hour before expenses in 2017, according to a new survey from driver blog The Rideshare Guy. When you adjust for gas, car cleanings, depreciation, and the other costs involved in driving for Uber, that is not great. At Instacart, shopper pay varies by city, but at least some workers claim to be earning less than the federal minimum wage. Instacart's line on this echoes the common gig economy refrain that more jobs of any kind are better, i.e., "Instacart empowers Shoppers by giving them a choice in how they work with Instacart… and we're working side by side with thousands of Shoppers to create real opportunities." So far, I don't think any of that has translated into a raise.

All choked up.

Once upon a time, Lyft had a great idea to get people to share cars. Because it was a great idea, Uber copied it, and so in August 2014 both companies launched their carpooling services at the same time. UberPool and Lyft Line have since been touted as the future of transportation, part of a greener future that reduces emissions and congestion by putting "more people in fewer cars" and getting them to convert from car ownership to some mix of ride-sharing and public transit. The fundamental assumption has always been that even as more people take these cheap, shared rides, the overall number of cars on the road is going down.

Well you know what they say about assuming. Here is the AP in bold red type:

And here's a short list of studies cited by the AP article that found ride-hailing worsens, rather than improves, congestion:

  • In Boston: six of 10 ride-hailing users (944 surveyed) said they would have used public transit, walked, biked, or skipped the trip if ride-hailing weren't available

  • In Manhattan: increases in taxis and ride-hailing vehicles are slowing traffic

  • In San Francisco: ride-hailing accounts for more than 170,000 trips on a typical weekday, concentrated in the most congested parts of the city

"The emerging consensus is that ride-sharing (is) increasing congestion," says Christo Wilson, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston who has studied Uber. "Ride-sharing is pulling from and not complementing public transportation," says Alison Felix, an author on the Boston study.

As for the rebuttal: "Lyft is focused on making personal car ownership option by getting more people to share a ride, helping to reduce car ownership, and partnering with public transportation," says Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin. "Uber's long-term goal is to end the reliance on personal vehicles and allow a mix of transportation and services like Uber," says Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang. I love startups. It is unacceptable to have a long-term goal of making money and being a functioning company so instead they have goals like "ending the reliance on personal vehicles" while losing lots of money and devising partnerships with car dealerships of varying repute so that more people have cars to drive for them so that they can reduce car ownership and end the reliance on personal vehicles.

Magical travel.

Last but not least, Airbnb on Feb. 22 held its Biggest Changes To Our Platform In Our Ten-Year History And Embrace Our Infinite Time Horizon. It is a long event name, no? Here's what the company announced for its 10th anniversary:

  • Four new property types (including expanded listings for traditional B&Bs and boutique hotels)

  • New tiers of bookings ("Airbnb Plus," "Beyond Airbnb")

  • Listings grouped by function, i.e., weddings, dinner parties ("Airbnb Collections")

  • A revamped "Superhost program" and "Superguest" loyalty program

"Ten years ago, we never dreamed of what Airbnb could become," says Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. "We want to go further by supporting and expanding our community so that in 10 years' time, more than 1 billion people per year will experience the benefits of magical travel on Airbnb."

The event was held at the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco. It was carefully hyped and even more carefully controlled, with Airbnb refusing to do any phone interviews, and only offering access to reporters who came to San Francisco to witness the proceedings and meet with their executives in person. There was a nice glossy profile of Airbnb Plus timed to the announcement in the travel section of the New York Times.

In 2016, as Airbnb sought to look beyond its core home-sharing business to bolster growth, the company developed "magical trips"—experiences that guests could book along with a room to enhance their stay. In 2017, Airbnb's growth began to slow as it made concessions to regulators and pulled inventory in some of its biggest cities, like New York and San Francisco. In 2018, Airbnb has gone back to the drawing board and come up with not magical trips, but magical travelYou can always dream bigger.

Other stuff.

Masayoshi Son's spending befuddles even SoftBank's directors. Missing Uber driver found in Los Angeles. Ace Parking says Uber, Lyft are hurting business. Taking Uber to the hospital isn't great for drivers. New York Lyft drivers get coffee break spot. Uber adds Express Pool. Walmart courts Vancouver with grocery delivery. Sam's Club partners with Instacart. Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes thinks the gig economy destroys jobs. Homeowners are using Airbnb to refinance their mortgages. Amazon Employees Are Very Interested in a Particular Article About Arlington. Airbnb pledges to take more responsibility for its effect on housing. Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again. Silicon Valley residents who earn $400,000 think they're middle class. How to Sell Anything Like the Wolf of Wall Street.

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