“Social Apps” for errand boy slave labor

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 5:18 pm by George Smith

The most odious story of the day, a feature at the LA Times on the use of smartphone apps and the social bazaar micro-job bidding businesses in southern California.

Mentioned the companies that are always mentioned, those that cater to the 1 percent and their high-button servants who run their lives off their smartphones. That means Uber and TaskRabbit, the latter company whose innovation is to make personal assistant work pay even less.

The technology is always the same. It’s merely a collection point where the haves can leverage an extremely lousy labor situation in the US, offering a bazaar in which people can bid against each other for the privilege of driving a snob to the airport, or picking up toothbrushes and toilet paper at the grocery store.

The Times story has Aaron and Adora Cheung of Homejoy who get the newspaper to swallow the idea that housecleaning services are too expensive in Los Angeles. They claim 40 dollars an hour, with their business slashing it to 20.

My experience living in southern California is a bit different. House cleaning isn’t expensive and much of the work is done by illegals, often at less than minimum wage.

So, again, the tech industry of business model of using digital collection to pit those who earn the least against each other in bidding wars to serve the upper middle class and above.

In addition, with many, you have the added joy of passing competence tests and background checks. Later, you can have the snobs pile up bad reviews on you for not working sufficiently well for minor sums.

“[Dawn McCoy, an actress and writer in the Wilshire district] has hired people to give her rides, hang photos and install kitchen cabinet knobs in her home, design her website, wait on guests at a party, put up and take down Christmas decorations and pick up food,” reads the piece. Because, you know, the handymen putting up ads on Craig’s List or still too damn expensive.

“Such start-ups are catching on with busy, tech-savvy consumers who want things done efficiently and cheaply,” it continues.

Yes, everyone knows — or they should, that well over half of the innovation coming out of the tech industry is in making use of the web to disempower and cheapen those who already make the least.

Think of these app labor operations as digital harpies, ripping off shreds of flesh from those who basically can’t leverage anything to keep the value of their labor from being undermined.

And if you’re do errand work for less than minimum there’s this pleasure: “For those worried about hiring a stranger they met on the Internet, the start-ups conduct background checks on hosts and task completers and strongly urge both sides to review each other after every transaction.”

The only good news is that the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation went after Uber and two similar app services, “accusing the ‘rogue taxi apps’ of illegally operating in the city without the proper permits and licenses and ordering them to stop picking up passengers.”

Do you know any traditional cab drivers who earn to much money and have it too easy?

Of course you do, hundreds. They deserve destruction at the hands of trivial job app programming. Don’t fear detest creative destruction, it’s making the place a better place to live (for the haves) at everyone else’s expense.

If you read the entire piece, which is here, you’ll notice there is not one instance in which the reporter mentions what the pricing for a specific “task” is other than 20/hr for “homecleaning,” of which the business takes an unspecified slice.

There is also not one instance of a “taskrabbit” — or job doer from any other of the services — interviewed, or an instance of anyone who might have found the services wanting.

Better editors wouldn’t have let it fly until it was more complete and not just a p.r. piece on the wonder of smartphone summoned cheap labor.

Note the crap re-branding name for these things — concierge apps.

Except these concierges get paid much much less than the old ones.

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