Episode 11: American Gigalo

In the eleventh episode of The Latest, we make no money exploring the gig economy. Brad Holm, a professional investment banker and amateur historian, joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 11: American Gigalo


Those voices are talking about the gig economy, where jobs are treated like community theater performances: they’re cute, worth a couple of bucks, but in no way resemble an actual career.

The gig economy is made possible through big tech, where apps like Uber, TaskRabbit, and Seamless allow a user to hire a stranger to handle what used to be known as errands.  

But unfortunately, like John Travolta’s hairline, these apps are no longer sustainable. After the recent implosion of WeWork, which offers overpriced memberships to fancy hotel lobbies that pour coffee out of beer taps, the tech industry may be on the cusp of a 2000s-style bubble, which might explain why carpenter pants are coming back. 

Grubhub has lost 53% of its market share in the past year, and lost 26% in the past three months. Even tonight, it lost my barbecue sauce. 

Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, are bleeding money as they continue to heavily subsidize the cost of its rides, which means at some point, you’re going to have to pay for that individually wrapped LifeSaver and tiny bottle of water.

One of the biggest reasons these apps have been able to thrive is because of cheap labor.  Gig workers aren’t considered employees, they’re “independent contractors,” like an actor who gets paid cash for a porno. 

And while many of these jobs offer tangible benefits, like flexible scheduling, a low barrier to entry, or the potential to write “Amazon” on the side of your Camry, they tend to lack what’s usually expected to be provided by an employer: a salary.

Earlier this year, food delivery companies like Instacart and Doordash came under fire for their tipping practices, in which a customer’s tip was used to subsidize a driver’s hourly rate, and was not paid out as a full, separate gratuity. When you told the guy to keep the change, he couldn’t.

Last month, California signed into a law a bill that guarantees gig workers a $12 minimum wage and access to things like healthcare subsidies, unemployment insurance, and the right to form a union. 

Now, rideshare companies are already planning to spend millions of dollars to fight this, but too bad. 

I love technology, but the human cost of using these “services” is becoming too real. Your Amazon package will get here in two hours at the expense of a warehouse employee getting fired for pissing their pants because they didn’t want to get fired for taking a bathroom break. 

The gig economy really is like a community theater production. It’s either going to go on forever, in excruciating, embarrassing pain, or it’s going to come to an abrupt end, and leave people confused, angry, and kind of relieved.