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The Uber Game: Can you make it in the gig economy? (ft.com)
92 points by chrisaycock on Oct 12, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

It really annoyed me that the game forced me to make errors. I don't oversleep and I have a generous dataplan that doesn't force me to buy "unlimited." I also didn't get a choice to stay in Sac. The feeling of "this is hard" was lost and was replaced by "this is not a useful demonstration."

Whether intentionally or unintentionally you're demonstrating the concept of privilege that some people are making efforts to point out.

You want to play the game that you want because you believe yourself to be a rational, intelligent, logical person.

You believe you can win the game.

You don't oversleep, you have a generous data plan.

You can choose.

And you're complaining that the game isn't useful because it doesn't fully allow you to choose.

The type of person that drives for Uber and Lyft in real life don't have the privilege to choose. They are driving for Uber and Lyft.

That's why it's hard.

You may have worked hard to be where you are, you have done it from a kid squatting on the ground to poop in a third world country to being the top earner at a tech company, all by yourself. That's great, that's rare, you deserve whatever accolades you choose to laud yourself with.

Or maybe it's not that dramatic of a distance. Maybe you're a middle-income family that could work to afford college education and you studied and worked hard to afford good sleep and generous data plans.

That initial position is still much better in the distribution model of modern society than many others that can never leave their situation.

What do you choose to do about it?

I'm sympathetic to arguments from those pointing out my personal privilege and how it doesn't apply to them. But I take issue with the infantilization of lower middle-class people. Not oversleeping or calculating how much data you're using is not a privilege issue, these things are knowable and predictable. It's offensive to all the working class people who do manage their time and finances to keep their head above water to suggest otherwise.

That is really an excellent point... I stopped by an automobile repair shop and they were discussing how to best schedule my repairs given the constraints. Yet they are all blue collar workers, but are in fact very responsible.

"What do you choose to do about it?"

Per the demonstration, it doesn't matter. It's still railroading the player in a very unrealistic way that has less to do with "privilege" (doesn't take much of it to choose to work in Sacramento) and more to do with "I'm going to shove the intended storyline down the player's throat within 30 seconds".

thank you for posting this. I hope the person you responded to reads it with an open mind.

I think maybe you've missed something. Many gig workers don't have the choices you wish the game provided you.

Ha. Now try it with old-school cabs: “Your passenger opens your door into a lamppost, denting it. You don’t have the cash to get it repaired. When you return your cab, your Armenian mobster boss notices it and breaks your kneecaps.”

I’m not quite sure Uber ever intended for their drivers to be able to own $900,000 homes (that’s about what a $4k mortgage would get you with 20% down). To me that smacks of a very rigged game with some sort of agenda behind it.

>To me that smacks of a very rigged game with some sort of agenda behind it.

Total bills would have been much more appropriate, unless Uber drivers themselves are reporting $4k/mo mortgages, in which case loan approvals need some serious regulation.

Regardless, this game is about someone on the edge of financial failure. The only option is selling the house and hoping for some profit to pay for relocation.

>>Loan approvals need some serious regulation

There's probably other recent evidence to support this idea...

Note the $1000 is "due this week" not "Due every week". It's possible you had that set aside, and then you had an unexpected expense that ate up your cushion. Probably involving the kid you helped with his homework.

You can see it as $1000 in total bills maybe.

With a bad credit rating and 10% down before 2007, you could definitely pay that much for a less expensive home.

I scored around $1016 after costs were removed. I don't think a $1000/week mortgage is reasonable, if you're an Uber driver on those costs, you need to rethink your entire life.

That being said, if mortgage was actually $1000/month and I still have 3 other weeks, being an Uber driver is suddently not so bad.

> if you're an Uber driver on those costs, you need to rethink your entire life.

...I think that's kind of the point. But don't spend too long rethinking your life, because you need to earn money! And somehow improve your life in your spare time.

Its $1000 due in a week. $1000 a month. Also at the $3.77 and hour I profited its still not very attractive. 10 hours a day all month to earn just rent.

An interesting "game", i failed but i knew it was rigged from the start, kind of like uber i guess, which i'm sure is the point they're trying to make.

Cool game. In conclusion, I'd be better off making minimum wage at McDonald's or similar. Same pay, less risk. Either way my house is going to be repossessed by the bank so I'm fucked.

If taxi companies produced marketing material like this and promoted it in cities where they wanted to fight off Uber, they’d probably have a much easier time.

That was entertaining and sickening all at once.

Is anyone besides people from HN playing that game?

It's in the Financial Times, a major UK newspaper. So I'd wager, yes.

"the gig economy" What an awful name to normalise workers with no job working very hard for less than minimum wage.

Corporate masters - be more flexible for us, we'll pay you less too. FT, WSJ etc. "Gig economy, sounds like rock bands! Awesome."

I'm in no way a socialist but FFS, "gig economy?" Seriously?

I agree but when I look around at the nontechnical world (at least from my vantage point of artists and hippies) this is exactly what it has become. When you can't find work other than what you don't like, a lot seem to choose becoming an Uber/Lyft driver.

I got annoyed becaused it forced me to go to SF every day after the first one. What was the point of giving me a choice on day 1? I made more money in my hometown.

Well, wasn't the whole idea of Uber and the "gig economy" to not have professional drivers, but just people doing it in their spare time _if they already have the means to_?

It obviously stopped being that in many markets really quickly.

But then, when it comes down to it, the "gig economy" was just SF speak for "A shitty part-time job."

Well, using "gig" to denote a job is ironically self-deprecating to begin with, since it is jazz musicians' slang for a relatively cool and exciting temporary engagement: a musical performance somewhere. Whereas in the ironic context, it refers to some mundane job.

That's the image they like to cultivate, but with their strict requirements of model and condition of vehicle, it has to be done as a business. Oh, and the insurance.

That was a pretty tough game, I only beat out 17% of players. Loved the aesthetics too.

I think it did a good job of putting me in the driver's seat, forcing me to make some tough decisions.

But what happens after week 1? Do you go right back into the grind and work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year? Brutal.

Pretty sure the earnings awarded by the game are overly optimistic, and certainly didn’t include Uber fees. Based on trying to earn a living between gigs driving for Uber in LA. Also, expenses are higher than just fuel and incidental damage.

As a Lyft driver, I can confirm that this is way too real

The reality of today's gig economy is that everyone is living on the brink of a failure.

One major disaster (healthcare, job loss, natural disasters, recession, divorce) is all it takes for this American dream to turn into a nightmare.

"You are deactivated for 4 hours. You use that time to buy a phone mount and charging cables for $25 and make your way to San Francisco."

Pardon? I picked Sacramento for a reason, buddy.

How is it worse having the option of being an Uber driver versus not having that option?

Because Uber leads people into thinking they'll make good money. It's like asking whether it's worse to have the option of being scammed or not having that option.

Ok, you have a point.

It's not. But if Uber's marketing to drivers is fueling a perception of the viability of Uber vs. what they actually stand to make, that's a problem.

a $1000 mortgage payment? where can i find that in the bay?

I think they mean $1000/week, which makes more sense considering the character has two children. But who would get approved for a $4.3k/month mortgage on a single earner getting paid less than minimum wage?

Somebody who loses his or her job after having got the mortgage could be in this situation.

As I noted in another comment, it's "due this week" not "due every week". Given the portrayal is definitely someone just scraping by, it's possible their cushion for the mortgage was just eaten up by some other non-negotiable expense.

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