Aug 26, 2022

Gigaverse

A pizzeria owner in Kansas realizes that DoorDash is hijacking his pizzas. A Lyft driver conquers the streets of San Francisco until he unwittingly puts his family in danger. A Shipt shopper in Denton, Texas tries to crack the code of the delivery app that is slashing his pay. This week, Host Latif Nasser, Producer Becca Bressler, and Philosophy Professor Barry Lam dive into the ins and outs of a new and growing part of our world: the gig economy. 

Special thanks to, Julie Wernau, Drew Ambrogi, David Condos, David Pickerell, Cory Doctorow, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Coby McDonald, Bret Jaspers, Peter Haden, Bill Pollock, Tanya Chawla, and Mateo Schimpf.

Episode Credits:

Reported by Becca Bressler, Latif Nasser, and Barry Lam
Produced by Becca Bressler, Eli Cohen, and Sindhu Gnanasambandan.
Original music and sound design contributed by Jeremy Bloom and Becca Bressler.
Mixing help from Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by Natalie Middleton
Edited by Pat Walters

CITATIONS
Articles:
Subscribe to Ranjan Roy's newsletter, Margins, here.

Jeffrey’s story was originally reported by Lauren Smiley for WIRED. Check out her piece for an even more in-depth look at his life as a gig driver.

Audio:
Check out Barry Lam’s podcast Hi-Phi Nation, a show about philosophy that turns stories into ideas. 

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LULU MILLER: Quick head's up: this episode does contain some profanity, which is not bleeped.

[RADIOLAB INTRO]

LATIF NASSER: I'm Latif Nasser.

LULU: I'm Lulu Miller.

LATIF: This is Radiolab. And should we just start?

LULU: Yes! Yeah.

LATIF: Okay. So I have this story about a guy. His name's Adam. Adam Peyton. Grew up in Kansas. Lived in New York City for a while after college. Eventually came back to Kansas.

LULU: Cool.

LATIF: And decided he wanted to start his own business. Wasn't sure exactly what, but then he realized, "Wait a second. Maybe I can bring to Kansas the thing I love most about New York." Which was ...

ADAM PEYTON: An authentic New York slice.

LATIF: Pizza.

ADAM PEYTON: That was one of the first things I missed. I kept asking myself why does this not exist here? Why does this not exist here? And I mean, there are a couple of places in Kansas City, but it's not widespread.

LATIF: And so he's like, "I'm gonna start a pizzeria."

LULU: Okay.

ADAM PEYTON: It's just called "AJ's NY Pizzeria." And Manhattan, Kansas, is where I opened my first one. It's actually where I live now.

LULU: Manhattan, Kansas?

LATIF: Yeah. Manhattan pizza to Manhattan, Kansas.

ADAM PEYTON: Our motto in the beginning was, "From the Big Apple to the Little Apple."

LATIF: Oh, that's cute. Is it actually called the Little Apple, or you made that up?

ADAM PEYTON: Yes. No, it's called the Little Apple.

LULU: Amazing.

LATIF: And he loves it. And his customers love it. And he's, like, serving up great pizza, and they are all enjoying it.

ADAM PEYTON: Yeah.

LULU: Okay.

LATIF: Okay, so now cut to—yeah, this is about three years ago now.

LULU: Mm-hmm.

LATIF: It's Friday night. And he gets a call from a customer.

ADAM PEYTON: Saying that the pizza that they got was wrong.

LATIF: They were delivered a different pizza than they ordered. But the thing is, his restaurant doesn't do delivery. It's dine-in and take-out only. He decided not to do delivery for this very reason: to preserve the quality of his pizza. So ...

ADAM PEYTON: It's a busy Friday night. I'm trying to figure out what's going on. We're slammed. I can't figure out A) who they got it delivered from; B) I don't know how to fix it because I mean, we can't just deliver a pizza. So later that night I got their number, called them back, and then figured out exactly what happened.

LATIF: What he finds out is that this person ordered the pizza through DoorDash. Now Adam didn't have any deal with DoorDash—he hadn't even heard of them at that point. But he discovered that if you went to the DoorDash app or even just Googled the restaurant ...

ADAM PEYTON: There's our logo, there's our menu. You can order from us.

LATIF: And at the time, DoorDash would call in the order, have someone go get it. No DoorDash jacket, nothing like that. So Adam had no clue. But then a customer would get the wrong pizza and think it was Adam's fault. And when he, you know, saw all the pieces, when he put it all together, he was pissed.

ADAM PEYTON: When you're building a brand, when you're the new restaurant or you're the new pizza restaurant, you want to present your pizza in the best possible way.

LATIF: Did you feel like—like it was almost like your—like your pizzas are being hijacked or something?

ADAM PEYTON: It's feeling something. It's like it's been stolen.

LATIF: So first he tries to just get his business off of the app.

ADAM PEYTON: That was the first thing. And there's no easy way to do that.

LATIF: And when that didn't work, he basically just is like, "Okay, let me order a pizza myself and just see what exactly is happening."

LULU: Okay.

LATIF: So he goes into DoorDash to order a specialty pizza. But when he's there, he notices something weird, which is that ...

ADAM PEYTON: The pizza's normally $23.99 and they're charging $15.99.

LULU: What?

ADAM PEYTON: The customer's paying less than what we're actually charging.

LATIF: So that's really weird, right? So he's like, wait a second.

LULU: That's really weird.

LATIF: They're charging less. $8 less for a pizza.

LULU: Huh.

LATIF: So then he was like, "Wait a second. Are they ripping us off? Are they paying us less?" But then he looked in his—you know, his account books and he was like, "No. No, they're not shorting us. They're just paying more than they're charging?" Which does not make sense.

ADAM PEYTON: So I didn't understand what was going on at all. And then that's when I was chatting with Ranjan.

LATIF: And so ...

RANJAN ROY: We'd kinda banter back and forth on G Chat because he's completely confused at first.

LATIF: He starts chatting with his friend Ranjan. Ranjan Roy, who was actually a roommate of Adam's when he was in New York.

RANJAN ROY: So I used to work in trading, 2002 to 2009. Went to the Financial Times. Was working on the business side for a couple of years. Went out, started a start-up.

LATIF: He's also an expert in all things business. I actually found this story in his newsletter, a super fun newsletter about business technology called Margins. So anyway, so Adam reaches out to Ranjan on G Chat to see if he understood what was going on here.

RANJAN ROY: So yeah, the business model is scrape a bunch of menus, put them on your platform.

LATIF: And Ranjan was like, "They probably just have an algorithm that scrapes menus and prices off the internet.

RANJAN ROY: You're not gonna invest the time to have someone actually validating every single price there.

LATIF: "I bet it just scraped the menu wrong."

LULU: It was just literally misread.

LATIF: Literally a misread thing.

LULU: Okay. Done.

LATIF: But because this company is so enormous, DoorDash, they haven't even noticed here.

LULU: It doesn't even matter, yeah.

LATIF: Doesn't even matter. To them it's kind not even a rounding error, you know?

LULU: Okay. Wow, yeah.

LATIF: But whatever the reason for this pricing error, the bigger thing that Ranjan thought was ...

RANJAN ROY: This is where the arbitrage comes in.

ADAM PEYTON: All of a sudden, I get on the G Chat the arbitrage, which I didn't even know. I didn't even know what arbitrage is.

LATIF: Yeah, say it again what the definition is?

RANJAN ROY: So arbitrage is buying and selling an asset at the exact same time and achieving a profit with no risk.

LATIF: It's dealer trade that's just instant free money.

RANJAN ROY: In finance, it's kind of this magical goal that people are always aspiring to.

LATIF: So Ranjan is like, "Oh, my God! Like, this is like—it's like we found this perfect glitch in the matrix."

RANJAN ROY: When I saw buy for $16 sell for $24 at the exact same time, it seems like a no-brainer, right?

LATIF: So Ranjan is like, "Jump on this!"

LULU: [laughs] Okay.

LATIF: "Here's what you do."

RANJAN ROY: You order 10 pizzas, pay DoorDash $160. And then DoorDash goes to your restaurant and pays you $240, and then those pizzas, you can just take, eat.

LATIF: Eat them, throw them out. It doesn't matter. As long as you keep buying them, you keep making money.

ADAM PEYTON: Ranjan came up with that and we just started doing that.

LATIF: He started sending pizzas to his wife, his friends. And then Ranjan has this kind of—he's like, "Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second. We can even take this to a whole 'nother level."

RANJAN ROY: What if we just have a box with dough?

LATIF: Do we even need a pizza?

RANJAN ROY: Because dough at that point is effectively costless. The driver will still hold something and, you know, the driver doesn't really care either way.

LULU: [laughs]

LATIF: So his cost now is even going down.

LULU: [laughs] Wait, this is so funny!

LATIF: So he's basically just ordering dough balls, and he's like minting money, right?

LULU: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

LATIF: And Ranjan, like, is like, "Okay, here—here's what we do now."

RANJAN ROY: I, sitting here in New York am joking with him. I'm like ...

LATIF: "Fire all your employees."

LULU: Oh, my God!

LATIF: Just basically become a dough ball factory.

LULU: Wow.

LATIF: Like, there's no need to do anything else.

RANJAN ROY: Your top-line revenue is just gonna explode, and then you go to Domino's and say "Look at this business. It's incredible." You know, like, that is the Silicon Valley way of doing business.

LATIF: I mean, this is basically the game that DoorDash is playing. Like so many of these Silicon Valley startups, it doesn't matter if you're actually making anything as long as it looks like you're growing and you're a good investment. So let's just beat them at their own game.

LULU: I mean, it is easy to, like, just see DoorDash as the bad guy.

LATIF: Yeah.

LULU: Is that how you see it?

LATIF: Well, to me it's not—it's not the bad guy, necessarily. It's just like the emperor has no clothes. It's a skyscraper built on, you know, sand, basically.

LULU: Mm-hmm.

LATIF: Like, and it's just—it's the financial logic of it, like, it doesn't make sense, and it's unclear whether it'll ever make sense.

LULU: But aren't they—does it truly not make sense? Are they not making, like ...

LATIF: So few of these giant companies like Uber and, like, so few of them actually make any profit. And according to Ranjan, like, this is how the system is designed to work.

RANJAN ROY: That is actually the business model.

LATIF: Yeah.

RANJAN ROY: That we're going to lose money per transaction in order to grow our overall usage and get people used to it. That's it.

LATIF: And to hear Ranjan tell it, like, even a glitch like the one at Adam's pizza place, even that sort of feeds the system.

RANJAN ROY: Yeah, yeah. Like, a regional sales manager of the Midwest could go to his boss and be like, "Look, I am killing it in Kansas right now. We're growing, you know, like, 40 percent year over year." Then they are gonna go back to their investors, they're gonna go back to their investors, and it could actually weirdly work out for everyone.

LATIF: But how could—like, how could this be so ridiculous? Like, all these towering, colossus companies around us are actually all throwing stacks of money out the window it feels like.

RANJAN ROY: Yeah, but the idea, the unspoken part of the strategy is it's monopolies. Kind of engrain the customer behavior where everyone is just used to taking an Uber, ordering on DoorDash. And then once you own that entire value chain, the customer, the supplier, which would be the restaurant or the Uber driver, you get to set the price.

LULU: Hmm.

LATIF: I mean, this way of doing business is everywhere, right? I mean, and it's a relatively recent thing. But now rides, food delivery, apps where you get your groceries or whatever you want delivered to your door, millions of people use these apps every day. Millions of people work for them. But the rules of the road for these businesses and these workers are just all sort of up in the air. So today on Radiolab, we're getting into the gig game. We've got several different stories from different perspectives about what exactly as customers or business owners or drivers we're getting sucked into, and who's really playing who?

LULU: Well, before we get going, I mean, how does Adam's story end once he found that dough ball vulnerability? Is he just exploiting it and rolling in the dough?

LATIF: Well, no. Okay, so Adam is basically like, "Look, like, I'm—I don't care about any of that."

ADAM PEYTON: I mean, Ranjan loved it.

LATIF: Yeah.

ADAM PEYTON: He was all in this. He was like, "This is SoftBank money." And I was just kind of like, "All right, Ranjan. Calm down. We're not—we're not, you know, running a major arbitrage out of this little pizza shop. I've got pizza places to run, man. So cool your jets. I'm not gonna send 500 pizzas to my house."

LATIF: He decided he just wanted to actually run his actual business that sends actual pizzas to actual people with actual mouths, you know, even if it wasn't easy money.

LULU: Go Adam. Resist utter greed.

LATIF: But what he does do is, like ...

ADAM PEYTON: So I had to spend 30 minutes on the phone dealing with an issue with this, then that is when I would say, "Okay, I'm sending myself 10 boxes."

LATIF: [laughs]

ADAM PEYTON: It was kind of a justification.

LATIF: Got it.

LATIF: Every time he gets a call from a customer being like, "DoorDash screwed up my order," he's like, "Okay, doing one dough ball delivery."

LULU: Yeah. Okay.

LATIF: Like, just as a kind of—as a kind of like ...

LULU: Cosmic retribution?

LATIF: Yeah.

ADAM PEYTON: It was one of those kind of if they're gonna use strong-arm tactics on me, I feel like I should be able to use strong-arm tactics on them.

LATIF: Have they fixed it all now? Or it's still—it's still there?

ADAM PEYTON: So it went away after two months. We found out after the fact that this is a demand test. So what they say is, "We put your restaurant on our website. You were ordered X amount of times. This is why you should partner with us." That's what they were doing.

LATIF: Oh! So it was a kind of like a—they wanted to prove how good they are before they approach you to actually partner with you?

ADAM PEYTON: Yeah.

LATIF: We should say DoorDash told us that they do not do this anymore, that as of 2020, everyone on the platform is there with consent—including ...

ADAM PEYTON: No, it's—we're—we're partnered with them.

LATIF: ... Adam.

LULU: [gasps]

ADAM PEYTON: Yeah.

LULU: Wait, really?

LATIF: Yeah.

LULU: He gave in?

LATIF: I mean, it seems like these days, if you're gonna run a restaurant, it's almost impossible not to. But when we come back, we'll meet some people from the other side of the app who are pushing back.

 

***

 

BECCA BRESSLER: I should just start by how I got ...

LULU: Lulu.

LATIF: Latif.

LULU: Radiolab.

BECCA: Okay, let me take a sip of water.

LATIF: And now a story from producer Becca Bressler.

BECCA: Okay. I mean, I guess it kind of starts with you, Latif, with your pizza story. You were the sort of original DoorDash ambassador at the show.

LATIF: I'm the door to DoorDash, you might say.

BECCA: Yeah. [laughs]

LATIF: And you dashed through it.

BECCA: Yeah. I mean, your story, I think in general it got me thinking—I've always kind of thought of DoorDash a little bit because I actually use DoorDash quite a bit. And, like, the fact that all you have to do is pull out your phone and press, like, three buttons to food show up at your door is pretty amazing.

LATIF: Yeah. Yeah.

BECCA: And on the one hand, it feels kind of like magic. On the other, obviously, this incredible thing happens because there are people on the other side of the app, and they're out there busting their asses doing this work.

LATIF: Right.

BECCA: And I, you know, realized I don't actually know anything about what it's like to do that work. But there's actually this street corner near my apartment ...

BECCA: Ba ba ba. Okay.

BECCA: ... where a bunch of delivery guys hang out.

BECCA: Okay, let me put my headphones on.

BECCA: And so a couple months back, I grabbed a mic and walked over there.

BECCA: Could I ask you a few questions?

JEWEL: Yes.

BECCA: Is that okay?

BECCA: To see what they had to say about what it's like to do this job.

BECCA: How long have you been doing pickup orders for DoorDash?

JEWEL: A long time. A year?

BECCA: A year? Like, is this your hotspot sort of?

JEWEL: You can say like that.

BECCA: So I was standing there talking to this guy, Jewel. And he was just staring down at his phone the whole time. And every 10 seconds or so, he would get these pings.

[Electronic chime sound rings]

JEWEL: Like this one.

BECCA: And when it would ping it was like this order that popped up on his phone. It had, you know, the restaurant, where he was going and how much it would pay.

BECCA: Okay, so you're gonna take this one?

JEWEL: No, no. I don't actually because it's too small.

BECCA: And he's like, "No, too small. Probably not gonna be a good tip."

BECCA: Ooh, are you gonna—do you want to take this one?

JEWEL: No, no. It's going, like, too far.

BECCA: Oh, too far.

JEWEL: Yeah.

BECCA: And I don't know. I was, like, standing there and it almost looked like he was using a dating app, like he was using Tinder and just, like, going, like, "No. No. No."

LATIF: [laughs]

BECCA: And it's his job. Like, he's doing his job, but it did feel like he was playing a game.

LATIF: Hmm.

BECCA: And there were dozens of people just doing the same thing.

BECCA: I see a guy with a green backpack, which I think maybe means Instacart.

BECCA: There was GrubHub.

BECCA: Oh, it's an UberEats bag.

BECCA: And I started—like, when you see the scale of it, I just started thinking about this whole system where whenever any of us presses a couple buttons on our phone, there are millions of people all around getting these pings. And then doing these calculations on the fly, deciding whether they're gonna take it.

JEWEL: No. Yeah, I'll do this one.

BECCA: Oh, you'll accept it? How much is it for?

JEWEL: It's $9.25.

BECCA: And I just started to wonder what it's like to have this constant pinging in a sense, like, be your boss.

LATIF: Hmm.

LULU: Hmm.

BECCA: And to really, like, have to play a game for your job.

LULU: Yeah.

BECCA: And as I was talking to drivers and honestly just reading everything that I could find, I came across this story about a guy that answered these questions in a pretty shocking way.

JEFFREY FANG: I hate driving.

BECCA: You hate it?

JEFFREY FANG: I hate driving. Period.

BECCA: So his name's Jeffrey Fang.

JEFFREY FANG: Mm-hmm.

BECCA: And he is a former gig driver.

BECCA: So where should we start this?

JEFFREY FANG: The year probably I would say 2012. That would probably be a good point.

BECCA: So 2012, Jeffrey was a student at City College of San Francisco, studying philosophy. He didn't have good grades, and so he ended up dropping out. And at that point ...

JEFFREY FANG: I did not have an answer to what's next or what else.

BECCA: He didn't have a job lined up. And so he decided to fly home to visit his parents.

JEFFREY FANG: I took a trip back to Beijing, where my dad, mom and dad was.

BECCA: To regroup and figure out what's next for him. But also while he was out there ...

JEFFREY FANG: I met my now wife there in Beijing.

BECCA: ... he fell in love.

JEFFREY FANG: So we decided to get married.

BECCA: So gets married, comes back to San Francisco.

LULU: And does he come back—he comes back with his wife?

BECCA: No, he doesn't come back with his wife.

LULU: Okay.

BECCA: So that's the thing. So he needs to get his—his wife would need a visa ...

LULU: Okay.

BECCA: ... to be able to come over to the United States. And for reasons I don't totally understand, he needed around $50,000 to make that happen.

LATIF: Oh, wow. Okay.

JEFFREY FANG: And I was sort of like, "Shit." I was down to, like, maybe a few thousand dollars in my name.

BECCA: And he just had no idea what kind of job he should even be looking for.

JEFFREY FANG: But it was on one random morning, I was at one of the street corner of the Union Square in San Francisco. And I saw a car with this giant pink mustache. I'm like, "Huh. What is Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation up to? This is something new!"

BECCA: [laughs]

BECCA: But he does Google "pink mustache."

JEFFREY FANG: It was like, "Oh!"

BECCA: And he learns about Lyft.

JEFFREY FANG: "It's driving people for money." It was like, well, I know how to drive and I live in San Francisco for, you know, at least over 10 years now. Maybe I could do this to make a little money.

BECCA: It seemed like it could be an easy, temporary fix to his money problems. And one of the great things about this job—for Jeffrey in particular—is that it's super flexible. So if he wants to work, like, a ton of hours for a few months and then take a couple weeks off to go visit his wife in China, he can do that.

JEFFREY FANG: I'm my own boss.

BECCA: So he just downloaded the app, signed up. He doesn't have to do any interviews or anything like that, but this job would end up becoming like a defining part of who he was, and sort of take over his life.

BECCA: Do you remember, like, your first day on the job?

JEFFREY FANG: I do. I do. I was—I remember I was having cold sweats picking up people because I was afraid I'm gonna mess up on the app. But within a few days I'm like, "Okay, I could do this. I could do this."

BECCA: And he started doing it pretty much every day.

JEFFREY FANG: Like a day job.

BECCA: And so every morning he'd hop in his car, turn on the phone. The app would ping him with a ride. And in the beginning he figured okay, best way to make money is just accept every ride.

LATIF: Right.

BECCA: Only problem was ...

JEFFREY FANG: Sometimes really pays really well, sometimes it doesn't.

BECCA: The pay on any given day was all over the place.

JEFFREY FANG: Yeah.

BECCA: Because when a ride shows up on the app ...

JEFFREY FANG: You have 15 seconds to accept it.

BECCA: But it doesn't tell you where the person is going until after you accept it.

LATIF: Hmm!

BECCA: Like, it could take you downtown, it could take you somewhere totally outside the city.

JEFFREY FANG: Where there's no other rides for you to have, to be had for the next 20 minutes or maybe 30—even an hour.

BECCA: You also don't know how much money you're gonna make until after you drop them off.

LULU: Whoa!

BECCA: So each time Jeffrey hit 'accept," it was like a slot machine, like, pulls? Push? What do you do with a—pull?

LATIF: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you pull.

BECCA: Yeah. These hidden little, like, slot machine pulls where you don't know what's gonna come out of it until you finish it.

JEFFREY FANG: You’re playing your luck.

LATIF: Right.

BECCA: So after doing this for a while ...

JEFFREY FANG: I was sort of like, "Shit."

BECCA: ... he's like, "Who knows how long this could take to get my wife over here?"

LULU: Oh, man!

BECCA: But then his fortune kind of changes when he finds out about this crew.

LAUREN SMILEY: Jeffrey found out that there's a parking lot in San Francisco at a shopping center where Lyft drivers kind of meet up on their, you know, lighter hours of the day.

BECCA: So this is Lauren Smiley. She wrote about Jeffrey for Wired. And she says this motley crew of guys ...

LAUREN SMILEY: The gym rats. The vapers. The DJs. There were a couple people who would spin tunes out of the back hatch of their car.

BECCA: And a lot of these guys had been driving since the early days of Lyft. And when Jeffrey showed up and was talking to these guys, they were like, "Dude, you can't just accept every ride. You gotta learn how to play the game."

LULU: What does that mean?

BECCA: It means a couple of things. One, pay attention to the incentives that the app gives you. So, you know, if you do a certain number of rides, you can get a bonus.

LULU: Okay.

BECCA: Also, they told him, like, you have to go out and get the good rides. So early morning, head to the airport because those are the money-makers. Pro tip: 2:00 am? Go to Club Booty.

LULU: [laughs] There's a club called Booty?

BECCA: Yes, there is. I've been there. It's awesome. But the main thing that people are talking about in this parking lot is ...

JEFFREY FANG: The big, magic dollar called the prime time.

LULU: What's prime time?

BECCA: So if you're a driver and you open up your app, you'll see some part of the city highlighted in pink, and that just basically means a bunch of people are requesting rides over there. And so the Lyft app is just saying, like, "Hello, we need you. A lot of people over here. Come and grab a ride. And if you do, you could double your money.”

JEFFREY FANG: Boom! 200 percent prime time.

LULU: Oh, cool!

BECCA: Yeah. So Jeffrey starts chasing the prime time.

JEFFREY FANG: So say there's a game.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, baseball announcer: The Giants got the win last night ...]

BECCA: A baseball game.

JEFFREY FANG: Giants.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, baseball announcer: Ready to go tonight to try and take a three games to two lead.]

JEFFREY FANG: That's a—that's a money-making event. People will be there.

BECCA: So Jeffrey would be in the car looking on his phone. He's looking at road closures.

JEFFREY FANG: And where are the police gonna start setting up barricades? Like, setting up in terms of where we can't get to?

BECCA: Maybe he's got a map of the stadium looking at where the exits are.

JEFFREY FANG: Where naturally people will congregate trying to score rides.

BECCA: And then he'd go check on the game.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, baseball announcer: Beede will head to the seventh ...]

JEFFREY FANG: And it's like, all right, seventh inning. Okay, all right. Let's start positioning ourselves.

BECCA: Put himself in exactly the right spot.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, baseball announcer: And the curveball puts him away. And the Giants have won it.]

BECCA: And then a ride comes in.

JEFFREY FANG: Tap to accept.

BECCA: Pick up the passenger.

LULU: Go Jeffrey!

BECCA: Drop them off.

JEFFREY FANG: Oh, fuck yeah!

BECCA: If he can double back, he can get another one.

JEFFREY FANG: Boom! I feel like I just unlocked, like, the secret vault level where I get this big load of cash. Yeah! The reward is instant. It makes you feel really good!

BECCA: And he's raking it in.

JEFFREY FANG: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

BECCA: Over and over again. Games, concerts ...

JEFFREY FANG: Boom!

BECCA: He started making a thousand dollars a week.

JEFFREY FANG: Boom!

BECCA: Then $2,000 a week.

JEFFREY FANG: Boom!

BECCA: Then $2,500 a week.

JEFFREY FANG: Boom!

BECCA: That'd be like $130,000 a year, by the way.

LULU: Wow!

JEFFREY FANG: [laughs] Not to be braggy about it, but there's a bit of a satisfaction in knowing that I am capable of doing something just out of driving and making that money at the end of the day.

BECCA: So Jeffrey's feeling pretty good. He takes a little time off and flies home to China.

JEFFREY FANG: For Chinese New Year, the Christmas, you know, of Asia.

BECCA: You know, to spend time with his family—his parents, his wife, and their new baby.

JEFFREY FANG: A son.

BECCA: And while he was there, he heard from some friends that Lyft was starting to make some changes.

JEFFREY FANG: They lowered the per mile pay as well as per minute pay.

LULU: Oh!

JEFFREY FANG: We were all looking at the number and we were like, "Oh, that's bad."

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jeffrey Fang: Dropping a bomb on us and letting—basically just say, "Well, here you go, guys. Go fuck yourself."]

BECCA: This is Jeffrey on a podcast he did with some driver friends in January, 2016.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jeffrey Fang: And it was just $5 ride after $5 ride. And if I got anything above $5, it involved a trip across the entire city.]

JEFFREY FANG: It essentially made it unprofitable to drive people, to drive Lyft at all.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jeffrey Fang: I mean, at this point I'm just looking for my exit strategy from rideshare because…]

BECCA: A bunch of Jeffrey's driver friends got out of the Lyft game, but Jeffrey decides to keep driving.

LULU: Even though he's figuring it's unprofitable now?

BECCA: Yeah. Well, he sort of didn't know what else to do. But it was also like a new puzzle, you know, a new game to beat.

JEFFREY FANG: That's kind of like the drug that kept me in, too.

BECCA: It was just like he leveled up.

JEFFREY FANG: Your brain starts thinking, your pattern of thinking started to become like okay, you want to go out and grab that money.

LULU: So how do you do that?

BECCA: Well ...

JEFFREY FANG: For lack of a better word, be kind of a bastard driver. For example, like ...

BECCA: He'd accept a ride ...

JEFFREY FANG: And I would go to the pick-up spot, tap that I've arrived.

BECCA: See the destination ...

JEFFREY FANG: If I don't like where I'm going, I just drive off, leave the passenger hanging.

BECCA: And go chase a better ride.

JEFFREY FANG: Exactly. If you can get the passenger to cancel the ride, it doesn't hurt your acceptance rating.

BECCA: Okay, so by this time, he's driving with Uber, too. And with Uber, there was this hack that he did with the app.

LAUREN SMILEY: If you put your phone into airplane mode and dropped off the network, dropped off the app ...

BECCA: Again, Lauren Smiley.

LAUREN SMILEY: ... you could accept the ride, and then it would show to you where that ride was going.

LULU: Oh, ho!

LAUREN SMILEY: And then if it was a bad ride, you could just cancel the ride and then hop back onto the network.

BECCA: And it was like it never happened.

LULU: Clever!

LAUREN SMILEY: Mm-hmm.

BECCA: And Jeffrey's new set of moves were paying off.

JEFFREY FANG: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's like I'm making more money than before.

LATIF: Holy cow!

LULU: Damn!

BECCA: Yeah. Probably not more than his peak back in the day, but he was able to keep making it work even after the fare cuts. And for Jeffrey, it felt like he had beaten the next level of the game.

JEFFREY FANG: To be able to figure out these hacks? You're a maverick.

BECCA: And there were times that this was all he could think about. Like, he would be at dinner with friends.

JEFFREY FANG: I would have my app on.

BECCA: He's just constantly looking down on his phone.

JEFFREY FANG: You would check what's the incentive? What's the bonus? Is there any prime time?

BECCA: He'd become obsessed.

JEFFREY FANG: So they're like, "Dammit, Jeff! Frickin'—like, fucking turn your phones off, dude! Just turn it off!" Like, there's—there are rides, man.

BECCA: Yeah.

JEFFREY FANG: There are rides.

BECCA: Okay, so we're gonna fast forward a bit. It's 2020.

LULU: Okay.

BECCA: He's saved a bunch of money. And with a little help from his parents, his family comes over from China—his wife and now one, two more kids. So family of five.

JEFFREY FANG: The house was not exactly ready. It still had kind of a bachelor pad kinda thing.

BECCA: But they moved in.

JEFFREY FANG: They came over and it was like, "What? You lived like this?"

BECCA: But anyway, this dream that he's had for years has finally come together.

JEFFREY FANG: Yay!

BECCA: Now it wasn't long after they came over that the pandemic hit. So at this point, nobody's taking rides, but now he's got a family to support, so he hops over to food delivery.

JEFFREY FANG: You have UberEats. You have DoorDash, PostMates, you have GrubHub.

BECCA: Which for Jeffrey felt like a new game.

JEFFREY FANG: Your criteria for taking an order: where am I gonna end up? Is there gonna be restaurants there I can take order back? Second, the restaurant, is their food usually ready? Are they on time?

BECCA: He figured this one out pretty quickly. But about a year into the pandemic, something happened that for Jeffrey sort of turned the whole game/job, like, his whole life upside down.

LAUREN SMILEY: Yup. It was a Saturday in February of 2021.

JEFFREY FANG: It was a sunny day.

BECCA: Jeffrey's at home with his family in the late afternoon.

LAUREN SMILEY: And his wife wanted to stay home and tutor their eldest son.

JEFFREY FANG: Online Zoom lesson for his schoolwork.

BECCA: So he had to figure out something to do with the other two kids, and he checks his phone.

JEFFREY FANG: That's when I say, "You know what? I'm gonna go do dinner. Go for the dinner run."

BECCA: So he grabbed the two kids, got 'em strapped in.

LAUREN SMILEY: Turned on Shrek 2.

BECCA: And turns on his DoorDash app and heads out there.

LAUREN SMILEY: It was a kind of a cold weekend, good night for takeout.

BECCA: He's doing pretty well. Lots of orders. It’s getting pretty late. Dark out. And this order comes in from a pizza place.

JEFFREY FANG: Tap to accept.

BECCA: He heads over, hops out of the car, grabs the pizza.

JEFFREY FANG: Hop back in and then I go to the destination.

BECCA: To an apartment building.

JEFFREY FANG: And I deliver.

BECCA: So he pulled up to the building ...

JEFFREY FANG: Put the car in the driveway of the apartment building. That's my strategy for not getting ticketed or getting honked at.

BECCA: He's gonna be super quick.

JEFFREY FANG: No more than five minutes, right? So I knew it was super quick. I kept the engine running instead of turning the car off, because that way I don't disrupt the DVD playing in the background for the kids.

BECCA: So he goes into the apartment building, drops off the food, comes out ...

JEFFREY FANG: I see a man in my car. He's in the driver's seat. He was sitting in my seat. So I'm like, "What the fuck? This guy's trying to jack my car. Shit, my kids' inside." So I ran up to the car, opened my car door. I yelled at him, "Get out! Get the fuck out!"

BECCA: Jeffrey grabs the guy's arm, and tries to drag him out of the car.

JEFFREY FANG: We struggled. But man, I couldn't move him.

LAUREN SMILEY: The guy cuts his losses ...

BECCA: Jumps out of the car.

LAUREN SMILEY: Over Jeffrey, and ...

JEFFREY FANG: ... grabbed my phone.

BECCA: He's seeing this guy running off with his phone.

LAUREN SMILEY: His everything.

BECCA: This thing that has ruled his life for the last seven years. The thing that had given him a job, had allowed him to bring his family over and set up this life for himself that he'd wanted for years. And he thinks to himself ...

JEFFREY FANG: He doesn't seem too fast.

BECCA: He checked on his kids in the backseat, made sure they were okay, and ...

JEFFREY FANG: I just ran. I ran after him for my phone.

BECCA: So ...

LAUREN SMILEY: There is a getaway car.

BECCA: The guy he's chasing jumps into the car, and Jeffrey, he catches up to the car ...

LAUREN SMILEY: Grabs the passenger door handle ...

JEFFREY FANG: I held onto it, I ran with it for a little bit.

BECCA: Opens the door ...

LAUREN SMILEY: And hops into the passenger seat to actually ride shotgun.

BECCA: And he just started screaming at them.

JEFFREY FANG: Oh, yeah!

LAUREN SMILEY: I mean, what—what do you do when, you know, someone's literally in your car screaming at you?

JEFFREY FANG: They gave me my phone back and they let me out of the car.

BECCA: So now he's about two blocks away from his car, and he starts hustling back.

JEFFREY FANG: I ran and walked. Ran and walked as much I—with as much strength as I could muster. I got back, it was gone. The car was gone. They were gone.

LULU: Oh, my God.

JEFFREY FANG: I scream as loud as I can into the night and say "Help!" And the same time dialing 911.

[NEWS CLIP: By the way, breaking news coming out of San Francisco tonight. An Amber alert has just been issued for two small children.]

BECCA: So the police showed up and the news crews showed up.

[NEWS CLIP: Dion, absolute nightmare situation out here for that father and his two children who he says were inside of his car ...]

BECCA: And Jeffrey stood in front of the camera, and ...

JEFFREY FANG: I pleaded. I tried to plead it to the car thief.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jeffrey Fang: I just want my kids back.]

JEFFREY FANG: "I know times are hard if you're gonna resort—if you're gonna resort to stealing, that's one thing."

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jeffrey Fang: But please don't hurt my kids. Let them return safely back to me and my wife, please.]

BECCA: Jeffrey just waited there on that sidewalk in front of that apartment building, calling everyone—calling family, calling friends, looking at his phone, reading alerts.

JEFFREY FANG: I was there for four and a half hours.

LULU: Oh, my God!

BECCA: And then ...

JEFFREY FANG: It was near 1:00 am.

BECCA: He gets a call from the police.

JEFFREY FANG: They found them. They found the kids.

BECCA: His car was abandoned in someone's driveway. It was in a random house. And his kids were safe in the back seat.

JEFFREY FANG: When they inform me, it was relief. You will—I will feel relief, and finally they were found, and at least they're safe, and I can just start dealing with it. I can allow myself to feel at that moment from that point forward and deal with the aftermath. By the time I got home, they were sleeping at home. I didn't get home until morning. I was exhausted.

BECCA: What was that next day like for you and your family? Like, how did you talk about it with them?

JEFFREY FANG: That I'd prefer not to address.

BECCA: Okay.

BECCA: He did at least tell me about this call he got from a friend.

JEFFREY FANG: He made me promise him to really take a break for my family.

BECCA: Mm-hmm.

JEFFREY FANG: Just stop for a while and just, you know, recuperate.

BECCA: But later that day, you know, the day after this whole disaster, he opened up his phone and he looked at the DoorDash app.

JEFFREY FANG: I did. I did, because the bonus—the bonus was super high. I mean ...

BECCA: What was it?

JEFFREY FANG: It was like $4 extra per order.

BECCA: Did you go out there?

JEFFREY FANG: No, I didn't go. I—just out of habit, I checked. Out of addiction, I checked. But no, I didn't—I didn't do anything.

LULU: So after—I mean, after hearing this whole story and talking to Jeffrey about what happened, what did it leave you thinking?

BECCA: Yeah, I mean I—I think about Jeffrey pretty much every time I use DoorDash, which I do a lot. I still use DoorDash a lot. And, like, with Jeffrey, I think about that moment when he checked the app the day after his kids were taken.

LATIF: Yeah.

LULU: Yeah.

BECCA: And I see him doing a thing that he's done for seven years, which is picking up his phone and checking an app at any time of day if he's sitting with friends at dinner or, you know, it's a Saturday but there's a big event going on. And, you know, one of the benefits of this job is, like, the flexibility—you get to do this whenever you want. But with Jeffrey, that notion of flexibility is so complicated. I mean, one, he really needs the money, okay? Two, there are all these incentives built into the app that make it really hard to not drive when the company wants you to drive. There's the thrill of it, the gaminess of it that, like, keeps you going back to that app.

BECCA: So yes, there's flexibility, but when you, like, look at Jeffrey and you look at all of these factors for him and I'm sure plenty of other drivers who really need the money, the fact that you can do it any time means that you end up doing it all the time. Even when you'd be maybe better off not.

LULU: Thank you, Becca.

LATIF: Yeah, thanks Becca.

BECCA: Sure. And big thanks to Lauren Smiley. Her Wired piece on Jeffrey was totally amazing, and that's actually where I learned about Jeffrey's story.

LATIF: We'll be back in a second with another look at the Gigaverse.

 

***

 

LULU: Lulu.

LATIF: Latif.

LULU: Radiolab.

LATIF: Okay, so we just heard a story about a guy who figured out how to play this gig economy game really well, decoded the rules, found loopholes, exploited them, and how that sort of ran him into the ground.

LULU: Mm-hmm.

LATIF: Next up ...

LULU: Oh my God, Barry Lam!

BARRY LAM: Lulu Miller!

LATIF: We have a story from philosophy professor and fellow podcaster Barry Lam, alongside once again ...

BECCA: Hello!

LATIF: Producer Becca Bressler.

BECCA: And this one's about a group of people at one of these companies in a moment when the rug—in this case, the rules—was sort of pulled out from under them.

LULU: Ooh, okay!

BECCA: And it starts ...

BECCA: Have you ever had someone stick a mic in your face before?

BECCA: ... with this one guy ...

WILLY SOLIS: I've had a camera in my face, but not a microphone.

BECCA: .... named Willy.

WILLY SOLIS: My name is Willy Salise, and I am a gig worker based in Denton, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas.

BECCA: So what brought you to the gig economy to begin with?

WILLY SOLIS: Basically, what ended up happening was ...

BECCA: Willy had a job as a construction worker, but when he was trying to get himself a new roofer's license he found himself without work.

WILLY SOLIS: I ended up having to figure out a way to make money, make ends meet here. And gig work provided a very low bar of entry for me, and so I decided to enter the gig economy.

BECCA: He first tried shopping with Instacart.

WILLY SOLIS: But I quickly, probably within the month gravitated towards Shipt.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Hi, we're Shipt.]

BECCA: Then moved to this newer app called Shipt.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: … We're a grocery delivery service that actually ...]

BECCA: It's a delivery service owned by Target, where customers place an order on the Shipt app, and a shopper like Willy will go to the store, grab the items and deliver them.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: I'm helping someone with a service that they really need.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: I think Shipt just delivered our dog food.]

BECCA: And what Willy loved about Shipt compared to Uber, Instacart, DoorDash, or any of the other delivery service apps, is that instead of having a complicated algorithm deciding how much he'd get paid, Shipt paid its workers this one simple flat percentage fee.

WILLY SOLIS: Yeah, at the time it was 7.5 percent plus $5.

BECCA: 7.5 percent of the total order cost plus a $5 base fare.

WILLY SOLIS: So initially, I was really happy. I was making roughly between $18 to $25 an hour depending on the day. Like, I really enjoyed it. And the pay was—was equally as good.

LATIF: Okay, so this sounds good. This sounds great.

LULU: Shipt sounds kinda cool.

LATIF: Everybody's happy.

BARRY LAM: Right. But then a few months into using the app—so now we're at January, 2020—Willy's scrolling through Facebook, and he sees that a bunch of Shipt shoppers are posting on the official Shipt shopper page.

WILLY SOLIS: There were just kind of rumblings of "This pay change isn’t good," or "This pay change just happened overnight, and we weren't expecting it."

BARRY LAM: And those complaints were coming from two cities in particular: Kalamazoo, Michigan, and San Antonio, Texas. Shipt shoppers in those cities weren't getting paid that flat fee anymore. In fact, they couldn't tell why they were getting paid what they were getting paid.

HEIDI: We were all like, "What is going on? Like, why is this paying this and this is paying this?" And it—I mean, there's no rhyme or reason to it anymore.

BARRY LAM: This is a shopper we'll call Heidi because she doesn't want to use her real name.

HEIDI: I mean, you could sit there and rack your brain for hours, days, weeks, and you're not gonna make sense of it.

BARRY LAM: So Heidi was an insurance agent full time, and when she had her third kid, she wanted more flexibility in her life, so she started shopping for Shipt. And she loved Shipt for the same reason Willy did.

HEIDI: It was simple. It was very transparent.

BARRY LAM: But then it changed.

HEIDI: I mean, in my head, I've still got that old pay model and I'm thinking this would have paid X amount of dollars and now it's paying—wait, hold on. Let me do the math, you know? Are there—are there days, I'm like, "How am I gonna get milk and dog food and—and dinner for my family?" Yep, absolutely.

WILLY SOLIS: And so I was really concerned is that pay change gonna happen here in Dallas as well, or is it going to not affect me at all or what's—what's gonna happen?

BARRY LAM: So Willy's sitting in Texas, trying to figure out if the pay change is going to affect him. But as he talks to more and more people on Facebook ...

WILLY SOLIS: I've talked to over 650 people.

BECCA: You're talking to 650 people?

BARRY LAM: ... hearing all these stories ...

WILLY SOLIS: She has three children, and she didn't know how she was going to be able to feed them.

BARRY LAM: ... eventually he's like ...

WILLY SOLIS: Somebody has to do something, somebody has to speak out.

BARRY LAM: But first, he had to figure out what actually changed. Like, how much less were people making in this new pay model? So ...

BECCA: What did you call it?

WILLY SOLIS: We called it The Shipt List.

BARRY LAM: ... he made a Facebook group.

BECCA: Is that a pun? [laughs]

WILLY SOLIS: It is. It's a pun.

BARRY LAM: And then ...

WILLY SOLIS: I used that Facebook group as a way to communicate with other shoppers that we needed information, we needed data.

BARRY LAM: ... asked people in the group to share the data from each of their orders.

WILLY SOLIS: People were putting screenshots of what the order pay was like and how much they were making.

BARRY LAM: Then he'd take that data ...

WILLY SOLIS: I would put it into an Excel spreadsheet on my phone.

BARRY LAM: ... so that he could use those numbers to compare how much people were paid in the new model—call it v2—versus in the old one—v1. But ...

WILLY SOLIS: I was spending very little time working. I was basically consumed by—by just gathering all the data.

BARRY LAM: Eventually he just got overwhelmed. So ...

WILLY SOLIS: That's when I decided to reach out to Dan from MIT.

DAN CALACCI: I study the relationship between labor, the labor movement, and data and algorithms.

BARRY LAM: He brings in Dan Calacci, who's a PhD student at MIT's Media Lab, and formerly a gig worker himself.

DAN CALACCI: I biked around Boston, like, delivering ice cream in the middle of the summer. Someone wanted a single pint of ice cream.

BARRY LAM: And Dan gets right to work.

DAN CALACCI: I was looking at this spreadsheet, and immediately I was like, "Oh, we could do this automatically."

BARRY LAM: Automates the data entry process.

DAN CALACCI: With a handful of code that I could write in an afternoon.

LATIF: Whoa!

LULU: Wow! Rip the numbers from a photo?

BARRY LAM: That's exactly right. He then makes this chatbot that shoppers can text their screenshots to, and that leads to a lot more entries. Now we're talking about thousands and thousands of data points that you can do, rather than a few hundred that you have to enter by hand.

LATIF: Hmm.

BARRY LAM: So after eight months of running the chatbot, Dan and Willy finally had enough data to figure out how was version two paying workers compared to version one? You want to know the results?

LULU: I'm like, Oh, my God!

BARRY LAM: Okay, so ...

DAN CALACCI: From about 200 people who had submitted orders, 41 percent of people were getting paid less under V2 than they were under V1.

BECCA: Okay. Does—so then that means that 59 percent of people were getting paid more with V2 than V1, yeah?

DAN CALACCI: Yup. V2 pays out more.

LULU: Oh! Oh, my God!

LATIF: Really?

LULU: Huh!

LATIF: Wow! That is so surprising!

BECCA: Yeah. And this checks out with what Shipt said in a statement. Quote, "While some orders may pay more and others pay less in the updated model, we have seen average base pay levels remain consistent overall, and slightly higher in some markets."

LULU: Okay, wait. Huh! But averages hide nefarious truths.

BECCA: Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

BARRY LAM: That's exactly right, Lulu.

LATIF: Oh, I was ready to leave. I was ready to be done with the story and I'm like, "Oh, sounds great!"

LULU: Corporate generosity!

BECCA: "I'm gonna download Shipt. I'm gonna start ordering stuff."

LULU: Stock up on turkey and lotion, pleather purses. Let's go overpriced earrings! Bring it! Clatter clatter clatter. Okay. No caviar.

BARRY LAM: No, no, no. Lulu, you got it exactly right. The averages hid so much.

DAN CALACCI: When you disaggregate and you look at by person how much a person is getting paid for the same work, then you see that there's this whole group of people who are getting paid less. And not just, like, on average across weeks of shops, it's week to week to week, they're getting paid less under this new algorithm.

BARRY LAM: Basically, when you look at each individual person, they're typically either consistently making more money, or they're consistently making less.

BECCA: And when the new pay model came to Texas, where our guy Willy works ...

BECCA: Are you able to provide for your family right now?

WILLY SOLIS: Not through the gig economy. I had to actually take on another job.

BECCA: He ended up making a lot less.

WILLY SOLIS: A regular W2 job, and so I'm basically working between the gig economy and my regular W2 job.

BECCA: Is that W2 job, is it like full-time or is it part-time?

WILLY SOLIS: It's full time, so I'm working a full-time—I'm working two full time jobs, basically.

BECCA: When do you sleep? So like actually, when do you sleep?

WILLY SOLIS: I have to find time.

BECCA: So meanwhile, Dan, he's looking around and he's like, what is going on here? Why are some people consistently making more and others less?

DAN CALACCI: We just don't know why.

BECCA: Because, of course, the algorithm is proprietary.

DAN CALACCI: It could be biased based on your location, it could be something about your demographic. It could be that you're just a fast walker, or a fast driver.

BECCA: And then one day he stumbled across this blog post from Shipt's engineering team about this new tool they were developing called a "Shopping time estimator."

LULU: Okay.

BECCA: It basically used all sorts of data ...

DAN CALACCI: The square footage of a store, people's walking speed, you know, number of items, how they're distributed physically across the store.

BECCA: ... to estimate the specific length of time a job should take an average worker.

LATIF: Hmm.

BECCA: And then he thought, "Wait a second, what if I calculate the hourly wage each shopper is making?" And when he did that, he saw basically the same number popping up over and over.

DAN CALACCI: Somewhere south of $15 an hour. I think that the V2 algorithm was attempting to pay people an hourly wage. That's—that's my guess.

LATIF: Wait, that's so weird. Why don’t they just pay people $15 an hour?

BARRY LAM: That's a great question.

LATIF: [laughs] Like, this is such a roundabout way to do that.

BECCA: Right. Right. But being roundabout, according to Dan, might actually be an advantage for a company like Shipt.

DAN CALACCI: I think companies like Shipt are willing to pay a premium, a kind of premium in order to reduce transparency so that they have more autonomy.

BECCA: Mm-hmm.

DAN CALACCI: And I think a big reason for that is that it allows you as a company to adjust and change pay completely opaquely. Like, they had one change, right? This was the big shift for them, from V1 to V2. But now it's V-something. It's been, you know, two years since that—since we did that campaign. Their algorithm could have changed dramatically in that time.

BECCA: Mm-hmm.

BECCA: According to Shipt, what the current algorithm is trying to do is make pay based on quote-unquote "effort." Which honestly might result in it being more fair overall, but we still don't know exactly how they calculate effort. And so for an individual worker trying to work harder to make more, there's no way for them to know how to do that. And the rules keep changing, and as soon as you think you've figured it out, they change again. And then you spend a bazillion more hours trying to figure it out, trying to figure out how to play the game, trying to make as much money as you possibly can, and then, oh look, they change again. And it seems like for most of these gig workers, that—that just is the job, day in, day out.

LULU: This episode was reported by Latif Nasser, Becca Bressler and Barry Lam, and was produced by Becca Bressler, Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Eli Cohen.

LATIF: Original music and sound design contributed by Becca Bressler and Jeremy Bloom, with mixing help from Arianne Wack.

LULU: Special thanks to Julie Warnow ...

LATIF: ... Drew Ambrogi, David Condo, David Pickerell, Cory Doctorow ...

LULU: ... and Katherine Mangu-Ward. You can find links to Barry Lam's podcast Hi-Phi Nation from Slate, and Ranjan's Roy's newsletter Margins on our website, Radiolab.org.

LATIF: Thanks for listening.

LULU: Be careful out there in the Gigaverse.

[LISTENER: Radiolab was created by Jad Abumrad, and is edited by Soren Wheeler. Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser are our co-hosts. Suzie Lechtenberg is our executive producer. Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Our staff includes: Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, Becca Bressler, Rachael Cusick, W. Harry Fortuna, David Gebel, Maria Paz Gutiérrez, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen, Alex Neason, Sarah Qari, Anna Rascouët-Paz, Sarah Sandbach, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster. Our fact-checkers are Diane Kelly, Emily Krieger and Natalie Middleton.]

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