The gig economy hits a mid-life crisis! but gig workers still deserve respect
A user places an order for delivery, the driver gets into his car, makes the journey and commences the work. The user decides midway to cancel the job, requesting a 100% refund. Then proceeds to give the driver a 3-star rating because he did not receive her early cancellation notification. Is this fair on the driver, or the company that brought them together? Welcome to the gig economy in the present day, 40 years after it kicked off from newspapers to list-servs and the internet.
The anecdote is a fairly common occurrence with many of the gig economy platforms including Uber, Lyft, Deliveroo, Phlatbed, Postmates, etc. Coupled with the constant misinformed notions all over the web from generationally removed “experts” on the demise of the gig economy, a common theme is the curiously missing realization that the gig economy has been around long before the term “gig economy” was coined. Does anyone remember Craigslist, The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, normally shortened to The WELL, Mindvox, UseNet?
Yea, the gig economy is over 40 years old! NewsFlash!
Back then, there were no mobile applications, tracking, chats, payment processing, control systems, or checks and balances in place. You got a ride, bought an item, and paid in cash hoping for the best….in addition to not getting murdered. There were bad actors then, and there are bad actors now on all sides, and there will always be bad actors. However, today's gig economy has made it much easier to the point where users (as expected) are asking for more. Any gig economy company knows it’s a thankless job. When things work well, you never hear a note of thanks. The few times things go wrong, all hell breaks loose, negative reviews, real and/or imagined stories abound. Yes, welcome to the gig economy where managing multiple sides of a transaction is no cakewalk.
How could the gig economy thrive for over four decades, creating hundreds of thousands of multi-faceted jobs across countries, economies, cultures, and orientations, yet still have naysayers writing about its demise? Perhaps these “experts” need to go back to school. When the economy is great, fewer people will drive for Uber, Lyft, or move for Phlatbed. They will keep their day jobs and flip houses (another side gig FYI). When things get shaky and they cannot afford to buy and flip homes, the reactivate their gig economy apps (ride-hailing with Uber, Ride-Hailing with Lyft, Moving stuff on-demand with Phlatbed )on their smartphones. This means just because you’re not active does not mean you’re no longer a part of the gig economy. People will do what works for them depending on the timing.
We need a better understanding of the gig economy while accepting the role of millennials as the generation that brought the gig economy full circle. This will be their legacy (among other things). The gig economy will no only continue to thrive, but it will continue to redefine the way we live, work, relate, communicate, and transact business. Perhaps instead of taking an antagonistic approach to the curiously unfamiliar, learn something new, embrace it, understand how and why it works, then put pen to paper as an informed, engaged “expert”.