Of the many attractions offered by my hometown, a west coast peninsula famed for its deep natural harbor, perhaps the most striking is that you never have to leave the house. In San Francisco, another peninsular city on another west coast on the other side of the world, a similar revolution of convenience is underway, spurred by the unstoppable rise of Uber, the on-demand taxi service, which went from offering services in 60 cities around the world at the end of last year to more than 200 today. The conventional narrative is this: enabled by smartphones, with their GPS chips and internet connections, enterprising young businesses are using technology to connect a vast market willing to pay for convenience with small businesses or people seeking flexible work.
This narrative ignores another vital ingredient, without which this new economy would fall apart: inequality.
There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. Uber was founded in 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the worst financial crisis in a generation.
Another distinction, just as telling, lies in the opportunities the local economy affords to the army of on-demand delivery people it supports. There is no denying the seductive nature of convenience—or the cold logic of businesses that create new jobs, whatever quality they may be. All that modern technology has done is make it easier, through omnipresent smartphones, to amass a fleet of increasingly desperate jobseekers eager to take whatever work they can get.
Your email has been added to our waiting list and we will send an invite to you as soon as possible. I suspect she is referring going to Starbucks, coffee houses or something like that rather than fixing her own. She also is likely starting from a strong point, where all of her needs are mostly met like a good wardrobe, good transportation, etc.
It would be interesting to know how much she has bought in preparation for a year of not buying--new underwear, books, a coveted album. Starving the beast of gross consumerism takes on a realm beyond merely abstaining from 'nonessential' purchases.


Don't forget how much "buying" is being added with the processing, packaging, and branding of foods.
If "she has bought in preparation for a year of not buying" then it's an exercise in inanity. But food-wise, she should totally see what her local welfare maximum is giving out per person per month for food and stick with that. A testament to how not so easy it is plainly evident if one takes the trouble to look, as local food banks are challenged, year round, to meet the needs and serve people of all ages and descriptions for whom SNAP (food stamps) isn't adequate.
As someone who is only able to spend about 150 dollars a year on luxury (and most of that is my parents giving me some money to eat out every few weeks), I'm not sure how I feel about people turning my lifestyle into some sort of challenge. Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 25 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting.
With nothing more technologically advanced than a phone, you can arrange to have delivered to your doorstep, often in less than an hour, takeaway food, your weekly groceries, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs (over-the-counter, prescription, proscribed), books, newspapers, a dozen eggs, half a dozen eggs, a single egg. When I lived there, a man came around every morning to collect my clothes and bring them back crisply ironed the next day; he would have washed them, too, but I had a washing machine.
I took advantage of them long before Uber became a verb, before the world saw the first iPhone in 2007, even before the first submarine fibre-optic cable landed on our shores in 1997. So profound has been their cultural influence in 2014, one man wrote a poem about them for Quartz. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. As the ride-sharing app has risen, so too have income disparity and wealth inequality in the United States as a whole and in San Francisco in particular. In Mumbai, the man who delivers a bottle of rum to my doorstep can learn the ins and outs of the booze business from spending his days in a liquor store. The person who cleans your home in SoMa has little interaction with the mysterious forces behind the app that sends him or her to your door.


Nonetheless, it is a worthwhile experiment to be more conscious of where the money goes, and how much consumption is truly unnecessary. This may be about consumerism, but it certainly gives off a very uncomfortable vibe towards poverty and her upbeat attitude towards the idea is more of a "rich playing the 'poor game' for a bit" than an excise in understanding what the less fortunate have to go through.
I once had a single bottle of Coke sent to my home at the same price I would have paid had I gone to shop myself.
In my hometown of Mumbai, we have had many of these conveniences for at least as long as we have had landlines—and some even earlier than that. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Recent research by the Brookings Institution found that of any US city, San Francisco had the largest increase in inequality between 2007 and 2012. If he scrapes together enough capital, he may one day be able to open his own shop and hire his own delivery boys.
Instead, it is a rerun of the oldest sort of business: middlemen insinuating themselves between buyers and sellers.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins. The disparity in San Francisco as of 2012, as measured (pdf) by a city agency, was in fact more pronounced than inequality in Mumbai (pdf). Do you agree with the legalisation of Uber?Both taxi and Uber drivers will also have to pay the government a $1 levy per trip for a maximum of five years to fund the compensation package.



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