TaskRabbit is a San Francisco based work for hire site founded in 2008 by start-up entrepreneur Leah Busque, and for 5 years, they seem to have redefined the nature of getting things done in San Francisco. I spent 6 months working in SF through them, doing all sorts of different things from small tasks, to setting up large scaled offices, and working on theatrical productions. On a good week, I’d find myself making $300-400 a daywhile helping to be a productive part of business in downtown. It was a good feeling, finding myself at the center of operations for businesses like Cuyana, Brit+Co, Ripple, and even the TR Headquarters on ocassion, I could earn good money for good work before heading to evening performances and rehearsals. In my second month, I was recognized as a TR Elite, and I was so pleased with the work I’d gotten, I went and had custom window stickers made for my truck, to show off a sense of pride and loyalty to the service.
In March, I moved to Los Angeles, and found that the difference between the two was a bit of a shock to the system. There was no center to the LA business model for TR, there was no Downtown focus, which led me to believe that either the businesses in Los Angeles had solved Tasklike problems in a more efficient way, or that TR hadn’t been marketed to them effectively. Regardless, I pulled on my boots and got into the fight, earning enough to keep the lights on.
Then, something went rotten in the state of Denmark. For some rather apparent, and other not so apparent reasons, TaskRabbit restructured earlier this month, and I’m waiting to meet someone who is pleased with the changes on either side of the fence. I understand the legal ramifications of wage rates, and appreciate the additional assistance in the form of insurance for some of the jobs we do, but most of the changes folks are up in arms about revolve around the workers having input and control over the task.
Previously, a job that was unfair or undesirable would be responded to in the way free market economies deal with unfair and undesirable employment, it destroys the source of that employment, protecting skilled labor from abuse. Now, the only input we have is a dollar rate, and a schedule. Putting the control over most of the task work in the hands of the least qualified person in the equation, the TaskPoster, or work provider. In the San Francisco model, when Executive Admin Assistants, Project Managers, and Receptionists are responsible for organizing the details for these jobs, this has moderately low risk, and I’m certain it works out just fine for the Taskers up there.
Down in Los Angeles, where the average TaskPoster is a consumer, things get pear shaped fast, as the TaskPosters tend to ask questions that, under the old system, a rabbit would be able to respond to, now, there’s no control. I cannot change the price of a task if the taskposter requests it, I cannot cancel a task if the taskposter requests it, I cannot use more powerful technology to interact with the taskposter, as it’s all through the APP, and the website is practically a digital paperweight for the workers, but that’s not the insulting part.
When assigned work, I found that the address of the job has been hidden for the Posters’ privacy. Chat logs are monitored, and I’m assuming, since all phone calls are proxied through a TR server now, phone calls are likely recorded as well. All of this big brother BS is aimed at the workers who are doing the work for you, and the sliding scale is gone too, in place, is a flat 20% deduction. Every “Tasker” I know hates the feeling that TR is watching and listening to everything, while keeping us in the dark about the work they want us to go on. The last half dozen jobs I’ve gone on, the posters complain about the app, and I have nothing I can do about it but apologize, and try not to complain too much, after all, they’re listening.
Also, removing the option for paying a tip to a worker is tacky, and since this type of labor is experimental for a large number of the posters, they’re not sure if they should or not, and I’m not rude enough to ask, and since TR has stopped using a sliding scale, and simply takes 20% of every job, It’s no wonder that the workers are running to competing services who haven’t gotten too big too fast. Welcome to Big Business/Big Brother TR, you’ve officially made me feel like I’ve earned my place as the “Help.”