The Big Squeeze. Part two.

In this living environment you’re lucky to get two parts of anything. Catch up on part one here.

Ride sharing

Remember when ordering a vehicle from the internet was like jumping on a magic carpet, floating on a sea of free water bottles and Mentos showered around by private operators who’s carpets were the most upholstered and cleanest of them all?

Me neither, but we’ll return to that in a moment. Firstly, it’s important to take a look back.

Let’s talk about yesteryear: Taxi Council Queensland, whose members I still have approximately zero sympathy for, sure did sound the world’s biggest alarm that ‘illegal’ ride share operators were going to decimate the livelihoods of their members, who were often painted as battlers who were going to lose everything.

I continue to sound particularly unsympathetic given the narrative at the time, which talked about everyday folks who had decided to retire and become taxi drivers; investing all their super; all their savings; put the house on the expensive taxi licence; etc. Queensland’s finest monopoly journalistic outlet, News Corp (sorry), had a field day smearing private ‘illegal’ rideshare drivers and painting a taxi industry renaissance piece so astounding you’d be forgiven for thinking it came from the hand of Michelangelo himself.

Let me paint you the actual reality of what we came from: Queensland taxis were some of the dirtiest, unsafe, and most horrific ways to get around town at top dollar. The drivers often stank of body odour, the cabs were disgusting and shared by many drivers, panel mangled, and the price fixing out of entertainment precincts was absurd. Don’t even get me started on meter manipulation.

The government and the Queensland Taxi Council essentially worked together to ensure the survival of a monopoly service until Uber came along, flipped the table over, and said “fuck this shit” by inserting themselves in to a grey area they hoped to turn black. They did turn it black, and we all benefitted from it.

There were calls for taxi drivers and operators to be compensated for their losses on licences, and for governments to intervene and halt the emergence of ride sharing services. Here’s my professional verdict on that: absolute horse shit and try pulling the other one.

Does the government bail out people who made shit investments in any other industry, or compensate individuals who failed to see and or recognise the warning signs (of which there were plenty)? No, they do not (except maybe Qantas for the purposes of national pride protection I guess).

The operating environment changed and they failed to recognise or adapt. Snails don’t ask for compensation because they take a whole day to scale a wall. Cabbies inability to swiftly manoeuvre is their problem and it was absurd of them to expect the state government to compensate snails – however a case is still before the courts (paywall). I mean, operators only just got their shit together and created a competing app during the last couple of years.

With ride sharing, the rampant filth, price fixing and scamming was gone immediately – people riding in a car knew what they were getting, when they were getting it, and how much it was going to be from the second they got in.

Let’s talk about now: There are certainly more competitors in the ride sharing space since the initial market shock and ‘disruption’ presented by Uber. Now when you encounter a massive surge, you have many more app options open to you.

Theoretically.

Let’s just say we had 5 different ways to order a car to a fixed address. Great! More competition! Capitalism woohoo! This looks great on paper until you remember that, through these five different ways of private ordering, we are actually drawing from a singular, fixed pool of drivers. These drivers can then also operate across multiple apps.

This means that while you are chasing the lowest fare as the end user, the drivers are also chasing the highest surging fare across their suite of platforms.

I live in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. Prior to 2021, a ride share was available to me at anytime of the day in an average of 5 minutes. Now I get accepted and almost immediately cancelled on; drivers accept and travel in the other direction for a period of time (completing some other fare via another app) before cancelling; I wait forever for surges to decrease across the board of apps; drivers accept jobs and cancel them when the final destination is revealed to them; drivers cancel because my pick up address is inconvenient for where they’re coming from – the list goes on and on.

The proliferation of apps has had a significant negative impact on the end user experience instead of enhancing it – which, in a weird roundabout kind of way, has actually come back around to benefit taxi operators who now appear to operate under a much more competitive pricing scheme.

To date, I haven’t seen that story in my favourite monopoly News Corporation publication (sorry). The solution to this one is quite simple: motorised scooter and uninstall all of them.

What I’d actually like to see is a time debuff for drivers who cancel unreasonably which prevents them from accepting another job for a period of time – but the competing apps would all need to have the same approach for that to work.

Food delivery services

From the hungover comfort of your own couch in your overpriced domicile, a litany of touchscreen devices within your grasp can literally bring a world of culinary choice directly to your mouth. Why go out and drive hungover when you can simply crawl to your front door in a few minutes?

I think we can all agree this is simply unbelievable hangover technology on display – the only thing it doesn’t (yet) do is place food in your mouth and activate the jaw.

Let’s talk about Uber Eats: They’re the big swinging dick on the scene in terms of brand recognition and by-golly do they know it. Like all drugs they were great at first – occasional free delivery codes; pretty reasonable delivery fees; and a bunch of good restaurants listed right off the bat.

Now we’re a few sessions in and the returns have certainly diminished. I want to get quite specific with my two distinct beefs if you will so indulge me:

  • When they split the “service fee” out from the “delivery fee” they quietly increased the overall delivery price and made the cheap delivery radius much smaller. Previous to that split, Uber claimed the “service fee” was worked out and included as part of the “delivery fee”. They claim the fee split increases transparency, and it does – I can now clearly see the overall price is generally much higher. Thank you and good day.
  • When you want to unsubscribe from their annoying marketing emails that offer nearly zero actual deals, it also precludes you from receiving emailed free delivery codes as well. Just as well they never sent any out in the 18 months I put up with shit email offers like a free Oatly Choc Mint Ice Cream™ with a $30 spend at some local Vegan burger joint I’ve never ordered from, and will never order from. The ice cream is, of course, not even an actual dairy-containing ice cream.

Don’t slap my ass with an imitation-dairy ‘ice cream’ and tell me it’s a good deal, and increase delivery fees to boot. The solution here is simple: they should get back to their roots and make the routes more affordable at the expense of more underpaid manual independent contractors. Please.

Speaking of which:

Streaming services

Even if you do manage to secure a surged ride back to your rented, local boomer’s investment property, what might you watch once you’ve settled in?

In one of many excellent innovations from the 2010s, Netflix pioneered how to blow pathetic Australian data limits in hours and became the big swinging dick name brand of streaming – like Panadol to paracetamol, if you will.

Let’s talk about streaming: We. Have. So. Many. Options.

Personally, I fondly remember the time in which it was trivial to access the USA library of Netflix, and did so for many years before content providers (and Foxtel on our shores) got the shits that I was able to access this stuff for $12 a month instead of $100.

It’s easy to think of Foxtel (a News Corporation and Telstra joint for those of you playing at home) as a 2010-era Queensland taxi cab – expensive, dirty, and loaded with ads. Netflix flipped the table and upset Murdoch on the content front, so he made a telephone call and had Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull flip the table and gut the National Broadband Network which would ultimately carry it. What an incredible time to have been alive; but I digress.

The problem we face today is mostly not in the network Murdoch conspired to destroy with the Liberal National Party for commercial reasons (though that shit heap will be a problem for many years to come) – it’s again in the proliferation. There are too many fucking apps, and they all want their own subscription fee.

If you add up the cost of Netflix, Stan, Binge, Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Binge, YouTube (no ads), and whatever else is out there, you are absolutely paying the same amount as Foxtel once was. Rights holders who initially worked with Netflix decided it would be a better cost overall to just each launch their own fucking services, and thus we once again have too many dicks on the dance floor.

This purely-profit and content-control driven move comes only at the expense of users, who now have to hunt for what they are looking to watch instead of going to one place to find it. These corporations simply throw their fucks out the door as content constantly shifts from one platform to the next as high value properties are brought back from external platforms onto ‘in-house’ ones.

The solution to this bullshit is even easier than all the rest: Back to BitTorrent.

In conclusion

I wonder what would happen if a real estate agent caught a Brisbane taxi cab home, ordered food to be delivered before they got there, watched a few seconds of a show on each streaming app during the journey, and then caught an Uber to their next flea scab while eating lunch?

Less is more. If people stopped feeding all of this shit it would calm down. Stop buying property and stop renting – just live in your car until the same piece of shit that bragged in News Corp rags (sorry) about record sales is living in his too; stop using delivery apps and shop locally; uninstall ride shares and tell them why you did with a 1-star app review; pay for your one favourite streaming service and go back to sailing the high seas (piracy y’argh) for the rest.

Alternative options are always available. Choose the ones that are maybe less convenient and tell these agents and corporations to fuck off.

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