The Gig Economy’s Tipping Point

The gig economy used to be so blissfully, mindlessly simple: Open app, order service, auto-pay. Boom—that’s it. Then side-gig platforms started turning this refreshingly straightforward transaction into an on-demand guilt trip by asking customers to tip. Wait. Before you @ me (#heartlesscheapskate), hear me out.

I have no problem opening my digital wallet so that the first-name-only hero shuttling me through rush hour traffic or building my Ikea bookcase can earn what she deserves. I just don’t want their paycheck left to the discretion of randos like me. Because guess what? I’d rather these companies pay their workers more.

It’s maddening to be expected to subsidize their race-to-the-bottom price wars with my cash and conscience. After all, in an Uber the rules aren’t so clear. How much do I tip the driver who endures a 30-­minute rant about my Tinder date? Do I ding the guy with the disconcertingly damp backseat and nauseating Black Ice air freshener? Should I skimp on the driver whose car blares MAINTENANCE REQUIRED—or splurge, because that schlepper clearly needs the dough? The moral calculus is infuriating.

Recently, the CEO of Skedaddle—you know, the “Uber for buses”—announced Kudos, a blockchain-based platform that aims to usurp tipping with a dubious system of digital ratings and cryptocurrency rewards. Simple, like the blockchain itself, said no one, ever.

The point is, no good can come of turning a basic transaction into a “pay what you want” situation. Especially when it lets gig-­economy tycoons offer some employees—ahem, contractors—less than a living wage.

This article appears in the February issue. Subscribe now.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-gig-economys-tipping-point/

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