19 votes

Farewell, millennial lifestyle subsidy

22 comments

  1. [18]
    JXM
    Link
    Basically, a bunch of companies came in to markets trying to “revolutionize” them by ousting existing business models by being cheaper because they move the cost from the business to the owner of...

    Basically, a bunch of companies came in to markets trying to “revolutionize” them by ousting existing business models by being cheaper because they move the cost from the business to the owner of the car, house, etc being rented out. But there’s a reason those existing businesses charge as much as they do.

    Things cost money. The VCs that invested in these companies knew the prices were going to rise eventually, it’s not hard to see. I assume they were hoping to get in early enough that they could either sell before the bubble burst or that the company would become the de facto standard for the market and could use that to crank up the prices.

    20 votes
    1. [18]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [7]
        JXM
        Link Parent
        Last time I was in a big city, the cab company there had an app that basically worked just like Uber/Lyft. You open the app, request a cab and then it shows you how long it’ll be and where they...

        Last time I was in a big city, the cab company there had an app that basically worked just like Uber/Lyft. You open the app, request a cab and then it shows you how long it’ll be and where they are on the map.

        11 votes
        1. [2]
          nothis
          Link Parent
          None of the cab companies had any of this shit before Uber came around. It forced them to go with the times. Cab companies are no saints, they sat on quasi monopolies for decades and even if...

          None of the cab companies had any of this shit before Uber came around. It forced them to go with the times. Cab companies are no saints, they sat on quasi monopolies for decades and even if drivers got better pay, their dominance was a net loss for society. I'd happily pay a little more for an Uber than a standard cab and at one point, this gotta actually leave more money for drivers rather than less.

          9 votes
          1. JXM
            Link Parent
            You're right. But they were forced to adapt by a new competitor, which they did. It's just unfortunate that the new competitor was only able to enter the market by subsidizing millions of rides...

            You're right. But they were forced to adapt by a new competitor, which they did. It's just unfortunate that the new competitor was only able to enter the market by subsidizing millions of rides and artificially lowering the price because they too had deep pockets to burn through billions of dollars every year.

            5 votes
        2. [5]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [4]
            JXM
            Link Parent
            No clue how many cities they cover. But if I don’t think most people travel often enough that having to download a new app is a big deal. Obviously there is a super small percentage of people who...

            No clue how many cities they cover. But if I don’t think most people travel often enough that having to download a new app is a big deal. Obviously there is a super small percentage of people who travel for work constantly and may find a wider scale service more convenient.

            6 votes
            1. [3]
              stu2b50
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Every new app is another spin of the roulette, though. Until you use the app, you don’t know if it’s going to be crap that crashes, double charges you, misroutes you, takes ages to get you a taxi,...

              Every new app is another spin of the roulette, though. Until you use the app, you don’t know if it’s going to be crap that crashes, double charges you, misroutes you, takes ages to get you a taxi, etc.

              There’s a lot that can go wrong with an app, and taxi companies are not ones where I’m predisposed to give them the benefit of a doubt at their ability to make a good app.

              edit: I've had this happen with a lot of bespoke restaurant ordering pages/apps in the last year. I've tried to use more local ordering pages as opposed to doordash, etc. since DD takes a cut, but too many times this has happened.

              Submitted order => Nothing happens.

              Now what? It didn't even charge me. Is it going to charge me? Did the order submit or did it silently crash? Should I reorder or am I going to end up with two orders?

              Or sometimes it's order => charges me => ETA that never changes.

              Did it bug out? Is it just taking a long time or what? Should I wait, should I call them?

              Very frustrating. I started using DD again and just filling in the tip to be bigger.

              8 votes
              1. [2]
                joplin
                Link Parent
                Honestly, the "big" name apps aren't much better. I ordered groceries from Instacart, and they said they could deliver them that evening. It was about 7:45PM, and I thought, "Yeah, then I can have...

                Honestly, the "big" name apps aren't much better. I ordered groceries from Instacart, and they said they could deliver them that evening. It was about 7:45PM, and I thought, "Yeah, then I can have milk for my cereal in the morning. Sounds good!" They were supposed to deliver by 9PM. The order didn't show up so around 9:30 or 10, I checked my email, logged into the website, etc. Nothing. Eventually I found a phone number and called Instacart. They were pretty blasé about the whole thing and told me, "Oh, we canceled your order." To which I responded, "Were you planning on telling me?" And they were like, "meh." Oh wow, thanks! Great experience there!

                9 votes
                1. stu2b50
                  Link Parent
                  That's fair, but the overreaching point was more that there's inherently a lot of friction and FUD in using a new app. With the big umbrella services like DD, Uber, etc. you get to know the...

                  That's fair, but the overreaching point was more that there's inherently a lot of friction and FUD in using a new app. With the big umbrella services like DD, Uber, etc. you get to know the idiosyncrasies of the platform.

                  Having to use a bespoke taxi app in different cities, or even having multiple bespoke taxi apps by competing taxi apps in a single city, is a nontrivial paint point.

                  7 votes
      2. [2]
        joplin
        Link Parent
        I don't know if cabs are a good one to look at because the cab racket is so broken. Long before Lyft and Uber came along, using a cab was a terrible experience backed by a government-run monopoly...

        I don't know if cabs are a good one to look at because the cab racket is so broken. Long before Lyft and Uber came along, using a cab was a terrible experience backed by a government-run monopoly (the medallion system).

        But hotels mostly worked fine up to the time that AirBnB started. And they still work fine. There are enough problems with AirBnB (between outright scams, hidden cameras, owners who aren't actually allowed to rent their property, etc.), that there's little incentive left once prices go back up.

        11 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          My first AirBnB experiences in the early days were just booking a room or a couch. It was very much just an organized couchsurfing deal that felt very low key and a little bit (intentionally) no...

          My first AirBnB experiences in the early days were just booking a room or a couch. It was very much just an organized couchsurfing deal that felt very low key and a little bit (intentionally) no frills. Once they pivoted to people renting out investment properties as bootleg hotel rooms the whole service went downhill, with a lot of luxury pretensions and increases in prices that the service itself could not back up reliably.

          6 votes
      3. UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        In NYC cabs still serve a purpose (immediate hailing on the street, fixed price from the airport), and most of the time it’s cheaper than Uber/Lyft these days. However, there’s still a dearth of...

        In NYC cabs still serve a purpose (immediate hailing on the street, fixed price from the airport), and most of the time it’s cheaper than Uber/Lyft these days.

        However, there’s still a dearth of cabs as the cars themselves need to be inspected in order to make it back onto the roads again, and the number of inspection sites is finite. This causes an overall supply of transport to be constrained as the demand increases and therefore a rise in prices.

        I hope as the supply is able to balance out the demand over the coming months, but I fear that many of these prices will be here to stay as a sign of inflation. To the article’s point, these VC-backed businesses are becoming luxury services, which makes me concerned about further knock-on effects of growing wealth inequality.

        6 votes
      4. [7]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I believe in major metros a lot of what ridehailing apps did was substitute public transit trips rather than cab rides. They did traffic studies in NYC and Chicago and found that these apps have...

        I believe in major metros a lot of what ridehailing apps did was substitute public transit trips rather than cab rides. They did traffic studies in NYC and Chicago and found that these apps have made traffic significantly worse as a result. Anecdotally I’ve noticed many people in my life who used to take the bus to get places now refusing, and talking about how it takes forever and is “sketchy.”

        It does take forever, but the sketchiness was rarely a problem before outside of a few specific lines that crossed homeless shelters. They’ve just been spoiled and are overgeneralizing from their past experiences. People have even been prissy about alternatives, like Via, that made you walk to a street corner and worked more like a jitney cab.

        I’ve been warning about the coming Uber/doordash bust for years. At least with Uber the taxi cabs they replaced were actually a corrupt and heinously inefficient industry. But delivering cheap Chinese food or pizza has always been a perfectly sensible business model with modest delivery fees and doordash kind of destroyed it. I hope those restaurants rehire their own drivers after having outsourced the job.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          dubteedub
          Link Parent
          At least for me, you are right that a lot of my uber rides were replacement for public transit. But a reason that Uber was preferable, at least as a resident in the D.C. metro area, was that the...

          At least for me, you are right that a lot of my uber rides were replacement for public transit. But a reason that Uber was preferable, at least as a resident in the D.C. metro area, was that the D.C. metro service is pretty terrible to actually get around the city, especially on a night out. If we wanted to take a metro ride home, it could be upwards of 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on changing tracks and 20 to 30 minute wait times for the next train. Not to mention that there are no public restrooms in the DC metro. With Uber, we would have a ride in 10 minutes that would take us directly home in less than half the time. So Uber was not only filling a gap of poor taxi service, but also poor public transit.

          5 votes
          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I'm in the DC area too actually. And you're right, but it didn't actually used to be this bad. The metro has severely cut service over the past few years. It was always primarily a commuter line...

            I'm in the DC area too actually. And you're right, but it didn't actually used to be this bad. The metro has severely cut service over the past few years. It was always primarily a commuter line outside the city proper but WMATA seems to have decided that a commuter service is all it should be and made it kind of useless for getting around even within the city with their long headways and curtailed weekend service and late-night service. Part of the reasoning for this, I think, is because these sharing services have reduced ridership outside of commuting hours (in addition to just general budget constraints from deferred maintenance).

            The bus and circulators, though, have generally always been pretty decent. Only being hampered in busy corridors anywhere there's a Target or a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods. But tellingly, part of the reason the traffic in front of those places is usually so bad is just the glut of ubers and lyfts blocking the travel lanes. If we wanted to normalize taking a rideshare/taxi to and from the store they should have designed the stores with pick-up/drop-off loading docks. But really it's just silly that people are doing this in the first place. They ought to just use a granny cart.

            1 vote
            1. dubteedub
              Link Parent
              I mean, it has gotten substantially worse, but even ten / fifteen years ago the Metro service outside of rush hour service was still horrendous. It was always really aggravating if you went into...

              I mean, it has gotten substantially worse, but even ten / fifteen years ago the Metro service outside of rush hour service was still horrendous. It was always really aggravating if you went into town for a Nats or Wizards game and had to leave early because Metro service cuts off at 11 PM or so on weeknights. The metro really was just made for commuters and not for livability. If metro wanted to keep its customers they should have stopped jacking fares and cutting service. It just creates a cycle that disincentivizes people more and more.

              3 votes
        2. [4]
          Comment deleted by author
          Link Parent
          1. [3]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I'd say it's probably been a major disincentive to investment in transit, particularly because of how the socio-economics break out. If the ride-hailing apps skim off the "creamy layer" of the...

            I'd say it's probably been a major disincentive to investment in transit, particularly because of how the socio-economics break out. If the ride-hailing apps skim off the "creamy layer" of the high earners from the transit system, that both makes the transit system seem sketchier and also erodes the support for transit among the most politically influential demographic, further degrading transit service and quality. If transit in these cities hasn't expanded to meet the lifestyle demands of an increasingly urban population that suggests they're having a negative effect on QoL overall.

            At this point there's a generation of younger Zoomers who don't even know how to drive because Lyft and Uber has obviated the need for them. I don't know how they're gonna get by.

            4 votes
            1. [3]
              Comment deleted by author
              Link Parent
              1. [2]
                NaraVara
                Link Parent
                Yeah I think "full self driving," defined as a car where you literally never need to touch the controls, is basically not going to be available at consumer accessible prices any time in the...

                Yeah I think "full self driving," defined as a car where you literally never need to touch the controls, is basically not going to be available at consumer accessible prices any time in the foreseeable future. Driving is actually a lot more complicated than people seem to think.

                Really smart cruise control we already have, and we could probably do automated driving within closed courses. So that might be fine for intra-city livery services, but at that point what you have is basically a taxi cab system not a personal vehicle. And it's not any different from regular taxi cabs. Maybe it's cheaper without the labor rate of the diver, but I'm not convinced--once you factor in the cleaning and maintenance costs, compliance regulations, security updates, bug-fixes, and various patent-related markups--that it will actually bring the costs down that much lower than regular taxis.

                I still maintain that door-to-door pick up and drop off service is an impractical fantasy and people should spend a lot more time walking if they are able.

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  Comment deleted by author
                  Link Parent
                  1. NaraVara
                    Link Parent
                    That's not permanent though. You can rezone and do infill development to improve density and walkability, and that starts with a backbone of a decent, traditional transit system.

                    Once you leave the East Coast the urban sprawl makes walking unfeasible.

                    That's not permanent though. You can rezone and do infill development to improve density and walkability, and that starts with a backbone of a decent, traditional transit system.

                    3 votes
  2. rosco
    Link
    Does anyone else find the framing of this article odd? This feels like a "sympathy for the devil" piece. It is incredibly sympathetic to the VCs underwriting the subversion of our functional...

    Does anyone else find the framing of this article odd? This feels like a "sympathy for the devil" piece. It is incredibly sympathetic to the VCs underwriting the subversion of our functional systems and lobs the blame squarely at millennials. It's the classic trope of blame the consumer. The reason these companies are able to exist in the first place is because millennials face unstable employment, stagnant wages, and astronomical increases in the costs of necessities (housing, food, healthcare). Is it surprising that a generation that has had to subsidize their income by joining the gig economy is looking for ways to save on their bills? Let's take a moment to recognize that while many affluent city dwellers have benefitted from this system (and in many cases it's the same folks who work the backend of those apps), millennials writ large have paid the price. Who is delivering your Doordash meal. Who is driving your Uber. Who is walking your dog on Wag. VCs are capitalizing on the volatility and misery created by the 08 recession and trying to propagate a system that extends it. The article also misses the part where in most instances, owners are not actually making boatloads off of these apps (a la the story where the owner ordered his own pizzas), they are being ruined by them. It's called creating a captive market and it is what Getty and Rockefeller did in the early 20th century. It is the reason we our federal government has monopoly busting powers. This leads me to the question: Why is this article blaming the consumer and not those creating this precarious system. Talk about a love letter to the seedy underbelly of the Bay Area that is VCs.

    2/10 would not empathize with again.

    13 votes
  3. [3]
    dubteedub
    Link
    I think this article raises some interesting questions regarding what it calls as investor-subsidized businesses and how that golden era may be coming to an end. I certainly enjoyed the amazing...

    I think this article raises some interesting questions regarding what it calls as investor-subsidized businesses and how that golden era may be coming to an end. I certainly enjoyed the amazing value of unlimited movies for $10 a month from Moviepass before it went under. I also remember the difficult times before uber of trying to get a late night taxi ride home and waiting up to an hour for a cab that may not even come.

    While the cost difference of Cabs and Uber were nice, the big issue for me was just the convenience factor of knowing exactly how far out a ride was, the eta to get home, and being able to communicate / coordinate directly with a driver. If the traditional cab companies had just put out their own app or made ordering a cab easier, I don't know if Uber would have taken off quite as much.

    While in some cases the rising prices of services like Uber or AirBnb may push me more to traditional options like hotels or taxis, I do think there will still be a need for some of these services to continue be it for convenience (like late night rides home or ordering take out) or just offering something that is difficult to find elsewhere (like renting a large house for a weekend with friends).

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      I think it's worthwhile to separate something like Uber and AirBnB. AirBnB's prices are determined by the hosts, which in turn is determined by demand. Right now prices are definitely high,...

      I think it's worthwhile to separate something like Uber and AirBnB. AirBnB's prices are determined by the hosts, which in turn is determined by demand. Right now prices are definitely high, because demand is absurd

      (side note: I recently went on a vacation, and hot damn is travel insane in the US right now. EVERY restaurant had a 40-60 minute wait, and forget social distancing, everyone is packed like sardines; and that was on a Monday! I can't imagine what weekend would look like. Probably would've gotten every strand of COVID if I weren't vaccinated)

      This really showed earlier in the pandemic; Airbnb fundamentally has a much lower run rate than Uber or Lyft because they are not the ones contracting drivers and selling rides; they're just connecting hosts and guests. So when the pandemic started, they laid off like half their staff (mostly in R&D and S&M), and dramatically lowered their run rate. You "only" need to maintain the site, after all.

      I think Airbnb is a good example of what VCs want out of a startup. They want the startup to spend massive amounts of money on growth, but to have a high margin base business to fall back onto, and some of kind of economies of scales effect.


      In terms of Uber, I think it's possible that Taxis can come back with better technology. But in the US, that would basically just be NYC. Other than sometimes the hotel having a (shitty) option to call a cab, I've never ridden and barely seen a taxi in the US other than in NYC.

      How Uber and Lyft are ever going to turn their balance sheet black is a much greater question, but for my part as a consumer I'd certainly miss if something like Uber didn't exist in the future; it is a great reassurance as a "ride of last resort". When you're traveling and aren't in your own vehicle, or drunk out of your mind, it's extremely nice to know you can pay X amount of money, even if X is exuberant, and get home somehow or another.

      10 votes
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        They largely have. Apps like Curb do basically the Uber thing in major cities. They’ve not seen as much adoption because Uber and Lyft suck all the oxygen out of the room with better marketing and...

        Taxis can come back with better technology.

        They largely have. Apps like Curb do basically the Uber thing in major cities. They’ve not seen as much adoption because Uber and Lyft suck all the oxygen out of the room with better marketing and slicker interfaces.

        One thing I’d like to see more of, actually, is municipal jitney cabs like they have all over Asia. They’re basically cab services that operate like a bus and pick people up and drop them off all along the routes from one place to another. Services like Via and Lyft Line sort of do this already and they have an even better ability to dynamically map and dispatch to routes, but they’re held back by the fact that they have to use people’s personal vehicles that just aren’t designed for quick loading and unloading. Jitneys tend to be big vans or buses with bench seats that people can hop in and out of.

        4 votes