Photo by Marques Thomas / Unsplash

Gig Services in Rural Areas

Misc Aug 19, 2022

Gig Economy services have become overwhelmingly popular in recent years for a number of reasons that make them (for the most part) better than their outdated counterparts. They are not without fault though and one thing in particular has been an increasingly common problem that I would like to share and discuss with the internet and give my opinion about how this happens, how it can be resolved and why it's such an issue for many people.

Living in rural areas is tough when it comes to transportation and getting the things that you need, the more rural the more of a problem this becomes. Living in a very rural area like me requires a vehicle and requires a lot of driving as many services and stores are not within walking distance. Towns are spread out about an hour away from each other and not every town has everything you need. This is why I was excited when Instacart came to my town. This solved a large problem for me as I no longer had to take a lot of valuable time out of my day to travel out of town for shopping. When Uber came to my town I thought about how popular it would become because our small town operates with a couple small cab companies that are not very well liked and are very expensive for the average person. When DoorDash came to my area I was happy that if need be I could simply order food and have it delivered if I was busy with work or in meetings I couldn't leave to drive a half an hour for something to eat.

My excitement quickly dwindled when I found out that it's not all what it seems. My very first Instacart order got pushed back 10 times before I finally cancelled and they didn't tell me why other than it was being rescheduled. I figured since it was new to the area maybe they just needed time to work out the bugs and I waited a couple weeks before trying again. After that first time I had a couple successful deliveries with Instacart and loved the service. I used it almost every week because it saved so much time! But then the problems began again, orders being pushed back into whole different days - and I realized it's likely that they don't have anyone to deliver. I was pretty aggravated with the fact that they would even allow me to spend time placing a complicated order when they didn't even have anyone available. I know that they can see who in the area is available and when, so I contacted their support to ask if they had anyone available when an order of mine was being constantly delayed. The support was not very helpful, simply explaining that they could not tell me if they had anyone available. Why? That's not personal information. After this experience I decided to just not use the service and move on since it was no longer useful and that would have been the end of the story..

Uber "arrives" in my town a few months later, again (as I explained before) I was excited for this and how great it would be for the area and the many people here with no transportation. One day, I was left stranded and needed a ride and I remembered Uber is now available in my area so I got the app, and scheduled a short ride home. The app just left my ride pending for almost an hour before I simply cancelled it. I tried this numerous times afterwards as well and every time it never actually happened. I still have yet to ride in an Uber in my area almost a year after it "launched" here. So now there's a repeat issue, why do they allow me to schedule a ride when they know that there are no drivers available?

DoorDash was the third "gig economy" service to arrive here in my town. I was also excited for this, yet again. I had heard a lot of good things about it and had even used it in other places very successfully. Long story short, 3 orders left pending for hours until I cancelled them. After weeks of trying I was finally able to successfully complete a DoorDash order in my town but the whole experience was so familiar and frustrating it left a bad taste.

Now, the problem is clear - why let customers order when there are no drivers? These are modern day tech companies and this is such a simple thing that almost every business has already implemented. Perhaps the focus on cities made them slip up, but every single one of them? In my experience, working with tech companies, I am nearly positive that they have this data available and this can easily be automated as a part of the system but it's not. This is a massive waste of everyones time.

There's been some discussion about this online but frankly not enough and the common response is "you must have not tipped (enough)". Each order I placed included a large tip so it's not that my orders had no - or too little a tip. I understand the same problems I face having to drive long distances are passed on to the delivery driver and compensate for this fact.

So, if you work at a gig economy company, bring this up. I think it's so simple that there must be a reason it's not implemented and my suspicion is further cemented by the fact that none of these companies could tell me how many drivers were in my area or even if there are drivers in my area. It's pretty ridiculous that such a small technical issue is present in several extremely popular services.

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Steven

Steven has been writing software and exploring computers since the age of 17 all the way back in 2008!