DELIVEROO-NOUS OF EVIL

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A few years ago, while passing through Paris, I was struck by the abundance of young people pedaling at high speed in the center of Paris. I sat on a terrace and counted that, over an hour spent enjoying a coffee-cream obtained by an old-fashioned but efficient method (call the waiter, verbally formulate my request, receive the coffee-cream — without a smile — 5 minutes later, pay directly — with a smile), about thirty young couriers had passed in front of me, looking busy, with their noses half in the handlebars and half on their smartphone. This was my first encounter with the delightful world of uberization.

This summer of 2019 has been marked by heat waves, the antics of Booba and Kaaris, the suspenseful procrastination of the one and the other in the formation of governments and the proposed purchase of Greenland by Pluto’s friend (who would do better to take refuge in the depths of Texas or to offer, finally, real condolences to the families of the victims of El Paso or Dayton — unless the Ukraine…).

One fact went more unnoticed, and for good reason: it put in scene beings whose existence we perceive only when, in the choice, they arrive showered and late with your burger bought in a restaurant of the corner, they shrivel up the strawberry in velocipedic flights or when they block restaurants, dissatisfied with a system which — oh great surprise! — has completely eaten them up.(1) The most visible fringe of the intermittents of the economy are these innumerable delivery runners, in single file along the main arteries or in clusters in the heart of the large commercial nodes.

Welcome to the wonderful land of Deliveroo, Uber Eats (or Take Away), Just Eats, or the latest one at Carrefour, Ship to(2), AirBnb, multiple avatars of which your favorite anti-productivist newspaper could not fail to echo(3): the uberization. In bulk, we offer you accommodation in private homes, food deliveries(4) in less time than it takes to say it, even your shopping done in record time. Wonderful system! For some time now, we have even seen an advertisement promoting coffee capsules that  » arrive directly at your home « (5), when it is not an advertisement(6) featuring a slow dance between a sushi and a lady, punctuated by the sound of a telephone indicating that an order will arrive very soon.

THE UBER-WHAT?

We find ourselves in an extremely fluid, liquid, volatile economic atmosphere: it is better to be self-employed (while being well paid) or a civil servant (while guaranteeing one’s ass for the pension). It is in this context that uberisation appears, named after the first company (Uber) that allowed anyone to become a boss and an employee at the same time, in a word: independent.

It is this uberization that was meant to be a collaborative economy, at the first stage. Except that you are not really self-employed, since you are affiliated with a company or a kind of dome in Belgium that manages the status of self-employed workers(7) full or part-time. Your only independence is your work schedule (and therefore the amount of work you can do). For the rest, at least at the beginning, you don’t manage anything: neither your hourly rate, nor the consideration of the people to whom you will render services, nor the competition immanent to your condition, nor your status: half employee, half independent, half stooge who does what others don’t have the time or the desire to do. It’s a wonderful world: the world of Disney reviewed by Ken Loach(8). It’s not a worker’s paradise, but since it’s done with the latest generation of technology…

GOOD OR GREAT?

If you read the statements of the managers of the above-mentioned companies, who hire by the shovelful and terminate contracts by the shotgun, everything is going well in the best of worlds. You can demonstrate, you can declare that you don’t agree, you can manage the duration of your errands, you can have an insurance against physical problems… No exploitation, therefore, on the contrary: we allow young students who don’t have any income to ensure their training, adults, to retrain, employees or workers, to round off the ends of the month by riding, who on a motorcycle, who on a bike (electric or not), who in VTC, who in scooter. One good (that of the people who could earn some money) for another good (that of the customers who would probably starve if their sushi dish was not brought to them immediately). Long live diversity, long live society, long live flexibility!

YES, BUT…

Independently of the exploitative side of this system, which we will not say anything about, our anti-productivist vision can only express reservations, formulated without going into detail:

1. Environment (electric vehicles that run on nuclear energy). In addition, a recent study in Lyon showed that home deliveries of meals were mostly for « international » dishes(9). No promotion of Lyon’s gastronomic heritage (a salute in passing to our friend Olivier Rouzet). Moreover, we cannot insist enough on the multiple pollution (air, sound, space) caused by these no less multiple means of transport which, if they do not hit you when you are on the road, can clump together, like beetles on a plant, on a sidewalk, monopolizing the space and leaving only a ridiculous part for pedestrians.

2. Almost unlimited progress and advancement (training all the time). The more you train, the more up-to-date you are, the more you can climb the ladder and earn a good living. It’s called a collaborative economy, with a touch of relationship marketing (where you leverage your friendships and connections with your loved ones to make money, have people under your care, by becoming their coach). This progress introduces a downright perverse notion: you can be the superior of someone who, most of the time, is your equal. Your potentially improving situation can only push you to do more and more: bonuses, promotions, and climbing the social pyramid(10). This also has a downside: your situation is even more liquid and unstable. Chief today, you can become an underling tomorrow. But everything can always change: the miracle is never far away, hope is always present, then often frustrated. The religion of progress has found new prophets in spite of themselves.(11)

3. Misuse of technology. One application to order, another to provide services, the connection must be permanent, unconditional, or else you will miss out on some good deal or a juicy market. You’re not up to date, you’re wasting your time and you’re not making any money! Highly recommended smartphone, which will allow you (see the Ship to ad, very enlightening on this subject) to take a bath while ordering groceries that you can’t do. Bitch of life. The organ creating the function, the application leading to other applications, the courier’s universe quickly forces him to become a multitasker. This is not a problem in itself, but it becomes annoying when this frequent manipulation of the smartphone and the almost systematic use of this « tool » for trivial actions (finding one’s way around, finding the best route, calculating one’s fees…) makes the worker much less resourceful than some proselytizers of this type of job would have us believe. In the right logic of the religion of progress for all, the machinism that allows everything to become more than a religion: a dangerous propaganda destined to calm the eternal neotenes(12) that we remain, even more in an insecure context of an unstable work.

Certainly, the qualities of these services are demonstrable:

1. Physical fitness of the younger generation is cultivated. We pay them to do sports (in the best of cases since, logically, they must buy the vehicle of locomotion. Or rent it, thanks to the collaborative economy for scooters, electric bikes, etc.).

2. We allow young people to experience the respect of a mission (and how heroic: the delivery of a hamburger or the provision of your apartment), the sense of commitment, the entrepreneurship… And the social virtues are also worked, in a biased way thanks to the coaches or tutors who allow for a more efficient integration of the company culture.

3. It allows to experience the ungrateful job and, therefore, paradoxically, to reinforce the cardinal virtues of life in society (solidarity, mutual aid, friendship…). One can only wonder about the use of these virtues in the practice of the « trade », when the urgency of orders or deliveries is present.

While we are all looking to enhance our minds and abilities, these « platforms » represent everything we shouldn’t do. They do help many people to have their own income, but at what cost? Shouldn’t society rather favour the learning of professional practices that are rewarding, not involving struggle or competition, and that favour human contact and enrichment? Why not strengthen, without it being designated as « exceptional » or « atypical » by the media, the egalitarian corporations practicing a true collaborative economy? Solidarity buying groups, agricultural cooperatives?

Deliver us evil!

Jean-Guy Miscellaneous

Notes et références
  1. Voir entre autres cet article édifiant : http://www.leparisien.fr/economie/deliveroo-la-grogne-des-livreurs-contre-la-nouvelle-tarification-04–08-2019–8128707.php . Plus récemment, à Perpignan : https://www.lindependant.fr/2019/10/18/uber-eats-les-coursiers-de-perpignan-font-le-forcing-pour-se-faire-entendre,8489379.php
  2. https://www.carrefour.eu/fr/services/shipto.html
  3. Test-Achats, magazine de protection des consommateurs, s’y met aussi en parlant du développement d’un marché. Seuls 26% des Belges interrogés recourent aux services de ces sociétés « uberisées ». https://www.rtbf.be/vivacite/emissions/detail_on-n-est-pas-des-pigeons/accueil/article_plateformes-de-livraison-quelle-est-la-meilleure-test-achats- a‑mene-l-enquete?id=10353734&programId=8792
  4. Pour Ship to, c’est du personal shopping. Les courses qui vous ressemblent ! Un larbin rien que pour vous ! Pour Uber Eats, Deliveroo, on appelle plutôt cela des « plateformes de livraison ». Le livreur, comme sur toute plateforme, n’est qu’un « opérateur ». Il faudra expliquer le côté « personnel » et « social » dans ces entreprises…
  5. https://lareclame.fr/136552-starbucks-mobile-pay-order la publicité remonte à 4 ans,  mais les utilisateurs de Youtube auront certainement remarqué cette promotion pour les capsules (dont on rappelle le côté anti-écologique) qui « arrivent directement  chez vous ».
  6. À voir (avec le plus grand plaisir, puisque c’est la question qui commence le spot) sur www.ubereats.com .
  7. https://smartbe.be/fr/ . Description épatante : « Smart est l’émanation de travailleurs autonomes de tous horizons qui s’associent, au travers d’une société coopérative, pour se doter des moyens de développer en toute autonomie leurs propres activités économiques et de se procurer des revenus socialisés et fiscalisés. » (c’est moi qui souligne). Particulière- ment piquant quand on parle d’étudiant·e·s d’à peine 17 ans qui apprennent donc à travailler avant d’avoir la moindre formation solide – voire, peut-être, avant d’avoir terminé des études…
  8. On ne peut qu’encourager à aller voir le film de Ken Loach, Sorry, we missed you.
  9. https://www.bfmtv.com/societe/plutot-burger-que-salade-lyonnaise-deliveroo-devoile-les-plats-les-plus-commandes-a-lyon-1794164.html
  10. https://www.frenchweb.fr/decode-deliveroo-est-elle-vraiment-une-tech4good/375486
  11. On trouve des voix discordantes, dont Jérôme Pimot, qui a mis sur pied le collectif « Clap » qui a entre autres mené des actions de blocage des restaurants et d’informations aux usagers français de la plateforme Deliveroo. Voir par exemple https://twitter.com/eldjai et http://www.rfi.fr/emission/20190731-invite-matin-jerome-pimot-ancien-livreur-velo-de-liveroo
  12. Ndlr : la néoténie est, en biologie du développement, la conservation de caractéristiques juvéniles chez les adultes d’une espèce.
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