Smithson Michael posted a video to TikTok about how exploitative it can be to work in the gig economy. He urged companies to improve their pay and asked customers to tip.
In an emotional TikTok video, Smithson Michael revealed what it was like to work as an Uber Eats driver. Contrary to what many might think, the experience is rather precarious and exploitative. Michael, who was motivated to record the clip after he received a $1 tip for an hour-long food run, has since started an online petition demanding better pay for workers in the gig economy. He called for an end to corporate greed, encouraging delivery apps to take their employees' demands into consideration. He also shared tips for other gig workers who may be in the same position as him, Bored Panda reports.
"You know, I wish people knew what it was like to deliver for Uber Eats, Postmates, Doordash, all these companies," he states in the TikTok video. "I just spent an hour driving around for a $1.19 tip. I mean, would it hurt y'all to tip us, throw in $5? I got a $1.19 tip and $2 from the app. What's that? That's not even enough cover gas. How am I supposed to survive like that? Homeless. I'm there." Michael continued to share how exasperating it can be to feel the weight of impending poverty and hopelessness.
Not everyone that delivers for app services, does so part-time. Many work two apps a day, and still agree that change is needed. Tips are at the customer’s discretion, and this ultimately falls on the companies. My stance has been clear before any news articles.— Smithson Michael (@itssmithson) January 16, 2022
He expressed, "I haven't been able to sustain myself, provide for myself. And these are essential services. I wish people knew what it was like, I wish they understood what it was like to drive for these services." In the recent past, Michael has received criticism from other delivery drivers and random individuals who claim he should quit his current job and find another source of income instead. In response, he asked people to be more empathetic. "I just think that as human beings, we need to increase the kindness and understanding in this world," he asserted. "That is free—it doesn’t cost a thing. And also, it doesn’t hurt or cost to listen with an open heart and an unbiased ear."
I am the voice of the food service industry workers that deserve respect, proper pay, and better treatment. No one deserves to work, and be paid so little. Especially not in an unprecedented time where the demand for these services is at an all-time high.— Smithson Michael (@itssmithson) November 1, 2021
After his original TikTok post went viral, Michael started an online petition to raise awareness about the issue and find support for gig workers. So far, he has received over 8,000 signatures. While he understands that companies need to make a profit, he argues that there is a real cost behind these margins. "How much sense does it make to pay someone the equivalent of less than minimum wage per hour, no matter if they work one, four, or twelve, when you have many working for the corporation making millions per year, with perks, and extra bonuses in the millions as well?" he asked. "When it all comes down to it, why is the value of the deliverer so low when it comes to the dollar paid for the wait, for the mile, for the delivery? That’s when it becomes grey, and you’re referred to an FAQ page on a site that explains policies on tipping and compensation. That’s when there’s ‘no comment.’ It’s been years since these companies have been up and running, and the answers and methods remain the same."
In addition to calling out businesses operating in the gig economy, Michael offered advice to his fellow drivers. He shared: "You have to be aware at all times, no matter how you’re delivering. You have to be extremely resourceful due to the layout of the city and traffic as well. And you also have to be extremely patient. Anything can happen. And you’re delivering large parcels, expensive items, not just hot food from a restaurant... Timeliness is needed of course, as well as ensuring the quality of the condition of the said items that are being delivered. But you have to look out for yourself. Watch out for traffic, lock your doors when you get out of the car, lock your bike or scooter if you’re using one of those." Finally, he urged customers to tip. "If you can ever spare it though, know that a tip can make or break a deliverer’s day," Michael said. "And that means paying bills to keep afloat." You can sign his petition here and follow him on Twitter here.