Today in Landfill Capitalism

In case there was any lingering doubt about the scooter business model:

  1. Dump electronic junk onto the street;
  2. Abandon it and walk away as soon as any unit stops generating money;
  3. Shift the cost of collection, storage, and disposal onto the taxpayers.

I told you so!

These scooters were standard, off-the-shelf electric scooters made in China, loaded up with battery packs, motors, and a 'brain box' that has a GPS unit, a cellular modem, and a few more electronics that turn this dumb electric scooter into something you can ride via an app. Dropping electronic waste on cities around the country was not looked upon kindly by these municipalities, and right now there are hundreds of Bird and Lime scooters in towing yards, just waiting to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. [...]

Right now, humanbeing21 is in contact with a towing company that has well over a hundred Bird scooters on their lot, each accruing daily storage fees. Since these scooters only cost about $400 new, we're probably well past the time when it makes sense for Bird to pay to get them out of storage. This means they'll probably be heading for an auction where anyone can pick them up -- all of them -- for a hundred bucks or so.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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19 Responses:

  1. Epszteyn says:

    What stops Bird or Lime for buying them back in the auction?

    • jwz says:

      That's not the business model. They're already written off as an expense. Employing someone to refurbish and redeploy them is not in the plan.

      Just as the corporate assets of Uber -- a taxi company -- do not include a single tire iron or bottle of wiper fluid, there is nobody who works at Bird or Lime who is paid to wield a screwdriver. They ordered this crap pre-configured off of Alibaba or some shit, and never touch it again. It's disposable!

      • NT says:

        Where did you get the idea that these things are toxic waste? If you can add a $50 controller to it and replace a $400 product, the market price is not going to be $0.
        These companies may be run by assholes (certainly they are asshole enablers) but the claim that they don't maintain their fleet is bizarre enough to require some evidence.

        As far as the alleged auction goes, I checked ebay and craigslist for these things the last time this story went around, thinking maybe I could get one cheap. No sign.

      • Christian Molick says:

        SF Chron says scooter rental companies are solving the homelessness problem with good jobs so shame on all you haters!

        https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Scooter-mechanic-once-homeless-says-cheap-rides-13448873.php

    • Pavel says:

      Why would they bother? According to the article, it's literally cheaper to make new ones than to get them out of impound.

      • jwz says:

        Buying them at the auction is far cheaper than paying the impound fees, because the scenario has already moved to the "all of this is going in the trash" phase. But then they'd have to refurbish and maintain them.

        If the municipalities in question are not suing the scooter companies to recover those impound costs, they sure should be.

        • Pavel says:

          I wonder if they've got any laws on the books about the original owners being ineligible to bid at auction.

    • bmj says:

      I don't know about these particular municipalities, but in my neck of the woods, the current owner cannot launder their property through an auction or sheriff sale.

  2. Travis says:

    And people are buying them dirt cheap and converting them for personal use

    https://hackaday.com/2018/12/07/liberating-birds-for-a-cheap-electric-scooter/

  3. Russ says:

    I know someone who processes insurance claims for one of these scooter companies. Says taking the contract to cover them was the worst decision they ever made.

  4. Eugene says:

    Doesn't the business model for private or rental automobiles work the same way? Sell the car or right to use the car, earn a profit and cut costs by offloading the externalities (storage space, smog, congestion, death and injury) onto the public? Of course, with cars the externalities are much more severly negative than with electric scooters.

  5. thielges says:

    This might be where the market comes to the rescue. If the retail market becomes flooded with cheap refurbished electric scooters then customers who previously rented scooters by the minute might become owners. Owning would definitely be cheaper than renting. It is a bit more reliable because you don’t have to go on a Bird hunt to find an available ride. Biggest downside is security. You’d have to fold and take the scoot with you or lock it up to something stationary.

    • Derpatron9000 says:

      Biggest downside is security. You’d have to fold and take the scoot with you or lock it up to something stationary.

      The indignity of having to take responsibility for your own possessions....

  6. margaret says:

    The future is now! The bad news is that it is impossible for us to learn from others.

    This site is stunning in its magnitude.

    This site is stunning in its adherence to "the most stupid timeline."

    • Tim says:

      From the postcard-size image that looked to me like someone had planted a swastika in lavender, but it's actually worse than that.

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