If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in a piece for Vice, Edward Ongweso Jr. applies that lens to the video story of an UberEats driver who is seemingly on track to make $100,000 this year. The story was shared in a sponsored content effort from CNBC and financial services company Acorns, and it follows Sam Lyon, 26, who launched a self-created "Uber Eats Challenge" on TikTok in June. After the pandemic killed his income, the Oregon man decided to see how much he could make by working the max allowed by Uber Eats: 12 hours per day, daily. That's what he did for the full month, and the video touts his earnings: $8,357, which works out to almost exactly $100,000 a year if he keeps up that pace—much more, notes the video, than the $72,540 the average five-day work week earns. But waaaaait, writes Ongweso.
"The video’s core premise of projecting one month’s earnings into the year is absurd once you step back and ask whether a human being should spend 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, inside of their car," a situation Ongweso sees as "horrifying" and potentially unsafe (commercial drivers can't work more than 60 hours a week, versus Lyon's 84). But that's not the craziest part. Ongweso does the math and determines that if Lyon kept us this pace, his take-home pay from Uber (meaning excluding tips) could actually be just $40,000 once car expenses and taxes are factored in. And due to his "misclassification" as an independent contractor, Lyon is on the hook for his own health insurance too. "If not for the video’s giant Acorns and CNBC branding, it would be indistinguishable from the ongoing PR blitz spearheaded by Uber to preserve its misclassification scheme," writes Ongweso. Read the full piece here. (Read more Uber stories.)