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His Story Sums Up the Agony, Ecstasy of the Gig Economy

Ecstasy in 2014, at least
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2021 10:10 AM CDT

(Newser) – "To understand how a man could arrive at the point where he abandons his children to chase a phone, you might want to follow him on a journey." So writes Lauren Smiley in a lengthy piece for Wired about Jeffrey Fang, a "ride-hailing legend" who in 2014 started working for Lyft—then later Uber, Amazon Flex, Instacart, DoorDash, and more—in pursuit of making a decent living. In the beginning, the money was good: $2,000, then $2,500 a week, all while playing by the rules and avoiding some of the hacks other drivers engaged in. But achieving those figures meant barely sleeping. "He was swigging four espressos a night. Psoriasis flared on his back and scalp ... His accelerator ankle started to pop like an arthritic knuckle. He grew a gut." That was 2015. From there things got worse, with the battle between Uber and Lyft continually cutting fares and eating into the commissions.

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Fang kept making less and less, but was caught in a sort of hamster wheel: too busy driving to look for something better. His story as a driver essentially ends in February 2021, when he made national news after he brought his 21-month-old and 4-year-old daughter along with him as he did DoorDash deliveries near San Francisco’s Billionaires’ Row. His wife needed a break and a babysitter was too pricey. He dropped off a delivery then came back to the car to find a man in it. The man took off with "Fang’s phone ... his money­maker, manager, fixer, and dictator for the past seven years," writes Smiley. He ran after it, getting it back two blocks later. When he returned to the driveway, the car was gone. (He had left the keys in it with the engine running so as not to cut off the movie the older child was watching.) The kids were found safe hours later. (Read the full story for much more on Fang's experience with the gig economy.)

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