McDonald's at 2801 Mission St, San Francisco. Photo from Google Map

“Our drivers are employees, not contractors, which benefits them and you,” reads the front page of rideshare start-up Alto’s website. The Dallas-based company, which proclaims itself “The world’s first employee driver rideshare,” began providing services in Silicon Valley in March, and later extended its reach to San Francisco. With many drivers expressing dissatisfaction towards Uber and Lyft, some feel Alto’s new business model could be an answer, but it needs riders.

Founded in 2018, the startup has raised about $60 million, but recently that promising facade has begun to show some cracks. Some users have complained about the app not running smoothly, which has made expanding the user base difficult. According to one two-star review: “This should be a great service because the drivers are awesome and the cars are pristine. However, the app is so bad that the service is unreliable and I can’t use Alto anymore.” 

This lack of users has led to a lack of interest from the drivers. According to the Wall Street Journal, as recently as July, Alto had merely 2,000 rides nationwide per day, despite operating in seven cities. 

Nicole Moore, a labor activist in Los Angeles, said fair pay and free gas are attractive, “But then you have to have enough passengers to actually create the income for people.”

Some drivers seem unimpressed by Alto’s fixed pay of $20 an hour or less. “It’s not high enough. Its good reviews are useless to me,” said a driver in a popular rideshare driver chat group on WeChat. Of the 500 drivers in the group, only a few had heard of Alto, but many echoed that this wage just wasn’t enough.  

Still, curiosity about Alto persists, and it remains a ride-hailing app worth watching in 2022.

Ordering fast food with food delivery apps?

Yep, many a diner orders fast food for delivery. 

Julian, manager of McDonald’s at 24th and Mission streets, said about 180 of his restaurant’s 800 daily orders, or about 20 percent, come from delivery apps, including 70 each from DoorDash and Uber Eats, and about 40 from Grubhub. Many of the orders arrive between 4 and 10 p.m., with portions that appear to be for families or even entire parties. One recent order: 200 nuggets. 

Smaller orders, Julian said, are likely to be canceled by customers a moment after they are placed. Delivery workers have the right to refuse orders they dislike, and as profit margins continue to be squeezed by soaring gas prices, many are forced to simply accept larger orders while smaller orders go unanswered. 

Soon, the young or old person behind the counter at McDonald’s could be earning more than the drivers. California now has legislation that could push wages as high as $22 an hour, the Washington Post reports. 

Veteran Lyft driver describes what the app’s “flexibility” and “choice” actually look like

In 2017, Mike Robinson joined Lyft in southern California as a full-time driver. He was optimistic about the app’s promise of freedom to work whenever and however long he wished. 

That rosy vision was shattered by reality. Robinson, a member of the advocacy group Mobile Workers Alliance, recently laid his experience bare in an article for Fortune magazine. The article makes it clear that he was forced to work 50 hours a week just to survive. The “independence” of being able to choose his own working hours soon led him to weigh every hour of rest against his lost earnings, all when he was just one accident or illness away from becoming bankrupt.

Passengers can now text with live safety agents on Uber  

Uber now allows users to contact a safety agent while on a trip. In July, Uber was sued by more than 500 women who said they had been sexually harassed by drivers. 

Uber says the new feature is meant to assist both passengers and drivers in circumstances that might not require calling the police or other emergency services. Passengers who feel they require the service will be connected with an agent from the security services company ADT, which can monitor their route during the trip. 

Uber’s top rival, Lyft, which has also been embroiled in sexual harassment lawsuits, launched a similar feature in collaboration with ADT in early 2020. According to CNN Business, the update is part of a larger safety upgrade unveiled last Tuesday, introducing a revamped “toolkit” to make it simpler to access safety features. These include a “trusted contacts” feature for sharing trip details with friends, and a “pin code” feature that requires passengers to tell drivers a four-digit code verbally before starting the ride. Uber has also expanded the range of its “text to 911” feature, which now covers around 60 percent of the U.S., including California.

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. All app gigs are basically there to create the middleman for the working class, aka stealing your already meager wage. And on the other side there’s some lazy guy with too much money making you fetch ridiculous things.
    Have you seen those “worker” wandering around the stores to locate a specific carton of milk or snack.

    Apps are making people lazy and stupid.

  2. Delivery of a Big Mac–a great usage of an automobile. And the glaciers continue to melt. Thanks, folks!

    1. It should be illegal based on the harm to benefit radio. Darwinism used to take care of anything this stupid.

  3. Just stay out of the red-carpet lanes. They’re reserved for the taxi driver zipping me down Mission, Market, O’Farrell, etc.