Electric scooter sharing services are exploding on the west coast, but after users drop them wherever, they eventually need to be recharged. This fella got a little too ambitious for the cops in "catching" wayward scooters for recharging.
There's a very detailed description of one company called Bird in Slate:
Bird sent me three chargers, and a peppy rep gave me a quick briefing: Each night I was to switch on the newly enabled "charger" mode in the Bird app and collect scooters flagged as available for charging. Although juicing up most Birds would give me $5, ones that had been AWOL for a while became progressively more valuable, up to $20. The rep made it sound like there was just free money sitting on the sidewalk each night, just waiting for me to scoop up.
But it turns out the charging system is akin to a real-life Pokémon Go, albeit one rife with cheating. The app purports to tell you where nearby chargeable scooters are, but in reality that's rarely the case. Duplicitous collectors have created a thriving ecosystem of stockpiling, hiding, and decoying that makes it well-nigh impossible to find a scooter in need of charging.
I don't get paid for it at all until I inquire, at which point I receive an "adjusted" payment of 66 cents.
When picking up a scooter, chargers are supposed to "capture" it via a button on the app. Doing this deletes the flag so others don't waste time scouting for that particular Bird. It also stops the clock on the reimbursement meter. The longer a scooter goes without being captured, the greater the commission Bird will pay its chargers. Although a small percentage of scooters run out of juice early in the day, the majority only become available after 9 p.m., when the rental network shuts down for the night. At that point, you have to dash out, grab them, and ride or drive them home.
If they haven't come to your town, they're considered a major scourge out here. I was nearly kneecapped at The Embarcadero last month by some clumsy tourist who had obviously learned to ride about 17 seconds earlier.