Lime's new scooters putting the squeeze on juicers

Author
Chris Keall, NZ Herald,
Section
Business,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 20 August 2019, 3:46PM
The new Generation 3 Lime e-scooter side-by-side with the G2.5. (Photo / Michael Craig)
The new Generation 3 Lime e-scooter side-by-side with the G2.5. (Photo / Michael Craig)

Lime's supersized Generation 3 (or G3) e-scooter got oohs and ahhs when previewed in Auckland yesterday. Riders loved the smoother ride afforded by its bigger wheels, larger shocks and a wider baseboard.

But "juicers" - the contractors who collect Lime scooters, recharge them, then return them to streets - have been downright hostile to the new model in a closed Facebook group dedicated to their profession.

It will be harder to heft around and take longer to charge - and to rub salt into the wound, it comes shortly after Lime's move to cut its '"juicing" fee from $6.00 to $5.50 per scooter, according to an experienced juicer.

The juicer says when Lime launched last year, it offered $7.00 per scooter.

The experienced juicer said he averaged a half dozen scooters per hour, so the latest cut to the juicing bounty would amount to a $19,500 per year pay cut if he juiced full time (he is an accountant who juices part-time to get out and about and "paid to exercise.")

He said the cut meant that, after vehicle, petrol and home-charging costs, "may well result in sub-minimum wage earnings" once the larger, more expensive to charge G3 arrives (Lime has yet to set a date for its mass rollout in NZ, but has indicated it is close).

Herald Graphic

"People have brought vans and invested $1000 in 50 chargers to be efficient and this sunk capital means they are locked into working for less to get their money back," the experienced juicer said.

He claimed a wave of second-hand chargers had appeared online last month after Lime cut its rate.

The G3 weighs 23kg to the current model's 17kg. The experienced juicer said "that's a massive difference." He feared for his back. He noted a legal restriction in Singapore that capped scooters' weight at 20kg. He's planning a health and safety complaint to Auckland Council.

Another gripe: the G3 has a larger battery than the current Gen 2.5 (see chart below). The bigger power pack means the G3 can be ridden for 40km on a single charge - but it also takes longer to charge, and will leave a bigger dent on a juicer's personal power bill (the G2.5 battery costs around 12 cents to charge).

The experienced juicer also had a beef with the way Lime handled GST payments to its contractors - or, rather, didn't.

"Lime are also not complying with our tax law as they are not paying GST to registered chargers per our contract," he told the Herald.

While many juicers are students or young people not experienced in contracts and taxes, our experienced juicer has a day job as an accountant.

He said he was owed thousand by Lime.

"The same problem has been reported by all the other juicers on our shared Facebook community."

The experienced juicer laid a complaint over the GST issue with the Commerce Commission last week. A spokesman for the market watchdog confirmed the complaint had been received. He said it was still being assessed.

US-owned Lime has two rivals in our experienced juicer's home town of Auckland: Flamingo (owned by a pair of Wellington entrepreneurs) and Australian-registered Wave.

Our experienced juicer said he also contracted to Flamingo (Wave did not operate in his suburb).

While Flamingo only paid $5 per scooter, the juicer said he was happy with that rate because Flamingo paid GST on his invoices and had "better conditions" - namely allowing to "feeders" (its name for juicers) to reserve scooters for up to two hours before they were collected and reserve "hubs" or drop-off points. Both measures made it easier to plan trips, and contrasted with Lime's more free-form, competitive approach.

A spokeswoman for Flamingo confirmed the current $5 pricing, but also described the company's remuneration rate as "variable". Wave did not immediately return a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for Lime had no immediate comment on the GST issue, but juicer's pay, she said, "The price change was the result of an initiative that allows juicers to have more choice and greater opportunity to make decisions that best suit them, by placing an emphasis on shorter tasks - retrievals - that allow for faster and more efficient ways for Juicers to conduct their activities.

"Recently we introduced a function that allows juicers to reserve a scooter before they go to its location. We introduced this function following feedback from juicers. Feedback so far has been very positive."

On the ergonomic issue, she said, "The Generation 3 was developed with utmost consideration given to rider and Juicer safety.

"Lime is the only company that is fully responsible for the design through to manufacture of our scooters and we are constantly working to ensure we have the best and safest possible product for our riders and our Juicers. With the development of each model, we learn new ways to innovate, and new ways to improve our technology."

The G3 design includes a new handle on the baseboard for easier lifting.

In June, Lime raised its per-minute rate for riders from 30c to 38c.

Wave followed suit a fortnight ago, while Flamingo has so far stayed at 30c.

Lime recently told the Herald it had 483 juicers nationwide.

This afternoon, a Flamingo spokeswoman said, "We have approximately 100 Flamingo feeders across Wellington and Auckland. Our feeders are a crucial part of our operation and we work very hard to protect their earning ability."

Lime has around 1400 scooters in Auckland, around 700 in Christchurch and around 600 in Dunedin.

Flamingo is licensed for up to 525 scooters in Auckland, 400 in Wellington - where it has already launched - plus 300 in Christchurch, where is scheduled to launch in September.

 

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