The servant evolves

They shoot like mushrooms from the soil of the better-off districts in major German cities-delivery services with names such as gorillas or Flink, who compete with the promise of delivering supermarket items clicked together via an app to the front door in less than 10 minutes. The additional costs for customers are manageable, the business models anything but sustainable. The fact that the losses are not even greater is only due to the fact that one carries out his fight for the market on the back of poorly paid, largely lawless employees who have lost their previous jobs due to the corona measures. In a reasonably fair and equal society, such business models would have no chance. Their triumphal march in Germany shows how unjust and unequal our society has become.

In the Empire, it was common for every colonial goods store in a better district to employ one or more messengers. These were often children or young people who then carried the heavy shopping bags to the front door of the fine gentlemen for a few pennies, where they were received by the house staff. In third world countries and the so-called emerging economies, with their enormous but socially accepted differences between rich and poor, this service continued to exist in the second half of the last century, while in Central Europe it was almost forgotten. Child labor has long been frowned upon, and in a society with a broad middle class, business models so clearly based on the exploitation of precarious low-wage workers were considered indecent. Thus, even the better-off earners carried their shopping bags themselves for decades. But those days are over. In urban high-income neighborhoods, you can now conveniently compile your purchases via an app and have them delivered to your door in less than ten minutes by a low-wage worker on a bicycle or moped. And this is not even very expensive. The industry leader Gorilla is already with a fixed delivery fee of 1,80 Euro. Thus, exploitation does not even become a privilege of the upper class. Everyone can join in and do it in a contemporary way at the click of a button and without a twinge of conscience.

How does such a business model work? It was invented, where else, in the USA. In 2013, the GoPuff delivery service started there with its offer to have supermarket items delivered by couriers to customers who have completed their purchase via the company’s own app at lightning speed and with a small surcharge. In Germany, this sector has long been dominated by the retail top dogs and the eCommerce giant Amazon with its Amazon fresh offer. Only that these offers were more related to larger purchases and were delivered “only” on the same or the next day and not just a few minutes after the order. This sector was first covered by the Gorillas delivery service, which was only founded in May 2020 and of course benefited massively from the corona measures. If you were afraid of the virus or did not feel like going to the supermarket with a mask, you could have the goods delivered to your home by the bicycle couriers – they call themselves “riders” – from gorillas promptly and without much extra charge. Within a year, Gorillas grew at a breathtaking pace – today the company is valued at one billion euros, employs around 6,000 people and is represented in the better - off and trendy districts of twenty German and numerous international cities.

This would not have been possible without Corona for a completely different reason. The" riders", i.e. the bicycle couriers, of gorillas earn only just above the minimum wage and are not exactly a coveted dream job due to the overambitious delivery time and working conditions as from early capitalism. In a functioning labor market, there would not be enough interested parties who would engage in this bone job on these conditions. However, the corona measures have raged especially in the big cities, especially in the precarious jobs from which delivery services such as gorillas recruited their staff last year-temporary jobbers from the catering industry, often migrants who hardly speak German; It is not for nothing that English is the company language for gorillas. Numerous students are also among the employees, i.e. mostly younger people, for whom no social network was stretched during the measures crisis and who could not benefit from short-time work or other state aid due to their precarious working conditions. The measures and the refusal of politics to help victims of the measures employed in precarious employment relationships have opened the business model of quick-commerce, as these services call themselves.

The breathtaking expansion of these companies is financed primarily by venture capital, and here the term “risk” is to be taken seriously. This business model is not sustainable. If a rider receives an hourly wage of 10.80 euros, he has to supply six customers per hour in order to earn only his wage via the delivery fees of 1.80 euros per order. That alone is not possible. In addition, there are indirect costs (e.g. the social contributions) of the employees, the costs for the logistics – the local delivery warehouses are business model-of course also in the “better” and thus expensive districts, in which the customers live. And so gorillas – according to internal documents, which the manager magazine has evaluated – makes 1,50 Euro loss with each order. This is reminiscent of a classic bubble, which is almost normal in the venture capital-driven Internet economy. It collects a three-digit million dollar amount from investors and, despite red numbers, expands at a breathtaking pace with the aim of later selling the company to a multinational corporation for a billion dollar amount or going public itself and collecting further billions of investor money. In real terms, money is burned, but this is not of interest as long as the company value is valued separately from reality. At some point, the bubble bursts, but if this happens within the profit and loss account of a highly profitable multinational such as Amazon or Google, whose reserves are almost immeasurable, this is only a side note.

In addition to the exploited low - wage earners, the real losers are the competitors from the real economy, usually run as family or small businesses. While services like Amazon fresh tend to compete with the big supermarket chains, gorillas and Co. are a challenge to the small kiosks, Büdchen and spätis, which are the first port of call in the big city if you still have a small errand to do. If Amazon has ruined the classic retail in the cities, gorillas and Co. now to tear the ground from under the feet of the small shops in the metropolitan area. But what the hell? The former Späti owner can get on a bike and become a minimum wage rider. Especially in the service sector, precarization is hard to stop anyway, especially since neither politics nor the end customers have a hint of problem awareness. It is more important that the low-wage workers are environmentally friendly on the road by bike and hand over the purchases to the customer in a bag made of recycled paper; after all, you want to save the world and if a new layer of servants arises, which takes away unpleasant tasks for little money, this is perceived rather as collateral benefit. You live in your little bubble and do not bother yourself with the working conditions of the servant layer, but at most with the fact that trucks are now on the road in the beautiful neighborhood, which supply the delivery camps in the morning. Although people pretend to think internationally and cosmopolitan, they usually only have a horizon that does not go beyond their own bubble when it comes to concrete questions. If it were different, the business model of quick commerce would not exist at all.

Now it is precisely the exploited who show the cracks in this business model. After a Berlin" rider " of gorillas was dismissed without notice because of flimsy reasons, there were wild strikes by the employees and attempts to found a works council – much to the displeasure of the management, who – rightly – fears that their business model based on the exploitation of employees will get even clearer cracks. One can only hope that the employees will prevail; after all, neither politicians nor consumers are willing to counteract this aberration, which on a small scale is a “good” example of what goes wrong on a large scale.