Airbnb and Uber offer flexibility for those who work multiple jobs: Checkup callers
Uber and Airbnb, two key players in the global trend towards the so-called "sharing economy," are often blamed for undermining local industries and enabling the exploitation of part-time employees.
Checkup host Duncan McCue spoke to Montreal residents John Doak and Stephen Pickford, who are both more than satisfied with the flexibility offered by these apps.
They reject that they're doing damage to their local economy by taking advantage of the services they provide.
Listen to their discussion below:
Duncan McCue: John Doak and Stephen Pickford are calling from Montreal. Hi John and Stephen, welcome to Cross Country Checkup - I understand one of you has an Airbnb and one of you drives Uber?
John Doak: We have just recently joined Airbnb, about two weeks ago. We took eleven days to clarify a problem getting on because of some screw-ups in the registration. We finally got on, and so far, we have four or five people booked for several days at a very large house that we have in the Laurentians for rent.
This house, for six or seven years, was not empty but we hadn't had any revenue from it. And so, we went on Airbnb, put up a bunch of photographs and we're very pleased with the results. People think that our prices are very fair and we've got about five families booked over two or three different sections in the end of February and early March already.
DM: John, why did you want to go down that route and join Airbnb?
JD: The simple reason is that the average real estate agent don't really like to do rentals. They don't make that much commission, and Airbnb is structured to allow people to make use of their assets in a way that real estate agents would not be able to do.
DM: And then Stephen let me ask you, what's it like driving for Uber?
Stephen Pickford: Yeah, I really enjoy it. I've been doing it for over a year and a half now. I've done over 33-hundred trip segments and I enjoy having the flexibility to work as many hours or as few hours as I want and in what part of the city I want to.
You also see a lot of interesting people. I'd say around one third of the people that I drive around are visitors to the city who are familiar with the brand name - they wouldn't know which taxi company to call.
DM: How were you working prior to that, Stephen?
SP: Well, I still have a syndicated radio show that's produced here in Montreal and heard in the United States. I do media relations and corporate travel management. When I'm waiting for people to get back to me on particular projects that I'm working on, I can turn the [Uber] app on and - rather than just sit at home and read a magazine - I can make some extra income.
DM: So you're a big fan of the flexibility of it then. When you hear [that] people really concerned about part-time employees basically being enslaved by a company, what do you think when you hear a view like that?
SP: They actually have the full flexibility to do whatever they want because I would say the majority of drivers are doing that as part-time, or they're doing it with regards to other freelance work.
DM: If I could go back to John again, I want to ask him about his Airbnb. I'm just curious John, let me read a tweet that came in to Checkup from Bob Heaslip: "Uber is essentially a giant tax dodging scheme similar to the underground economy. Lost taxes hurt society." John, what do you think about Airbnb folks who-
JD: - let me interrupt on that: I happen to know about that because I'm a good friend of Stephen. The Quebec government stopped all Uber operations a few months ago, and the government insisted that you start paying taxes.
And now Stephen, who's right beside me, he pays all the GST and provincial sales tax on all the rides. Everybody, please correct the misconception to all Canadians that it's a tax dodge. They are now taxing all rides just as if it were a taxi.
DM: Let me ask you about Airbnb: what do you think about the suggestion that people who are offering up an Airbnb should be paying a hotel tax?
JD: I believe that that may come into being. I'm not sure of the regulations yet - I'm too new to that - but if that's required I'll be more than happy to pay a hotel-type tax.
The problem is, in the area we're located, up in the Laurentians, there is a large quantity of expensive homes and [many] of them remain empty quite a bit of the time. That's a useful asset that people could be benefiting from. Airbnb puts the buyer and the seller together in an efficient way that the existing marketplace has not done, up until now.
Duncan McCue's conversation with John Doak and Stephen Pickford has been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ashley Mak.