The world is full of Jerks.
You know who I’m talking about – that person who snatches the parking spot you’ve clearly been signalling for, that man who cuts the line in the coffee shop, or that woman who steals your reservation at the restaurant. We’ve all met them. Sometimes we have probably been guilty of being them.
What happens when those behaviours and attitudes that define us ‘oh-so-fondly’ as being jerks make the jump to the digital world?
Well, then, you have Jerktech.
What is Jerk Tech?
Jerk Tech refers to Apps that essentially exploit loopholes for a fee. These loopholes are usually found in small businesses and public infrastructure that are not owned or controlled by the person who created the App.
In other words, these Apps sell something that would otherwise be free.
Josh Constine, a writer at the popular blog Tech Crunch coined the term recently.
“Go disr*pt yourself” is what I have to say to founders of startups like ReservationHop and Parking Monkey — Josh Constine, Tech Crunch
The key point about Jerk Tech, is that they take a fee for publicly available resources and charge people for the privilege of using them.
These publicly available resources can include everything from public parking spaces to reservations at restaurants.
The actual provider of the resource (whether it’s a city Councillor who created the parking spots, or a restaurant owner who is trying to survive) don’t get any benefit at all.
Examples of Jerk Tech
A lot of Jerk Tech revolves around the concept of Peer-to-Peer commerce.
Dropbox is an example of Peer-to-Peer commerce. Two individuals use the service (and can pay for it if necessary) to share large files. Dropbox acts as a middleman of sorts, and it is completely legal.
The problem lies in that many of these peer to peer applications fall into a legal grey area. Now governments around the world are scrambling to figure out how to regulate them.
There is a growing backlash against some of these companies. Many are saying they are pushing the boundaries of what makes an acceptable or honest commercial enterprise.
Reservation Hop is one example of a Peer to Peer application that many are calling Jerk Tech.
It’s a way to get into a trendy and popular restaurant that has been booked solid for months quickly. However, there is a catch.
Reservation Hop is being called Jerk Tech because the company is trying to make money from something that’s essentially free: making a dinner reservation
Even the company’s founder wrote that he’s the most hated person in San Francisco. He continues to defend his App though.
We book up restaurant reservations in advance. We only book prime-time restaurant reservations at the hottest local establishments, and we mostly list high-demand restaurants that are booked up on other platforms — Reservation Hop
Monkey Parking single-handedly created parking rage in San Francisco.
How is it doing this? Well, by selling parking spots to the highest bidder.
Monkey Parking drew the attention and anger of San Francisco’s district attorney Dennis Herrera in June. Herrera sent a letter to the startup, saying its app — which allows people leaving a public parking space to auction it off to nearby drivers — is illegal in San Francisco.
San Francisco went as far as to ban the use of the MonkeyParking app in late June, declaring that it would not allow the creation of a “predatory private market for public parking spaces”.
City authorities sent a “cease and desist” letter to MonkeyParking and threatened fines of $2,500 per violation of the order. It gave the company until 11 July to stop operating in the city.
Initially resistant, the Monkey Parking has temporary shut down services while it clarifies how it can legally operate.
Are all Peer to Peer Commercial Apps Jerk Tech?
Ah, therein lies the rub! Monkey Parking and Reservation Hop are the far end of the spectrum – the worst of the worst of the Jerks, so to speak.
But Jerkdom isn’t black and white. Think of it like a sliding scale, with some companies just pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, while others are jumping right over the barriers.
Where exactly those barriers are isn’t exactly clear yet.
Very few Peer-to-Peer commercial Apps are more hotly debated than Uber
Since launching in San Francisco four years ago, Uber has expanded into 149 cities in 41 countries, with an app that enables users to hail a taxi with a tap of a smartphone.
The company’s latest push has been into Asia: since launching in Seoul last August, it has entered other cities including Beijing, Singapore, Bangalore and Hong Kong.
While users have embraced the convenience offered by Uber, taxi drivers are up in arms against the threat to their livelihoods. In June, taxi drivers in Berlin, Paris, London and Madrid staged a co-ordinated strike in protest against the app and a Belgian court declared Uber illegal in April.
In spite of this, investors have shown keen interest in Uber, making it one of the most valuable start-ups of recent years. In June it raised $1.2bn in new capital on terms that valued it at $18bn.
Seoul’s government has gone as far as to launch legal efforts to ban Uber in the country
“Uber is hurting the good people of the taxi industry,” said Kim Kyung-ho, head of the Seoul city transport department.
Sick of paying expensive fees for Hotels? There’s an App for that!
There are roughly 15,000 AirBNB “hosts” in New York and, according to the courts or the tabloids, they are scammers, pimps and updated versions of slumlords.
AirBNB itself admits there are bad apples in the system, but the startup estimates that 87% of listings are in good faith. Other statistics suggest that professional landlords abusing the system are responsible for as many as 30% of all listings.
This App goes against a law that came into effect May of 2011 that says it’s illegal to rent full apartments for less than 30 days.
With AirBNB, a studio apartment on a vacation rental site can go for $175 or so a night, bringing in much more than the monthly income from someone with a standard year-long lease. Plus, the hosts could basically operate like a hotel, but without all the pesky safety regulations, insurance requirements, permits, or zoning that real businesses have to deal with. Or good neighbors for that matter.
On the other hand, it can operate as a cheaper alternative to people who want to travel but can’t afford traditional accommodation.
Right now AirBNB is still functioning, but whether a few bad apples will push this App into the “Jerk Tech” category remains to be seen.
So, whether your are a start up or an individual, try to remember your behaviours have an impact on people around you.
Don’t be a Jerk.