Odd Job Update: Scooter Charging

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If you haven’t heard, I said goodbye to SAHD FIRE and Hello to Oddjob FIRE. I have 2 reasons for doing this. One, I want to spend my time a little more productively. My son is getting older and he is more independent now. He’s at school from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. That’s a lot of idle time for me. This is the most free time I have had since I became a SAHD. Two, I want to raise $30,000 to build a beach cabin in Thailand. My mom has a small piece of land near Hua Hin beach. The beach is just okay, but the seafood is delicious and very affordable. My dad wants to live there during the burning season in Northern Thailand. It’s way too smoky there from February to mid-April. Terrible air quality.

I’ll try various ways to make money and write an update occasionally. I’ve been delivering food with Uber and Doordash for several weeks now. It is getting better, but I want more time on the job before I write about it. Anyway, I’ll write about the odd jobs I know about first. Last time, I wrote about being a DIY landlord. This time, I’ll give you an update on scooter charging. Spoiler: RIP scooter charging side gig.

Scooter Charging

Have you seen these electric scooters in your area? You can rent one with an app and ride around town. It is perfect for a city like Portland. Drivers here are used to looking out for bikes already. Portland is pretty compact so you can ride a scooter to most places you need to go. It’s a lot of fun to scoot around when the weather is nice.

The company has a service center to charge and maintain these scooters. They also created a gig job – scooter charging. The chargers can pick these scooters up, charge them, and redeploy them. The idea is for the scooters to be available without a lot of supervision from the HQ.

I started charging scooters at the end of 2019. We live in a walkable area and there were many scooters around. The app notified me whenever a scooter needed a charge and I’d go grab it if I was close. I made around $100 that year. I stepped it up gradually and made more money as I figured out how to do the job.

Scooter charging income

Here is what I made from scooter charging.

2019: $100. I got started and picked up a scooter whenever I felt like it.

2020: $1,834. I got a bit more serious and went out more often. The company shut down for 5 months during the initial Covid lockdown. Back then, we didn’t know the risk of transmission was low via touching. These scooters were outdoors so the virus was exposed to UV light anyway. In hindsight, they didn’t need to shut down.  

2021: $17,534. I got really serious and expanded my setup in order to charge 12 scooters simultaneously. I woke up at 6 am to redeploy the scooters and went out late at night to collect them. Mrs. RB40 was miffed that I was spending so much time going out. I put in extra effort because I had an inkling that the gig will be over soon. My peak earning as a scooter charger was around $2,500 per month. Our backyard was always full of scooters. Hahaha. That was in the summer of 2021. You can read how I made $2,500 charging scooters.

2022: $0. Lime revamped its business model in 2022. Instead of gig chargers, they transitioned to the fleet manager model. A fleet manager is assigned 50 scooters and they take care of those particular scooters. It turned into a full-time job. You’ll need to repair and maintain the scooters. Lime probably couldn’t turn a profit with the old business model. They were just growing the user base. Now, they need to make a profit. Scooter rental is a great idea, but it ran into a lot of unforeseen problems.

Scooter charging problems

Scooter rental sounds like a simple business in theory. However, the real world is a messy place. Here are some of the problems the scooter companies faced.

Rider indiscretion – This is a huge problem. A lot of riders don’t ride safely and end up getting injured. You’re supposed to wear a helmet, but not many people do. Riders ride on the sidewalk and startle people. They park it on the sidewalk and block the wheelchairs. Some people ride double. I hit a pothole and fell. RB40Jr fell when the road was wet. Fortunately, we didn’t get hurt too badly.

Drivers – It can be hard to see riders on a scooter especially when it’s dark. Most scooter riders are unprepared to ride in the dark. It’s hard to see them zooming around at 15 mph. Bikers are prepared with all sorts of lights and reflectors. Scooter riders aren’t.

Complaints – There were a ton of complaints against the scooters. Seniors really hate them. They yell at riders when they’re on the sidewalk. It’s against the rules to ride on the sidewalk in Portland anyway. It really isn’t safe to ride close to pedestrians on a narrow sidewalk. People with mobility issues also hate the scooters because they block the sidewalk all time. Many riders just leave them in the middle of the sidewalk after they’re done with them instead of parking them in the strip next to the curb.

Vandalism – Many scooters ended up in the river. I guess some people enjoyed tossing them in. I assume that’s pretty bad for the environment. Also, many scooters are vandalized and/or chopped up. The scooter companies probably didn’t prepare for this kind of loss.

Profitability – I don’t think the business was profitable with the gig chargers. They have a lot of problems with various cities too. Many cities banned these scooters. Lime scaled down quite a bit in Portland since 2021. I used to see many scooters in our neighborhood. Now, I see just a few.

SAHD’s rating

Here is my rating for the scooter charging as a SAHD side gig. This rating is for the old scooter charger model. I don’t know much about being a fleet manager so I can’t rate it.

Flexibility – Being a scooter charger was pretty flexible. I could do it whenever a scooter popped up on the app. However, it’s busiest in the morning and at night. That’s prime family time. It was great in the summer, though. RB40Jr helped me and we had a lot of fun together.

Money – During my peak months, I made a bit over $30 per hour. That’s great for this kind of side gig. However, you’re still trading your time for money. The more you work, the more you make. The scooter companies tried lowering the pay, but chargers would just quit and find another side gig. That’s another reason why they changed to the fleet manager model.

Potential – This gig is not repeatable. They moved to the fleet manager model and don’t need chargers anymore.

Time – To make the most of this gig, you have to work early mornings and nights. If you dilly-dally, the other chargers would come to get the scooters. That was okay for me in 2021 because Mrs. RB40 was working from home. She was holding down the fort while I was out. This gig wouldn’t work for me when our son was younger.

Fun – It was a ton of fun to ride around on the scooters when it was nice out. I enjoyed this gig while it lasted.

X factor – RB40Jr helped me when he was available. We had a good time walking around the neighborhood and picking up scooters. I put 50% of the earning in his UTMA account. It was a good lesson in working, saving, and investing. It was a valuable bonding time for us. I also got more exercise by just walking all over the place.

Overall – I enjoyed being a scooter charger. It was a fun side gig. The downside was I worked during prime family time. Mrs. RB40 didn’t like that. I should have cut back a bit in 2021, but I wanted to make hay while the sun shine. I knew this side gig wouldn’t last long.

Alright, that’s it for this update. Let me know if you have any questions.

NBC put out a video just a few days ago. Check it out if you want to know about scooter charging. It looks like the scooter companies are starting to turn a profit in 2023. I think that’s great. It’s an environmental way to get around.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. These days, I’m investing in commercial properties with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the United States. Go check them out!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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