Entrepreneur

Uber has taught us that lazy people are the best customers

Image Credit: txking via Shutterstock

Lazy, anti-social people: they’re your ultimate customers. To be assured of success today, create a service that appeals to people just active enough to push a button but too lazy to check their bank statements.

Ideally, you should also ensure that customers can limit their interactions with other humans to the barest minimum. If you follow the money and the growth figures, it looks like we’re soon going to be living in an Uber-powered future where our gratification grows ever more instant. Why cook when there’s Graze boxes and JustEat? Why hail a cab when there’s an app to do it for you? Why bother with queues when Square’s new Square Order app will soon let you skip them?

Uber started as a car service but the mutterings of their cold-eyed CEO Travis Kalanik combined with marketing experiments including variously differing chocolate, condoms and even kittens plus a courier pilot in New York, have long suggested there’s more to come. Uber isn’t a taxi service, it’s an algorithm-loving logistics firm with a knack for knowing how to match supply with demand and price it accordingly.

It doesn’t have to stop with cars and it won’t. While its latest trick, UberJet allowing well-heeled customers to charter private jets to the Cannes Film Festival, is more marketing, it can afford to think big.

When it comes to apps easing our existences, the UK and Europe are way behind the pampered princelings and princesses of San Francisco. The Wall Street Journal was wringing its hands two years ago about whether tools for outsourcing your least favourite chores such as TaskRabbit might just be a bad thing. TaskRabbit only launched in the UK in November and its iPhone and Android apps went live here last month. Our opportunities for smartphone-enabled laziness are only just beginning to ramp up.

But the US has shown there are limits to how niche apps dedicated to snagging the lazy can be.

Cherry, an app that seriously described itself as “Uber for car washes”, sank beneath the suds in December 2012 after a year in business and  $5.25 million in funding from a selection of over-optimistic funds. It’s just one of many services that failed after fooling themselves into believing that all you need to disrupt an industry is a nice looking iPhone app and a snazzy name. BlackJet, which tried to turn on-demand private planes into more than a marketing gimmick, made the same mistake. Despite the involvement of Uber co-founder Garret Camp and celebrities including Jay Z and Ashton Kutcher, it flamed out last year.

With a $2,500 yearly membership fee and trips costing $4,000 BlackJet was an extreme example of app-enabled laziness but it tapped in to the same underlying psychology. Whatever the service, whatever the app, the real selling point is a feeling of superiority and of futuristic control. But as we become enamoured by these pampered Pavlovian routines, we spend little, if any, time thinking about the people paid to deliver those services or where the trend will lead us. It’s easy to ignore wages falling when the person serving you is behind a tinted screen or acting as an unseen errand boy.

Just as H.L Menken’s aphorism that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people” remains true, no one will ever go broke correctly estimating the extent of our laziness.

But we should think carefully about what apps and services we come to lean on. Just because we can have what we want at the push of a button doesn’t mean we should. Lazy people are the ultimate customers but we should ask ourselves if that’s something we’re comfortable with.


Mic is the founder and CEO of The XX Corporation, a new kind of media company. He was previously Chief Tech Blogger at The Daily Telegraph, held staff roles at Stuff and Q Magazine and has written for almost every British national newspaper. He currently lives in Dublin and tweets as @brokenbottleboy.

 This story originally appeared on Tech City News, our editorial partner in London.

This story originally appeared on techcitynews.com.

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Uber Technologies Inc is known as Everyone's Private Driver. Uber operates an on-demand car service used all over the world. With the touch of a button from your phone, you can experience your own private driver. Sign-up quickly, g... read more »

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42 comments
rybchin
rybchin

@kieranhannon Perhaps lazy is a harsh word. superfluous convenience may be more accurate.

Joey Klta
Joey Klta

This is fucking stupid.  Lazy? How about the fact that Uber costs LESS than a cab, and you get top-notch customer service.  To drive an Uber is not a job, it's a privilege, and this comes across through drivers' customer service.  I enjoy knowing that if I need to get a ride somewhere, I can expect to be treated like a customer and not a package that needs to be delivered.  


Cab drivers are generally rude, unhappy, and expect you to pay in cash all the time.  Well guess what, I am no longer in the service in the industry so I don't carry cash.  I have direct deposit and I don't want to pay extra for a cab to take me to an ATM  just so I can pay them in cash.


This article missed the mark big time.  The intro/headline had nothing to do with the main point, it was a generalization in order to get us to read.  The Uber CEO probably slept with this shitty author's wife or something. Hey, author guy no one knows, I think you're the one that's lazy... can't even spend 5 minutes thinking about something worthwhile to write about.

Joel Reyna
Joel Reyna

Nice job quoting a sensationalist!

Alexandra Bevin Cohen
Alexandra Bevin Cohen

Actually, lazy people are the best Architects. Because they figure out a way to do everything more efficiently.

Daniel Marks
Daniel Marks

Lazy or efficient? If I don't have to waste time finding a cab, I can focus on other things that add value to my life...

garyvee
garyvee

@Surbski haven't read but I don't think it's lazy I think it's those who value time - aka everyone

Marianne Mcpeak Johnson
Marianne Mcpeak Johnson

Not Lazy, convenient and love not exchanging cash or swiping/dipping my card. If not in a busy cab area, it is faster so more efficient !

deZenmonkey
deZenmonkey

@VentureBeat if you don't expand the image then he looks like he's doing something very wrong ;)

JNPetrides
JNPetrides

@VentureBeat people who appreciate a beautiful UX are not lazy; seamless, simple, quick, reliable... central tenets of most service winners

Julien Fruchier
Julien Fruchier

"...the real selling point is a feeling of superiority and of futuristic control". This.

Rich Wang
Rich Wang

Uber and Lyft were created and continue to enjoy great success in San Francisco because everyone that lives here knows that the taxis are absolute shit, and since most people here are epicurean alcoholics, we all need to get around somehow. Those silly publicity stunts are nothing more than content fodder for tech writers to eat up.

M.r. Rupp
M.r. Rupp

FYI, "anti-social" means sociopathic.

Robert Orozco
Robert Orozco

As I've said many times in an effort to justify my slothfulness, "I'm not lazy, I'm efficient."

TuijaR
TuijaR

@raunamaa greit. Onko "pöljä" nyt se poliittisesti korrekti versio :)

simeons
simeons

@jenniewhite the tone is unhelpful/sour but the general principle that appealing to people's laziness is good for biz is hard to dispute.

simeons
simeons

@jenniewhite lol: much of media is about over-generalization. Easier write and more likely to stir emotions and generate page views.

simeons
simeons

@jenniewhite yes, when I use Uber, which I do a lot, I certainly don't consider myself to be lazy.

jenniewhite
jenniewhite

@simeons I think we’re looking at 2 different themes in the story. Lazy people = good for business vs. people who use uber ≠ lazy.

simeons
simeons

@jenniewhite great point: it gets much more complicated when you look at it as a global optimization problem.

jenniewhite
jenniewhite

@simeons agreed. But is it out of laziness or convenience? Am I lazy if I want my groceries delivered so I can have time to go for a hike?