Adam Smith, the great economist described the marketplace as having an invisible hand that would regulate itself. It’s a theory that in a system, equilibrium will be found, that the actors in any organization will find their way.
The story I like to tell about how this operates is about an architect who was commissioned to design a campus for a corporation. He drew all the buildings and between them had live grass installed and there were no sidewalks. A year after completion of the buildings, he came back to see where the grass was worn down – that’s where he put in the sidewalks. The needs of the community dictated where they went, and now the architect was able to meet those needs.
In much the same way we have a similar situation happening in our city right now. We have two companies that are flooding the marketplace with their Birds and Limes. They seem to be overtaking our sidewalks and some are saying creating a nuisance.
I’m a supporter of these mobility tools. I have ridden them often in last month. I’ve ordered my free helmet from Bird that I had to pay $1.99 for shipping and was delivered by the FedEx man in a few days.
When I have to make a short hop across town and don’t need to have the storage capacity of my car, and wish to avoid the hassles of parking, and paying for parking, I jump on a Bird and zip over. They’re super convenient for running a quick errand, like down to Z Garden (a client of mine) for a snack, or over to my visit my dog as he rehabs from back surgery.
Given that I spend $5-15 a day in parking across Santa Monica, between the horrendous meter fees, and parking structure costs, not to mention the private lots, the cost of a Lime or a Bird is usually cheaper.
Two weeks ago my battery died. That triggered car computer problems, when sent me to Dave at Morgan Auto on Pico across from the Trader Joe’s. Too far to walk back to my office. I could have grabbed an UBER or LYFT, but it was a nice day, so I hopped on a Bird. $2.50 later and I’m back at my office, had a fun ride and it was quicker and easier than a car.
Last Wednesday night I was at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and headed to dinner with a friend at Mon Roll on 4th for some Happy Hour Sushi before our Westside Toastmasters meeting. I tried 4 different Birds and Limes before I found one that was ready to ride. The problem that I was running into was that they were all too low on the battery charge. This could be a systemic problem on their part, but I think the reality is this: they’re popular. They’re being used. It’s like the worn-down parts of the grass in the new campus the architect built. The fact that I had a problem with finding a scooter with enough charge is an indicator to me that this is a good idea.
The companies will find a way around this I’m sure. They already list the battery percentages left in the machines on the app, it won’t take much for them to start scooping up the dead machines and recharge them – maybe they’ll start offering their chargers a bonus, or some other benefit for turning the scooters around quicker. Maybe the companies will find a way to get quick chargers placed in businesses who will then have a motivation to create docking stations and bring new customers into their business. We’re discussing that at Z Garden and are waiting for the companies to get back to us.
Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is always operating – sometimes it’s the grooves in the grass, sometimes it’s in the dead batteries. But it is always there.