Dusk Somewhere

Burritos and Distributed Domination in the App Era

Posted at — Sep 16, 2022 by Izzy Meckler

I went to try the veggie burrito at Aliberto’s. It’s very good.

While I was eating, a woman1 came in, went to the counter, and gave the details of the order she was picking up to the man behind the counter (Latin-American, native Spanish speaker).

The man at the counter started talking (in Spanish) to his coworker in the kitchen, didn’t catch what about.

Evidently the woman was an delivery-app worker because she said, “Excuse me, I’m being timed.”

He was confused and wasn’t sure what she was talking about.

Her: “It said it was ready and I’m being timed while you were over there talking.”

Him: “Yeah, it’s ready.”

He grabs a bag and hands it over.

Him: “But it’s not the whole order.”

He needs to go to the aguas frescas fountains to get the piƱa and horchata she had ordered. He starts filling the cups.

She is back at the register, clearly stressed, and talking to someone on the phone.

He comes back with the aguas frescas.

Her: “Do you have a holder? It’s hard to carry.”

Him: “No, my boss…”, then I couldn’t understand, but I think he was saying they used to have them but the boss got rid of them.

She figured out a way to hold them and I got the door for her on her way out.

This was a very disturbing and interesting example of how the individualized tracking of service apps turns workers against each other and drives them to discipline each other.

  1. The woman was masked, the man behind the counter was not masked. ↩︎