Bird electric scooters recently appeared on IU’s campus, and the company has outsourced their charging to students and Bloomington locals.
The company calls the people who charge birds "hunters.” The hunters drive around finding the scooters on campus, taking them back to their houses and fully charging them overnight.
Bird calls this process “capturing” a scooter, and hunters can start capturing at 9 p.m., when people can no longer ride the scooters. Then, between 4 and 7 a.m., hunters return the scooters to “nests,” or designated drop-off areas around town.
“They’re kind of in random places,” senior Colin McManama said. “There is one out by the College Mall and one by Mother Bear’s. You can put three in a nest at one time.”
Bird tells their hunters that scooters can take a maximum of six hours to charge, and hunters get paid more if a captured scooter has less charge. Payment varies based on a scooter’s last updated location, how hard they deem finding it and its charge.
They also give rewards for finding “lost” scooters.
“If a bird hasn’t been used in a certain amount of time, Bird decides that the scooter is lost,” senior Nick Borne said. “They pay you $20 for charging that scooter if you’re able to find it.”
Unlike hunters, Bird customers do not have a specific drop-off area for scooters. There are rules, such as not blocking a public pathway, but scooters can end up in some places that are difficult for hunters to locate.
“I saw a scooter behind Eigenmann in the app the other day that they were offering a lot of money for, so I went to go look,” McManama said. “I was looking and thought there was no way it actually existed, but saw a little bit of the handle poking out from behind a dumpster.”
Bird does not require hunters to comply to a schedule, so people can pick and choose when they want to go out and make money. Some students see this as a way to make easy spending money.
“At first I downloaded the app to just rent a scooter,” McManama said. “I saw ‘become a charger’ in the app, read up on it, and it seemed like a really easy way to make money.”
Once the scooters landed on campus, Borne’s roommate, senior Justin Wentz, signed up and was sent three chargers. He then asked Borne if he’d like to help capture scooters because Borne has a pickup truck.
“I figured that the scooters would already be charging on my electric bill, so I should make some off of it,” Borne said.
Chargers are sent through the mail, and hunters usually receive three when they sign up.
“I was really surprised with how small the chargers are,” McManama said. “They kind of just look like laptop chargers.”
If a hunter successfully captures a scooter, charges it and returns it to a nest before 7 a.m., the company pays them through direct deposit. The money is usually put in the hunter’s account the same day.
“The whole thing is a pretty quick process,” Borne said.
People can become a charger through the Bird app. Once applicants sign up, a Bird employee will text the applicant to ask other questions such as what type of car he or she will be using and how often he or she can do it.
Once an applicant receives a charger in the mail, the hunt is on.
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