We live in a digital world where there is an app for almost everything. Social interactions, food deliveries, transport, games, reviews of anything we could imagine, marketing, the list goes on. While many of the more popular apps make our lives much easier, we often give little thought into the risks their staff are exposed to.
Zeel is a popular massage application, which allows customers to request massage services in their own homes. They simply input their request and the company dispatches a qualified masseuse at the specified time. And we’ve all heard of Uber, the transport service that is swiftly replacing taxis as the popular form of getting around, especially after a big night out. Recently Uber has expanded even further into Uber Eats, where they will not deliver food to your door. These apps are popular and receive a huge number of requests daily. Mostly from people whose intentions are noble, they simply wish to partake in the offered service. But some people, do not have honest intentions when engaging these services. So, how can the app tell?
The short answer is it can’t. As we’ve seen most famously from Uber, driver’s have been coming forward and speaking out on just how dangerous their job really is. With a high proportion of their clientele being affected by alcohol, or sometimes even drugs, what starts as a simple driving someone home, can very quickly turn horrific. The app has no way of screening potential risks to its drivers.
It has no way of telling if a customer is substance affected, violent, abusive or dangerous. Many former Uber drivers have come forward alleging verbal abuse, assault, theft, and vehicle damage being caused by aggressive clients. Uber has all but admitted this shortcoming of their service, however, has attempted to put measures in place to protect their drivers such as automatic upfront payments for late night services. The company has also spoken of its unwavering faith in its staff, to be able to use professional judgement and refuse to pick someone up if they appear under the influence or dangerous. These strategies sound great, but while it may prevent driver’s not being paid, it also places a good deal of pressure on them to effectively screen out potential dangers.
Zeel presents with a whole host of other problems. Their staff are required to meet clients in their home, hotels or anywhere else the person requests. Uber drivers at least have the option of driving away before letting the person in their car if they are concerned, but Zeel employees do not have this luxury. Several reports have been revealed that the company has consistently failed to protect its employees from sexual harassment from customers. And the scariest part, is that sexual harassment is not the potential worst-case scenario here. One therapist who formerly worked for Zeel revealed that she had been sent to the hotel room of a man with a history of sexual assault, who was on parole at the time. Another therapist disclosed a client had masturbated in front of her. But perhaps the most shocking thing of all, is both these men were not removed as customers from the app, leaving them free to continue to use it.
These app companies and others like them, unfortunately seem unable to protect their employees. Until better screening methods are available, or the companies at least ban customers who are known to have caused harm, staff will continue to be exposed to concerning levels of risk. More work is desperately needed in this area to improve upon their current practice and ensure their employees are able to work in a safe environment.