TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The addition of Bird Scooters in Greater Lafayette has not only brought a more convenient way of travel, but also a new way to make money. However, those who take care of the scooters say some people are taking advantage of that.
"Chargers" of the scooters have found Birds hidden in homes, alleys and even fields. While finding those scooters puts a little more money in the pocket, it could cost the city to have them removed.
Tommy Mecklenburg has been a Bird charger since the scooters came to town in August. Not too long into the job, he started finding it harder to capture Birds.
“People will come out during the day when Birds are available and allowed to be ridden and taken and they will take them, and they will take them home and they leave them in their place of residence for three, four, five, six days,” said Mecklenburg.
According to Bird, those people are called "Hoarders." Chargers get a base pay of $5 per scooter but that number can increase to $20 based on where a scooter is located and how much charging it needs.
With thousands of Bird scooters scattered across the city, Mecklenburg said you can make a decent amount of money, but when chargers hide and hoard dozen of scooters for themselves it affects the system.
“It's all about your profit loss and if Bird's taking a loss because these people are hoarding them like they are and they're not making any money, they're gonna pull the Birds from West Lafayette,” said Mecklenburg.
Mecklenburg said the scamming behavior isn’t fair to the people that are following the rules.
“It makes it really inconvenient for the people that are out here trying to make a living. Some of us just want to make money to buy our daughter a doll house or a little extra money for Christmas,” said Mecklenburg. “When we spend hours chasing down giant nests of Birds and they're not there, it just makes it hard on us,” added Mecklenburg.
Mecklenburg said the new addition of Bird scooters has a ripple effect of benefits on the city.
“They’re reducing the carbon footprint around here and they’re helping boost the economy,” said Mecklenburg. “ Let’s say a guy made an extra $300 last month charging Birds, and he goes to the mall and buys something, and then he goes to breakfast, you know, all these small business are benefitting from Bird being in the community and if people are ruining it for us, they’re gonna pull it and it’s just gonna hurt us all much more,” said Mecklenburg.
There were 2,500 scooters across the Greater Lafayette area. In early December, Bird said they would remove 1,700 as city officials in West Lafayette work on an ordinance.