Jimi Smoot

What it's like to charge Bird scooters

You can make good money as a Bird “charger”, but bad GPS reporting makes the process harder then it looks.

Today I tried being a Bird “charger” which is the other side of the [Bird scooter] market. You get paid anywhere from $5 to $20 per scooter to pick the unit up, charge it overnight, and put it back out on the street in a designated drop off zones they call “nests”.

The energy cost of charging is negligible so the only real cost is the time the whole process takes.

When you first start,Bird only allows you to charge 3 scooters a night. They told me though that after some time as a charger you can scale up to 20 units a night. The market is fairly liquid with hundreds of birds on the west side of LA. This means you could do an extra $400 a month as a side hustle from charging Birds...not bad. If you got serious, you could realistically do 3 times that.

I mentioned a range in prices. This is because the higher the bounty on the unit harder it is to find. I decided to make things easy and go for the ones with a $5 bounty. At the $5 level, I found the reported location of the Bird to rarely match up to the actual location.

The reporting is in fact so bad that it took me 3 tries before I found my first bird, and that unit was being picked up by someone else. This is a pain but to be expected -no power means no power to report the location of the unit back to the Bird system. Makes me wonder how hard it would be to find the higher bounty Birds.

After driving around for about an hour and loading up Birds found in sketchy Venice alleyways I had 3 birds in hand. I drove home, unloaded them, and set out to get them charged.

Once plugged in, 2 of the units charged without a problem but the 3rd didn’t for some reason. The light would flash on and off. The unit wasn’t responding to any commands sent from the app. It must have been broken and the Bird app had no clear course of action so I unplugged the broken unit and went to sleep.

As I mentioned you put the Birds out the next morning in designated drop off locations. So I woke up at 6:20am and, through the app, reserved the nearest location. I dropped off the 3 units and marked 2 one unit damaged and sent a message to support. Haven’t heard back from them yet.

Overall the experience was interesting. At first glance being a charger seems like a good side hustle. But they really need to improve on the location reporting. At the $5 bounty, the find/drop-off portions of the work would probably need to be < 1 hour of total work for most people to be interested. Otherwise chargers would need to scale up to make it work.

So will I keep charging? Probably opportunistically. I will keep my eyes out for scooters when I'm out and will scoop up the ones that are $10 or so if they are easy wins. Ill leave the hunting for others.