Jan 8, 2015 · 2 minutes

TaskRabbit has sent an email to its customers advising them to allow it to "pick up your dry cleaning and groceries, return unwanted holiday gifts, or deliver your favorite soup" as the polar vortex transfers the freezing cold from the Midwest over to the East Coast.

That sounds wonderful! Going outside in below-freezing temperatures made even worse by wind chill (my little slice of upstate New York reached -20 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, thanks to the near-constant gusts of wind) seems like it'd be pretty horrible.

I'm just glad TaskRabbit has finally replaced all its workers with robots! Wait, what's that? It hasn't? It's actively telling consumers in dangerously cold areas to stay inside while it sends underpaid workers out to run any errands in sub-zero weather?

Yep. Not long after BuzzFeed published an excellent piece about why it's dangerous to call Uber a tech company -- namely, because the old maxim to "move fast and break things" doesn't work when the "things" are real people -- TaskRabbit is pulling this.

This is just the latest example of a tech company giving questionable treatment to its non-technical workers. Amazon does it by not paying its warehouse laborers for time spent waiting to have their persons checked for stolen goods. Apple does it by not paying its security guards well. Facebook does it by contracting out the shuttles that ferry its employees around.

And now TaskRabbit does it by encouraging its customers to sit warmly while an underpaid worker who has already been forced to either reconcile the service's shift from a labor marketplace to a glorified temp agency goes out in the cold.

I understand that Taskers (the horrible name assigned to people who find work through TaskRabbit) could decline job requests if they think it's too cold. Or they could charge more for their services -- think of it as Uber's surge pricing, but for blue-collar tasks.

But that doesn't excuse the callousness of a company volunteering contractors who might rely on its service as a main income source despite receiving little or no assistance from the company itself for work when temperatures are going to be dangerously low.

At least when Uber bumps up its rates during inclement weather it's only screwing over its customers, many of whom have other options for transportation. The drivers remain in their heated vehicles. TaskRabbit is instead asking its customers to stay warm -- and therefore safe -- while its own don't-call-them-employees are asked to fetch some soup.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]