How some in Charlotte are making hundreds of dollars charging scooters
Jaciel Sojo has been charging electric scooters in Charlotte for about a month.
The 23-year-old found out about the gig when he saw an ad on Craigslist that said he could make around $100 a night.
He applied to be a charger before the scooters hit the city's streets. Since their arrival, he said he's been raking in at least $60 a day.
When he told his older brother, 26-year-old Joan Sojo, about his side hustle, Joan started charging scooters, too.
Joan earned $10 on his first day. On his fourth day, he made $96.
Now, they're both hooked.
Jaciel and Joan said they are in the music business and make extra money servicing scooters. They can get $5 to $20 per scooter, depending on how hard it is to find.
They charge for Bird, one of two companies that scattered scooters across the city in late May. The other is Lime. Charlotte gave a third company —Spin — permission to bring electric scooters into the city, but it has yet to put any out.
Between the two companies, there are 400 scooters in Charlotte, at most, according to the city's website. The two-wheelers can go up to 15 mph, and they both cost the same: $1 to start plus 15 cents for each minute, their websites said.
Both companies have rolled out scooters in dozens of other cities, including San Francisco, Austin, and Washington, D.C.
Anyone 18 or older can sign up to be a charger. The process starts with filling out a form on the companies' app or website.
Bird and Lime work with their chargers in similar ways, said Ronald Applewhite, who charges scooters for both companies.
However, he prefers charging Lime scooters because they're easier to find.
"Those are the first ones I look for," he said.
On a typical night, the 48-year-old collects 15 to 20 scooters and makes about $200. Applewhite said he is a freelance cable installer, but he's thinking about charging scooters full-time.
Joan, who only charges for Bird, usually picks up three scooters at a time. But he often sees other chargers gathering dozens.
“We see people in cargo vans, like 14-passenger vans, who take the seats out and stack them up,” he said.
It was tempting at first to go after the $20 scooters, Jaciel said, but he’s learned that it’s not worth his time to go into an office or apartment building to track down a rogue scooter.
"For me to park, go upstairs and find it — which might take 20 minutes — I can go find six or seven scooters and make double,” he said.
Scooters collected from around the city are inspected for maintenance, charged — It can take three to six hours per scooter, depending on battery level, Joan said — and returned in neat rows at specific drop off locations before 7 a.m. each day.
Bird and Lime declined to comment on how many chargers are active in the Charlotte area.
To Joan, it seems like there are more chargers in the city every day.
Sometimes he pulls up to a scooter just in time to watch another charger take it away, Joan said.
Other times, it disappears from the map while he’s on the way.
But some chargers are willing to put up with the competition because they enjoy the work.
"I like being outdoors. I like not having a boss," Applewhite said. "It's freedom."