California company nabs unwanted Bird, Lime scooters and demands payment

Two California men said San Diego is “overrun with scooters,” and that’s why they started a business that removes the scooters and locks them up until the owners pay.

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When riders of rental electric scooters from companies like Bird and Lime leave the scooters blocking areas like wheelchair ramps, driveways or doors, ScootScoop says property owners can call them to remove the unwanted vehicles for free.

After removing the scooters, the company stores them in storage containers and sends a bill to the owner for removal and storage to release them, according to ScootScoop’s website. They also said they can get a customer's property listed as a no-parking zone for rental devices in the apps.

The company is a partnership between John Heinkel, a repo man, and Dan Borelli, who co-owns a bike rental shop in the area, The Verge reported. They said they’ve impounded thousands of dockless e-scooters around San Diego.

“We aren’t just grabbing scooters off the street and throwing them in a yard,” Borelli told The Verge. “We write a parking ticket for every single one we have.”

They charge scooter companies $30 for pick-up, plus $2 per day a scooter is stored, capping the fee after a month, according to the report.

ScootScoop operates with something of a “ask forgiveness, not permission” style similar to the way the companies like Bird and Lime have dropped their scooters in cities across the country without seeking permission from local governments.

It looked like it would pay off for ScootScoop, at first. Bird paid them $40,000 for 1,800 scooters they’d impounded in 2018, The Verge reported.

Now, Lime and Bird are both suing ScootScoop. In April, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the companies were accusing ScootScoop of holding their property hostage for “ransom.”

Borelli told The Verge that “ransom” is “a fake bully word that’s been made up to make our character look worse.”

A Bird spokesperson told the Union-Tribune that San Diego residents were “being bamboozled” by ScootScoop and that the removal company was “robbing people of the environmentally friendly scooter options they’ve come to rely on.”

Bird alleged ScootScoop has been pulling scooters from public sidewalks, according to The Verge. The company wants ScootScoop to pay them four times what ScootScoop has attempted to bill them, plus punitive damages. Heinkel and Borelli denied the allegation.

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ScootScoop could have a lot of business ahead if they don’t lose the lawsuits. Electric scooters passed station-based bicycles as the most popular form of shared transportation outside of public transit and cars in the U.S., the Associated Press reported earlier this year. Riders took 38.5 million rides on shared electric scooters last year.

In San Diego, as in many other cities, local officials are trying to take control of the situation. The city implemented new regulations this month, requiring scooter companies to obtain insurance, free the city from liability and obtain permits for every scooter in circulation, The Verge reported.