A helpless, flailing Google is unable to stop people from running off with hundreds of the free bicycles available at its Mountain View, California headquarters a week, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Google maintains approximately 1,100 “Gbikes” for employee use on its massive campus there, but locals and employees alike have apparently decided that it’s open season:
But Google’s bikes consistently go missing from its campus—between 100 and 250 a week, the company estimates. The bikes have shown up at local schools, in neighbors’ lawns, at the bottom of the town creek and on the roof of O’Malley’s Sports Pub. One turned up in a TV commercial for the cosmetics brand Garnier; a Google employee noticed it when it aired.
Locals said they feel free to “rent” a Gbike whenever it’s convenient for them, with individuals who have taken the bikes including Mayor Ken Rosenberg.
“It’s like a friendly gesture,” 68-year-old resident Sharon Veach, who often rides one of the bikes home from a train station and keeps it overnight, told the paper. “They don’t really want us to use it, but it’s OK if you do ... You know, I rent it for a day.”
58-year-old Mountain View marketer Joseph Zidarevich added everyone steals the bikes, “from whole families with their grandmothers—literally the grandpa and grandma and all their grandkids were riding Google bikes down the road—to the Sureño gang kids.”
Google has attempted to slow its Gbike loss rate by installing GPS trackers (which showed they were being taken as far as Mexico) and is planning to lock the bikes with an app. It also hires a team of 30 contractors whose jobs involve searching the region for its missing bikes in some sort of weird eternal dance thing. According to the Journal account, none of these measures have helped Google even quantify the number of bikes that are actually missing, the Mountain View police have decided it’s not their problem, and when staff have attempted to intervene it’s led to mishaps like misidentifying a Google staffer as a homeless woman.
It’s strangely comforting to know that no matter how rich and powerful you are, someone is still going to fuck with your bike.