Tag Archives: lyft driver confessions

Marching Backwards into the Next Economy

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[Part of this article originally appeared in my I Drive S.F. column for the S.F. Examiner. This expanded version is from the zine Behind the Wheel 3: From Uber/Lyft to Taxi. To watch the video of the event click here.]

When I agreed to be on a drivers panel for the Next:Economy forum, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into. I knew there would be three of us on the hot seat: a cab driver turned Lyft driver, a fulltime Uber driver and me, the Uber/Lyft driver who became a “cabbie.” 

Since making it clear to the moderator during our preliminary interview that I was no fan of the on-demand economy, I figured I was there to be the lone naysayer, or to provide some requisite objectivity. Other speakers at the conference included the CEOs of Kickstarter, GE and Lyft, as well as David Plouffe, Uber’s Chief Adviser. 

On Thursday morning, I woke up hungover with a mysterious gash in my forehead. After a quick shower, I put on a grey suit, a black shirt and my Florsheims. If I’m going to be a dancing monkey, I should at least wear a shiny red hat. 

While on BART, I received word from my friend Maya that her husband had lost his battle with cancer. Even though I knew he’d been fighting the disease for a while, news of his passing hit me hard. 

Bill Doyle, who used the nom de guerre Guss Dolan in his activism on the web, was a hero of mine. A major advocate for progressive politics in The City, he railed against the negative changes he saw happening around him as tech money displaced his friends and the new Silicon Valley workers took over neighborhood after neighborhood and threatened his own ability to remain in the city he loved. He spoke at public hearings about the impact of Google buses and rabidly opposed Airbnb and the rest of the so-called “sharing economy.” 

I admired his tenacity and ferocious wit. When I started challenging Uber and Lyft, Bill’s encouragement meant the most to me. So while my train barreled through the Transbay Tube, I kept thinking, San Francisco lost a true citizen today. 

At the Montgomery station, I climbed the escalator and walked right into the majestic Palace hotel, where the conference was being held. In the green room, I met Eric Barajas, the Uber driver, who, it turned out, organized the protest at Uber HQ in October and is just as disgruntled as I was last year, stuck in a vicious cycle with Uber, barely making enough to survive, but never enough to move on to something better. 

While we waited backstage, I watched the CEO of TaskRabbit on the monitor. She seemed to be selling her company to the audience, which I thought was odd. During the Q&A, a woman asked if “Taskers” were being adequately protected from their clients. 

Huh? 

Who cares about workers these days?

When it was time for our panel, I walked through the curtain into the glare of stage lights. The next twenty minutes were a blur. I just imagined what Bill would say if he’d had the opportunity to voice his dissent at an event like this. 

I ragged on all the proponents of the gig economy. Surprisingly, I got laughs. Both Eric and I trashed Uber. At one point, much to the audience’s delight, I got into a heated argument with Jon Kessler, the third driver, who saw the writing on the wall a year ago and leased a car to do Lyft after six years of taxi driving. 

Eventually, we were ushered off stage and released into a crowded room of networkers who congratulated us on our lively panel, some comparing it to The Jerry Springer Show. 

After talking to several dozen attendees, who paid $3,500 to be there, I realized the conference wasn’t a celebration of the on-demand economy. It was more of an examination of how these advances in technology will impact labor and shape the future of work. Most people I talked to were affiliated with labor organizations or non-profits. I even ran into Steven Hill, whose latest book Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers rips these on-demand companies a new asshole. 

Still, tech was in the air. The CEOs were there to pitch their disruptive technologies and most of what they said was obvious doublespeak. If the future of work means the end of professionalism and less need for workers, what do we do with all these people being born each day? Isn’t this what Marshall McLuhan meant when he wrote about how we’re driving into the future using only our rear view mirror?

Throughout the afternoon, I took advantage of the open bar, sampled the free food and marveled at the vaulted ceilings, ornate fixtures and chandeliers. The combined experience was Orwellian and surreal.

After the conventioneers went to lunch, I wandered down Market Street with Eric and Nikko to get Chinese food by the pound at Lee’s. Nikko is a filmmaker whom I met at an Uber protest the previous year. He was at the convention as Eric’s guest.

Over chow mein and fried rice, we talked about feeling out of place at the convention. As much as these people seemed to like us because of our performance, there was something off-putting about their acknowledgment. It was obvious they weren’t around real workers much, despite claiming to fight for the rights of workers. 

Then we discussed David Plouffe’s segment the next day and how great it would be to confront him during the Q&A session that would follow. On video.

Hahaha. We all laughed. That would be awesome! 

But wait! Don’t we have badges for the entire convention? They told us we could come back the next day. 

The more we talked about it the more we realized this opportunity was too good to pass up. A plan began to form quickly. We went back to the Palace and, in the extravagant lobby, hatched the plan. 

After spitballing a bunch of ideas, we concluded that Eric should do the talking. He should just get up and speak his mind. No script. The confrontation would have more of an impact if Eric questioned Uber’s claims of helping working people when working people like himself weren’t able to survive driving for Uber. 

Eric was the real deal. He came off as a genuine hard-working parent effortlessly, because that’s who he is. Eric lives in Fairfield. Sometimes, he gets so tired, instead of driving home, he sleeps in his car. When he wakes up, he starts driving again. He doesn’t see his wife or his kids as much as he’d like because he’s too busy trying to fulfill the promise of this “flexible job” to be able to tuck his kids in at night. 

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The next morning, I headed into The City. Nikko and Eric were already there, ready to go. After watching a few presentations, including the CEO of Microsoft talk about “augmented workers,” it was time for Plouffe to hit the stage. 

There was something surreal about seeing his smug face in person, as he bragged about how Uber changes peoples’ lives for the better, how they’re helping the middle class earn extra money, how the flexibility of driving for Uber is great for people with regular jobs so they can tuck their kids in at night… I resisted the urge to shout rebuttals. 

“We’ve onboarded thousands of drivers,” he said proudly. “And in the process helped the environment by taking cars off the road.” 

I wanted to scream, You can’t add thousands of cars TO the road while taking thousands OFF the road at the same time! It’s one or the other! 

He spoke at length about the independent contractor business model, pointing out that they aren’t the first to use it. And that based on their “research” drivers prefer flexibility over a set schedule.

When asked about disrupting the taxi industry, he said, “That’s not something they even think about.”

When Tim O’Reilly, the moderator, brought up our panel from the previous day, Plouffe evaded the question. He was there to sell an idea and anything that contradicted his narrative was irrelevant. Plouffe is a compelling speaker. His carefully crafted presentation was proof that if you tell a lie long enough and tell it well enough, people will believe it, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

When it came time for the Q&A, Eric got up quickly to be the first in line to ask a question. 

“I just wanted to ask how it’s possible Uber is helping the economy when I’m working full time, eleven hour days, six days a week, and I am barely making minimum wage. After all the expenses are factored in, I don’t know whether to pay my phone bill or my PG&E bill.” 

Plouffe, slightly taken aback, suggested that he get together with Uber and talk about options… 

Eric expressed concern that he would be deactivated for speaking out. But Plouffe assured him he wouldn’t be deactivated for speaking his mind, pointing out that the rating system was only used to determine driver quality. Not for retaliation. 

After Plouffe left the stage, everyone wanted a piece of Eric. Champions of workers’ rights and labor reformers wanted him to join their cause. One woman wanted him to speak at a Wal-Mart workers’ rally later in the month. 

I faded into the background. Eric is a compelling figure: the perfect example of a hard working family man just trying to survive in the world. 

After that, we had lunch in the ballroom. They put out quite a spread. We started off with a Caesar salad, followed by salmon with a tasty lemon and butter sauce, white rice, two asparagus spears and some kind of couscous concoction. For desert, a chocolate tart and a cup of coffee. 

Once I’d finished eating, I said what I wish I’d said on stage, but even though I spoke loudly, only the people at our table could hear me: 

“A friend of mine died from cancer yesterday. For two days I’ve been listening to presenters tout this new technology that will outsource work to machines and amateurs and all I can think is, find a cure for cancer and then I’ll be fucking impressed.” 

With that, I wiped my mouth on the fancy cloth napkin, stood up, walked out of the Palace hotel and took BART back to Oakland. 

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The next day, Nikko called to tell me that Eric was kicked off the Uber platform. He was able to log in to the app, but he wasn’t receiving ride requests. He drove around The City for three hours without a single ride.

Unbelievable. Despite Plouffe’s claims on stage, in front of thousands of people, Uber retaliated. Even though several news sites, Business Insider, Fortune and the San Francisco Chronicle, had all written stories about the confrontation, they went ahead and cut him off. 

I immediately phoned Eric. He told me that some high level official at Uber was leaving him messages. They wanted him to come to Uber headquarters and “discuss his situation.” 

Eric didn’t trust them and didn’t want to go alone. He never returned their calls. He told Tim O’Reilly, the founder of the convention, about what happened and Tim offered to go to the Uber offices with him. 

Late that night, Eric went over to Nikko’s apartment. Nikko is also an active Uber driver and they opened their apps next to each other on video. While Nikko’s phone received request after request, Eric’s phone sat idle. 

With undisputable proof, the next day, I emailed Joe Fitzgerald at the Examiner. He got in touch with Eric. 

Joe contacted Uber. They made some bullshit excuse about a problem with his account, but it was obvious what happened. They’d blocked his access to the app for publically calling them out. 

After Joe’s story hit the internet, Eric started received ride requests again. 

As if nothing had ever happened.

Pretty fucked up, right?  

Well… just like every other negative story about Uber, as soon as the news cycle revolved, everyone moved on to the next routine atrocity… 

Still, Eric, Nikko and I all felt a tinge of pride that, even though we weren’t able to hurt Uber’s image, at least we gave them a black eye. 

[Images from the Next:Economy panel. Watch the entire panel discussion here.]

The Cult of Lyft: Inside the Pacific Driver Lounge

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[This post originally appeared on Medium in July 2014. Lyft has since dissolved the driver lounges.]

Lyft sees itself differently from other car services because the passenger rides up front. Like a friend. Drivers are supposed to greet passengers with a fist bump. Like they would, conceivably, with a friend. Drivers play music and engage the passenger in conversation. Since that’s what friends do.

I knew this much from taking Lyft cars in the past. But when I signed up to be a driver, I was enrolled in a Facebook group for Lyft drivers called the Pacific Driver Lounge. It was in the Lounge that I learned there was more to the Lyft Experience than just pink mustaches and fist bumps. Lyft wants to cultivate a community between drivers and passengers. But only the drivers seem to be interested in participating in that community, creating what’s best described as the Cult of Lyft.

In the Lounge, the faithful worship the pink mustache. They post selfies with their mustaches and even travel with small versions called cuddlestaches, which they photograph in distant lands. They wax poetic about the difference they’re making in the world by driving for Lyft. Many drivers post screen grabs of their daily and weekly summaries, showing off how much money they earned, highlighting long drives with Prime Time tips added (“Score!”) and favorable comments from passengers. All of which are followed by hashtags like #fistbumps or #lyftlove.

There are numerous pictures of tricked-out cars. Since Lyft encourages a quirky and fun vibe, many drivers come up with themes for their cars. One guy put a mirror ball in his car and became the DiscoLyft. Another put a karaoke machine in his car and decked out the ceiling with Christmas lights. This is the Caraoke. Then there’s the RocknRollLyft, where the driver has a guitar and portable amp in the back for passengers to shred on. Or the BatmanLyft. The PirateLyft. The ReptileLyft. The MomLyft. There’s the GameLyft, where the driver has an iPad for his passengers to play Flappy Bird while en route to their destination. While it may not be officially called the PornoLyft, I have heard of a driver who keeps Hustlers and Playboys in the back seat of his car. Maybe one day there will be a StipLyft, where the driver has to remove a piece of clothing each time he takes a wrong turn.

Drivers go this extra mile, at their own expense, for higher ratings, but also to have fun and be part of the Lyft community. This is what differentiates Lyft from other rideshare services. Community.

In the Lounge, Uber is referred to as “the dark side.”

Cabbies are the enemy.

The state legislature is comprised of a bunch of bullies out to take away our fun.

The worst thing you could do in the Lounge is malign the Lyft brand. You will soon be facing a cyber lynch mob.

Like all internet forums, the Driver Lounge is a cesspool of glad-handers, gossip hounds, chicken-littles and a chorus of kool-aid drinking cheerleaders; clueless consumers lapping up a marketing ploy and defending their faith to the bitter end. A handful of participants do 75 percent of the talking. They maintain the party line and make sure it’s all Lyft, all the time. Some of these regular posters are not full-time drivers. They do Lyft to supplement day jobs. So they have the time to waste posting and commenting and making sure the reputation of Lyft is preserved.

While other drivers occasionally use the Lounge to complain about Lyft policies, problems with the app and difficult passengers, more than half of the posts and subsequent comments glorify Lyft and all the wonderful things it stands for.

Since the Lounge is an official Lyft group, Lyft controls it. But it’s mostly self-governed. There are moderators or “mentors” from Lyft HQ who patrol the discussions. Posts get deleted if they aren’t up to snuff. People get banned for posting inappropriate or non-Lyft related items. (Anything to do with Uber is generally verboten.)

Sometimes discussions get heated and everyone gets upset. People start blocking each other. Discussions can get downright nasty.

This is all highly entertaining to me.

Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with the Lounge. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I check for new posts daily. I’m not proud of it. But I’m not ashamed either. My fascination with the online chatter of other drivers is akin to some folks’ dedication to reality television. We all like to watch people behave without self-awareness.

The Lounge is my Honey Boo Boo.

I have gained some useful information about the driving process by lurking in the group. It’s a good place to check the pulse of the city when I’m on the fence about driving into the city from Oakland to Lyft. Plus, there are so many confusing aspects to being a Lyft driver. The Lyft FAQ can be atrociously vague at times. In the Lounge, however, when these nebulous topics are discussed, you can easily get a consensus or find a few kindred drivers who share your opinion on the matter. Like whether or not it’s a requirement to display the mustache, the legality of accepting cash tips, traffic laws and the never-ending speculation on the insurance question, which is still up in the air.

My favorite posts in the Lounge are the ones where drivers complain about passengers cussing, being drunk, having dogs, smelling like pot or slamming doors. Some drivers even suggest kicking out passengers they don’t like. I always want to point out that in their blind hatred towards cabbies, they are missing the point of creating an alternative form of transportation. If many of these gung-ho drivers actually listened to why passengers prefer Lyft and Uber, they’d know it’s because cabbies are assholes. But watching these taxi-hating Lyfters slowly morph into cabbies themselves, it only makes sense that after driving people around for a while, cabbies would have figured out how to deal with passengers. It’s not easy. Every request you accept is a roll of the dice. You never know who’s going to get in your car. But hey, trying to appreciate the struggles of the other team requires more self-awareness than you can expect from the faithful in the Lounge.

Another amusing subplot in the Lounge ensues when a driver is “off-boarded” and removed from the Lounge. Only active Lyft drivers can participate in the Lounge, so drivers who are involved in accidents or altercations are deactivated from the Lyft system and thus removed from the Lounge. This is especially problematic because the most important thing any driver wants to know is what happens after an accident. That is, what happens with our insurance? What is covered and what isn’t? Do we pay a deductible? Will our insurance company drop us when they find out we’ve been ridesharing? Since a regular car insurance policy does not cover commercial activity, we are technically uninsured while driving for Lyft. Lyft supposedly carries a million dollar policy when we have a passenger in the car, but we rarely get any further details of how that coverage plays out after an accident.

Lyft assures us they will take car of everything, as long as the collision is not our fault. But without first hand knowledge, how are we supposed to be certain? While the Lyft faithful may dominate the discourse, when the shit hits the fan, the doubters emerge from the shadows and all hell breaks loose.

Not knowing all the facts leads to a lot of conjecture. Which is ironic because the official word from HQ is that drivers are removed from the lounge to prevent rumors and speculation. Don’t they understand it’s human nature to want to know the entire story and fill any holes with make-believe?

All it takes for one of the Lyft cheerleaders in the Lounge to have an accident, get deactivated and disappear for the rest of the flock to start asking questions. And maybe slowly realize they are taking too much a risk for a company that is only interested in making money.

Like the mustache, the Lounge is another great Lyft marketing scheme: placate your workers by convincing them they are part of a team so that whatever benefits Lyft, benefits them as well because they are all on the same team.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

You have to wonder if Lyft really has it in them to succeed in the rideshare racket. With all this emphasis on being friendly and fun, they seem to be missing the most obvious component of transportation.

Based on the responses of passengers I’ve talked to, your average Lyft user is not looking for some quirky experience. They just want to get to their destination, quickly and safely. Perhaps with some decent tunes playing. Maybe a friendly person to chat with along the way. If they’re in the mood. Otherwise, they’d prefer to not deal with a chatty driver. Or one who talks on the phone during the whole ride, for that matter — cabbies, I’m talking to you.

More than anything else, though, people just want to be able to request a car, have it show up in a timely fashion and not have to deal with a cash transaction. This excludes most taxi companies, or at least the cabbies who frequently tell passengers their credit card machines are broken.

It’s that simple. This is all you have to provide to succeed as a rideshare company. Get people where they want to go without bringing cash into the equation.

Uber, who doesn’t have a social media forum for their drivers, has figured that much out. If only they knew how to placate their own drivers, who are known to protest outside Uber HQ.

Providing a community for drivers is great. The Lyft Pacific Driver Lounge makes a lot of drivers feel special and appreciated. That’s cool. Let them show their team spirit, make friends with each other and proselytize for the Cult of Lyft all they want. Just leave the passengers out of it.

[artwork by Irina Dessaint]

A Day in the Life of an Uber/Lyft Driver in San Francisco

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(an excerpt from the zine Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft)

Most days, I wake up around noon. Usually hung-over. My first thought is always the same: probably should’ve skipped that last drink. At the time, though, it felt absolutely necessary. Vodka has a way of alleviating some of the physical stress from driving a car all night. At least temporarily.

After several months of driving for Lyft and Uber, my neck is like an open wound. The muscles that run from my shoulder to my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. It makes my teeth ache. There is a real possibility that I have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. Old age has not only crept up on me, it has run past me and turned around to taunt me.

Besides the physical exhaustion of driving a car in the city, there is also the psychological toll. It’s one thing to maintain a diligent eye on my blind spots, the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists and cavalier pedestrians, but I also have to project a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers. Or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when I’d rather be committing murder. And yet, with enough Ativan and caffeine in my system, somehow I make it through another shift. Like when the endorphins kick in after a boot to the nut sack, these superficial interactions with complete strangers have a numbing effect after awhile. As long as it’s busy and I have enough rides to keep my mind off the grueling process. The slow nights can be torture and I can’t wait to get home so I can pummel my brain with alcohol, pills and weed until I stop obsessing over the streets of San Francisco, their order and how they intersect with each of the forty-seven neighborhoods.

Read More

Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft

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From the trenches of San Francisco’s sharing economy: another rideshare confessional zine

Behind the Wheel 2 includes more insight into the day-to-day travails of a rideshare driver in San Francisco, more stories about driving drunks, switching from Lyft to Uber, a visit to Uber HQ, self-entitled douchebags, talk of gentrification and displacement, the tech boom, public debauchery, emotional breakdowns, police activity and the constant threat of pukers.

60 pages
8.5″ x 5.5″
Illustrated
Staple bound
Wraparound cover


ORDER HERE:

Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft

This illustrated 60-page zine is saddle-stitched, measures 5.5″ x 8.5″ and fully illustrated with a wraparound cover. This second edition was revised and updated in 2018. Includes the “your uber driver hates you” sticker. Shipping is free. (Be sure to include your mailing address.)

$7.00


Also available through Etsy.

A PDF or ePub Download is available for 99 cents through Etsy!


Includes the “your uber driver hates you” sticker:

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EXCERPTS:

To Uber Or Not To Uber

A Day in the Life of a Rideshare Driver

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Table of Contents:
Emperor Caveat
To Uber or Not to Uber
A Day in the Life of a Rideshare Driver (PDF)
The Wrong Bush and Mason
Gun on the Street
Infinite Douchebaggery
The Polk Gulch Vortex
Another Wasted Night
The Leather Man

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What is a zine?

A zine (/ˈziːn/ zeen; an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. — via Wikipedia

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Behind the Wheel 2 debuted at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest:

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Ten Consequences of Driving for Uber and Lyft

After seven months of driving full time for Lyft and Uber, these are ten things that make me dread going into driver mode:

1. Vehicle Depreciation

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Besides passengers slamming my doors, which has caused a mysterious rattle, scuffing my interior, leaving behind trash and generally making the kinds of messes you’d expect from a two year old, there is also mechanical wear and tear. The more I drive, the more things go wrong with my car. I figure I have about two more months until I need new brakes and tires. And then my rideshare days are over. I just don’t make enough from driving for Uber and Lyft to afford to keep driving for Uber and Lyft.

2. Boot Malfunction

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My right boot is more worn than the left. To be fair, this may have more to do with my bony heels, but it’s not something I ever noticed until I had to keep my foot on the gas and brake pedals for hours at a time.

3. Physical Discomfort

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My neck is like an open wound. No doubt from glancing over my shoulder as I switch lanes in traffic all night long, always diligent to keep an eye on my blind spots, as well as the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists, impatient cab drivers and cavalier pedestrians. As a result, the muscles that run along my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. There is a real possibility that I may have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. I noticed once, when I was a Lyft passenger, that my driver had a hemorrhoid pillow on his seat. I may need to acquire one of those in the near future…

4. Spousal Neglect

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Since I’m out late driving on the weekends, the Wife’s home alone. And she’s not happy about it. I’ve tried driving during the weekdays, but the gridlocked traffic makes getting anywhere in the city a chore. It’s not worth the frustration. I spend more time driving to the pinned locations than I do taking passengers where they need to go. And the only time you can get surge pricing is on weekend nights. And holidays. Or special events. So…

5. Fear of Deactivation

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Nobody enjoys being judged. But constantly feeling threatened with “deactivation” is downright humiliating. The rating system employed by Lyft and Uber focuses on only one aspect of a driver’s performance: passenger satisfaction. And it’s not easy making people happy. Even when the ride has gone perfectly, there’s never a guarantee the passenger is satisfied. All it takes is one drunk passenger on a power trip and you’re deactivated.

6. Erratic Sleep

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I work late and come home late. But I can’t sleep late because my head is filled with dreams about my Lyft summary, which is the only way to find out what I made the day before and what’s happened to my rating. Sometimes the summary is in my inbox before I wake up. Other days the email doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. With Uber you know, for the most part, what you’ve made at the end of each ride. And your rating is updated in the app as feedback is left. So at least you’re disappointed in real time.

7. Misanthropic Tendencies

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After a while, you really start to hate people. I’ve met some really great folks in my car, but I’ve also encountered a lot of stinkers. People that I’d rather see under my front tire than in my front seat. But I have to maintain a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when some passengers are just straight up assholes. They input the wrong location. They make you wait. They ignore you. They talk down to you. They say racist and sexist things in your car. Your only retaliation is to rate THEM low. Which doesn’t amount to much since it’s unlikely Uber or Lyft would ever deactivate a passenger’s account. I guess we should just be grateful our passengers act like self-entitled douchebags rather than punching us or holding guns to our heads.

8. Paranoia

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Every time I go out to drive, I say a prayer that nothing bad happens. I can’t shake the nagging sensation that if something goes wrong, I’ll be fucked. Uber and Lyft tells us to use our personal insurance in the event of an accident. But our insurance won’t cover any damages since we’re engaged in commercial activity. So what’s the point of having personal insurance to do rideshare? Not that things would be better with the insurance companies Uber and Lyft use. I’ve read numerous reports from drivers who’ve been in accidents and had to crowd source funds to get their cars fixed. Or just being left in the lurch. We are hardly protected under normal circumstances, but what if we’re at fault? Oh, the horror… And with Uber, there’s no support number. We can only email them afterwards. On top of all that, both Uber and Lyft charge us a deductible. So if we are covered, we still pay out of pocket, even if we aren’t at fault.

9. Monetary Deficiencies

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Because of the price wars, as Uber and Lyft fight it out to determine who will be the preeminent rideshare platform, drivers are getting squeezed more and more. The rates just keep going down. As it is, I’m broke as hell. My credit cards are all maxed out, most of the time my bank account is overdrawn and I have a painful toothache I can’t afford to fix. Not to mention taxes… I don’t want to even think about what I’m going to do when it’s time to pay taxes.

10. Self-loathing

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If you’ve made it this far on my list of rideshare consequences, you might be wondering why I don’t just quit. I know it’s stupid to complain about something you can’t control. And I know it’s my own damn fault. I bought into the promise of ridesharing as an alternative source of income with a good amount of freedom and it turned out to be a lie. I fell for the classic switcheroo. I’m an idiot. So why don’t I just get on with my life? Well, that day is coming. Without a doubt. For now, the hell I know is better than the one I don’t. And I like driving. I like meeting people. I like exploring the streets of San Francisco. But there’s no future in ridesharing for drivers. Hell, the way things are going, there won’t be a future for taxi drivers either.

The Rideshare Paradox

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Friends with Benefits

Uber must think Lyft drivers are all BFFs. It’s an understandable assumption, seeing as how Lyft promotes their brand of ridesharing as a community where drivers and passengers fistbump their way to everlasting friendship. Every day I get texts and emails from Uber telling me to bring my Lyft friends down to the office on Vermont street so they can sign up to drive for Uber. As always, it seems, they’re offering a $500 sign-up bonus and a $500 referral bonus. Plus lunch. And, as an added incentive, during the first month, new drivers are guaranteed to make either forty bucks an hour or $1000 a week, depending on the market.

If I had any Lyft friends, I’d tell them to take the money and run. $500 is a nice chunk of change. And I’ve seen the meals they give out at the Uber office. You get a sandwich, a bag of chips, some pasta salad and a soda. Not a bad spread. But alas, I have no friends in the Lyft “community.” I was removed from the Pacific Driver Lounge, Lyft’s official Facebook group for drivers, months ago for writing a blog post called The Cult of Lyft that poked fun of the jingoistic tendencies of the Lyft faithful. After that, I got kicked out of a group set up by Lyft drivers in the Bay Area. And then some Lyfters on a group for Uber Drivers had me kicked out of there. I guess what they say is true: “I am the most hated person in the world of Lyft.”

I’m actually surprised Lyft hasn’t deactivated me yet. I guess they’re afraid I’d make too much a stink if they sent me packing. Not that I’d be upset about it or anything. If you want to be part of the Lyft community, you need to drink a lot of Kool-Aid. Otherwise, you’re not welcome. And I’ve never felt welcome.

Still, it’s too bad I don’t know any Lyfters who aren’t already driving for Uber. I could definitely use the $500 referral bonus. After seven months of driving mostly fulltime for Lyft and Uber, I’m broke as hell. My credit cards are all maxed out, my bank account is overdrawn, I have a painful toothache I can’t afford to fix and the Wife’s always pissed cause I’m out driving late every weekend. As it is, I figure I have about two months until my car needs new brakes and tires. And when that day comes, my rideshare days are over. I just don’t make enough from driving for Uber and Lyft to afford to fix my car so I can keep driving for Uber and Lyft.

Now, I know it’s my own damn fault. I bought into the empty promise of ridesharing as an alternative source of income with a good amount of freedom. The ability to set your own hours can’t be overestimated for a creative type like myself. In fact, on Uber’s sign-up page, there are numerous quotes from drivers extolling the greatness of Uber because you can be your own boss. And who doesn’t want to be their own boss? I know I do. That’s one of the reasons I signed up in the first place. I was in between jobs and had an underutilized car. But as the harsh realities of being a rideshare driver became clearer, I should have moved on before the price wars went nuclear. Because all that freedom they talk about doesn’t come cheap.

Uber and Lyft have always been desperate for new drivers. But these days, they need them more than ever. As ridesharing becomes more popular, drivers will be quitting due to expensive car repairs or getting into accidents and not being able to afford the $2,500 deductible from the insurance companies that Uber and Lyft rely on to keep us safe. Or they’ll just bail after coming to the inevitable conclusion that ridesharing is not sustainable as anything more than a part-time gig.

The Long Con

In its current configuration, ridesharing, à la Uber and Lyft, is a conveyor belt to oblivion. Their goal is to take down “Big Taxi” with an endless stream of drivers using their personal cars as unregulated cabs. Uber and Lyft like to portray cab companies as monopolies that are bad for the public. They claim that government regulation will strangle innovation. But it’s all a smokescreen to disguise their true motives: replacing cab companies and their fleets of cars with tech start-ups who con regular folks into thinking they’re part of some “disruption” of a failed transportation system. And then rake in the cash.

Hey, it’s the American way!

You can’t blame Uber and Lyft for their eagerness to exploit the underemployed. It’s an effective business model that’s benefited countless fast-food joints and made the Walton family filthy rich. Low paid workers cycle through crap jobs all the time without much concern from the general public. But it’s one thing to have a stoned, pimply kid flip your burgers or ring up your discounted housewares. It’s quite another to trust them to transport you and your loved ones through city traffic in their own car for a few dollars. Chances are, they don’t even know how to get around the city without a navigation system. And even background checks can’t prevent bad seeds from easily finding their way onto the platform.

Not that it matters. Rideshare users, the very people who should be alarmed by these safety concerns, are absolutely clueless. They pay next to nothing for a ride and expect to be treated like royalty. Uber tells them they don’t need to tip and they accept that lie without hesitation. They just want the convenience and they want it for the lowest possible price. They blindly go along with the exploitative model of the gig economy without a second thought.

Unlike flipping burgers or running a register, though, Uber and Lyft drivers are supposed to perform a luxury service that’s superior to cabs. Despite getting paid less than cab drivers. Uber and Lyft are able to keep lowing the rates, of course, because they don’t have to own or maintain a single vehicle. They pass that discount onto to the drivers by forcing us to work for less and less each month.

I would much rather drive a cab. At least taxi drivers who lease their cars from a company don’t have to pay to fix them. If something goes wrong with their vehicle, they get a new one. A rideshare driver, on the other hand, shoulders all the risk and responsibility for their cars, as well as insurance and their health. We are subsidizing the entire industry so people can have an alternative to cabs. And what do we get in return? A few lousy bucks and a four-star rating at best.

As more drivers eventually realize they’re being exploited, Uber and Lyft will have to recruit new drivers to replace the ones who wise up. And these new drivers might make it a month or two before wandering off to another dead-end job. Some post comments in Facebook groups as they leave. But very few drivers will ever make a stink about how unfair the rideshare system is for drivers. Because the underemployed are used to being exploited.

Meet the new boss (and no, he’s not the same as the old boss)

I’ve had countless shitty jobs in my life. And each one came with a shitty boss. If I had ever had a boss that hired me at, say, $25 an hour and then a month later told me they were now going to pay me $15 an hour, I would tell that boss to fuck the fucking fuck off. Who wouldn’t, right? And yet, as a rideshare driver, I went along with a thirty percent pay cut. It happened so suddenly, I didn’t know how to react. And I didn’t feel like I had much a choice. Jobs don’t grow on job trees anymore. Those drivers who did have options dropped off like flies. The rest of us plodded along at the reduced wage. And then Uber and Lyft lowered the rates again. Sure, they claim that the new rates increase rides. But I was plenty busy before the price cuts. And I can only do so many rides an hour. Especially when passengers make me wait ten minutes to come outside or input the wrong location and I have to drive around looking for them. Then there’s traffic, unforeseen circumstances, driving to far off locations where you’re not likely to get a ride… the list goes on and on. It’s another lie. But we go along with it because we’re desperate. Or stupid. I don’t know which. Maybe both? (Of course, there are still Lyfters who are loyal to the brand. Bless their hearts.)

So how is not having a boss working out for us? Personally, I’d rather have the old boss. I don’t like the new boss. It’s like having a girlfriend or boyfriend who doesn’t want to put a “label” on things. You kind of suspect they’re two-timing you, but they’re just so cute. You can’t meet their friends. They always come to your house. Eat your food. Hog the comforter at night. And you can’t call them anytime you want. Oh, no. You have to wait for them to call you. And if you ever say, Hey, I need a commitment, they give you a million reasons why this relationship works best for YOU. And it sounds so convincing and you begin to think that maybe they do have your best interests at heart. They’re trying to protect you. So you go along with it because every once in a while, they’re just so fantastic. And you feel so loved. But deep down, you know the desperation has turned you blind to your own best interests. And one day, you’ll wake up and realize they don’t actually give two shits about you. You’re just one fool in a long line of fools who fall for their crap. You’re just somebody to keep them from being lonely on a Saturday night.

The day will come when all rideshare drivers have a similar revelation. And like that guy with the thick black book, Uber and Lyft need to keep enough irons in the fire so they never have to spend a Saturday night alone.

That’s the new boss.

I miss the old boss.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ridesharing is a racket. There’s no way to win. Unless you want to join a cult or run your car into the ground. Then it’s a great way to make a few extra bucks a week. Just don’t think about what might happen if you get in an accident or need new brakes or what you’re going to do when it comes time to pay Uncle Sam. Whatever you do, do not think about that.

FUCK RIDESHARE! A Collection of Pissed Off Facebook Posts from Uber & Lyft Drivers

This very small collection of Facebook comments left by angry Uber and Lyft drivers dates from Fall 2014, when Uber and Lyft lowers prices to the point that many drivers who had been on the platform for over a year or longer felt they could no longer continue to afford to drive for these e-hailing companies.

There have been many price cuts since this one, and many before, but this was the first major reaction to them.

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