Tag Archives: uberx

Your Uber Driver Hates You

UberHatesYou

But Your Lyft Driver Thinks You’re The Bee’s Knees
(Unless You Act Like You’re in An Uber – Then They Hate You Too)

TOO MUCH TO READ? THEN CHECK OUT THE LISTICLE

This post originally appeared on my previous blog on July 21, 2014

Where would the peer-to-peer economy be without trust?

Nobody in their right mind would give a complete stranger the key to their apartment or get into a random person’s car if they didn’t have faith in the safeguards enforced by the companies that function as intermediaries. Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and Lyft use Facebook accounts and/or cell phone numbers to authenticate the identities of their users, but miscreants can always find a way around those barriers. Ride-hailing services rely on background checks and driving records, which have been proven over and over to be far from foolproof. Then there’s the feedback system that’s supposed to ensure a quality experience for both parties, though it’s just as easily skewed.

In theory, the rating system used by Uber and Lyft allows riders to anonymously inform future passengers what to expect from their driver. As a driver, unless you’ve only given one ride that day, you never know which passengers rate you what. Like internet comments, this anonymity gives riders complete freedom to rate and comment without fear of reprisal. And they take full advantage of this liberty, which is reflected in most drivers’ low ratings. It’s almost impossible for a driver to have a 5 star rating for more than a day or two, unless they are in line to be sainted by Jesus Christ himself.

uber_rating1

The rating system is supposed to convey trust, but an unintended side effect seems to be taking hold. Uber and Lyft drivers are using the same rating system to secretly warn other drivers about problematic riders. And they are just as unforgiving as their passengers.

Surprise, surprise.

As a passenger, you know your driver’s rating. It pops up when they accept your ride request along with their picture and car details. But you never see your own rating. If you did, you might be surprised to discover how the people who drive you around town actually feel about you.

While Lyft drivers tend to get along well with their passengers, Uber drivers, for the most part, think their riders are assholes.

Uber vs. Lyft

lyft_ratingUber and Lyft distinguish themselves by how passengers interact with their drivers. Lyft’s “friend with a car” vibe encourages passengers to sit up front and chat with the driver during the ride. Uber, on the other hand, wants their passengers to feel like they have a personal driver, so they sit in the back and rarely say much besides hello and their destination. Who converses with servants anyway? Your flunky should be seen and not heard, right? Would you chat with your chambermaid while she’s cleaning your potty? Of course not!

Many rideshare customers, especially in San Francisco, use both platforms depending on price surging, availability or what kind of experience they’re in the mood for. I’ve had numerous passengers tell me that when they’re going to work, or in work mode, they take Uber so they don’t have to deal with any annoying conversations. But on the weekends, or if they’re going out, they take Lyft because it’s more fun.

Price wars are also a factor.

As a driver for both Uber and Lyft, you can easily tell which passengers use Lyft regularly and which passengers prefer Uber. And not just by where they sit or whether they talk to you, but through their ratings.

lyft_rating2Most Lyft users have 5 stars with the occasional 4.9. Those with a 4.8 rating are generally the ones who sit in back and stare at their phones. These are your Uber passengers, reluctantly slumming it with Lyft. They get in your car and immediately say, “I’m not going to do the fist bump, so don’t try it.” They express contempt for the pink mustache and seem relieved I don’t have one. They make it clear that they are only using Lyft out of necessity. I find this attitude amusing, though based on their rating, Lyft drivers have no doubt rated them low in the past for not playing along with the Lyft modus operandi.

Since the main difference between the Uber and Lyft experience is the talking, and the passengers with less than 5 stars on Lyft tend to be incommunicado during the ride, it’s not much a stretch to conclude that drivers hate being treated like a “personal driver” and they rate passengers lower for being unsocial. Regardless of which platform they are on.

Now, you might be thinking, aren’t Uber drivers supposed to just get you where you’re going and keep their trap shut?

Sure, but they’re still humans with feelings. So while you sit in the back seat, browsing Facebook to keep you distracted, your driver is seething with animosity at your entitled and unfriendly attitude. The only recourse he or she has is to use the feedback system to rate you accordingly, and that’s a 4 at best.

Very few Uber passengers have 5 stars. In fact, the percentages are completely reversed with Uber. From what I’ve seen so far, 95 percent of Uber passengers have 4.9 or lower. Those users with 5 stars have all started conversations with me, which makes it clear how they got their elusive 5 stars. In fact, after carting around a bunch of people for Uber who barely say hello and thanks, getting a talkative passenger is like finding a fellow countryman in a foreign land.

Face it, Uber users, when it comes to being a passenger, you suck!

Drivers are People Too

Last year, somebody figured out how to hack the Uber site to get passenger ratings. Twitter lit up with people posting the link and their ratings. Only a few had 5 stars. Some thought it was funny how low their ratings were, though most were chagrined by what they found.

Uber quickly put the kibosh on the leak, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the time if that brief window into the reality of passenger ratings might have finally alerted passengers that they’re not immune to criticism just because they take advantage of a frictionless payment system.

Bidirectional ratings are just that: they go both ways.

Nobody likes negative ratings. Drivers complain about their ratings all the time. It’s not easy making people happy. Even when a ride has gone perfectly, there is never a guarantee that the passenger will be satisfied.

lyft_summary_sample

While I always rate passengers 5 stars, even when I’ve had to deal with some real stinkers, my passengers haven’t been as generous with me. Like other drivers, I’m always shocked when my rating goes down. Lyft considers a 4.8 rating “awesome,” but it still hurts to think that I’ve failed to do my simple task of driving a car, something I’ve been doing in cities across the country going on twenty-five years now.

When I get my weekly summaries from Uber and Lyft, I wrack my brain thinking of how I might have messed up or disappointed the passengers who rated me lower than 5 stars. It usually happens after a good night too. Nobody ever gives any indication they are dissatisfied with my driving. Which is why I’m convinced the passengers who converse with me must think I’m some kind of freak for talking about art, literature, architecture, geography, the history of San Francisco and the way the city spreads out across the sky from the top of Potrero Hill. And they hate my music: that dreadful rock and roll nobody listens to anymore.

For every person who finds me entertaining or interesting or feels a kindred spirit with me, there are those who rate me less on my ability to get them from point A to point B and more on an inscrutable formula that only makes sense to them. And while I can usually navigate the city from memory, avoiding traffic jams and unpleasant streets, and maintain a relatively intelligent conversation along the way, in the new San Francisco, that’s only worth three stars. Four at best.

lyft_ratings3

The More You Know…

Maybe if passengers knew what their ratings were, they might want to protect them as much as drivers do. Perhaps it would make them a little less demanding as well. So I missed a turn. Big deal. So I went in a direction that had too many stop signs. Whatever. So I want to tell you how my cousin’s girlfriend has the same name as you when you’re in the middle of reading an email. Get over it! After all, it’s easy to be judgmental when you’re the one with the gavel. Flip that shit around and it’s not as much fun.

The Uber ratings leak also raises the question: why don’t rideshare companies show passengers their ratings in the app? Don’t they want passengers to improve?

Could it be that Uber and Lyft don’t want customers to know their ratings because they mean nothing? The only real consequence is that some drivers won’t pick up passengers with low ratings. Otherwise, what’s the likelihood that a paying customer will be kicked off the platform for having a low rating? Not bloody likely!

The rating system is only there to keep drivers in check. You drive with the constant fear that if your rating slips too low you’ll be deactivated. Thus, it’s no wonder drivers have begun using that same system to strike back at what they don’t like about their own experiences. Even if the passengers never find out.

So the next time you take an Uber or a Lyft, why not ask your driver what your rating is. You might just be surprised how big of an asshole you really are.

shitty_uber_passengers

Hey!

Don’t want to be a shitty Uber passenger?

THEN READ THIS AND DO THE OPPOSITE: TEN REASONS WHY YOUR UBER DRIVER HATES YOU

—-

Uber & Lyft Drivers Are This Year’s Surge Price Whiners

lyft_nye_jackpotIt’s New Year’s Day. When pissed off Uber passengers usually storm Twitter to express their outrage at surge pricing and post ridiculously high fare summaries from their rides the night before. But this year, it’s the drivers who are doing all the complaining. Sure, some folks around the country got hit with some high ticket rides, but at this point, we all know they were asking for it. These people also probably complain about every aspect of their unfortunate lives on Twitter. So fuck them.

The drivers, on the other hand, dutifully went out last night, encouraged by Uber and Lyft with promises of high ticket fares, and they were left hanging. Of course, the fact that Uber also sent messages to passengers basically telling them not to take rides, proves, once again, that Uber and Lyft do not know what the fuck they are doing. Yeah, they know how to make apps and utilize unbridled ambition to push their way through government regulation. But they have no clue how to perform like a company that actually wants to perform a service.

(Read my full NYE coverage here.)

These are mostly from Bay Area and LA drivers. Click on any image to view as sideshow:

Night of the Living Taxi: The Epic Rideshare Fail of NYE 2015

NYE_lyft

In San Francisco, New Year’s Eve was the night of the taxi.

Flywheel, the taxi-hailing app, was offering $10 rides (up to $50) from 8PM to 3AM. Luxor Cab was giving away free rides (up to $35) from bars and restaurants to residences during 10PM and 4AM. For once, passengers had plenty of options. The muni was free all night. Bart ran until 3AM. So riders who normally take Uber and Lyft would have to be seriously committed to rideshare not to take advantage of those deals.

From everything I saw on the road and read about on Facebook groups and Twitter (I had plenty of time to kill online), Flywheel’s gambit paid off. As I cruised all over town, mostly alone, wasting over a quarter tank of gas in the process, I rarely saw an empty cab. From the Marina to Hayes Valley, from the Mission to the Richmond, I laughed and cried at all those taxis jam-packed with fresh young faces. The kind of folks you usually see in Ubers and Lyfts. I may have even recognized a few. They certainly weren’t getting in my car. I had the worst Wednesday night ever! $60 for over five hours of driving. That is was New Year’s Eve seemed incidental.

nye_lyft_driver_promotionI drove exclusively for Lyft only because I’d reached my Uber breaking point a few weeks ago and owe them $200 for cracking the iPhone 4 they issued me when signing up, back when Uber didn’t allow drivers to use the app on their personal phones, charging us $10 a week in rental fees instead. If I wasn’t already going to bail on Uber, they made the decision easy for me.

So Lyft it was. And Lyft it was not.

It didn’t matter though. Business was just as dead for Uber. Despite claims that this New Year’s Eve was going to be the biggest yet and some bigwigs expecting them to pull in $100 million, the local driver groups on Facebook were inundated with pissed off drivers. Because there was no surge!

Some commenters speculated there were too many drivers on the road. But during events like Outside Lands, when the streets are filled with Uber/Lyfts, there are plenty of rides to go around.

Besides busy taxis, I saw large groups of revelers at bus stops and crowds of people walking the streets too. Especially in the Mission. Could it be that I’m not the only one fed up with Uber’s crap and opted instead to take cabs, the bus, Bart or even just walk?

Besides the near constant backlash against Uber for their unfair business practices, inadequate background checks, surge pricing and tone-deaf responses to the public’s concern, it didn’t help their reputation that a new rape case was just reported on New Year’s Eve. A Chicago driver who was using his wife’s Uber account allegedly abducted an unconscious female passenger and raped her in their home. According to the victim, afterwards he told her, “I made you happy.” This chilling case demonstrates, once again, that there is no accountability to Uber’s grossly lenient onboarding system. Anybody can use another driver’s account or cheat their way onto the system. So how are passengers safe? (I posed this question to Travis Kalanick on Twitter, but even if he did reply, we all know what his canned response would be.)

If you take all the negative aspects of Uber and wrap it into a ball, you’d have a meteorite that could easily wipe out the entire Bay Area. Offer $10 rides as alternative to that impending disaster and you get a surge free New Year’s Eve.

At least in San Francisco.

Of course, there were several reports on Twitter of high fares the day after New Year’s, but with all the brouhaha about Uber’s surge pricing in the media, people who complain about it now should be publicly shamed for being an #UberFool.

Just Another Uber Bait & Switch

After Uber announced that surge pricing was a foregone conclusionthe media followed suit, highlighting outrageously expensive rides in the past. People were looking at the possibility of 10X surge. To encourage their drivers, Lyft, who usually caps their Prime Time pricing at 200%, increased the limit to 500% for New Year’s Eve.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received multiple emails and texts from Uber and Lyft encouraging me to drive on the big night.

uber_questionaire

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 5.34.30 PM

As they were emailing drivers with promises of riches for driving New Year’s Eve, they were sending out emails to riders warning them to avoid taking rides at certain times:

uber_surge_warning_email

Whether or not they really wanted to create a clusterfuck of confusion, Uber screwed over their drivers with typical flair. Like a perfect representation of how pissed off drivers were, for most of the night, the Uber heat map never went past yellow:

yellow_heat_map_uber2

At 7PM, as promised, Lyft initiated a 50% Prime Time in the eastern part of the city. But there were no rides in that area. After dropping off a couple at Bay and Mason, I drove through North Beach, the Marina, Pac Heights, Hayes Valley… all the way to 23rd and Geary, well out of the Prime Time range, before catching another ride.

NYE_heat_map_lyft

All my rides were from the Sunset or Richmond. None were charged Prime Time. In fact, around 9:30 PM, the 50% Prime Time went away.

It didn’t come back in full force until after midnight. Uber started surging as well. It got up to an incredible 7x in the North Bay. There was some 3x and 4x in the city and one driver said they got a 200% PT from Lyft. Not much better than a normal rush hour or Saturday Night.

I cut my losses and gave up at 11 pm to watch the fireworks with Irina from Potrero Hill. Later, I monitored the Facebook groups to get the details. I didn’t miss much.

sf_cabs_caltrain2

Taxi’s Night to Shine

It’s obvious that Flywheel’s $10 rides worked like a charm. Over the next few days, I hope to see numerous reports about how FlyWheel gave Uber and Lyft a taste of their own medicine.

And good for them.

I was barely able to break even for the night, after expenses, and will no doubt have to pay late charges on my credit cards because I didn’t make enough money over the slow holiday period, but it was spectacular to witness taxis kicking rideshare to the curb.

They proved to the city of San Francisco, and maybe the world, that Uber’s value is only limited to their perceived dominance. If people have real options, and those options are cheaper, or at least not as deceptive, Uber will become the emperor with no clothes.

Now the question is, will Flywheel and the taxi companies be able to capitalize on their victory?

Being Uber Ain’t Easy: Why All Rideshare Drivers Should Support Regulation

ridesharing_is_cheap

Originally appeared on Disinfo.com:

The global pushback against Uber domination continues to gain momentum. Over the past few weeks, the ride-hailing app was banned in IndiaThailand and Francesuspended in Spain and challenged in BelgiumGermanythe Netherlands and South Korea. Across the US, local governments in OregonArizonaNevadaTexasPennsylvania and California are cracking down on the San Francisco-based behemoth, as well as its smaller rival, Lyft. Every day there are more and more articles in major news outlets documenting the growing rideshare backlash.

Uber responds to the lawsuits and rampant criticism with aplomb, holding the ship steady amid a tempest of dissent. They are always quick to fire back. When they’re not threatening journalists, they accuse city councils of subjecting them to unfair burdens. They claim their model of ridesharing is under attack by government overregulation. Since they profess to be a technology and not a transportation company, they argue they’re immune to the same laws that taxi companies must adhere to. They demand special treatment because they are disrupting the evil “taxi cartel” and bringing quality service to the masses. They hire lobbyists and ask their supporters – both drivers and passengers – to sign petitions and join rallies. They set up web pages to make it easy for customers to contact their representatives.

Being Uber means you never have to take your face out of an iPhone. Click a button, get an Uber ride. Click another, support the Uber cause.

As an Uber/Lyft driver, I’ve received dozens of emails and texts encouraging me to resist government meddling. I may drive for these companies, but I’m not stupid. Just broke and desperate. Which is why I use my own car as an unlicensed taxicab, despite the risks associated with transporting drunk and impatient people through crowded urban streets. I know I’m not protected from misfortune. When something goes wrong, whether it be car-maintenance or worse, I’m on the hook. My personal insurance policy is completely invalid when driving for-hire. If I get in an accident, I’ll be at the mercy of the offshore insurance company Uber uses to cover their drivers. From everything I’ve read about the experiences of other drivers, Uber won’t be clamoring to come to my aid. There isn’t even a number to call in case of an emergency. I could have bodies splattered all over the asphalt and still only be able to submit a support ticket through Uber’s website. And hope for the best. Even though drivers make these companies billions of dollars, we are entirely alone out on the streets.

Being Uber means never thinking about the consequences of being Uber.

So why support a system that puts the underemployed at such an extreme disadvantage? It makes sense Uber customers would oppose regulation. Until something goes wrong. They just want cheap, efficient rides and a cashless payment system. But a regulated Uber and Lyft are in drivers’ best interests. After all, we are the ones with everything at stake.

Maybe I am kind of stupid.

Safety Not Guaranteed 

Regulation is all about insurance and background checks. Taxi companies are required to provide adequate insurance and use Live Scan background checks to properly vet their drivers. So what’s the big deal? Uber was just valued at $40 billion. Why can’t they provide adequate insurance and fork over the cash for industry-standard background checks? They have no problem writing code that makes hailing a car as easy as touching the screen of a smart phone, but when faced with a little bureaucratic paperwork, suddenly they don’t have the resources?

It’s almost impressive how far Uber will go to avoid regulation. Shawn Marquez, the acting director of Arizona’s Department of Weights and Measures, which regulates cabs in the state, recently pointed out, “Some areas regulate how many cars you can have, their color, their year, how much the price is. In Arizona we don’t do any of that. You can have purple cars with stars and stripes as long as you have the insurance.” (Arizona continues to crack down on Uber and Lyft.)

Instead of playing by the rules, Uber just plows into cities across the world and sets up shop. They figure after getting public support for their service, they can argue they’re providing an invaluable service that consumers would suffer without. When the regulators come calling, they cry injustice and rally the legal teams. It’s a gambit that seems to be paying off. Even with several pending lawsuitsincluding PortlandSan Francisco and Los Angeles, they are still operating in those cities. Las Vegas seems to be the only municipality able to fend them off. (Though Portland is trying their damnedest to rout Uber’s advance into the Rose City.)

Being Uber means never taking “no” for an answer.

Lyft, on the other hand, is pulling out of places where regulation doesn’t bode with their model. In November, when the Houston city council approved regulations for rideshare services, they shut down operations, claiming background checks, increased insurance and safety exams create an undue burden for drivers. A few weeks ago, they ceased operations in Tacoma, Washington, after the city council passed regulations there. Since most people moonlight as Lyft and Uber drivers to supplement income, they don’t have time during the day, the argument goes, when they are supposedly at regular jobs, to sit around government offices waiting to get legal. (Never mind the fact that, as these companies squeeze the taxi industry, hordes of former cabbies are moving into rideshare.)

Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death

Uber and Lyft promote convenience. For passengers and drivers. They know people are lazy. If drivers had to get their fingerprints taken, pee in a cup and spend a day or two attending a class, they wouldn’t be as likely to sign-up. Or keep driving.

Where would the so-called sharing economy be without this ease of participation? Especially for the folks providing these peer-to-peer services? Why go through the hassle of setting up your house as a legitimate bed and breakfast when you can just list empty rooms on Airbnb? Why polish a resume and apply to temp agencies when you can post your services on TaskRabbit?

For the Average Joe, the idea of using his personal car to transport drunks may seem like a fun way to earn some extra money. That it requires very little effort makes it even more appealing. Taking time out of your day to get a license in order to be legit… well, that sounds like a total drag. Nobody enjoys going to government offices like the DMV. (When will there be an app to solve that hassle?)

Uber and Lyft know prospective drivers won’t take the extra steps to become legal. In a recent article on SFGate.com, Lyft’s vice president of government relations said as much: “Most people would sign up for Lyft if they could do it standing at line in the grocery store and spend five minutes.” The entire business model of ridesharing is based on a never-ending supply of moonlighters.

Need some extra money to pay off credit cards? Drive for Uber.

Bored at home and sick of watching TV on weekend nights? Turn on the Lyft app. Look, there’s surge pricing!

To become a Lyft driver, I just ran my thumb along a slider in the app. Filled out my personal information and provided my social security number, driver’s license and the make and model of my car. It was a breeze. The only obstacle was waiting for a response. But a week later, I was giving rides and making money.

With Uber, the process was just as simple. Except I never received the Uber-issued iPhone 5 required to access their app in the mail. I had to wait in line at Uber HQ. Which was a slightly harrowing experience. But the majority of drivers get their phones and placards shipped to them. They start driving without ever once looking an Uber representative in the face.

uncle_uber_sf_protest

The Uber Bait-and-Switch

This effortless process of onboarding is what pushes the ridesharing revolution. Anybody can get signed up without a hitch. But once you start driving, it’s a different story. From that point on, the experience becomes increasingly difficult.

Driving a car in a city like San Francisco is no cake-walk. When a request comes in, you have to deal with the app while negotiating traffic. You only have ten seconds to accept the ride. (Miss too many requests and you face deactivation.) Once you figure out where you’re going, you drive to the location and, invariably, wait in traffic with your hazards on for the person to saunter outside and get in the car. From there, the app tells you where the passenger wants to go and how to get there. But there’s still traffic to contend with. And along the way, you have to keep a careful eye on errant cars, belligerent cabbies and suicidal pedestrians. All the while maintaining a sunny disposition. It’s important to be accommodating to your passengers. Or risk a low rating. (If your rating gets too low, they deactivate you.)

Pro tip: When passengers ask if you like driving for Uber, always say you LOVE driving for Uber. Being Uber means not being afraid to tell a lie or two.

On the road, issues often arise that have to be dealt with, like unruly passengers, drunks, picking up the wrong personlost items that have to be returned, physical and mental stress, low rates that keep getting lower and an unfair rating system that allows riders upset about surge pricing and app glitches to take their frustrations out on drivers.

I’ve been driving Uber and Lyft for ten months. I’m not going to make it much longer. I don’t earn enough driving for Lyft and Uber to afford to keep driving for Lyft and Uber. My car is trashed and the only way I can make the kind of money to maintain it anymore is by driving ten to twelve hours a day. Which would only rag my car out even more. And hey, isn’t that the cabbie’s life? And what rideshare is ostensibly trying to disrupt?

Hell, I’d rather be a cabbie. They have it much better. They don’t have to use their own cars. Or shell out the big bucks for car maintenance. Or provide their own insurance. Or pay a deductible if they get in a no-fault accident. They don’t have to deal with the demands of self-entitled kids accustomed to getting the world handed to them on a silver platter and expecting premium service at a cut-rate price. (I’d take the tourist trade over the start-up crowd anyday!) Cabbies actually have their own businesses in the form of repeat customers. Charm and quality service don’t pay when you’re an Uber driver. But cabbies get tips. On top of all the other indignities Uber drivers suffer, we are also denied tips! According to Uber’s official policy, “Being Uber means there is no need to tip drivers with any of our services.”

So yeah…

Being Uber isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not for drivers. When you think about it, sitting in the waiting room of a government agency for a few hours to ensure you’re protected from the evil machinations of a corporation bent on world domination doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, it sounds kind of like a vacation.

For more insight into rideshare from a driver’s mostly altered perspective, check out my blog Behind the Wheel. Follow me on twitter

(Top photo taken by the author of artwork by Mansur. Second photo from a driver protest outside the Uber offices.) 

Uber is Walking for Lazy People: On The Five-Dollar Ride

five_dollar_ride_uber

The Six-Dollar Five-Dollar Ride

For an Uber driver, few things are worse than the five-dollar ride. Pukers definitely take the top spot, but they are nowhere near as common as the dreaded short rides.

In San Francisco, Uber charges a base fare of $2.20, $0.26 a minute and a $1.30 each mile. (When I first drafted this post a week ago, the rate was three dollars base, thirty cents each minute and a $1.50 a mile—that’s how quickly the rates are going down). The minimum fare is five dollars (previously six dollars). So anything under a mile is a five-dollar ride.

Of course, we only see 80 percent of that five-dollar fare. And it’s not like we get any tips to make up for the short ride. (Though maybe one day that will change.)

Five-dollar rides are hardly worth the effort. When you factor in gas, the time and effort spent driving to the passenger’s location, waiting for them to saunter outside, get into the car, give you directions and then drive them to their destination, that minimum fare ends up costing the driver more than the passenger.

People who take short rides know they are wasting our time. They often apologize when they get in the car.

“I’m only going a few blocks. Sorry.”

Technology is all about creating convenience. It makes us lazy. Uber is capitalizing on this culture of laziness by making rides so cheap. Why walk a few blocks when you can take an Uber for five bucks? Forget driver-less cars. Uber is now competing with the bus. The SF Muni costs $2.25. And unless you live on a bus line, you’ll still have a little walking to do. The horror! For most new San Franciscans, five dollars is a drop in the bucket. In a town where rent for a one-bedroom is over three thousand dollars, that’s pocket change. Most people make decent money. They can afford a few extra dollars. So why the hell not take an Uber?

Passengers don’t think about the consequences these five-dollar rides have on drivers. We do the short rides and keep our mouths shut, giving off the impression that we’re happy to do it. But convenience comes with a price and the person providing the convenience usually pays that price. Rideshares are great for the companies and users. But the drivers are fucked! The whole concept of Uber as some sort of “disruptor” is a farce. All Uber has done is become the very system they were trying to replace, except at a cheaper price and at the expense of drivers.

Low Fares Are Not Fair!

As Uber drivers, we are doing the jobs of cab drivers. Plain and simple. But we are paid less, we use our own cars, we are judged by an unfair rating system, we take almost all the risks, and we’re even denied a gratuity, one of the cornerstones of the service industry.

I recently read a post on an Uber Facebook group from a disgruntled driver who suggested we call passengers before we pick them up to find out where they’re going. That way we can decide whether to take the ride or cancel it. Since drivers can face deactivation if they reject or cancel too many rides, the poster even implied that he had a trick for getting passengers to cancel themselves, so it wouldn’t affect our ride acceptance rate.

Not a bad idea. We already see the passengers’ ratings, so we can reject rides based on that. Or the pickup location. Having the freedom to choose rides based on final destination would be a godsend!

Uber could easily install a feature that required passengers to input their destination. Right now it’s only voluntary and when passengers do add the address, the driver can’t see the location until the ride has started. Uber obviously knows that if drivers were able to see where a passenger is going we’d be more likely to cancel the short rides and wait for the longer, more lucrative ones. This activity dismantles the entire rideshare system. The whole point of Uber and Lyft is the ability to request a car and for it to actually show up.

Before Uber and Lyft, cab drivers were free to pick and chose a ride based on a passenger’s appearance, their level of sobriety and yes, destination. If they didn’t want to drive to a particular area of the city, they just didn’t let you into the cab. That’s the system these rideshare start-ups are trying to disrupt. Now Uber drivers are figuring out how to beat them at their own game by getting back to the way things were before. Because maybe, just maybe, that system wasn’t so flawed to begin with.

Cab drivers know that most people suck. They have to be particular. Uber drivers are beginning to realize the same thing. But we don’t have that luxury.

A passenger once asked me, when I was complaining about short rides, whether rideshare users would take cabs if Uber and Lyft weren’t around. Some would, sure, I said, but most people would probably take public transportation. They’d walk. Or they’d ride a bike.

I pointed out the example of surge pricing. When the prices are low, passengers are happy to request an Uber without a second thought. And the ride requests come in one after another. But anytime the prices are surging, the requests slow down to a trickle. Suddenly taking a stroll through the beautiful streets of San Francisco doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

It’s time to face facts, by continuing to lower their fares, Uber is perpetuating a culture of laziness. And they are benefiting from it with a seventeen forty billion dollar valuation. Uber is the darling of Silicon Valley. But drivers are paying an even greater price. So… what’s the going rate for self-worth these days?

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

rideshare_driver-2

(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