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Ubering it Forward

Published by Casandria in the blog Casandria's blog.

The majority of what you see on this site is all about how to make the most money out of Uber, usually at the expense of the passenger. However, I would like to posit a slightly radical approach to Ubering. One of using Uber to give back rather than take.

Regardless of your faith, generosity or stinginess is indicative of who you are at your core. We all rant about rich pax who don't tip and acknowledge those who are less wealthy who do show their appreciation monetarily, but when do we as drivers do our part? I realize it's difficult due to the majority of pax being self-entitled, obnoxious morons that treat us as slaves, but the reality is that there is a great opportunity to do good here if one is so inclined.

My first opportunity to pay it forward was picking up a newly graduated kid in the Air Force. He was coming back from visiting his family for the holidays. Due to a regulation on the distance he could travel in a day, he had to stop every 10 hours for the night. He couldn't afford a hotel room so he had been sleeping in his car. He had hit a pothole when he was almost back to the base and I was picking him up at a repair shop. He was thin and frozen and his nose wouldn't stop running. I helped him load all his stuff into the car and as soon as he started telling me about his drive, I ended the trip in the app.

I couldn't do anything about the $5 he was charged, but I was going to make sure he didn't have to pay anymore. I got him to the base and helped him unload everything to the sidewalk as being a civilian, I couldn't go any further. He was very thankful and it felt good to finally be able to help someone again after being dependent on the generosity of others for so long as my husband battles cancer.

One of the major beefs drivers have with Uber is the lack of a tip option, why? Because most people don't carry cash anymore. I'm among them. We live in a largely cashless society. That being said, the possibility, however remote, of a pax asking if I have change in order to tip me has resulted in me carrying cash.

A few weeks ago, I saw a gentleman in a wheelchair with no legs and a sign about him being a veteran. I know a lot of people don't want to give money to people on the corner because they don't know what they're going to do with it, but let's be honest. How many of you have gone home to a bottle of wine or scotch to deal with a bad day? Who are you to judge what this person does with what you give him in order to make it through the day? I was able to give him $5 that I had on hand for tip change. It made me feel like I was making someone's day a little brighter and that I was on the giving end rather than the needy end.

Flash forward a few weeks and I'm in a local grocery store taking a pee break and grabbing something to drink. A gentleman in line in front of me is having issues with his food stamp card. It's new to him and he's older so the technology needed to activate it is new to him as well. Having been on food stamps for the last year, I know it all too well. I tell him the number he needs to call to get it activated and he tries, but it just isn't working for him on his flip phone. At this point, I have a choice, let him figure it out on his own or fully commit and help him get it going.

I chose to go all in. I dialed the number from my smartphone, keyed in his food stamp card number, asked him what he wanted his PIN to be and get it all set up. I also waited while he did his first transaction with it for 2 pints of strawberries. He told the cashier he had found a genie. I shook his hand and said, “God bless you,” and went on my merry way.

As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I saw a man running across the middle of the street. He started dropping things as he was running and then I saw the people running after him. Turns out those things were actually packages of hot dogs. He was homeless and hungry and had stolen two packs of hot dogs. I saw the side street he ran down and followed him.

I caught up to him slowly so as not to scare him and rolled my window down. I told him I had seen what had happened and gave him the only cash I had, $6, and told him to go buy some food. He asked for a ride, but I wasn't that brave. It made me much more thankful. Sure, things are hard right now, but I'm not having to steal hot dogs to keep from starving. Really puts things in perspective when you can focus on your blessings and realize there are many that are much less fortunate.

Since then, there haven't been any other glaring opportunities to pay it forward, but I did get a chance to give a Lyft ride to a couple of blind women and their service dog which was a unique experience and I know how many drivers feel about dogs in their cars. He was very well behaved and rested his chin on the console so he could smell my fur babies on my sleeve. I had to work a little harder than usual in order to pick them up because they didn't know for sure which corner they were on until they asked someone, but I stayed on the phone with them until they figured it out and I could see them. Many of the drivers I've seen post here would have canceled as a no-show, collected their $6 and left them waiting in the cold rain for another driver who very well could have done the same thing.

Some go out of their way hoping to receive a tip for their “above and beyond” service. What if we did the same thing for those who can barely afford the Uber fare or those we encounter as we stop for a break? We rant about pax treating us like their personal servants or not valuing our time, but aren't we just as guilty of this? If we're counting down the minutes to hit the cancel button or accepting pings and then not intending to pick them up, how are we any better? This may all seem like I'm tooting my own horn and I was reticent to post because of this very fact, but I'm hoping that this will serve as a reminder to other drivers to view passengers not as “pax”, but as people, just like us.
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