Uber and Lyft have become a household name, synonymous with getting a cheap ride. If you ask someone how they are getting somewhere and they say “I’m taking a Lyft” you know exactly what they are talking about. Beyond that, however, you probably don’t give a rat’s ass about either of the companies or how they operate.
As a driver, it amazes me the incorrect beliefs that people have about Lyft/Uber, drivers, fares, and how the system works (or doesn’t work). I hope this article finds its way to the mainstream media, so some of the truths about what drivers have to deal with will come to light. Unfortunately, there are a lot of lies surrounding these two companies.
I began driving about 2 years ago, and during that time I have given well over 10,000 rides. Full time driver, 50-70 hours per week for the past 2 years. As time has gone by, I have discovered many ways to become more efficient and earn more while spending less. However, the companies have continued to take more and more from the drivers. To give you an idea of how bad it has gotten, I will tell you that my gross earnings 1.5 years ago were about $1,500 per week. Today that number is just under $1,000. These are gross revenue numbers, and do not take into account ANY expenses, including gasoline (which has gone up 25% the past 6 months), insurance, tires, brakes, oil changes, etc etc. And during this time, I have figured out how to make MORE money, so the numbers should be increasing, right?
Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft continue to promote this “business opportunity” as a high paying gig. Numerous studies have been done by independent groups to determine how much the average driver really makes. The results vary, but one thing that is widely agreed upon by all is that full time Uber and Lyft drivers are in the bottom 10% of earners in the USA. That doesn’t stop the companies from continuing to lie about how much drivers make! I saw a Lyft ad on the internet from a couple months ago that claimed that their drivers get paid $35/hour. Two years in and I can count on two hands the number of times I have made that kind of money, BEFORE expenses.
What about surge pricing?
Surge pricing is the economic solution to an imbalance in supply and demand. It is very common in many industries. Have you ever noticed that flowers are more expensive around Valentine’s Day, or that parking costs more when there is an event going on? Flights and hotels get more expensive surrounding a major holiday? Surge pricing is nothing new.
The idea behind surge pricing is that the drivers are more incentivized to drive into horrible traffic conditions to pick someone up when they are paid more. As a semi-normal human being, I will avoid rush hour traffic. But if you pay me double or triple, I will put aside my frustrations and race headstrong into the gridlock!
In April 2017 both Uber and Lyft disconnected driver pay from what riders are charged. Drivers currently (September 2018) get paid a flat dollar amount per mile and per minute, plus a base charge. The amount varies from market to market. These amounts are completely independent of what the passenger pays. So, a passenger might be paying triple, or might have a free ride, and the driver has no idea because they make the same amount either way. In other words, the surge price is not always passed on to the driver! In many of the markets, the companies have completely eliminated the surge payments to drivers altogether. There are many examples (with proof) on the driver internet forums of passengers who have been charged $100+ and the driver is only paid $20 or so.
So why drive?
Many drive because they have to. The economy is not that great, regardless of what the news reports say. There are plenty of jobs out there, if you don’t mind minimum wage or straight commission. Unless you are highly skilled or know someone up top, it is hard to find a good paying job. I suggest you take a personal poll: ask your next 20 Uber or Lyft drivers if they have a college degree. If so, then why are they driving?
But enough about drivers. Maybe I can help answer a few pax (passenger) questions! I have heard just about every complaint that there is about drivers, and might be able to help explain some common scenarios. Go ahead, ask your questions.
Okay, I ordered a ride, and the driver drove around randomly, then drove away. I called and the driver ignored my call. Why?
Simple – money. Most drivers drive for both companies. If a request comes in they will accept it, but keep their other app on in case a better request comes in. If they get a better request (perhaps a closer ride, perhaps a ride with a surge payment) then they will take that one instead.
Now you are wondering why they didn’t just cancel your ride if that was the case, right? Because Uber and Lyft will punish drivers (by terminating them) if their cancellation rates get too high. So the driver will wait for YOU to cancel. They know that you will get charged a fee, and with a few clicks in the app (on your end) the fee will get refunded to you. No punishment to you, no punishment to them.
When I get in the car, why does my driver always ask where we are going? I already put the address in the system!
Uber and Lyft do not show the address to the driver until AFTER the driver accepts the customer in their car. They do this to avoid drivers cherry picking their rides. If a driver knew that you just wanted to go to the drive thru and back, they would cancel the ride (and so would the next driver, and the next). When the driver pulls up they have no idea if you are going to the airport, or McDonald’s, or the movies, or 10 blocks away.
By the way, when the driver asks “Where are we going”, they aren’t trying to be nosey. They are not looking for you to say Home or Work, they want an answer “10th street, near the hospital” or “downtown Springfield”. They are trying to confirm that you are going to the address that was put in the system, because sometimes it gets put in wrong and they want to take you to the correct place.
Is it just me, or is the quality of drivers going down?
No, it’s not just you. Once again, it boils down to money and the overwhelming greed these companies are displaying. By continually reducing the amount that they pay drivers, they force out people with marketable skills into better paying jobs. The people who take their place are often immigrants who don’t know the area and may have challenges with English (making it harder for them to get jobs elsewhere), retired people, unemployed, or stay-at-home parents. When a driver is less than full time they may not know the city as well. Often times retired folks have challenges driving while looking at their GPS. Unless someone is a full time driver, they may not give you the smooth experience you have come to expect.
Not to say that new drivers or part timers are bad! Every individual should be judged on their own merits. It’s just that I have heard a LOT of horrible driver stories, and they almost always involve drivers that are new to the system (under 3 months) or can’t speak English.
There is no real screening to become a driver. No interview process. Nothing. If you have a good enough vehicle, clean driving record, and almost clean background, you can be a driver. The result? Too many drivers! The companies hire as many as they can, and figure the bad ones will be kicked out eventually with bad ratings. Which brings up another point…
When a driver’s rating drops below 4.60, that’s when the driver is faced with possible termination. So think twice before you give your driver a rating below 5 stars. Were they so bad that you want to get them fired? Because that is what you are telling Uber or Lyft.
Why is my passenger rating low? I don’t understand, I am always friendly to drivers!
This is an easy one. Golden rule – treat others how you would want to be treated. It is more than just a smile and “Hello, how is your day?”
Keep in mind that when you are getting into someone’s car, there is an element of personal space going on. The driver may not appreciate the smell of smoke, body odor, or strong food odors, any more than you do.
Drivers also don’t make very much for waiting, the money is made when the wheels are turning. So making them wait 3-5 minutes for you to get in the car can be frustrating for many people. If it takes the driver 6 minutes to arrive, why in the world do you need another 3-4 minutes to come get in the car? The same goes for drive-thrus. Drivers make so little on the time portion of the ride that many drivers will refuse to take people through a drive-thru or stop at stores. It’s not because they are jerks, it’s because the companies pay the equivalent of less than minimum wage for that idle time.
Many drivers are annoyed by someone who yacks away on their phone or watches videos with the sound turned up during the ride. Compare this to going to a restaurant and having to listen to the guy at the next table talk on his phone the entire meal. Annoying, right?
Each of us have different tolerances for various laws, please don’t ask your driver to break any! You may be fine with driving with an open container of alcohol, or letting your 2 year old ride with no car seat, but your driver may feel quite different about it. Telling the driver that “it’s okay, all my other Uber drivers let me do it” will only make it worse, because that shows that you make it a habit to disrespect your drivers.
Cash is king. Have you ever tried to pay your electric bill with stars and badges? It doesn’t work. The driver is working to earn money, cash tips help with ratings. Tips in the app are great, however the driver is FORCED to rate you before they know that you gave them a tip, which sucks. The rating they give you is based on the assumption that you will not be tipping in the app, even if you say something like “I always tip all my drivers”. Can’t tell you how many times I have heard that, and then no tip shows up later.
When you order a ride for a friend, the conduct of your friend will translate into a rating on your account. If your friend is a jerk, you may get an email warning you to be nicer to drivers. If your friend throws up or spills anything, you will be the one getting charged a cleaning fee.
What about animals?
Some people love animals, some do not. Don’t expect every driver to feel the same way about Fluffy as you do. Animals tend to walk on the ground, and when they get in a vehicle their (dirty) feet should not be walking on the seats. Especially if it is raining or snowing out! The next pax may be wearing a bridesmaids dress, and that dirt that you take for granted will not be appreciated.
Many animals have claws, and whether they mean to or not those claws can damage the interior of a vehicle. The driver doesn’t know if your pet is declawed, or has fleas, or who knows what.
When you order a ride, I suggest you text the driver immediately and let them know of your animal. If they have a problem with it, they will cancel and you can get a different driver. Better to be matched with someone more tolerant right away, don’t you think?
If you have a service animal, the driver is required to take you. Federal laws (ADA) have zero tolerance for drivers who refuse service animals. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are NOT legally classified as service animals, and are NOT protected under the ADA. In many states, claiming that an ESA is a service animal is illegal and can land you with a hefty fine, if push comes to shove. Remember that you get more flies with honey than vinegar. A little courtesy and asking for permission will get you much farther than a chip on the shoulder.
Hopefully, this has all been helpful. Good luck!
Got an Uber ping, 3 minutes away. Drive over and the house is in the middle of the block. Parked cars on both sides, enough room for ONE vehicle to travel in the street. Fortunately, there are no vehicles except mine, so I pull up in front of the house and wait. If another car comes I will have to move, but I am okay for now. A minute goes by, no customer. 2 minutes, no customer. A car approaches, now I have to pull forward 2 houses into the only open space (blocking someone’s driveway), so the other car can go by. May as well wait there, stay out of the way in case more traffic approaches.
Pax finally arrives. Gets in the back and gives me the all-too-common greeting. “Hi sorry about the wait I’m Ted the house is back there but that’s okay how are you today?” I check the name, Ted is close enough. I smile and say “Hi there, is it just you today?” Ted says “Yes, just me and my friend, he is coming, he was just getting something.” So we wait even longer.
Another minute goes by and Ted’s friend gets in the car. “Hello thanks for waiting how is your day going?” I put up a fake smile and say “I am doing okay. Are we ready to go?” After hearing a yes, I start the trip (at the 4:15 mark).
The trip is just a short one, going to the MAX station (MAX is our light rail). I drop them off and count the time. Let’s see, 4 minutes driving there, plus 4 minutes waiting, and 6 minutes to the drop off. That’s 14 minutes, and I get $3.75 before gas and costs. I can’t afford to keep doing short rides at that payout. I give out a one star for a short ride with no cash tip.
Lyft is way better.
The MAX station is at a mall. I get a Lyft ping to pick up at the Dairy Queen on the other side of the mall. Depending on lights and traffic, this should take anywhere from 30 seconds to 7 minutes to get there. I slog through the parking lot, eventually get to the street. Wait for the light so I can turn left. Wait for the next light so I can turn left. I get a block away from DQ and I hear “NAVIGATING TO PICK UP SAM”. Fricking Lyft switched rides on me, when I am a block away! Naturally, the pickup is 1.3 miles in the opposite direction of where I am heading. I pull over and cancel the new Lyft ride.
Pissed that Lyft swapped rides on me, I decide to fight for the cancel fee that I didn’t get from the DQ pickup. I navigate the Lyft app until I find an option that says CALL ME and push it. My phone rings immediately, and I get the never-ending hold music. I know I will get paid for the cancel, it’s just annoying having to waste this time.
Uber is way better.
Knowing this could be a long wait, I turn on Uber and get a ping immediately, hooray! The Uber ping is in the mall, so I head back into the parking lot. I pull up in front of Barnes and Noble (where it tells me to) and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. I am illegally parked right up front, red curb, people walking by giving me the stink eye. Listening to the Lyft hold music the entire time.
At the 4:30 mark the pax send me a text, telling me that they are by the movie theater (on the opposite side of the mall). Now I’m pissed, why did you wait until 4:30 to tell me?!? A little common courtesy and I would have gone all the way around the mall to get you, but no….. Cancel, collect my $3.75.
Lyft is way better.
The Lyft customer service rep finally comes on line, after 11 minutes, asks me how can she help? I say that I did not get paid a cancel fee. She has me verify my name, phone number, and email address. Then she asks me how can she help today? Uh….. I did not get paid a cancel fee. She pulls up my ride history, and tells me that there is no record of that pickup (from DQ). Do I remember the pax name? Yes, it was Will. Do I have Will’s last name? Uh….. At this point I want to reach through the phone and shake the stupid out of her. I know that the companies don’t bother training drivers, but you would think that they would provide at least minimal training to their support reps!
She insists that there was no ride for anyone named “Will” in my history. Of course not, because it was redispatched to someone else and you guys assigned me to Sam, and your system erases any rides that were redispatched. No sir, that is not correct, it would show in my system. BS!!! I WANT TO SPEAK TO A SUPERVISOR!!! Another 10 minutes to get my cancel fee.
Uber is way better.
Uber pickup, I drive 5 minutes to a Marriott and anxiously hoping for a would-be airport run. People lingering about out front, in the lobby, but no one wanting a ride. Fingers crossed, come on airport ride! A minute goes by, then two, then three, then four….
A man jogs across traffic and gets in the back seat. “Hi, I’m Al.” Check the phone, yes that’s the right name. He tells me the pickup was supposed to be a block away, and he jogged over here. I show him my phone, which clearly displays the pickup as the hotel. He says “Yeah, I dunno, Uber has been doing that to me lately, setting the pickup at the wrong spot.” Okey dokey…
Destination is a restaurant 0.8 miles away. Terrific, another minimum fare. 5 minutes arriving, 4 minutes waiting (in the wrong spot), and 4 minutes to the next place. That’s $3.75 for 13 minutes of my time, before gas and expenses, what a waste. I dish out another one star and mumble something that rhymes with “bucking tuber”.
Lyft is way better.
Lyft ping, 8 minutes away (which is really 10-11). PASS. Lyft message pops up telling me that if I need a break, I should go offline. If I don’t want the ride, I should press the X.
Lyft ping, 11 minutes away (which is really 14-15). PASS. Lyft message pops up telling me that if I need a break, I should go offline. If I don’t want the ride, I should press the X.
Lyft ping, 3 minutes away. Accept, start driving. I get to the corner and it cancels. Grrrrr.
Lyft ping, 7 minutes away (which is really 9-11). PASS. Same old Lyft message.
I start looking at UP posts, and a Lyft ping comes in. My finger was touching the screen the split second the sound was made, and I auto-accepted the ride, not knowing ANYTHING about it. Turns out it is 13 minutes away. Cancel!
Lyft ping, 10 minutes away (which is really 12-15). PASS. Same old Lyft message.
I must have seen that message 10,000 times by now. Get a clue, Lyft! Do you really think that stupid popup message is going to get me to change my habits? All it does is remind me how much you don’t care.
And why do you have to lie about the time, Lyft? And why don’t you show the mileage to pickup, you know that drivers find that important? And why do you round off the rider’s rating, that’s annoying. And why is it that once I accept the ride, I can’t look and see what the pax’s rating is ever again? And why do you think that I will honor a request that was accepted without giving me a chance to read the screen?
Uber is way better.
Finished an Uber surge ride, just a 1.4x unfortunately. Surge is so rare around here that I have a better chance of seeing a unicorn on some days. Checked my pay to make sure I actually got the 1.4x.
Look at my daily summary of trips. Uber, 12 trips, 1 tip. Lyft 10 trips, 6 tips. All too common in my town. Uber pax don’t tip, Lyft at least you have a 50/50 chance of getting something.
Lyft is way better.
Sitting around waiting for rides, check my ratings. Not that it matters, ratings are really irrelevant. My Uber rating is the same as it was yesterday, and the day before, and the week before, and the month before. I brush the cobwebs off the numbers on the screen, thinking that maybe I should punch an Uber pax just so my rating would change.
My Lyft rating has dropped another .03 since yesterday. Three months ago I was at 4.77. Two months ago I hit 4.98. One month ago I hit 4.82. Yesterday I was in the low 4.9s, now in the upper 4.8s.
I stopped trying to figure out who gave me bad ratings long ago. It doesn’t matter, really, since the bad rating will fall off within the month on Lyft.
I look on UP.net, and see another thread from a newbie about how ratings are so unfair, and they have 57 rides and they got one bad Lyft rating and it dropped their rating from a perfect 5.0 to 4.35 or something stupid. Why does Lyft continue with the volatile ratings methods? It’s ridiculous.
Uber is way better.
Pax always ask me “Which do you like better?” My response is always the same: “No preference. Comparing Uber and Lyft is like comparing Walmart and Target. They both suck. Drivers just have to deal with it.”
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