An UberX picks me up at my house for a rainy morning ride to the airport. Right away I admire the car choice - a clean silver Hyundai Accent, not new. The driver, Juan, greets me as he opens the trunk for my bag. I hesitate to sit in the back. I like to think this is my new friend, not my chauffeur. But Uber has made this dirt-cheap "rideshare" service something it's not, so I play the game and hop in the back seat.
Me: "Perfect car for UberX! What year is this?"
Juan: "Yea I love this car, it's a stick shift. 2006. Do you drive Uber?"
Me: "I used to but haven't driven in a few months. Rates are too low."
Juan: "It works for me."
Me: "Nice. Have you heard that now Uber has lowered the car year requirement to 2001?"
Juan: "Wow really? I looked at getting a new Prius but the payments are too much. Even a 2012 would be $250 a month. I drive 40k miles a year so after 5 years of payments the car would have 200k more miles."
Me: "I have a 2014 Prius and with this rate it's not worth it for me anymore to drive UberX. Depreciation is too high. "
Juan: "My friend just got a 2015 Camry hybrid to drive UberX. $600 a month."
Me: "Is that a loan through Uber -Santander?"
Juan: "Yes Uber loan"
Me: "It seems to me to be predatory lending. These poor people think they can get a new car and a job, work for themselves, it sounds so great. But as you said, after 5 years they have a car that's worth very little because it has 200k miles on it. That's if they drive that long."
Juan: "Yea my wife has a 2009 Prius but I prefer to drive this Hyundai."
Me: "How much was this car?"
Juan: "Got it at auction for $3200 two years ago. I am lucky and had no problems with it."
Me: "That's brilliant!"
Juan: "I plan to drive this car for a few more years, it only has 110k miles. My gas costs about $150 a week."
Me: "I'm guessing your paycheck is about $700 a week?"
Juan: "Yea, I get about $750 minus the gas is $600 a week. I used to work construction for $12 an hour, This is the same pay, but a lot less hard work. I also plan to go to school soon."
Me: "You are doing it right, you got the right car, and you will take advantage of the flexibility the job offers. "
Juan: "Did you drive Lyft?"
Me: "I used to do Lyft and Sidecar too."
Juan: "I tried to do Lyft but after the mentor ride they told me that my background didn't make their application."
Me: "You did the mentor ride and then were denied after? Is it because English isn't your first language?
Juan: "I don't know. I wanted to try it but with Uber I am busy anyways. Did you see my rating?"
Me: "No, what is it?"
Me: "That's impressive. Clean car, drive safe, be polite, you are doing it right. Do you work weekend nights?"
Juan: "Not unless I have to, I work everyday 4am to 10 or 11"
Me: "7 days a week?"
Juan: "No, monday to friday."
Me: "Ratings are worse at night. Drunk people are unreasonable. Maybe they don't see the stars right."
Juan: "Haha, you are right. I did the bar scene and downtown for awhile but my rating was 4.5 then."
Me: "Downtown at night is another reason I quit. Impossible to find passengers, traffic, and too many rides for only 5 blocks. If I ended up downtown often I would drive away empty just to get out of there."
Juan: "Yes. 15 minutes to pick them up and for a $4 trip. Terminal 1 or 2?"
Me: "Terminal 1, Southwest."
We arrive and I thank him for the ride. He assures me I will get 5 stars and I smile and reply the same. It's nice to see someone who has some practicalities of the business figured out and is making it work.
I have been living in the same house in Pacific Beach, California for close to 10 years. I was always asking girlfriends, friends, and roommates to give me a ride to and from the airport because the cost of a taxi has always been around $35+tip. On top of that it is well known that taxi service in San Diego generally stinks - literally and figuratively. Along comes Uber, and with the touch of a button, a driver comes to pick me up. Without fail, and I've never waited longer than 10 minutes, as Pacific beach is a hot zone for drivers. And now, the price, well it's almost too good to be true.
I have 3 ride examples below that show the price changes over the past year for UberX. All rides were from my house to the same terminal at the airport. We always took the same route. Their was never significant traffic, The ride is an average of 9 miles in distance. If I had someone take me it would be a potential 18 miles minimum roundtrip. That's if they lived at my house. 18 miles roundtrip at an estimated vehicle cost of $.50 cents a mile, is $9. And the time it would take them... It's just not worth it anymore. $14.34 to the airport is unreal, having spent over $30 for years. And of course I have referral credits, so it's free. Although it's borderline a waste of a $30 Uber credit to only spend $14.34 .
02/6/14 $21.38 no safe rides fee
$14.34 is 33% cheaper than a year prior @ $21.38
Some good thoughts, after a year of dwelling on Uber as a driver: In the past year I have noticed more former taxi drivers, and immigrants on the UberX platform. I would say though that the quality of service hasn't changed much. The cars are generally newer and clean, the drivers courteous. As a former UberX driver myself, I am always inquiring about their experience driving. My most recent driver said he works full time during the days, he drives a newer Prius, and has been doing UberX in SD since the original rates. He claims he still does alright, that he drives more, but that he makes pretty good money. He also markets his small travel business to riders. He pointed out the flexibility of the job, learning new things about his city - which he has lived 30 years in, and the downtime without passengers (essentially not working) as all reasons he continues to Uber despite the rate cuts.
You've been specially selected to get amazing discounts and special partner perks, just for driving."
Bullshit. Every driver gets these "Momentum Rewards". This is a quote from the driver dashboard in a flash section called "Rewards." My momentum is couched.
After completing 900 some rides from September 2013 through December 31st, 2014 with a rating of 4.84 - I am officially done. I'm fortunate to have other opportunities, and not have been sold into a lousy financing deal for an Uber car. The last straw for me wasn't the fact that I can only make 1/3 of what I did when I started, it is the lack of humanity from this corporation.
My driving had already tapered off significantly, in the fourth quarter of 2014 it is now clear to me that I only took 49 rides. Yeah, 49. Leading up to new years eve, December 31, 2014 - I knew I had 40 something rides completed. The new rewards program offers a 15% discount on your cell-phone plan if you complete 50 rides in a quarter. Oh those poor souls who let the passengers use Spotify and run up their personal data plan more than 15%. Oh your poor ignorant people, borrowing money from your car, driving around aimlessly in circles. Maybe you think you had a great week when you get your weekly summary and it says you made $24 fares per hour. You didn't. Read this forum. It's all a sales pitch. This company markets more to drivers than to riders. And when you look for support as a "partner", you will find your interraction worse than Time Warner Cable. The basis for this article is a conversation between Uber "Partner" Support and myself after New Years Eve. I did a few rides, and when I went to check my dashboard to see how many more I needed to get my cell-phone discount the system told me it was already 2015. I wish I had the screenshot. I no longer could see how my total ride count, and at that point it seemed pointless to take more rides having missed my total for 2014. So I e-mailed them, to see if they would treat me, as a person. No such luck.
Here is the correspondence in total.
Me, Jan 1st
Hello. All week I planned to work NYE because I received all these notifications from you about how busy it would be. Moreover I planned to work as I had to only complete a few rides to qualify for the phone discount reward. After giving a few rides (it was slower than an average night), I checked my dashboard and noticed my rewards points total had been reset. Here I am December 31st looking at the dashboard and it says the current rewards program is Jan 1st-. How can that be? How is it already into the next time period the day before?! How discouraging, to make plans to complete a goal for a reward and have the system seemingly tell me the program is prematurely over. How can you justify this? I await your answer.
Paige, Jan 1st (Uber)
Thanks for reaching out! Although New Year's Eve is typically the busiest night of the year for trip requests, we cannot guarantee that all areas will experience a higher than normal trip volume. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. I have forwarded your issue regarding the Phone Discount Reward Program to the appropriate team at Uber. You should hear back soon.
Bob, Jan 1st (Uber)
Apologies, I misunderstood the nature of your question. My guess is that attribution for the program is set to greenwich mean time, which would have placed the 6 trips you completed on the 31st in 2015, rather than counting in 2014. I can reach out to the team that manages the rewards program to see if they can provide an account of your trips in Q4 2014, and determine whether you qualify for the phone discount. Thanks for your patience, and I'll reach out when we have an update.
Me, Jan 1st
Hi Bob, you are essentially ignoring my question. You say "the quarter resets in the new year". When I looked at the dashboard yesterday (12/31/14 - yes 2014) to see how many more rides I needed for the quarter, it was already showing 2015. I was unable therefore to determine how many rides I needed to clear the threshold for a phone discount for the final quarter of 2014. The 5 trips you say I have completed out of 50, leaving 45 must be from my rides yesterday, 2014, but you are counting them as 2015. Do you see the problem here?
Me, Jan 5th
Hey Bob, any update on this?
Bob, Jan 5th (Uber)
I haven't received an update on this yet. It's a pretty new program as you know, and your scenario is pretty specific. I'm following up with the team that manages this, and I'll reach out when I get an update. Thanks for your patience.
Bob, Jan 7th (Uber)
I'm still awaiting a response regarding the timing of trips, but I checked through your trips in Q4 2014, and when we include all of your trips from 12/31, it seems you were one trip short of the 50 trips completed hurdle. I've attached a spreadsheet of your trips for the period for verification. Sorry that it didn't work out this time, but there's always next quarter. Feel free to reply here if you have additional questions.
Me, Jan 7th
Hello Bob, as I said, I knew I was close. However your system didn't allow me to check how many rides I needed to complete the goal. Im not on Greenwich time. It's not fair to make this information unavailable to me, effectively ending my bonus period early, because your system runs on a timezone on the other side of the world. Is Uber not headquartered in San Fran? You must understand that I could have easily completed another ride on 12/31. But when I logged into the dashboard it showed a new bonus period had already begun, and it was only 6 or 7pm here. I was unable to see how many rides I needed to get the phone discount.
Can we please be reasonable about 1 ride difference, and your systems faults?
Bob, Jan 7th (Uber)
I completely agree on the timezone issue and have surfaced the issue to our engineering team. Unfortunately I'm not able to manually override the trip hurdle, so I'm not able to enroll you in the phone discount this quarter. I hope you understand, this is a new program for Uber, and we're still in the process of working out all of the kinks. Thanks again for your constructive feedback on the process.
Me, Jan 7th
Can you forward my grievance on to someone who will respond and can do something about it?
This email address title is "Uber Partner Support". Let's be partners in this Bob, help me out here!
Bob, Jan 12th
I just wanted to touch base with you on this - I've reached out to the team that manages the Momentum program to find out whether we're able to make a one time good-faith exception here. I'll reach back out when I hear a response. Thanks for your patience.
Me, Jan 12th
Ok. I appreciate your persistence. I hope to hear from you soon.
Bob, Jan 12th (Uber)
The engineering team has confirmed that the phone discount incentive is automated, and there's no way to override in individual cases. I'm sorry things didn't work out in this case.
Oh Uber, how you have no consideration for us little minions.
To rehash my previous experience; I have an all familiar Uber driver story. I started driving a year ago, fares went down, then the phone $10 mobile device fee hit, so I quit. Since starting fares have now been reduced three times over. My motivation to drive for this company is very little, netting $25 in the past 5 months. However, I do want to remain an active driver:
1) for when I'm on the other side of town and could catch a few rides home (i live in Pacific Beach one of the bigger hotspots in San Diego)
2) for the occasional hour or two of fun driving idiots around and having some random conversations.
So recently I had the app put on my personal phone. I re-uploaded my insurance and had my car inspected. Not too difficult. But when it came time to drive, I knew that I would be facing back-charges for the mobile device fee. It was the beginning of May that I told them I was done driving due the weekly phone charge. They had never told me I needed to turn in the phone to avoid the fee, despite not driving. However, I knew from reading this forum that most likely those charges would occur on my invoice when I started to drive again. I looked on my dashboard but there was no evidence of charges. So I took one ride for the week and waited for a pay statement. Of course I got nothing. No pay statement. So I contacted them. I asked - why no pay statement when I took a ride?
"Happy to assist" (Tell you that we own you). Of course they told me that I owed for my phone and until those charges were paid I would be paying back that debt. Now how does this company get away with this shit?! Because people are too ignorant to know better, too lazy to confront, and too compliant to ask. How can they say I owe them money for a weekly charge that I have never seen a bill for? Their system doesn't invoice a $10 fee unless you take trips. Oh this technology company and their silly technology. Invest a little more in some programmers would you?
So I went back and found my e-mails from May and told them- Hey I told you I was done driving for the reason of the phone fee. You never told me I would be charged the phone fee just for having the phone, even if I didn't drive. I've never seen a bill, and I still don't even know what I owe you for this. What do they expect me to do - just drive, drive, drive until the mystery debt is absolved?! Hell no.
I attached to them this correspondence from May.
Of course suddenly response time was slowed. It took 5 days until I got a response, not from Hayley but Samantha. Woohooo, maybe I made it to the higher level of Uber CSR! And Uber made it right. Yep I said it.
The interesting thing is they said I only owed $80 in device fees. May - October, $10 a week. Even since June 16th... That's some interesting calculations your system is making.
I have since taken a weekly record of two trips, netting $25. I got a payment statement and the $80 in fees were cancelled out. I sent in the stupid Uber phone (I'm sure getting my $100 deposit back, and inccuring $10 fees while they process the return for 4 weeks, will be another blog opportunity). But for now, I have gotten what's right.
I am a part-time UberX driver in San Diego. I started driving in October 2013. Averaging 10-15 hours a week, I appreciate the flexibility of being able to work when I want. In that respect "partnering" with Uber works well for me.
At first I enjoyed the novelty of it; cruising around the town seeing new things, talking to new people. After a few months, the first rate cut hit. Hmm, now I'm doing the same job, making 20% less - this kinda stinks. That's when I found this forum, at the time it was 100 members and averaged 10 visitors on at a time including guests. It was great to find this resource where I could converse with other drivers going through the same thing. Besides my interaction here on the forum, my only communication with anyone working with or for Uber was when I signed up and they gave me a Phone. That was a 5 minute ordeal and I think the only thing the guy said to me was "sign here" twice. After the first 20% rate cut, it still seemed worthwhile to drive. I continued to work my little shifts here and there, maintaining a 4.8+ rating. I completed around 800 rides.
Then the "mobile device fee" hit. I couldn't believe it. They had already charged me $100 "deposit" for their old Iphone. Now Uber is going to charge me $10 a week for a phone that only allows me to run their App?! I still have to use my personal phone for GPS and to communicate with passengers via text and phone? I have unlimited data on my personal phone - why should I pay for another data plan? The sentiment on this forum, got more negative. Nobody likes a $10 a week pay-cut. How can they honestly tell us that they pay $10 a week for 200,000 data plans? I couldn't do it. I e-mailed in explaining my disappointment. I told them you are giving new drivers $200-$1000 in bonuses just for signing up and you want to charge me $520 a year for the phone I have already been using for 6 months? Am I paying for new drivers? Is there no incentive to continue to drive for Uber? Is there no value to a loyal experienced driver with a high rating and a new car? Their response: "Send the phone in to this address if you want to stop driving".
So I quit driving for Uber. I joined Lyft. I found it so much more enjoyable. The passengers were much less condescending, and even downright friendly. The driver support responded faster, the app allowed for Tips, and Lyft didn't take a commission (20% of the fare that Uber takes). I couldn't handle putting on the stache but for the most part I liked it way more than Uber. But then 2 months later Lyft returned the commissions on a scale system based upon how many hours a week a driver works. The more hours the less commission they take. Their reasoning was clear, and in my opinion fare. But again, for me, working 10-15 hours a week, it meant a pay-cut of 20%+.
Now it's a few weeks later, and I have been off the road. Traveling and getting other stuff done with my life in my free time, it's been good. I am still an active driver with Lyft, I just haven't driven recently. That's the benefit of this work, and it should be taken advantage of. Because I had been de-activated (I love this term they use - it references robots and machinery doesn't it?) from Uber, I no-longer received their e-mails. Luckily for this forum I read that Uber was making the app portable to drivers phones. Now that's a step in the right direction, I thought. So I contacted them and started the steps to re-activate my Uber account. While I enjoy Lyft, I figure to make it worthwhile to drive at this point I really need to be able to do both, and I need to not have to pay a weekly fee.
Uber said I needed to have my car inspected and that I could come for an "appointment" to have the App put on my personal phone. I got my car inspected at Express Tire, which was surprisingly quick and easy. But in reality, why the hell do they need to inspect my 10 month old car?! The mechanic agreed with me, as Express Tire says they don't make anything on the deal, that they are just hoping to get repair work out of it. Then I went for my "appointment". Making an appointment with Uber is the option of two time slots, and hour long each, that they designate in a one week period. Of course they are during the day on a Friday (10-11am and 2-3pm). So I traveled downtown to the office for the first slot. It's not too easy to park on 5th Avenue in downtown San Diego, and I was 5 minutes late. I snuck in the office because someone else was coming out, and I stood there for awhile watching the people work. I would describe them working as really slow, and they don't notice strange guy standing in middle of office looking around for a few good minutes. I tell them what I am there for and they ask if I have an appointment and I said yes but I am 5 minutes late for the "appointment" (small time slot granted). They tell me they are in a meeting and I ask, well can someone put the App on my phone? They get somebody out of the meeting and the woman tells me because I'm late I will have to come back. I ask - can't you just put the app on my phone - is it really that big of a deal? It is she says. So I leave and decide to try again for the 2-3 time slot.
3pm in downtown San Diego is rougher then 11am. But I make sure to be there within the time frame. This time I have to knock on the door of the office. A woman pokes her head out like it's a secret club and asks if I have an appointment. So I have to show her the e-mail that I have an appointment. I suggest maybe they need a secretary? Or a security guard?! She isn't amused. In fact she seems pretty unhappy. There is a very strange vibe in the office. It's like high-school and they only hire the popular kids, but the popular kids try to be serious about their job. You can tell though that they're focus is going to the bar in downtown or PB after work, and bragging about their job - but at work they are totally overwhelmed and under-qualified in experience. Everything is new in the office, but it's also a mess. It kind of looks like someone is living in there, because there is a rack of clothing and some sporting equipment. So the woman, without ever a smile, clicks at the computer once or twice and then asks to see my phone. She puts in a URL into Safari, and bam I have the app. I guess that's a big deal. Less than 5 minutes and I'm back out in the city. I have the same shitty feeling I had when I told them I wanted to quit before over the phone fee. It's not a feeling of "partnership", it's quite the opposite.
Luckily I don't need this work. Now Uber has reduced their rates again and with a newer car, it's really a barely profitable venture. I like having the ability to perhaps turn the apps on when I'm on the other side of town and looking to get home. Maybe drive around a couple of folks for an hour or two. I'll take it for what it's worth - and to me it's not a job or reliable source of income.
Thanks to this forum for all the insight into this rapidly evolving industry. I'll let you all know how running both Uber and Lyft on my personal phone pans out when I get motivated to fire them up!
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