A disturbing chat with a 4 year, 7000+ ride Uber driver. What is the future of the rideshare service?

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4 years and 7,000+ rides!

The first few weeks of 2018 were a flurry of flying for me. In fact I spent almost every nights for two weeks in hotel beds and on the run. This is meant a bunch of Lyft,   GroundLink   and   Uber rides to get me from A-B either before or after flying Delta.

When it comes to rideshare drivers you get all types. Some are super “chatty” while others are not. Some, it seems, don’t even speak English. I often want to just ensure I am going to where I want to be or have my attention focussed on the blog, twitter or the Fly Delta App and really don’t want to hear about what is going on in the driver’s life.

However, when I do get a driver that wants to talk then I try to steer the conversation toward what they think of their employer. Do they like working for them and do they work for other services. For me, as a blogger, this almost always results in most interesting data points as never have I not had a driver give either positive or negative information.

Two years ago to the DAY on this blog I penned a post suggesting Uber needs to raise their prices. IMO, the service was too cheap for what was provided and they would not be able to keep good drivers long term. What has changed since two years ago? A bunch and the driver at the top of this post is a prime example.

This driver was perfect. His car was clean. He jumped out to help with my bags. He was courteous and friendly. Everything you want in a good Uber ride. He had been driving, get this, for 4 years and had over 7000+ rides. That is a LOT of pickups and drop offs folks. He has had it with Uber (and says Lyft is just as bad btw).

I don’t know if you have noticed but we do not see “surge” prices anymore (I bet you forgot about those didn’t you)? Now the prices just goes up and down all the time without really mentioning you are getting “preferred” pricing at some times and, while no longer calling it out, surge pricing at other times. I have, for a test, checked throughout the day the price to and from a hotel I frequented this month to ORD and it was amazing to see the price almost double at some times and get really cheap at other times (yes, we still do have surge prices it seems).

But according to the driver – they no longer see the benefit of higher prices. Yep, he indicated Uber keeps the extra during these preferred ride times. The driver gets a set per mile payment no matter when he/she drives in that area. He also indicated that after all his costs he is most times near break even and it is just not worth it to driver for Uber anymore. Again, this from someone who REALLY knows the business for many years and MANY rides.

Bottom line is I am worried about the future of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Sure I like the discounted pricing over services like GroundLink but if the drivers are not making enough to keep the best then what. I will say of my many rides this month the quality of many of the cars has really gone down hill. They have been dirty and a number of the drivers never get out of the car to help me with my bags (they better not expect a tip in that case).

What do you think. Do you think services like Uber and Lyft will be around in the next few years as they are now? Do you prefer one service over another? Have you tested GroundLink yet and seen how nice that service is despite the higher costs? Let me and readers know in the comments below! – Rene

 

 

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17 comments

  1. I found a driver at home that I really like and just pay him directly with PayPal. He is making double what he makes through Uber and I am paying less.

  2. I used to get Uber Black to go from home to the airport very early in the morning snd for 3 times in a row in different days the same guy showed up to pick me up. He was extremely nice, polite and had a very clean Suburban. I asked why he was the one showing up all the time and he said it was probably too early and nobody else was working at that time. We engaged in a nice conversation and he asked me if I always used Uber, etc… Long story short, he gave me his phone number and told me if I wanted I could text him when I needed and he would charge me what Uber paid him for the ride (which of course was cheaper than what I was paying when using the Uber app). He has been my only driver for over 3 years now and he said I am by far his best customer and bring him tons of business. Win win!!!!!

  3. It sounds like Uber et al are exploiting their employees to gain customers. Airlines are exploiting their customers as much as possible to keep shareholders and, to a lesser extent, employees. As long as businesses can exploit one group or another in the name of profits, exploitation will continue. Its what businesses are designed to do.

  4. So maybe the driver should quit and do something else that is more lucrative. Its s free country.

  5. @Chuck & @Santastico – Keep in mind you do not have the insurance protection that you do have inside Uber when you private pay. May not bother some but there is a risk to that choice.

  6. I’ve been driving part-time in Mpls/St Paul since June, and have a 4.94 rating. Typically 2-3x per week, 4-5 hours at a time, for a total of 675 rides, 90% Uber /10% Lyft. My 2013 Pathfinder qualifies as an XL/Plus vehicle, and about 1 in 15-20 ride requests is for that specialty type at about 2x the usual rate.

    We do indeed get surges here, typically from 1.2x to 2.0x, although I’ve seen and received as much as 4.0x in snowstorms or events like New Year’s or after NFL games.

    Surges apply to base fare, distance and time. Uber/Lyft fee percentages don’t increase, so they make more and I make more. All in all, I get 65-75% of a rider’s fare. In-app tips go right through to the driver.

    I know that prices vary by market, and mine is one of the less expensive ones. There are also per-ride fees that the company collects so it would seem they’re getting a higher rate on a given ride, but then they are responsible for paying it out, eg to the airport authority.

    So, to sum up, the driver mentioned above could well see different pricing, etc but I don’t believe that surges have been eliminated anywhere in the US. Yes, the company takes about 1/3, but they provide me as a driver the technology, the riders, the payment which I don’t have to collect, and other features such as insurance while picking up and carrying passengers, and ratings system to ensure pax are behaving. I wouldn’t do it full-time, but it is a very flexible part-time gig.

    I’d be happy to answer what I can for Rene’s readers.

  7. I gave up on Uber after two instances when drivers failed to show for trips to the airport. In both cases they cancelled me while I was waiting. Add to that another instance when zero cars were available for an early morning ride to the airport.

    I now use a local airport limo company that I can book a day ahead and emails to confirm pickup with a live link to driver 30 minutes ahead. For me, my time is my most constrained asset, not a few $ saved.

  8. Rene – Nothing is forever. There a hundred people waiting to take his spot. When there are zero people who will drive for Uber, prices will go up. That’s how the world works.

  9. @RJB I think anyone who works deserves a living wage regardless of his/her job.

    I’ve had perfect pickups with my few Uber rides. Saved my rear end. Every. Single. Time.
    I can’t imagine how Uber drivers can live on what they are paid. And in that light that I tip well. Cash. And it’s still a bargain!

  10. Have not had any issues recently. Have had an Uber driver cancel my ride but that was only after seeing him get pulled over for making an illegal U-turn in Center City PHL.

    Had a Lyft driver take my wife and I from ATL to BHM on the infamous ATL power outage in December. Up until that point. I thought both Uber and Lyft drivers knew the destinations prior to accepting the fare. Uber does which is why no one there accepted our request. We got into our Lyft ride in ATL and the driver asked where were here heading. We said “main terminal BHM” … he said “That’s a funny one Dude … really where are you going?” … I said “really … BHM”. Fare was $160 and I cash tipped him $40. Roundtrip for him was about 4.5 to 5 hours. Would have cost just as much as a one way rental car and got us home 24 hours earlier than our re-booked flights.

  11. RJB explained it.

    Uber cannot change driver pay long term.

    If they raise RATE drivers earn, and keep the CHARGE the same, there will be the same number of rides but more drivers. Drivers will make more per ride, but will have more idle time between rides, for the same return to the driver per hour.

    If they raise the RATE drivers earn, and raise the CHARGE to keep Uber’s margin the same, there will be fewer rides and more drivers. Drivers will again make more per ride, but will have FAR mode idle time (more drivers, fewer riders).

    The drivers are voting for the rate of pay they demand, then grumbling about it. Uber can’t change that. It’s the free market, the same one that makes Uber and so many other wonders possible.

  12. @Rene: All Uber Black drivers are required to have commercial registration and commercial insurance as well as an airport permit to enter the Limo area at the airport. Thus, the driver even when not driving for Uber has all those in place.

  13. I don’t use Uber very often, but when I do, the service has been outstanding. I just used one going from Bradley International to Yale in the middle of rush hour. The traffic was at a complete standstill most of the way. I can’t imagine what this trip would have cost in a regular taxi that charges by time. I always tip, but now I am wondering….does this go directly to the driver or to the company. Should I be tipping in cash????

  14. I am a long time rider of Uber (in many countries) and have been driving for Uber (and Lyft) for about 6 months in the Tampa area. Just to reply on some of the comments, I can say that Surge does exist and is is clearly shown on the drivers app both on the map and in the individual ping when the call comes in. Also, apart from a message on the initial ping if the ride is over 30/45 minutes, I have no idea what the destination is until I pick up the rider. Also, as a public notice, the scheduling of a reservation of a ride with Uber is a fraud — nothing happens until that time of your request rolls around when the request is actually put out to a driver, assuming one is available. This is unlike Lyft where the rides are truely accepted by drivers before-hand.

    One thing that annoys me is that as a rider, in tha past year the system has changed from the price range/pay by mile & time to a prepay type of arrangement which, from my investigatation seems to be a “what the ride should cost based on the driver taking the suggested route”. This is a scam. From a riders perspective it is really a very vague pricing structure with no way to verify. From the drivers point of view, since the ride is based on presumed circumstances, how can I be sure it is charged/paid correctly. I have already been is conflict wiith Uber over mis-priced rides and their mindless drones…sorry…Support goons talked in circles until I gave up.

    The above said, Uber does trial different services in different areas —- even with different drivers in the same areas, so experiences may vary.

    Either way I am a fan of the service model. I think that your financial sustainability will depend on your market. I could not survive here on Uber/Lyft alone, but for fun and perhaps tye feeling of earning something extra, sure… I’ll keep driving

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