The 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, twenty-six cents a minute and a buck-thirty 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?
Of course, 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 cabbies. 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. Of course, 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 rideshares, cabbies 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.
Cabbies 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 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?