- Posted August 17, 2014 by
Uber Atlanta Driver Experience, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
By now, everyone who lives in a City where Uber operates, the name has near become a household name. A brilliant app that connects supply and demand (in this case a private driver with a private rider), in a personal transportation industry that has long been dominated by only taxis and limos.
But while riders LOVE the idea of simply pushing a button on their smartphone and having a driver magically appear within minutes, is this same enthusiasm and convenience shared all across the board between Uber Drivers and the local Uber Operations? I've been an Uber Driver myself now for close to 6 months, and can give potential newer drivers the skinny on what to expect, both the good, bad, and ugly, long after the honeymoon phase has worn off within those first 60 days.
First the Good:
If you're an A-type personality, if you love meeting new people and have an easy time interacting with anybody, then this is part of the job you'll love. Just make sure you can multi-task between keeping you eye on the GPS navigation to your rider's destination, while babbling away with them the whole way there. This becomes even more important when you'e working any of the nightclub or bar hours (at night or weekends), and you find yourself driving a car full of loudmouthed hyperactive and many times tipsy passengers. Sure it still makes for a great time, just maintain focus on the task at hand.
The daytime driving and first thing in the morning are always a breeze. Mostly people who are going to work, or the airport, and you quickly find out that those $40 - $50 fares strait to the airport are the jackpots. A simple drive all the way to the Airport while still far away, is the easiest large-fair profit for an Uber driver, but you have to be strategic on being near hotels on specific morning hours and days, to catch them.
In all, the best part of this job is the people interaction hands down, alongside your love for driving around town.
Every once in a while, you'll have to deal with a few weird situations with passengers. You would arrive at a pick up location, and all of a sudden 4 people try to cram into your back seat while the 5th is getting into your passenger front seat. These are awkward situations, mostly happening in the nightlife scenarios, where Uber riders try to take advantage of the UberX price, by cramming more people into your car than your car is legally allowed to transport. You always have the right to not only ask that the other half of their party take another Uber, but if they keep insisting on you breaking the law and "just this once make an exception" for them, as they always so nicely beg you to, you can reject the entire trip and leave them. This has indeed happened more often than new Uber drivers even realize, and it's usually those riders who try to game the Uber system, that are the ones who are also the least respectful in your car should you take the risk of still taking their oversized party in your car. The motto on this one is "just say no", the money on the fair you'll make with this group is just not worth it. You could get into an accident and one of them would sue you for transporting more people than seatbelts in the vehicle, you could get cited by the Police for taking too many people, and this group could also cause potential damage to your seats and other internal parts of your car just by them wedging around back there. Just say no. The other type of "bad passengers" are either the ones who have just come from somewhere where they got into an argument with somebody, or what I call "poachers". Poachers are people who may have ordered an Uber, but you're not their Uber driver. This is again in nightlight areas where multiple people ordered multiple Ubers, and if you don't demand them to reveal their name before allowing them to get into your car, you risk taking the wrong people, and they have no problem with it since they're getting a ride for free, on someone else's credit card, whom by the way is still very mad at you at the pick up location since you never actually picked them up. Don't get caught in a scenario like this, always demand the identity of the customer before they get into your car and before you start the trip session.
I bet you're going to think this portion of the review has to do with passengers as well right? Wrong. The "ugly" ironically enough, doesn't have to do with the passengers at all, but Uber Operations themselves. The riders never see the backoffice operational aspect between Drivers and Uber operations, so while they indeed love the service they get, interaction between Uber Drivers and Uber Operations is quite a different story. Uber Corporate apparently keeps it very hush hush, that each individual market (or city) is it's own independently operated franchise. For a company that is less than 5 years old, that's actually scary news. Uber's internal business model is to keep overhead and operational costs as bare minimum as possible, hence why they have franchised each city rather than manage each city under one corporate umbrella. Not even Uber Drivers themselves initially know that, and that's intentional. Without sugar coating it, Uber Corporate has a split personality of showing much love to the riders who pay the bills, but treating the actual drivers who deliver the service, somewhere in the neighborhood of a pimp putting out his harlots to work on the streets to get that money and not ask any questions. Uber calls the drivers "Partners" in order to not have to give them employee related benefits, but really no driver is a true "partner" of Uber, that's just what Uber likes to make it look like. In reality, the way each individual city's Uber operational team wants to handle service is a pandora's box. Here in Atlanta, it's a complete mess. Imagine you working for someone who you rely on to pay you weekly for your work, and you don't even have a phone number to reach them? Instead, you write emails about anything and everything, and if they contact you back within 48 hours, consider yourself lucky. Blunders happen all the time with untrained service reps, and in certain instances where you have to report any incident to Uber (fender bender, issues with a rider, etc.), they can decide often to "waitlist" your account (aka freeze your ability to login and make any money), until they feel like the matter has been resolved to unfreeze you again. This is very dangerous to any driver who would rely on Uber to make the bulk of their income, because you're relying on people you've never had a phone conversation, to be the judge and jury behind emails on "how" any issue gets handled, which also affects your money.
That, and they invent new ways to pull more out of your profits regularly. UberX Drivers in Atlanta used to make 80% of the fairs, while Uber keeps 20%. As they got more drivers, they decided to allow themselves an invented "rider fee" of $1 per trip you complete, and the newest invention is a $10 PER WEEK "phone access fee" for the iPhone service that each Uber Driver uses to login to the system and drive. Recently, they invented another policy (that benefits only them) where even on weeks that you cannot drive (for personal reasons, vacation, whatever), they will calculate $10 per week phone fees still for those weeks you never even logged in, and deduct them from the next time you've earned money. Litterally, they can make whatever rules they want as they go along, to affect your profit structure. I have had 2 instances where since they barely respond to emails during the weekdays, service reps made the mistake of freezing my account on a Friday afternoon, completely shooting my ability to make money for that weekend, and that equates to up to $400 of lost profit just for that week.
So? Yes it's a love and hate issue. Love the riders, hate the Operations. Good to make side money, dangerous as a full time gig.