Category Archives: Your Uber Driver Hates You

Your Uber Driver Hates You

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Back in August 2014, I wrote an inflammatory blogpost entitled “Your Uber Driver Hates You” covering the news that Uber drivers rated their passengers and most users had shitty ratings. Which helped explain why some folks would have a hard time getting picked up.

I followed that post up with a whimsical listicle on Buzzfeed called “Ten Reasons Why Your Uber Driver Hates You,” using various gifs to create – what I thought – was an amusing guide for Uber passengers on how to improve their ratings.

It got a shit ton of traffic, and loads of comments. But for some reason, when I visited the page today, there are no comments. Maybe it’s just a glitch or something, but the thing got some visitors.

This is the first six days:

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The rest of the month:

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While I’m sure those numbers don’t mean much to the big sites that generate 100s of thousands of page views per day, it’s not bad for someone with just an idea and an internet connection.

But I am pissed off about one thing…

Even though I was the first blogger to use the term “your Uber driver hates you,” numerous articles have come out since August 2014 on higher trafficked sites using the exact same title and basically pushed me down in the search ratings.

Not surprising, of course, since this is how media works. Those who toil independently, whether online or in print, will always get painted over by the broad strokes of the mainstream media.

Anyway, the reason I’ve been rummaging through all these old posts is because I started a new site to collect images from the “your uber driver hates you” sticker campaign.

You can check out the early stages here:

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Get Sticky!

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I’ve been handing out these stickers for the past few months and asking folks to snap pictures of where they post them. Besides posting on Twitter, I’m now collecting those photos on a new blog called your uber driver hates you.

You can get your own stickers here.

When You Ride with Uber, You Ride into The Unknown

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When you get in an Uber, you have no way of knowing whose car you’re getting into. It could be anyone. Even a mass murderer.

It’s easy to jump on this horrible tragedy and make it Uber’s fault. Jason Dalton was obviously mentally ill before he started driving for Uber and went on his killing spree that left six dead and two critically injured. Plus, he’d only been doing Uber for a short while. His ratings weren’t even that good. And since he hadn’t been driving long, the recent price cuts couldn’t have possibly sent him over the edge.

Still, the fact remains: had Dalton been in a taxi, with all the associated identifying markings of a taxi, his wanton murders while picking up fares wouldn’t have lasted six to seven fucking hours before he was apprehended.

A taxi would have been easily identified and located almost immediately. Taxis are painted in bright colors, have top lights, phone numbers, cab numbers, permits and other easily identifiable markings that would have made it a cinch to find him after the first shooting occurred.

In San Francisco, taxis even have numbers on their hoods and roofs so they can be identified from air. Not to mention that drivers go to an office to pick up the keys to their cabs. They are vetted daily and their behavior is monitored by staff of the cab company as well as other drivers.

Cabs also have GPS trackers in them. Two-way radios. And there are always other taxi drivers on the streets who can be notified to look out for each other. It’s very difficult to drive a taxi under the radar.

Uber drivers, conversely, are lone wolves. They are only governed by the response of their passengers, which, in this case, didn’t work. Not even when passengers called 911.

People who think they’re safe in an Uber (or a Lyft) are fooling themselves.

At least Uber has finally admitted in court they are not as safe as cabs. Cause even though Dalton had a long history of driving violations, he passed Uber’s “industry-leading” background checks.

So now, when you get in an Uber, you are literally getting into a car with someone who could possibly be a mass murderer.

Sadly, I doubt this incident, or the many, many others, will stop most people from using Uber. Because… well, most people are stupid and lazy.

Photo by Trevor Johnson.

A Power Couple Walks into a Sex Club…

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Her rating is 4.2.

I accept the ride automatically, like I do with all my Uber requests. The ping comes in and I tap the flashing icon on my iPhone as quickly as possible before it expires. I don’t even look at the passenger name. I’m too busy fighting traffic to reach the pinned location. But at a red light, I press the link in the Uber app that opens up the passenger info screen. That’s when I notice Julia’s rating.

In the four months I’ve been driving for Uber, this is the worst passenger rating I’ve seen. Even though very few Uber passengers have five-star ratings, they’re usually around 4.8 or 4.7. So as I approach Hyde and O’Farrell, I can’t help but wonder why Julia’s previous drivers had rated her so low.

I pull into a bus stop, hit the hazards, and look around. Nobody in sight. Maybe that’s the problem. Making your driver wait longer than a minute will definitely cost you a star. In the Tenderloin, two stars. At least. I’m lucky I have a space to pull into. Otherwise I’d be double-parked in the flow of traffic, getting honked at by spiteful cab drivers or possibly rear-ended by a disoriented tourist. I wait five minutes, watching my side mirrors in case a bus approaches. Just as I’m about to cancel the ride, my phone rings.

“We’re on Jones, between Eddy and Turk.  Uber messed up our address.”

A likely story. Probably doesn’t know how to use the damn app. Inputting the wrong pick up location is another way to lose a star.

“Okay. I’m right around the corner. See you in a sec.”

Fortunately, I don’t have to circle four blocks on the one-way streets downtown.  Just take a left at Eddy and a right on Jones. Pull up behind a double-parked taxi. A woman and a man wave at me.  I unlock the doors.

“Sorry about that,” Julia says, as she slides across the back seat.  The man climbs in next to her.

“No worries.” I pull into traffic.  Glance at the cabbie eyeing me wearily.  “The app can be a little janky at times.”

“McCallister and Baker,” the man tells me.  “Do you need the exact address?”

“Nah. We’ll sort it out when we get there.”

I turn right onto Turk and head towards the Western Addition.  I figure they’ll give me the silent treatment.  Like most Uber passengers.  Which, in the ratings playbook, is another lost point.

“How’s your night going so far?” the man asks.

“It’s cool.  How you guys doing?”

“We just came from the Power Exchange,” he says.

“Oh yeah?”

“Do you know the Power Exchange?”

“A club?”

“A sex club,” Julia says with a hint of derision.

I can’t tell by her voice if she’s telling me because they’d wandered in by mistake or on purpose. “Really?”

“Yeah. But it was lame,” the man tells me. “We were the only couple there.”

“Just lots of dudes jerking off,” Julia says. “Following us around and asking if they could join in.” She laughs. “It was so gross.”

“There was that one woman giving a blowjob,” the guy points out.

“Ugh.  But she was so fat and the dude was covered in hair… I had to turn away.”

At a stoplight, I glance in my rearview. They are an attractive couple. She’s made up like a three-alarm fire and he’s got the international man of mystery vibe down pat. In a club full of dudes looking to wank it to people having sex in public, I can see how they would be popular.

“Was this your first trip to a sex club?” I ask, since they seem inclined to converse and I’m curious.

“Oh yeah. And probably the last.” Julia laughs.

“It’s not like we were able to do anything,” the man says. “Whenever we started making out, the guys would swarm.”

“We left after twenty minutes,” says Julia.

“I guess that was something we needed to experience so we’d never have to try again,” the man tells her.

“I mean, if circumstances were different…”

“Oh, sure… but they’d have to be very different circumstances…”

Their voices go lower. It’s obvious I’m no longer part of the discussion. I focus on driving.  Watch for errant pedestrians and wobbling bicyclists. I tap my fingers on the steering wheel at the lights. The Pixies are playing on the iPod hardwired into my stereo, but the sound is barely perceptible. I keep the volume low and faded to the front speakers when I have passengers in the car. Nobody likes rock music anymore. It’s all about deep house, EDM and dubstep, which I had to google after hearing the term mentioned constantly.

When I get close to the couple’s location, I ask which street they’re on, Baker or McCallister.

“Baker,” Julia says. “About halfway down on the right. Next to that streetlight.”

I pull over in front of an Edwardian apartment building and end the ride. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Drive safe.”

“I’ll do my best.”

I rate her five stars. Like I do with all my passengers. Unlike most Uber drivers, I adhere to the philosophy: live by the rating, die by the rating.

I go back online. Head down Divisadero and wait for another ping.

 

Originally published in Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft and on Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website

Image by Irina and Kelly Dessaint.

Uber Reviews: The Bad, The Ugly and the Even Uglier

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Bitching about taxis is so 2012.

Not only has Uber disrupted the way people get around town, they’ve also given everybody a new target of contempt. And just as their name suggests, Uber isn’t your run-of-the-mill whipping boy. No, they are the ultimate shock absorber for disdain.

Continue reading on Broke-Ass Stuart

Your Uber Driver Hates You

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But Your Lyft Driver Thinks You’re The Bee’s Knees
(Unless You Act Like You’re in An Uber – Then They Hate You Too)

TOO MUCH TO READ? THEN CHECK OUT THE LISTICLE

This post originally appeared on my previous blog on July 21, 2014

Where would the peer-to-peer economy be without trust?

Nobody in their right mind would give a complete stranger the key to their apartment or get into a random person’s car if they didn’t have faith in the safeguards enforced by the companies that function as intermediaries. Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and Lyft use Facebook accounts and/or cell phone numbers to authenticate the identities of their users, but miscreants can always find a way around those barriers. Ride-hailing services rely on background checks and driving records, which have been proven over and over to be far from foolproof. Then there’s the feedback system that’s supposed to ensure a quality experience for both parties, though it’s just as easily skewed.

In theory, the rating system used by Uber and Lyft allows riders to anonymously inform future passengers what to expect from their driver. As a driver, unless you’ve only given one ride that day, you never know which passengers rate you what. Like internet comments, this anonymity gives riders complete freedom to rate and comment without fear of reprisal. And they take full advantage of this liberty, which is reflected in most drivers’ low ratings. It’s almost impossible for a driver to have a 5 star rating for more than a day or two, unless they are in line to be sainted by Jesus Christ himself.

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The rating system is supposed to convey trust, but an unintended side effect seems to be taking hold. Uber and Lyft drivers are using the same rating system to secretly warn other drivers about problematic riders. And they are just as unforgiving as their passengers.

Surprise, surprise.

As a passenger, you know your driver’s rating. It pops up when they accept your ride request along with their picture and car details. But you never see your own rating. If you did, you might be surprised to discover how the people who drive you around town actually feel about you.

While Lyft drivers tend to get along well with their passengers, Uber drivers, for the most part, think their riders are assholes.

Uber vs. Lyft

lyft_ratingUber and Lyft distinguish themselves by how passengers interact with their drivers. Lyft’s “friend with a car” vibe encourages passengers to sit up front and chat with the driver during the ride. Uber, on the other hand, wants their passengers to feel like they have a personal driver, so they sit in the back and rarely say much besides hello and their destination. Who converses with servants anyway? Your flunky should be seen and not heard, right? Would you chat with your chambermaid while she’s cleaning your potty? Of course not!

Many rideshare customers, especially in San Francisco, use both platforms depending on price surging, availability or what kind of experience they’re in the mood for. I’ve had numerous passengers tell me that when they’re going to work, or in work mode, they take Uber so they don’t have to deal with any annoying conversations. But on the weekends, or if they’re going out, they take Lyft because it’s more fun.

Price wars are also a factor.

As a driver for both Uber and Lyft, you can easily tell which passengers use Lyft regularly and which passengers prefer Uber. And not just by where they sit or whether they talk to you, but through their ratings.

lyft_rating2Most Lyft users have 5 stars with the occasional 4.9. Those with a 4.8 rating are generally the ones who sit in back and stare at their phones. These are your Uber passengers, reluctantly slumming it with Lyft. They get in your car and immediately say, “I’m not going to do the fist bump, so don’t try it.” They express contempt for the pink mustache and seem relieved I don’t have one. They make it clear that they are only using Lyft out of necessity. I find this attitude amusing, though based on their rating, Lyft drivers have no doubt rated them low in the past for not playing along with the Lyft modus operandi.

Since the main difference between the Uber and Lyft experience is the talking, and the passengers with less than 5 stars on Lyft tend to be incommunicado during the ride, it’s not much a stretch to conclude that drivers hate being treated like a “personal driver” and they rate passengers lower for being unsocial. Regardless of which platform they are on.

Now, you might be thinking, aren’t Uber drivers supposed to just get you where you’re going and keep their trap shut?

Sure, but they’re still humans with feelings. So while you sit in the back seat, browsing Facebook to keep you distracted, your driver is seething with animosity at your entitled and unfriendly attitude. The only recourse he or she has is to use the feedback system to rate you accordingly, and that’s a 4 at best.

Very few Uber passengers have 5 stars. In fact, the percentages are completely reversed with Uber. From what I’ve seen so far, 95 percent of Uber passengers have 4.9 or lower. Those users with 5 stars have all started conversations with me, which makes it clear how they got their elusive 5 stars. In fact, after carting around a bunch of people for Uber who barely say hello and thanks, getting a talkative passenger is like finding a fellow countryman in a foreign land.

Face it, Uber users, when it comes to being a passenger, you suck!

Drivers are People Too

Last year, somebody figured out how to hack the Uber site to get passenger ratings. Twitter lit up with people posting the link and their ratings. Only a few had 5 stars. Some thought it was funny how low their ratings were, though most were chagrined by what they found.

Uber quickly put the kibosh on the leak, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the time if that brief window into the reality of passenger ratings might have finally alerted passengers that they’re not immune to criticism just because they take advantage of a frictionless payment system.

Bidirectional ratings are just that: they go both ways.

Nobody likes negative ratings. Drivers complain about their ratings all the time. It’s not easy making people happy. Even when a ride has gone perfectly, there is never a guarantee that the passenger will be satisfied.

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While I always rate passengers 5 stars, even when I’ve had to deal with some real stinkers, my passengers haven’t been as generous with me. Like other drivers, I’m always shocked when my rating goes down. Lyft considers a 4.8 rating “awesome,” but it still hurts to think that I’ve failed to do my simple task of driving a car, something I’ve been doing in cities across the country going on twenty-five years now.

When I get my weekly summaries from Uber and Lyft, I wrack my brain thinking of how I might have messed up or disappointed the passengers who rated me lower than 5 stars. It usually happens after a good night too. Nobody ever gives any indication they are dissatisfied with my driving. Which is why I’m convinced the passengers who converse with me must think I’m some kind of freak for talking about art, literature, architecture, geography, the history of San Francisco and the way the city spreads out across the sky from the top of Potrero Hill. And they hate my music: that dreadful rock and roll nobody listens to anymore.

For every person who finds me entertaining or interesting or feels a kindred spirit with me, there are those who rate me less on my ability to get them from point A to point B and more on an inscrutable formula that only makes sense to them. And while I can usually navigate the city from memory, avoiding traffic jams and unpleasant streets, and maintain a relatively intelligent conversation along the way, in the new San Francisco, that’s only worth three stars. Four at best.

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The More You Know…

Maybe if passengers knew what their ratings were, they might want to protect them as much as drivers do. Perhaps it would make them a little less demanding as well. So I missed a turn. Big deal. So I went in a direction that had too many stop signs. Whatever. So I want to tell you how my cousin’s girlfriend has the same name as you when you’re in the middle of reading an email. Get over it! After all, it’s easy to be judgmental when you’re the one with the gavel. Flip that shit around and it’s not as much fun.

The Uber ratings leak also raises the question: why don’t rideshare companies show passengers their ratings in the app? Don’t they want passengers to improve?

Could it be that Uber and Lyft don’t want customers to know their ratings because they mean nothing? The only real consequence is that some drivers won’t pick up passengers with low ratings. Otherwise, what’s the likelihood that a paying customer will be kicked off the platform for having a low rating? Not bloody likely!

The rating system is only there to keep drivers in check. You drive with the constant fear that if your rating slips too low you’ll be deactivated. Thus, it’s no wonder drivers have begun using that same system to strike back at what they don’t like about their own experiences. Even if the passengers never find out.

So the next time you take an Uber or a Lyft, why not ask your driver what your rating is. You might just be surprised how big of an asshole you really are.

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Hey!

Don’t want to be a shitty Uber passenger?

THEN READ THIS AND DO THE OPPOSITE: TEN REASONS WHY YOUR UBER DRIVER HATES YOU

—-

Uber is Walking for Lazy People: On The Five-Dollar Ride

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The Six-Dollar 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, $0.26 a minute and a $1.30 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?

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 cab drivers. 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. 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 Uber and Lyft, cab drivers 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.

Cab drivers 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 forty 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?