Tag Archives: uber sucks

The Risks and the Rewards of Working Outside Lands

san-franicsco-outside-lands-examiner-taxi

It’s Monday morning. While the rest of the world is waking up and getting ready to go to work, I’m drinking vodka and eating leftover red beans and rice, thanks to Ben, who took it upon himself to feed me before I started my shift yesterday.

I don’t usually drive on Sundays. But at the barbeque the night before, Ben and several other drivers assured me that the third day of Outsides Lands would be the most profitable night of the festival.

Even though I really need the money, I waffled a bit. I was still exhausted from the previous two days of Outside Lands. I wasn’t even sure I’d have the wherewithal to drive a fourth shift that week. But Late Night Larry made it official.

“You’re working Sunday!” he snarled. “And that’s final!”

Ben picked me up at 4pm. On the way to the yard, we stopped at Hard Knox for lunch. I had a few bites of my vegetable plate and saved the rest for later. I was ready to hit the streets.

After doing the tourist trade for a couple hours, I head to the park. Since I did Outside Lands last year with Uber and Lyft, I know it’s a strategic nightmare to match drivers with riders and all the major thoroughfares get clogged with lost and confused drivers from out of town. A perfect scenario for street hails.

Each night, as the headliners take the stage, people begin to leave the park and wander through the avenues and the streets in a frenzy, desperate for a way out. There are so many exiting festivalgoers clamoring to get in my cab, I could institute my own twist on surge pricing and auction off seats to the highest bidders. But that would be unethical, right?

After I drop off a fare, I deadhead, i.e., drive empty, back to the park. The demand for cars is insatiable. Strangers share rides and get to know each other in the backseat. One fare has three stops, the last one in Ingleside Heights. When I stop the meter, it reads $45. With a $10 tip, that’s an inside the park homerun.

It’s obvious most of my fares are regular Lyft and Uber users. They approach my window and ask permission to get into my cab.

Like this young couple at 25th and Cabrillo.

“C-c-c-an you take us to the Caltrain?” the girl asks timidly from the curb.

“I drive a taxi,” I say, feigning joviality. “That’s what I do.”

They need to catch the last train to San Jose that leaves at 9:15.

It’s 8:50.

“I don’t know if we’ll make it in this traffic,” I warn them, thinking about their options if they miss the train. A cab ride to San Jose is around $200, and that’s still cheaper than a hotel room.

“You’d be our hero if we do.”

Always up for a challenge, I take off down Cabrillo, head up to Turk and race over the hill and down to Golden Gate. I start hitting lights in Civic Center so I make a right on Polk and cross Market onto 10th. I head down Folsom to 8th. I take a left on Brannan, a right on 5th, through the sign onto Townsend, and come to a dramatic stop in front of Caltrain with five minutes to spare.

“I may have just broken a record,” I gasp.

The meter reads $22. The guy gives me $25. I’m so shocked I forget to say thanks as they get out. A $3 tip on a run like that? Is that how you reward a hero? I even yelled at this poor pizza delivery guy for making me miss the light at Masonic.

Feeling less like a hero and more like a chump, I get on the Central Freeway and work the park for the rest of the evening. It’s early. There’s still a long road ahead of me before I get back to my red beans and rice.

Originally appeared in the S.F. Examiner on August 14, 2015…

No, Taxis Are Not Doomed, and Here’s Why

yellow-cab-safeway-market-wrong-way

Last week, tech news sites were frothing at the mouth over some misconstrued details in a S.F. Examiner article about Yellow Cab filing for bankruptcy, which implied that Uber and Lyft may have have been a contributing factor.

This was cause enough for celebration as most tech writers were pleased as punch to declare Uber the victor in its prolonged battle against the dreaded taxi industry.

Here are some of the catchier headlines:

ForbesUber’s First Casualty? San Francisco’s Largest Taxi Company Filing For Bankruptcy

The VergeThanks to Uber, San Francisco’s largest yellow cab company is filing for bankruptcy

QuartzThe biggest taxi company in Uber’s hometown is on the verge of bankruptcy

Ars TechnicaUber, Lyft helped facilitate slow death of San Francisco’s largest taxi company

Gizmodo: Uber (and Lyft) Finally Bankrupted San Francisco’s Favorite Taxi Company

According to the actual story, however, Yellow Cab was hit with a multi-million dollar insurance settlement and, now that their coffers are emptied, they are filing for bankruptcy protection to keep their creditors at bay.

This is fairly standard business procedure. Not much to see here…

But the article also included a statement from Yellow Cab claiming they are not able to fill all their available shifts and they’re having a hard time retaining and recruiting good drivers.

The knee-jerk implication being that all the good drivers are going to Uber and Lyft.

Let the doomsday scenarios begin…

Slate’s senior technology writer Will Oremus got all riled up and posted an article with the very provocative title, “The End of the Taxi Era.”

He starts out:

Thanks to Uber, the entire industry is doomed.

Definitely committed to his half-baked thesis, he goes on to write:

It’s a battle the taxi industry appears increasingly certain to lose. The only questions at this point are how long it will take and what will be left standing in the end. It’s beginning to look like the answers will be: “not long” and “not much.”

Those are fighting words, and Mr. Oremus knows it. His entire article is the perfect example of the kind of lazy journalism that defines click bait.

I’m actually loath to comment upon his gaffe-laden drivel because I know it will only validate his bullshit Chicken Little premonition — You see, I pissed off a bunch of cab drivers. I must be on to something! — but his elitist viewpoint is so offensive, I can’t restrain myself.

No, taxi companies are not failing, just his reading skills.

The reasons why Uber and Lyft are having such a major impact on the earning potential of cab companies are real simple:

  • Uber and Lyft charge fares that are anywhere from 40-70% less than the regulated cab fares. (Unless it’s surging, of course.)
  • They don’t have to worry about buying and maintaining fleets of cars or operating clean energy vehicles.
  • Uber and Lyft don’t have to carry comprehensive insurance that covers drivers, passengers, public and private property, as well as any bystanders who may get hurt in the process. What their sketchy, off-shore insurance company will cover is still very much in doubt since they refuse to accept any responsibility for what happens with their “partners,” who are told to use their own insurance first (and commit insurance fraud in the process as personal policies don’t cover commercial activities). Even if they are in a no-fault accident, they are still required to pay high deductibles to file a claim with Uber’s or Lyft’s insurance companies. ($1,000 and $2,500 respectively.)
  • Uber and Lyft have no obligation to train their drivers beyond a few short YouTube videos, which emphasize giving out bottled water and snacks to improve ratings, seeing as how their driving skills won’t be doing them any favors.
  • Uber and Lyft don’t have to pay for city permits, which allow taxicabs the use of taxi lanes and taxi stands. But their drivers just use them anyway. Why not? They work for a company that encourages breaking any law they don’t agree with, so why not act by example? After all, those taxi lanes are super fucking convenient.
  • When it comes to SFO, Uber and Lyft drivers don’t have to queue with hundreds of other cabs in four parking lots, waiting hours to get to the front of the line to pick up fares. They just wait in the cell phone lot for a ping, drive up to departures and get their fares.
  • Uber and Lyft also consistently skirt ADA regulations, and by limiting their service to apps, they leave large parts of the population out of the equation.

The playing field between the TNCs and taxi companies is so astronomically uneven it’s criminal. Any sane person can see the lopsided advantage Uber and Lyft have over law-abiding taxi companies. But when you’re a click-hungry journo who only wants to sensationalize an issue, why delve any deeper than the shallow end? Uber is valued at 60 billion and Yellow Cab is in chapter 11. That means Uber automatically wins, right?

Uh, no.

If all Sir Flub-a-Lot knows about the taxi industry is what he hears in the back of some guy’s Prius or on a tech blog, then yeah, I can see how he could easily read about a cab company filing for bankrupcy and immediately jump to the conclusion that all taxi companies are doomed.

There are so many other factors at play here that Oremus is clearly missing due to his prejudice against taxis, and since I don’t have anything else to do this afternoon, let’s examine a few, shall we?

1San Francisco has more than one cab company. Besides Yellow, the other two large companies are Luxor, who also has their own app, and Flywheel Taxi (née DeSoto). There are also numerous smaller fleets (Citywide, National/Veterans, Fog City, Super Cab, Union Cab, Town Taxi, Green, etc. etc.), many of which are restructuring on their own, moving into hybrid owner-operator models, downsizing fleets and embracing technology to compete with ride-hail services. Even more taxi-hailing apps are going to enter the market. As someone who writes about tech, you’d think Will would appreciate the myriad developments going on in the industry. But no, Mr. Doomsday only has this to say about cab companies’ apps:

If there were ever a time when taxi companies might have been able to leverage their market position to defeat Uber on its own terms, that time has long passed.

Way to be a bummer, dude. But did you know…

2. Uber and Lyft drivers are getting squeezed so tight, they aren’t making any money. Unless it’s surging, natch. But with so many drivers on the road in San Francisco, it never surges like it does in other cities. On New Year’s Eve, the super bowl of ride-hailing, the surge in San Francisco only went as high as 4x the normal rate, while in other cities it went as high as 8.8x.

And now, with the latest rounds of price cuts, Uber drivers are in open revolt. Many are quitting.

How low can Uber set the rates before only the worst drivers with the worst records will be running the Uber app?

Uber is gunning for the lowest common denominator so they can browbeat them into submission. That can’t be good for business in the long run. Throw in a few predatory leasing programs for good measure and you’re on the way to a new form of indentured servitude. Awesome, right?

Oh, Will:

But the fact remains that its business model is far more convenient and congenial to consumers than that of the taxi companies.

Hmm, so you think proudly gouging one’s customers is a solid business move?

I pick up reformed Uber users in my cab all the time. They are coming back to taxis in droves because they have grown weary of confused tourist drivers, the unscrupulous business practices of the bigwigs, surge pricing and just having to deal with an app when there are plenty of cabs available on the street.

…the forces that drove the [Yellow Cab] company to the brink reveals that the ground may be starting to shift faster than almost anyone expected. And it should be enough to unnerve anyone who’s still banking on taxis to avoid the fate of newspaper classifieds, movie-rental stores, or payphones.

3. Cabs are not horse drawn carriages, VCR players or any other ativistic technology people like to compare them to. They are vehicles for hire, just like Uber and Lyft cars. Sure, somebody’s personal vehicle is going to be much cleaner (at least for the first few months) than a taxicab that’s run 24 hours a day, but other than that, the differences between an Uber car and a taxicab are a paint job, top light and a bunch of permits.

Cab companies have to play by the rules while Uber and Lyft cars do not.

Even our boy Will acknowledges this gaping loophole:

Uber and Lyft enjoy different cost structures, fewer regulations, and advanced data analytics, not to mention billions of dollars of venture-capital money aimed explicitly at helping them corner the market without having to worry too much about the bottom line.

But…

Regulation looms.

There are very good reasons why cabs are regulated: to protect the drivers, to protect passengers and to protect society at large.

At some point, Uber will have to be regulated to ensure public safety and workers’ rights. The current exploitative system can’t last forever. Eventually, the numerous court cases against them will go in front of juries and Uber will get bitchslapped into submission.

It makes sense that San Francisco is on the leading edge of the market’s upheaval. The Bay Area’s newspapers were also among the first to hit the skids when the Internet began to disrupt the media.

Dude, take your Adderall. Why are you bringing newspapers into this?

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, medallions are “barely selling at all” in Boston and Chicago.

Nice segue… (wrong).

4. Now that the streets are saturated with cars looking for fares, most Uber and Lyft drivers are starting to realize what cab drivers already knew: the number of available Ubers and Lyft drivers need to be limited.

The massive influx of Uber and Lyft drivers into the city creates epic gridlock and congestion well past the normal rush hours. On the weekend, it doesn’t end until the bars let out.

One way cities limit the numbers of vehicles for hire on the road is through a medallion system, which are essentially permits to operate taxicabs. This system helps avoid the chaos of too many cars searching for fares at any given time. It also ensures drivers are able to survive during lean times.

Of course, the medallion system is confusing to those who want to peceive it as a corrupt aspect of taxi companies, investor greed or worse…

Mr. Oremus shares in this confusion, based on this statement:

If you’re going to bet on an asset that requires substantial capital outlay, a shiny black car with a leather interior certainly looks more attractive at this point than a little tin plate with a number and an expiration date.

It’s always cute when people who know nothing about the medallion system make grand declarations about it.

But let’s not forget to keep bashing on cab companies:

…they make their money from drivers, who pay them to take shifts. Those drivers are highly sensitive to changes in the marketplace, making them prone to bolt en masse as it becomes clear which way the wind is blowing.

5. Nobody is making very good money on the streets these days. Experienced cab drivers, however, those who have been at this 20+ years, have a better shot at navigating the storm, but for most Uber and Lyft drivers, the situation is very grim.

This race to the bottom is great for the consumers, but horrible for the workers. Realizing this, many Uber and Lyft drivers are signing up to drive cabs.

Can you believe it, Will?

Yes, Uber and Lyft drivers are turning into cabbies.

Crazy, right?

There is much to dislike about the way Uber does business. It has been ruthless and at times unscrupulous in its bid to overthrow taxis and crush would-be rivals as the dominant provider of on-demand rides.

6. Uber’s endgame isn’t the disruption of taxis. They are looking to become the non-virtual Google, where passengers are marketed to while they’re in cars, as well as through the app. Uber is collecting a goldmine of data from users, which they are already using against passengers, though not as blatantly yet.

There are some decent reporters out there who are aware of these developments. Unfortunately, the senior technology writer for Slate is not one of them. He’s still caught up in that whole driverless car smoke screen:

It treats its own drivers as commodities and is actively working to replace them with robots.

7. Self-driving cars are not part of Uber’s business model. Uber has managed to become the world’s largest taxi company without owning a single vehicle, all the while maintaining absolutely no liability for what goes on in those cars. After all, they just connect drivers with riders.

Well, if they invest in buying driverless cars, they will own all the capital, and the corresponding liability. That’s not their business model. In fact, that’s a lousy business model and — ahem — not much different from the current taxi model. I seriously doubt any VC with half a brain would want to invest in a company that plans to replace the current UberX model, which is their most profitable model, with something that would be a strategic nightmare.

At this point, any regulatory crackdowns will only serve to define the contours of Uber’s dominance.

8. So you say, but the day when an elderly couple from Missouri, who’ve saved up for decades to afford vacations to places like San Francisco, arrive at SFO and are required to purchase a smart phone and download an app in order to get into the city is the day we can officially say we have lost all touch with humanity.

There are plenty of people who rue that day. But not writers like Will Oremus, who seemingly loves Uber because it fits into his elistist worldview: like so many people in tech, he wants to force his perspective on the rest of us. Even if his perspective is skewed and fundamentally wrong.

If he can’t see that Uber and Lyft have a temporarily unfair advantage over taxis, which is why they are able to take up so much of the transportation market, then he is either stupid or an asshole. Either way, twisting the facts to meet one’s agenda is akin to the talking heads at Fox News.

Despite what millennials, those who have grudges against taxis and misguided pundits may say, the Uber/Lyft phenomenon is a novelty. It’s based on hype and hype alonenot profit.

Bloggers like Will Oremus play right into this hype machine. He and his ilk are like flies buzzing in our ears. They only want page clicks.

Like the Uber and Lyft feedback system they idolize, they’re after gold stars and high page counts to validate their self-entitled mentalities.

So, in this spirit, I’m sorry to say, I must rate Big Bad Willy’s ability to comprehend the complex world of public transportation one star.

In the Uber and Lyft world, this means we’d never be matched up again.

Oh, I can only hope to never have to encounter more piffle by this click-driven scribe ever again.

(with editorial assistance by Colin, Juneaux and Mr. Johnson)

Ten Consequences of Driving for Uber and Lyft

After seven months of driving full time for Lyft and Uber, these are ten things that make me dread going into driver mode:

1. Vehicle Depreciation

1wearandtear

Besides passengers slamming my doors, which has caused a mysterious rattle, scuffing my interior, leaving behind trash and generally making the kinds of messes you’d expect from a two year old, there is also mechanical wear and tear. The more I drive, the more things go wrong with my car. I figure I have about two more months until I need new brakes and tires. And then my rideshare days are over. I just don’t make enough from driving for Uber and Lyft to afford to keep driving for Uber and Lyft.

2. Boot Malfunction

2boot_replacement

My right boot is more worn than the left. To be fair, this may have more to do with my bony heels, but it’s not something I ever noticed until I had to keep my foot on the gas and brake pedals for hours at a time.

3. Physical Discomfort

3pain

My neck is like an open wound. No doubt from glancing over my shoulder as I switch lanes in traffic all night long, always diligent to keep an eye on my blind spots, as well as the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists, impatient cab drivers and cavalier pedestrians. As a result, the muscles that run along my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. There is a real possibility that I may have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. I noticed once, when I was a Lyft passenger, that my driver had a hemorrhoid pillow on his seat. I may need to acquire one of those in the near future…

4. Spousal Neglect

4pissed_off_spouse

Since I’m out late driving on the weekends, the Wife’s home alone. And she’s not happy about it. I’ve tried driving during the weekdays, but the gridlocked traffic makes getting anywhere in the city a chore. It’s not worth the frustration. I spend more time driving to the pinned locations than I do taking passengers where they need to go. And the only time you can get surge pricing is on weekend nights. And holidays. Or special events. So…

5. Fear of Deactivation

5ratings

Nobody enjoys being judged. But constantly feeling threatened with “deactivation” is downright humiliating. The rating system employed by Lyft and Uber focuses on only one aspect of a driver’s performance: passenger satisfaction. And it’s not easy making people happy. Even when the ride has gone perfectly, there’s never a guarantee the passenger is satisfied. All it takes is one drunk passenger on a power trip and you’re deactivated.

6. Erratic Sleep

6erraticsleep

I work late and come home late. But I can’t sleep late because my head is filled with dreams about my Lyft summary, which is the only way to find out what I made the day before and what’s happened to my rating. Sometimes the summary is in my inbox before I wake up. Other days the email doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. With Uber you know, for the most part, what you’ve made at the end of each ride. And your rating is updated in the app as feedback is left. So at least you’re disappointed in real time.

7. Misanthropic Tendencies

7misanthropic

After a while, you really start to hate people. I’ve met some really great folks in my car, but I’ve also encountered a lot of stinkers. People that I’d rather see under my front tire than in my front seat. But I have to maintain a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when some passengers are just straight up assholes. They input the wrong location. They make you wait. They ignore you. They talk down to you. They say racist and sexist things in your car. Your only retaliation is to rate THEM low. Which doesn’t amount to much since it’s unlikely Uber or Lyft would ever deactivate a passenger’s account. I guess we should just be grateful our passengers act like self-entitled douchebags rather than punching us or holding guns to our heads.

8. Paranoia

8paranoia2

Every time I go out to drive, I say a prayer that nothing bad happens. I can’t shake the nagging sensation that if something goes wrong, I’ll be fucked. Uber and Lyft tells us to use our personal insurance in the event of an accident. But our insurance won’t cover any damages since we’re engaged in commercial activity. So what’s the point of having personal insurance to do rideshare? Not that things would be better with the insurance companies Uber and Lyft use. I’ve read numerous reports from drivers who’ve been in accidents and had to crowd source funds to get their cars fixed. Or just being left in the lurch. We are hardly protected under normal circumstances, but what if we’re at fault? Oh, the horror… And with Uber, there’s no support number. We can only email them afterwards. On top of all that, both Uber and Lyft charge us a deductible. So if we are covered, we still pay out of pocket, even if we aren’t at fault.

9. Monetary Deficiencies

9poverty

Because of the price wars, as Uber and Lyft fight it out to determine who will be the preeminent rideshare platform, drivers are getting squeezed more and more. The rates just keep going down. As it is, I’m broke as hell. My credit cards are all maxed out, most of the time my bank account is overdrawn and I have a painful toothache I can’t afford to fix. Not to mention taxes… I don’t want to even think about what I’m going to do when it’s time to pay taxes.

10. Self-loathing

10hammer

If you’ve made it this far on my list of rideshare consequences, you might be wondering why I don’t just quit. I know it’s stupid to complain about something you can’t control. And I know it’s my own damn fault. I bought into the promise of ridesharing as an alternative source of income with a good amount of freedom and it turned out to be a lie. I fell for the classic switcheroo. I’m an idiot. So why don’t I just get on with my life? Well, that day is coming. Without a doubt. For now, the hell I know is better than the one I don’t. And I like driving. I like meeting people. I like exploring the streets of San Francisco. But there’s no future in ridesharing for drivers. Hell, the way things are going, there won’t be a future for taxi drivers either.

Why I Uber On: The Reality of a Rideshare Driver

five_dollar_uber_ride

Ridesharing is a racket.

Let’s be real. There’s nothing “disruptive” about taking an idea that already exists, like taxies, and figuring out how to become a cab company without owning a single car. In their current configurations, Uber and Lyft are entirely dependent on their drivers, who are currently in open revolt and quitting in disgust over the latest price cuts as Uber and Lyft fight it out to see who will win the rideshare wars. Despite constantly recruiting new drivers and offering incentives like wage guarantees and bonuses during the first month, after that initial trial run, the cold, hard reality of driving for hire in your own vehicle becomes painfully apparent.

Just like a traditional taxi company, ridesharing is built on the backs of drivers. But for full time drivers, ridesharing is becoming less and less viable. The money just doesn’t add up anymore. And the associated risks with ridesharing only make things worse.

Drivers all across the country are coming to this realization. They’re pissed beyond belief. They’ve taken to Facebook to voice their anger and organize protests, strikes, class action lawsuits and to form a union. They’ve even joined forces with the Teamsters.

The rideshare wars are getting ugly.

Not all drivers are unhappy though. There are still plenty of folks who tell the complainers to stop whining and get another job if they don’t like the way things are with Lyft and Uber. These drivers, who mostly work part time, like to point out that ridesharing is a great second job that offers them flexibility and a decent source of extra income.

I’m always amazed at this attitude, not because of its insensitivity, which is repulsive in and of itself, but it shows a complete ignorance of what ridesharing really is.

These companies are trying to destroy traditional taxi services and the only way they’re going to do that is with full time drivers who are out there twenty-four hours a day accepting requests and keeping the system online. The CEOs of Lyft and Uber know that if prospective passengers request a ride and there are no cars available, those prospective passengers will move on to another service, i.e., a taxi or the bus, and probably won’t try ridesharing again. Consumers are fickle as hell.

Ridesharing is not sustainable with part time drivers looking for something fun to do on a Saturday night.

However, at the current prices, ridesharing doesn’t really make sense for full time drivers. If you’re really going to survive as a full time rideshare driver, you’re looking at driving your car sixty hours a week. Which is no cakewalk. Not just anybody can do that. After an eight hour shift, I’m usually dead to the world and struggle to get back out there the next day.

But there are drivers who do sixty hours a week. Or more. And that’s what makes ridesharing sustainable: the drivers who bust their ass and run their cars into the ground.

Of course, the media only ever seems to focus on the retirees and students looking to make some extra bucks and get out of the house. Because it looks good. It puts a positive spin on ridesharing. But full time drivers and anybody who’s trying to make a decent wage driving a car know what the real cost of ridesharing is. We face serious risks with insurance gaps, troublesome passengers, potential health problems, damage to our vehicles and the financial hardships of constant repair and maintenance, we are denied tips and, with the rating system, we don’t even have job security.

So why keep driving for Uber?

If I’m making less and less money each month while I continue to rack up miles and wear and tear on my car, which isn’t even paid for yet, why do I continue?

Well, I like driving. And I enjoy dealing with people. Sure, there are a lot of stinkers who get in my car and treat me like a servant. The drunks are particularly annoying. But I’ve had some amazing interactions with folks and, after awhile, it gets addictive. You never know who’s going to get into your car.

Still, that’s not going to pay my bills. I can satisfy this need for human interaction in many different ways.

No, the real reason that I keep driving for Uber is because I feel stuck. I’m broke as shit and I’m not sure yet how to get out of the financial hole I’ve gotten myself into. I have an enormous amount of debt. Yes, I could quit driving and get a job at Trader Joe’s. But I can’t wait two to three weeks for a paycheck. I’ll be homeless by then.

Plus, I have an entrepreneurial spirit. I bought into the promise of ridesharing. It’s my own damn fault I didn’t get while the getting was good.

I started driving for Lyft and Uber in March 2014, after I lost my job working in print media. Since nobody really needs editors and layout designers anymore, it’s been difficult to find gainful employment. Especially in San Francisco, where everything evolves around apps and the development, marketing and selling of apps.

So I’ve been doing whatever I can to make a buck: selling stuff on eBay, looking for freelance work, hawking my self-published zines and using my car to drive for Lyft and Uber.

At first, I made decent money with ridesharing. I could drive thirty hours a week and make enough to survive. But then Lyft lowered their rates. Then Uber lowered their rates. Then they both lowered the rates some more. And then some more. They are literally nickel-and-diming their drivers in their attempt to dominate the ridesharing market. Because at the end of the day, these arrogant assholes have to be the top dog. Like evil scientists overcompensating for being such nerds, their ambitions seem to know no bounds.

It’s a goddamn shame. Passengers weren’t even complaining about the prices. They were happy to have a better service.

Now it seems like Lyft and Uber are not just competing with each other but with the bus as well. It costs $2.25 to ride the Muni. A minimum fare for take a car is five dollars. So why not request an Uber for a few bucks more when you don’t feel like walking a couple blocks?

It’s dehumanizing to pick somebody up and be told, “Oh, I’m not going far.” Like that’s a good thing. Occasionally, a passenger will apologize for requesting a car to go a short distance, but saying sorry doesn’t ameliorate the crushing blow of ending the ride at their destination and seeing that $5.21 on the screen of my cracked iPhone. Of which I only see eighty percent, obviously, before factoring in gas and taxes, at the very least.

This has become the reality of ridesharing: slave wages.

And the problem with slave wages is that you can easily wind up in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Each week it gets more and more difficult to climb out of that hole.

So yeah… I keep driving for Uber because I’m hoping eventually I’ll make enough money to take a breath and figure out how to get myself out of this mess. But that day has yet to come. And as the prices keep going down, it may never come and I’ll just continue sinking deeper into poverty.

I should probably start playing the lottery. I’d certainly have better odds.


An earlier version of this post originally appeared on my blogger site.

For more nitty gritty details on my time as an Uber/Lyft driver, check out my blog Behind the Wheel.

These days, I write about my life as a bonafide cab driver for the San Francisco Examiner.

Follow me on twitter

I also do zines about driving for Uber and Lyft.