Uber is the hottest thing in the “gig economy” today. But there’s a lot about ride sharing app Uber — and its drivers — that you may not know. The upstart company has made waves in just about every city where it has launched its services – and for good reason.
The Uber model of having regular people in their own cars pick-up total strangers and drive them places is, effectively, doing away with professional, licensed taxi services in many cities. It is also changing the way people are compensated for their work and service. Uber shows no signs of slowing down, either.
The company continues to invade just about every territory it can. To date, Uber has launched in more than 50 countries. The number of people driving for Uber has exploded. Here are 10 things you likely didn’t know about Uber.
10. Cars Cannot Be More Than 10 Years Old
Many people assume (wrongly) that Uber is a free for all. A company where anything goes, and where just about anyone can become an Uber driver. The reality is that parent company Uber Technologies has some pretty stringent regulations and policies in place.
When it comes to which cars can be used for ride sharing, they cannot be older than 10 years. Also cars used by Uber chauffeurs must have four doors. Two doors are not allowed. If your Uber driver shows up to pick you up in a rusted out two door hatchback, that is a no-no.
Uber pays people in each area where it operates to vet both cars and drivers for the company. This is just a few of the ways in which Uber tries to preserve some semblance of professionalism and quality among its cars and drivers.
9. The Tip Is Not Included In The Price Of The Fare
One of the conveniences of Uber is that the app connects directly to a person’s credit card and charges the cost of the ride directly from their account. Riders needn’t have any cash on them to take an Uber to get where they are going. However, this convenience has led many people to incorrectly conclude that the Uber fare includes a tip for the driver. Not so.
Any and all tips must be paid directly to the Uber driver in the form of cash. The fare does not calculate a tip and no tip is debited from bank accounts. A recent survey found the “tip issue” to be the biggest complaint among Uber drivers, with most drivers claiming that only about one in every ten passengers offered them a tip for their services. Keep this in mind and have a few bucks on hand to tip your Uber driver.
[Editor’s Note: Uber would later add the feature for riders to add additional tips for drivers.]
8. Ratings Matter
Another way that Uber keeps tabs on its drivers and ensures a degree of quality is by encouraging people who ride with the company to rate their driver. The highest rating is five stars, and many Uber drivers take enormous pride in achieving a five-star rating. However, if a driver’s rating falls below 4.6 stars, they could be fired from the company or have their Uber account deactivated.
Often times, drivers aren’t even aware this has happened. Ride offers just stop showing up in their phone and they suddenly realize that their Uber account has been deactivated. Therefore, it is important to know that the rating you give a driver really matters. You are literally impacting that person’s ability to earn money. Remember: a basic, boring, uneventful ride is perfectly worth a perfect rating. Only drop those stars if a specific issue pops up.
7. Uber Can Be More Expensive Than Traditional Taxis
While you might think it’s cheaper and cooler to take Uber over a traditional taxi, that’s not always the case. In most jurisdictions, Uber is actually more expensive than a regular old cab. In many U.S. cities, Uber users paid an average of $7 more per ride than if they had used a taxi service.
This premium for Uber’s service has proven to be unsustainable in poorer countries and communities where Uber operates. For this reason, the company has reduced its rates by 30 percent in many of the jurisdictions where it operates. However, in wealthy cities such as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Boston, the premium rates continue. So expect to pay more for a ride if you use Uber in certain areas (and don’t forget about the tip, as previously mentioned).
6. Uber Drivers Are Pressured To Accept A Lot Of Rides
Many people find working for Uber attractive because of the flexible hours and ability to earn extra money, But the cold hard truth is that Uber drivers are pressured to accept, at minimum, 80 percent of the ride requests they receive. Less than that, and a driver risks having their account deactivated.
Also, people who drive for more than 50 hours a week get a 10 per cent bonus based on the fares they’ve collected over the previous seven days. Bearing in mind that the average work week is 40 hours, and you can see that working for Uber is often a lot more of a commitment than part-time work. It’s hardly a casual job to do in you spare time. Many people actually use it as a full-time job. This pressure to drive constantly for Uber has led a lot of people to stop working for the company.
5. Some Uber Drivers Rent Their Car And Smartphone
People who want to drive for Uber but don’t have an acceptable car or their own smartphone are often able to rent both through the company. The company has programs in place that connect people to car rental companies in their area and enable them to rent a vehicle for about $200 a week. Uber also allows people to rent the latest iPhone for $10 a week.
These seem like good initiatives, but ultimately, they end up costing the drivers who work for Uber and take money out of their pockets. But for people who are hard-up and desperate to make some money, the rental programs offered through Uber enable them to get behind the wheel right away, which is helpful.
4. Drivers Get No Discounts Or Breaks From Uber
People who drive for Uber get no discounts or special deals should they themselves become an Uber passenger. The company treats each of their chauffeurs just like anyone else off the street when it comes to picking them up and taking them places. Drivers who work for Uber also complain that they are responsible for their own gas and the maintenance of their vehicle.
From oil changes to tire rotations, Uber drivers are on the hook for all of it. This is in stark contrast to taxi drivers, who bring their car back to a garage each night where it is professionally cleaned, checked, and maintained. The lack of discounts and incentives has led to unrest and grumblings among many of Uber drivers in recent months. The company continues to hold firm, but there are increased efforts by drivers to form a union in order to demand better treatment.
3. Uber Drivers Don’t Know Their Passenger’s Destination When They Pick Them Up
When an Uber driver accepts a ride request, the only information they get is where the passenger is to be picked up. No other information is provided – including the destination address. This means that Uber drivers pick-up rides cold. Whether it is to an airport, hotel, or sports bar, the driver doesn’t know until they pick you up. This has led to some sticky situations for Uber drivers.
For example, a man in Scranton, Pennsylvania once took an Uber all the way to Buffalo, New York – a 278-mile trip that took six hours. The Uber driver that picked the man up had no idea how far the passenger wanted to go. The trip cost $583.69, and the passenger had to contact three different Uber drivers before he found one who would take him to his destination. The first two Uber drivers who showed up sped off once they heard the man wanted to go to Buffalo.
2. Prostitutes Are Among The Most Frequent Uber Users
It’s not just students and business professionals in a hurry who use Uber. Prostitutes have also been found to rely on the ride share program. In fact, in some cities such as San Francisco and New York, prostitutes are among the most frequent users of Uber. Many of the late night calls Uber drivers receive are to pick-up prostitutes in seedy areas of town and bring them to their various calls.
This has led to complaints that many Uber drivers put themselves in harm’s way working for the company. Other dangers include drunk riders, bad neighborhoods, and the risk of being beat-up, robbed, and left in a nasty part of town. Drivers are vocal about the company providing increased security measures.
1. Uber Is Watching You!
Uber has to contend with a lot of bad publicity, and the company does not take it lightly. Especially when the bad publicity comes from Uber drivers. Uber is notorious for keeping tabs on its drivers and seeking out any negativity on social media, and then promptly squashing it. Whether it is a Tweet or Facebook post, Uber has earned a reputation for taking swift retribution against any of its drivers who grumble or complain about the ride share app and the company’s practices.
Many drivers who have been caught complaining online have swiftly had their Uber accounts deactivated. This policing of cyberspace seems to be one of the ways in which Uber is trying to control its reputation and help with word of mouth referrals. Consider yourself warned!