Dumb and (d)U(m)BER

Just say “NO!”… to Uber

If you have visited my Lyft & Uber Tips page, you may wonder why I have only one tip for Uber (which is to not use them, either as a rider or a driver!). There is method to my madness (madness used in this context as raging anger): in addition to the slew of bad news and scandals that this company has been involved in, they simply are stupid when it comes to employing common business sense and positively treating the people (both riders and drivers) who are responsible for generating their massive revenues.

Blinded by their eternal and unquenchable greed, they literally leap over hundreds of dollars in monthly revenues in order to scrape up another $5 profit. While that seems foolhardy and idiotic, it is a clear sign as to the damage that the black hole of avarice is capable of producing.

My own situation perfectly illustrates the stupidity of Uber’s business practices. Ever since I joined Uber in October of 2016, I had this uneasy gnawing feeling that, as a driver, I am expendable and not considered to be of any true intrinsic value to the company. While I am sure that Uber gets their share of flaky and irresponsible drivers, to assume that all drivers fall into the same category is not only insulting, but counterproductive to building a loyal and enthusiastic team of independent contractors. Perhaps it is because that we are all independent contractors that Uber feels no obligation to cover our backs or to express greater appreciation of the work that we do. Whether or not this is the case, the end result is that Uber appears to be regularly subjected to mass exoduses by their team of drivers. Some of these exits coincide perfectly with the spate of scandals that continue to plague this firm; however, a good number of the drivers simply decide to try Lyft (or seek out an altogether new working situation) after a period of time, when their bank account does not match up to the promises and representation of high earnings that the company regularly makes.

Every company will make missteps during the course of performing their business, but Uber seems to specialize in regularly blundering with both their riders as well as their drivers. One glaring case in point: go to the Uber website and simply try to find a link to contact the company directly. Can’t find one? Of course not, because they do not make direct contact an easy process at all! The only exception to this rule of stonewalling customers and contractors is when you have a question about joining them as a driver or rider, once more proving that they are more attracted to prospects than they are to the core of workers and passengers who are generating such huge revenues for them!

If you want to contact Uber, your first step is to go to their FAQ section and type in the question or problem that you are having. After Uber spits out a list of seemingly related results, they are then kind enough to offer a link to contact them in the event that the results they coughed up do not answer your specific concerns. However, even then you are subjected to a drop list of topics from which to choose, along with certain fields that require completion before submitting your communication. I learned quickly that sometimes you just have to select a topic or subtopic, regardless of how relevant it is to your situation, in order to send your complaint or query. Then you cross your fingers and hope for a timely reply, but again timeliness is relative and their idea of a swift response is to answer you back within 24 hours.

Also, be prepared to have them ignore any pointed questions or specific demands. Even worse, do not expect them to fully read your message; it seems as if the customer support division has been specifically instructed to only answer certain questions or problems and to ignore everything else you have written. Finally, do not expect your issues to be resolved in your first contact with them; the few times I attempted to communicate with them, it took multiple contacts to reach the point of resolution.

My first two attempts to contact Uber were because of issues with their app freezing up after picking up a rider. Getting properly credited for both of these screw ups was frustrating and time consuming; so much for their claim that all a driver has to do is turn on the app and pick up drivers, because the 25% fee of the fare that you pay to them and which they claim means that they take care of collecting payments and paying your portion is not as seamless as they pretend it to be. Again, I am presuming that many drivers are too busy to chase down each errant fare, which Uber can then pocket with a sly chuckle while congratulating themselves on being smarter than their busy drivers.

It was my third attempt that convinced me it was time to move over to Lyft. While I had a few people urging me to add Lyft to my driving services, I was simply too busy managing the Uber requests to take the time to try out another ride sharing service. However, on one particularly busy evening, I ended up very far from my home and normal area of driving. I was tired and hungry and heading back home when I got another Uber ride request. After I accepted it, I was pleased to see that it was nearby and that I should arrive within 5 minutes or so, which I did. I was hoping that this fare would be going back into Albuquerque, near where I live, which meant I would be paid for heading home for the night.

It was already dark when I pulled up to the house. Not seeing anyone waiting outside, I called to let them know I had arrived. The wife answered and said her husband would be home any minute and that they would be ready to go as soon as he pulled up. True to her word, as I was hanging up the phone, he pulled into the driveway. I saw him get out and his wife come out of the house. He went up to her and talked to her for a couple of minutes and then she came over to my car. She was extremely apologetic, but explained that her husband lost his wallet, so they had no money to go out (and he was also now in a bad mood), so she had to cancel. I assured her it was no problem and cancelled the ride through my app. I then left for home, which was about 30 minutes away, resting in the knowledge that I would at least be paid a cancellation fee for the hassle.

When I later logged into my Uber dashboard, I was surprised (and mildly annoyed) to learn that they had not credited my account for the cancellation, so I decided to run the gauntlet with Uber by contacting them to get my measly $3.75 cancellation fee (Uber charges riders $5 for a cancellation but greedily keeps 25% and pays its drivers $3.75). Since it was late, I headed to bed, presuming that this issue would be adjusted by the time I woke up in the morning.

When I checked my email in the morning, there was a reply from Uber, but not with a message I was expecting. They first explained their cancellation policy, which is that I need to arrive in a timely manner (within 5 minutes of the ETA), and to wait for 5 minutes. I was bluntly told that a cancellation fee did not apply in this case, as I only waited 4 minutes and 48 seconds, instead of waiting 5 minutes! I was furious at this callous response and told them that they needed to reconsider this situation, as I easily waited 5 minutes in addition to the 5 or so minutes it took to arrive.

Their next reply was terse and unyielding: they basically said that rules are rules and that they were not going to budge on their position. I wrote them once more, saying in more colorful language that their position is unacceptable and I demanded that they cough up this lousy $3.75 to partially compensate me for my time in this situation, especially as the riders cancelled on me (even though I formally performed the cancellation through my app). To which I got a reply stating that not always will Uber and their drivers see eye to eye, and this is one of these cases. Additionally, I was told that this “conversation” was now closed, implying that if I wrote again, I would not even receive the courtesy of a reply.

For me, that was the breaking point with Uber. I immediately started the process of signing up with Lyft and as soon as I was approved, I switched 100% to Lyft. However, a day or so after the end of my “communication” with the horrible Uber support department, it dawned on me that very likely Uber had charged these people the $5 cancellation fee and decided to pocket it all instead of paying me my lousy $3.75!

I have related this story to many people, mainly former Uber passengers, and every one of them agreed that Uber did charge the riders and pocketed the $5. This is the type of reputation that Uber has with both drivers and passengers; if there is any hint of wrongdoing by Uber, everyone who knows them quickly conclude that Uber is consciously aware of and instigated the wrongful act!

Even if Uber did not charge these people (which I am sure that they did!), considering the billions of dollars that they pull in each year, one would think that they would have a slush fund to cover such petty differences and disagreements. But that would mean that they would lose and the driver would win, in their myopic point of view, and that simply does not match their model for total and superior domination.

As I thought about it, even though I live in quiet Albuquerque, where I only gross about $10 to $15 per hour (meaning before my expenses such as gas and upkeep), I spend enough time to earn about $300 per week, which nicely supplements my meager Social Security retirement income and keep my head above the financial waters. In order for me to net out $300 in payments from Uber, I need to generate rider fares of $400; since Uber takes 25% of my fares, they rake in $100 a week from my driving efforts.

So, in order for them to cheat me out of $3.75, they are now losing $100 per week from my earnings. If that isn’t the dumbest business model you have ever come across, please tell me what can be dumber! In addition, I am now yet another person joining the army of deserters, and let me assure you that I have told this story more than once to my riders. So for a mere $3.75, Uber continues to gain more bad press, this time through word of mouth, which any marketer will agree is the most powerful method for influencing (either positively or negatively) potential and current customers.



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