I had an Awesome Day! I Earned $5.33 an Hour!

I’ve been holding off on posting this because we all know you can have a bad day here and there.  But I’ve had a string of four bad days in a row.  So bad, that the $5.33 (net – before car expenses) I earned per hour today looks really good! 

Two days ago I took in a grand total of $0.90 per hour.  Unbelievable I know, but it’s true.  I worked three hours.  I got one $7.00 (net) trip.  I paid $4.30 in tolls going back and forth to the airport seeking passengers.  Not a single ping at the airport.  Came home and called it a day.  $7.00 minus my $4.30 in tolls left me with a grand total of $2.70 for three hours of work, or $0.90 an hour.

Now you can see why the $5.33 seems so awesome!  It’s almost 6 times more than the day before!

The day before yesterday I didn’t drive.  A friend called and asked why I wasn’t driving.  I told her I lost my motivation.  She asked why.  I told her I only got one trip in three hours the day before.  She said, “Get back out there, some days are bad but others are okay.”

So yesterday, I drove again… and to my amazement, it was even worse than the day before.  I got one minimum fare trip – in get this – 5.5 hours!  Yep, it was better than the day before when I incurred all the tolls.  It came to $1.27 per hour.  But if I had incurred the same tolls seeking a pickup at the airport my hourly total would have been just $0.49!  However, I learned my lesson the day before about incurring those tolls.

This is all so appalling in light of Uber’s recent fare cuts and their promises that we would be busier than ever.  Well, I’ve never been this idle.  They told us they had tested the fare cuts in many markets around the country and the results were in.  In every market where they had slashed fares, they told us demand had skyrocketed and drivers were earning the same as they were before (of course with a lot more work and wear and tear on the car).  So I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  I thought maybe they knew something I didn’t.  But I’ve been sorely disappointed in these results in my market (northern New Jersey – right across from New York City).

Oh, and to add insult to injury, when I got home yesterday there was an email from Uber to drivers saying they were going to pay us BIG money if we would help them recruit new drivers!  They were going to pay something like $200 for each driver we recruited.  And if we recruited at least three drivers they would give us a $500 bonus.  Five drivers, I think earned a $900 bonus and the next level earned you a $1,500 bonus.  Great!  They already have so many more drivers than they need that I’ve sat for hours on end, day after day, without a single call – and they want us to help them recruit even more drivers!?  Who would bother?

Why, when they know so many drivers are going passenger-less all day long are they in seemingly such desperation to take on thousands of new drivers?  It just doesn’t make any sense.  Unless… unless their real goal is to get everyone in America who owns a car to drive for them.  It sounds ludicrous but it’s the only possible explanation I can think of for their actions.

It’s really amazing that all these seemingly smart people haven’t come up with a smarter strategy.  I’ll throw out what I think a smart strategy would be and see what you think about it.  I think the smartest strategy would be first to raise prices back to where they originally were – a little above cab fares.  And I say that for two reasons.  One, the price would speak to the quality of service they provide (or used to provide).  And at that price people would think it’s a great value.  Sure, it’s a little more than a cab ride, but the service is not just a little better but it’s far better.  Uber would then earn a long-term reputation for quality and great service.  And with higher fares, drivers would be able to afford nicer cars and keep them in better condition.  Thus ensuring that the Uber fleet would always be far better than a taxi fleet.

But, higher fares aren’t the only solution.  Along with higher fares, Uber also needs to do one other thing.  They need to be far more selective about the people they take on as drivers.  They need to meet them in person to make sure each driver will project the kind of high-quality image Uber should want to project.  They also need to actually look at each driver’s car to make sure it meets high standards.  And they should require drivers to have their cars brought in once every six months for a free inspection by Uber staff – to make sure the driver has continued to maintain the quality of his car.

By doing these two things it would change everything for the better.  It would mean that Uber drivers and the Uber fleet would be consistently of high quality.  And customers would come to trust that a call for an Uber will always get them an excellent car and driver.

The other day I actually had occasion to use an Uber and I was pretty shocked at the state of the guy’s car.  It was old.  It had over 100,000 miles on it.  He was a college kid and he had done a very smart thing.  He bought a cheap used car to use for Uber.  Very smart financially speaking.  But he had cloth seats and right in the middle of the backseat was a big ugly stain.  The outside of his car was pretty dirty too.  I literally felt like I was getting into a cab.  And that’s when it occurred to me that these cheap prices Uber is setting are only going to lead to a degradation of the fleet which will result in clients having more doubts about the quality they can expect when they call for an Uber.

When drivers are struggling just to pay for gas and tolls they certainly aren’t going to get their cars washed as often as they once did.  And they’re not going to be able to maintain them in pristine condition, nor will they be able to afford cars as nice as they once could.  Once the Uber fleet begins to degrade, Uber’s image will also degrade in customers’ eyes.  This will be the end of Uber as we’ve known it.  Uber 2.0 is a significant downgrade and it won’t be long before this reputation catches up to them.  It won’t be long before customers begin to notice.  And once the Uber fleet is not much better or different than taxis, customers will be right back into taxis.

For most of this last year customers in Hoboken and Jersey City were so delighted with Uber they didn’t really notice that it cost a bit more than a cab.  People used to tell me they didn’t even care if it did.  They were just so happy to get a great car with a great driver who showed up quickly.  But if Uber keeps following this path they’re on, I predict in another year customers will be saying there’s really not that much difference between Uber and cabs.  Uber cars will be older, dirtier, drivers will be less fluent in English and there will be fewer Uber cars on the road resulting in longer wait times for customers.  Those are exactly the problems that had customers fleeing cabs and rushing to Uber!

Uber used to have a very upscale image but at reasonable prices.  A year from now however, if nothing changes, all the money and effort they put into building that image will be wasted.

More benefits to raising prices and limiting the number of drivers (i.e. being more selective and only taking the best of drivers) would be not only that drivers would have better cars, but also that there would be less driver turnover and each driver would have more experience.  It takes a while to learn your way around even in a city you’re familiar with.  Because customers will always take you to places you never knew existed!  But after you’ve done it for about a year, you really start to know all those nooks and crannies of your city.  And passengers can feel the difference between a driver who has to punch everything into his GPS and one who really knows how to get there.  But Uber’s current strategy will only result in an extremely high turnover rate which will result in drivers who are less knowledgeable and less sure of themselves.  And Uber should never think that customers don’t notice that.



22 thoughts on “I had an Awesome Day! I Earned $5.33 an Hour!”

  1. Their business model is recruit math illiterate so it takes them a while to figure out they’re losing money. It’s called “externalizing expenses”. One for you, one for me. One for you, two for me. One for you, three for me.

  2. you make a ton of great points, and we’ve all had slow days, so we feel your pain

    if only we had a crystal ball to see the future of uber…

    but i’m still having fun every single day, driving interesting riders

    so i’m going to keep rolling until it either dies or becomes ubiquitous

  3. Uber = Reckless, disregards rules, sticks their noses up to safety and sticks their middle finger up at regulators . Avoids commercial insurance . This is not somebody we want to use .

  4. Drove last night for 5 hours made $76 total after UBER took their share drove 142 miles = 3.5 gallons of gas at 3.50 = @ 12
    $76 – 12 = 64 for 5 hours 12.80 a hour no where near the 30 -35 they advertise. even less after deduction wear tear and depreciation at .10 a mile 64 -14.2 = $49.80 = less then 10hr less then minimum wage in SF. UBER sets rates not us that makes them an employer! We are employees they have to reimburse expenses. UBER is not fair to drivers. lets get lawyers. I’ll be writing a letter to who ever is in charge of SF living wage ordnance. let get UBER shutdown in SF City

    1. Agreed, Agreed, agreed! Let’s somehow stand together, even though they do their best to keep us apart for this VERY reason. They are crooks! I can’t stand driving in SF with most of the riders’ demeanors. They all want everything Uber has marketed and glamorized. It’s not required to carry waters/snacks/candy, but SF riders surely expect it on Uber X, yet they want to pay the least. Uber wants to market and sell that with their Brand, then let them supply it. Keep in touch.

  5. Their best night was last night. It rained and I had only short 5.00 to 6.00 trips made 47.00 in 3 hours. Time to look for other part time employment.

  6. All too true. Your thoughts are in line with mine. Riders used to be very happy with the Uber experience a quality simple cashless ride. Now Uber is making it all about slashing prices. A crazy tactic in Northern NJ. I do not understand how they are going to hold up. I think Surge pricing in NJ is like chasing Unicorns. I get ride request from 12-20 minutes away if I go pick these people up I am in the hole $0.55x10miles near impossible to make money. So these people can not get picked up and Surge pricing is not where they are but where my car is! How is that possible? Uber is in process of raising another Billion in Cash for 3-4 % of company. They are on a race to the bottom. Near impossible for NJ Drivers to make minimum wage unless they drive Hooptys and beg for tips. They are pushing drivers to Lyft. Very dissapointing i was loving Uber @ $2.20 mile rate. Bring it back.

    1. Mike, I was quite enjoying Uber at the old $2.25 rate too. Until they started putting way more drivers on the road than they had business for.

      1. Man, as a cab driver I feel for you guys. I don’t want to see desperate people trying to make ends meet getting dragged through broken glass just so the apes that hired you can fleece you to death.

        There’s a lot of businesses that bank on a bad economy and low valued labor, I don’t know if Uber could survive in a thriving economy with the same strategy, as you guys would probably have better jobs waiting somewhere. Any company that does what Uber is doing intentionally should have their executive officers tarred and feathered.

  7. I drive black car in Denver and we are feeling the noose tighten here as well. Denver is a growing city but not as big as other cities. But why does Uber keep hiring drivers every single day?? Uber is flooding the market with every class X, black, SUV, & XL. It’s cutting into drivers pockets that have been driving for a while and uber could care less. It’s great for the customers and great for Uber but bad for drivers. Not sure how true this is but the worst thing I’ve heard so far is from a SUV driver saying that when uber offered him help to purchase a new black suburban he was all for it. Saying he only had to pay X amount of dollars per week to keep his suburban. With the over saturation of drivers in this city he’s having trouble actually making money. He said that they take 28% off the top plus the payment for the suburban and he is left standing with peanuts in his hand after uber had their way with with him. Even with the astronomical high turn over rate that uber has, people will still try to drive with uber because they don’t know what it’s really like. Uber is the pimp and every driver is their prostitute. We do the dirty work and they get paid.
    Not sure if anyone has seen these videos but they are a must watch. Get on YouTube and search these titles… People Hate Uber and Here’s Why, and Riding Dirty: How Uber Takes Drivers and Passengers for a ride. Some informative videos.

  8. I am in Edmonton, Alberta, and this is my first day driving for Uber. I have my own car and smartphone. So far so bad, I rushed out to a red “surge” zone, only to find that the surge went off before I got there. Drove around to other yellow & orange zones, same result. Granted I only started at 08:30, maybe I need to start earlier, or cater to bar crowd. Either way I am getting discouraged…I suspect the “surge” in Edmonton happens when there are 3 requests and 1 driver; no wonder it dies down so quick. I hope the afternoon rush-hour is better…

    1. Eric, congratulations on learning the first Uber lesson – Don’t Chase the Surge! It’s not worth it and you’ll miss trips in the meantime. The surge is really ridiculous when you think about it. They say they raise the prices to get more drivers into a busy area. But anyone who’s driven more than three weeks ignores it because they know what you just learned – by the time they get there the surge will be gone! But don’t worry – there will be times when you’ll find yourself already in the surge area when it begins surging. So just wait for those times. Also, starting at 8:30 (I assume you mean in the morning), is a little late to take advantage of early morning airport trips and people going to work. People around here start at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning – and usually do pretty well between then and 9:00 or 10:00.

  9. Wow Been getting slammed with B.S riders. Need to work 6hr in morning to make 30-40 bucks. Then 3 hours at night to make 50 total for day. Get 2 block trips 2.25 and bad rating. Then get fare that has no dest. Rider avoids phone call then gets in car and says take me to airport. Start to go and says no I mean Atlanta airport 2 and a half hr away. Cant do it bad rating 2.25 fare 20 min to get them 20 min home loser all the way around. Had it with this shit. Calling every fare no dest no ride. Don’t answer phone no ride.

    1. Why couldn’t you take them to the Atlanta airport? That would have been a great trip! You would have made over $100 in one trip.

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