North Texas Daily

Are Uber drivers in need of a Lyft?

Are Uber drivers in need of a Lyft?

Are Uber drivers in need of a Lyft?
October 02
17:35 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer


October is a month characterized by leaf piles, a refreshingly cooler climate and pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns with spooky expressions or charming grins.

It also means rent is due, and with roughly $200 in his bank account, mechanical engineering senior Floyd Horung wasn’t smiling. He was scared straight, hustling to his Chevy Impala after classes on Oct. 1 to drive for transport company Uber until midnight.

“I can work my [explicit] off tonight, taking as many calls as I can muster, but this job isn’t as reliable as it once was,” Horung said. “If customers cancel midway as I’m en route, I’m caught circling the area, wasting gas and missing other call opportunities.”

Uber Technologies has seen a nationwide employee backlash over the past few weeks, specifically in response to a proposed directive from the company that would obligate the premium-grade UberBlack drivers to accept the lower rates normally assigned to UberX drivers when demand surges in any given area.

“I’ve made friends with many of the drivers because I see them all the time, but I think what confuses a lot of drivers is that they aren’t a part of Uber, but are partnered with Uber,” Ray said. “They run their own business with the aid of the company.”

While the company rescinded the proposed policy, now allowing UberBlack drivers to opt out of the cheaper fares in response to the four-day strike by hundreds of drivers outside the Dallas-Fort Worth office, Horung, an UberX driver for more than a year, still sees many flaws with the treatment of the drivers on a fundamental scale.

“In a lot of ways, being a driver for Uber is not worth it,” Horung said. “Although there are several students needing rides in Denton, you don’t always have the ability to make the most profit from your drives, and it is extremely cheap.”

The price-per-mile for UberX rides has dropped from $1.20 to .85 cents over the past year, and Uber will deduct anywhere from 20 to 28 percent out of the revenue a driver gets from a shift. In addition, the GPS software can be inaccurate and spotty at times and the lack of a tipping system is even further crippling.

“Customers often have no idea where exactly streets of Denton are, and it can be difficult coordinating,” Horung said.

Horung also noted if a driver has any grievance or problem, they do not have the ability to speak with a representative locally. Issues drivers experience must be reported to the corporate office in Dallas via walk-in.

“We can’t even call them. We have to make a trip all the way to a crowded office that sometimes takes weeks to follow up,” Horung said.

The lack of a telephone line is cumbersome for Horung, but theatre junior and D-FW corporate office employee Corey Ray claims a telephone line would be “never-ending with phone calls,” and even without a driver hotline, Uber actively cares for its customers. Ray noted the decrease in protestors over the past weeks.

“Uber does its best to make sure the drivers are cared for, and when any grievances are expressed by drivers, the company keeps it as fair as possible,” Ray said.

When posed with the drivers’ complaint of customers canceling rides, Ray referenced the cancellation fee of $6 for UberX drivers and $10 for UberBlack drivers. He agreed it can be frustrating for drivers when they are unable to make as much profit as potentially possible, but ultimately placed that responsibility upon the drivers themselves.

“I’ve made friends with many of the drivers because I see them all the time, but I think what confuses a lot of drivers is that they aren’t a part of Uber, but are partnered with Uber,” Ray said. “They run their own business with the aid of the company.”

Local resident Cari Hatcher is a former driver of both Uber and Lyft, a competing transportation service. Uber, in comparison, was a more lucrative prospect for Hatcher, as it is are more widely known, but it was the lack of communication and understanding with the company that ultimately made her seek opportunity with Lyft.

“I lost a rental phone from [Uber] when a lowlife, extended family member stole it from my house during my mother’s funeral,” Hatcher said.

She approached Uber with the situation, requesting help in tracking the phone.

“They said they couldn’t. On top of the device fee of $10 a month, I now owe hundreds of dollars to the company, all in one swipe,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher visited the Uber corporate office in Dallas on occasion. She recalled lines wrapping around the front of the building and a crowded room with employees stationed on their laptops.

“Uber is kind of heartless,” Hatcher said. “I’ve never really had an issue with Lyft. They’re less stuck-up and encourage drivers to fist-bump their riders and have them sit up front so they feel more like friends.”

Horung described his time with Uber as a persistent decline. As he drives for Uber through his unorthodox hours after long days in class, he can’t help but consider opportunity elsewhere.

“This used to be a good way for me to pick up a lot of money after class,” Horung said. “Now, I’m finding that I made more money as a delivery driver for Papa John’s.”

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