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Speaker: Confessions of an Uber driver

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  • Jean Hughes,

    Sorry but having a P endorsement should be the bottom line. I will be asking that my Uber driver has one when I use them.

    Mangere • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jean Hughes,

    I feel the same way, but I’m not clear on how to require that.

    By the way, Geoff Cumming's 2014 Herald story on the taxi industry is a very informative background read. Surprising fact: taxi drivers who are company employees don't need a P licence. Weird.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Attachment

    A suggestion mooted to other drivers (yes, we are starting to organize) was to advise passengers to use their own powers to make protest. It seems more likely to have an effect on Uber than anything the drivers could say or do otherwise. Our ability to complain to management or strike or do similar industrial actions is negligible.

    There are some ways you could do this. If you're not in a hurry, you could just cancel the ride and put in a reason "Driver illegal. No P Endorsement" or something like it. Uber can and will see these. That would be the most punitive to Uber.

    If you need the ride, you could rate the driver 1 star, with a similar reason. That is much more punitive to the driver. Low ratings drive them out of the system very fast. But I think you're going to feel personally much worse doing it, after getting perfectly nice ride with some driver, you then 1 star them. Even a 4 star is an effective down-rating.

    Or you could just tell them that it's your opinion that they should get compliant. They will certainly get the message. It's also a more direct signal than ratings. We never know who gave us the ratings.

    I added a picture to show what it should look like. This should be clearly displayed where every passenger can see it. Usually on the dashboard somewhere, often dangling from the mirror.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Surprising fact: taxi drivers who are company employees don’t need a P licence. Weird.

    I'd like to see his source on that, because as far as I know, it's not true. So long as you drive passengers "For Hire or Reward", you need it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I've had two uber rides. One paid for by a friend. And the one that makes me doubt I will use Uber again. Essentially the multiplier (which I misinterpreted) combined with a ludicrous "estimated cost" meant we paid roughly three times what a taxi would cost.

    I have no problem with breaking the taxi monopoly but nothing in my Uber experience makes me want to ride again.

    I am glad your experience as a driver has been good.

    As for the P requirement ... well if it is meant to ensure that taxi drivers and uber drivers are safer on the roads ... roflnui

    The extra certification on the vehicle seems OK.

    Can't see any justification for Uber deciding to unilaterally lower the standards - kind of like McDs deciding burger meat doesn't need to be stored in the fridge.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    You got Surged! Topic for another post. It's definitely not uncontroversial. Riders hate it. Drivers love it. But it's pretty much a lottery. About 1/20th of my fares are comprised of extra surge charges. I don't have the stats, but gut feeling is that the possibility of surge adds roughly 5% to the average fare. But the variance is huge!

    For future reference, when you book, it warns you if you have surge pricing and you can opt to wait it out, with a notification when it ends. From my experience, it usually lasts about 10 minutes, unless there is a major reason like the end of a concert or football game.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    well if it is meant to ensure that taxi drivers and uber drivers are safer on the roads

    It's meant to ensure the passengers are safer. Driver safety is via other processes. Taxis have their security cameras. Uber has the app, with location tracking, and the fact that all users have registered with a credit card. Also, I don't have to carry cash.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    You got Surged! Topic for another post. It’s definitely not uncontroversial. Riders hate it. Drivers love it. But it’s pretty much a lottery. About 1/20th of my fares are comprised of extra surge charges. I don’t have the stats, but gut feeling is that the possibility of surge adds roughly 5% to the average fare. But the variance is huge!

    Surge pricing is part of the package – you're warned about about it when you request a driver and it's your choice as a rider. From memory, I've only paid it once.

    I've had two drivers I had to one-star. The first after it became clear that the reason he wanted to take me the long way to Newmarket was that he wasn't confident about the SH16 > Southern motorway transition. It got a bit hairy when I insisted he do it and he had to make the lane changes to come off at Gillies Ave.

    The only other driver I've one-starred took too long to find me for a pick-up on Newton Road and then drove (on the motorway) with his phone/GPS in one hand. Ironically, he was in a badged taxi and had clearly launched the Uber app because he wasn't getting any fares. Sometimes I'll take a taxi home late at night because it's easier to just get in a waiting car than call one.

    But in general, and especially for outbound journeys, Uber has been brilliant. Better cars, prompt pick-ups, no fuss on arrival. It's really not just about cost.

    But I'm very uneasy about the lowering of driver standards.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Also, I don’t have to carry cash.

    And you don't get anyone doing a runner on arrival. One driver told me he felt that was the best part, compared to his previous taxi work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    So if you had a disabled child or adult who needed a ride somewhere would you recommend Uber generally? Or just those who did the P training?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3196 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And you don’t get anyone doing a runner on arrival.

    Yup, although that's not so much a safety issue as a convenience one. A really big convenience. Cuts both ways too. No one has to reach for their wallet. People just get in, get driven, get out. Done: Invoice is in the mail. Corporate users love it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    taxing taxis…

    … all users have registered with a credit card. Also, I don’t have to carry cash....
    Done: Invoice is in the mail. Corporate users love it.

    Where is tax levied on each ride transaction (including GST)?
    Does the ‘parent’ Uber handle all these transactions – will all monies transacted on NZ rides be taxed in NZ?
    - Or is there an off-shore cash flow?

    I guess I’ll never be an uber-user as I don’t have credit cards, nor intend to…

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7887 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I’d recommend using uberASSIST, the new option launched a few weeks ago. It guarantees you a driver with a very high rating who has attended the uberASSIST course, and is likely to be helpful and patient. The fares are identical. But the vehicle is no different to uberX. So it would need to be someone who can get in and out of a vehicle. The driver will very probably assist you if you request it.

    You’ll probably get a call as soon as you book it, to confirm you really want it. This is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that so far 90% of my uberASSIST calls have been for people who simply erroneously chose it in the app, and weren’t in any need of special assistance. It’s to both of our disadvantages when that happens. I have to drive further to get them, they have to wait longer, or may find no one available at all.

    Is it a good service for the disabled? Aside from the fact that it’s just a normal vehicle, I’d say yes. The lack of any need to pay directly, and the GPS tracking of the route, and the ability to rate the driver at the end, all contribute to making it a better experience for vulnerable people. You can also book on behalf of other people, even from a remote location. You just have to set the pin where it is that they are. Also, you will receive the phone calls and notifications. It would be worthwhile in those circumstances to call the driver yourself as soon as you make the booking, to explain the pickup complexities. Maybe they should come to the door, to assist the person into the vehicle. Maybe the person can’t use a smartphone, and won’t get the notification that the driver has arrived or any of the calls they will then make. Elderly people could easily be in this situation. You could put the destination in, too, in case the passenger has trouble communicating. If you do all those things, then it will be fairly seamless for the passenger.

    ETA: I’d like to speak about uberASSIST in a future post, though, being one of the drivers myself.

    ETA2: But happy to answer questions here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • EAColeman,

    I put uber on my 15 yo daughter's phone so she can get around the city at night safely after gigs. Easy, cheap and gets charged to our credit card and receipts are emailed - no worries about cash being spent on RTD's (not that my angelic child would do this!). If Uber lowered the safety standard for it's drivers I would use an alternative. No question. I am totally not an overprotective mother.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2016 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Where is tax levied on each ride transaction (including GST)?

    Drivers are responsible for all their own taxes. You are charged GST, built into the fare. It's a good question, and I can't speak authoritatively on this until I've done my first terminal tax return because I quite simply don't understand it. My understanding is that puzzling changes to the GST policy are also part of the bundle of changes last week. This one is under the radar, though, and drivers are pursuing it. Unfortunately, it's a highly complex matter, which is particularly non-conducive to being handled by a low-rent call center that gives you a different answer every time you call. To be honest, I'd be surprised if anyone at the call center really understands what they're talking about when it comes to taxes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to EAColeman,

    If Uber lowered the safety standard for it’s drivers I would use an alternative. No question. I am totally not an overprotective mother.

    Clearly not! Your daughter has a lot of power to make this change untenable for Uber. She just has to refuse any driver that won’t show a P Endorsement. I could go into the other safety standards violations and how to look for them, but I don’t think it’s viable. The P Endorsement is designed for the passengers to see it. It’s been the official mechanism for passenger safety since inception. It must by law be displayed where they can see it whilst in the vehicle.

    ETA: I should clarify. It’s the official government mechanism. Uber’s mechanisms are the many things you already mentioned, and they are not insubstantial. I still think Uber is a great service, and I still want to drive for them. I’m just dismayed at the recklessness of the compliance drop.

    ETA2: By refusing the ride, I mean cancelling it in the app. Give a reason, and mention the P endorsement. She needs to do it within 5 minutes of the driver arriving, so no more mucking around with last drinks and people wrangling. Do that before you order an Uber, they get there too fast. You literally get the closest one to you. On Ponsonby Rd late on a Friday, that means the guy is probably parked outside, or driving past. Your five minutes starts immediately under those conditions.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell,

    Is there any way to specify in the app that you will only accept a driver with a P endorsement?

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Miche Campbell,

    No. But you can cancel any that don't, and that is a perfectly fair reason to do so. From communications directly to drivers querying what the hell is going on, it seems like Uber are going to look for this, and might reconsider their position if enough customers act this way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Driver safety

    No I meant that they driver in a safer manner on the roads :).

    Gosh aren’t those no U-trun signs annoying and WTF are those dotted yellow lines on the side of the road there for anyway

    signed grumpy of Mt Roskill

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    You got Surged!

    Yeah I know. It was a combination of me misinterpreting the multiplier and the estimated base cost being ~100% wrong - all on my first use of Uber. Nothing to do with the actual driver but definitely soured the whole experience.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    No I meant that they driver in a safer manner on the roads :).

    Oh, LOL. Yeah. Guilty as charged there. Real pressure comes on drivers to break the road rules. But Ubers are not even slightly exceptional there. That's taxis generally. When getting to jobs the pressure is on, big time. Once driving with passengers, they can be major instigators of law breaking, any time it would reduce the cost to them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Nothing to do with the actual driver but definitely soured the whole experience.

    I can't say I'm a fan of it myself. Mostly because it sours the experience, but also because the surge pricing is very weak information on how to maximize earnings. The idea is to encourage drivers to the areas of high demand. At that, it works extremely well. So well that it's barely worth doing at all, because the surge ends, and you drove there for nothing. It's the only indication of demand we get, and it's only an indicator - the surge is some function of the supply and the demand. So the outer suburbs can surge, on account of there being a few people wanting a ride, and no drivers out there. It's definitely not worth driving out to those areas. So it ends up being pot luck that the driver is in the area right on a surge, with someone desperate enough to pay the surge price on a long trip.

    Far better information to us would simply be volume. A little sparkle, or a perhaps a fading alpha-blended blob, for every booking made. Demand doesn't have to be exceeding supply for driving to be profitable. Meeting demand is fine. I'd rather meet demand and be constantly busy than hanging out for hours to surge some customer and piss them off.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    No. But you can cancel any that don’t, and that is a perfectly fair reason to do so.

    Would that affect my rating as a rider?

    And also: is there anyway I can choose my driver? You know, maybe I'm prepared to wait for that driver I like...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Would that affect my rating as a rider?

    No. Cancelled trips affect neither party's ratings. They typically involve higher cost for Uber, though, because a support person has to try to work out what happened and take some action. Emails have to be written, responded to. Manual changes to charges often result. Any rider that gets cancelled on too much could just be dropped as too expensive.

    The other way, downrating the driver but taking the ride anyway, could result in revenge downrating. But the chances of this are exceedingly small, because the driver has to rate you immediately, whereas you can rate them at any time after the trip. We generally don't know who downrated us. So for the driver to downrate you, they'd have to think you were going to downrate them in the first place. If they give a downrating less than 4, they have to give a reason, and "I think the customer was pissed off I was totally non-compliant to the law" is not one of the reasons in the pick-list.

    And also: is there anyway I can choose my driver? You know, maybe I’m prepared to wait for that driver I like…

    I get asked this all the time. The answer is no, and yes. There is no way in the app to do it. But you could call the driver up, and ask them to come to your location, before you book them. Then they will be the closest, and will get the booking. But this is not really practical, unless you have a list of like 50 drivers you'd like, and are prepared to call/text, because there's no guarantee they're near you, or even working at the time. I've had my number requested by at least a dozen passengers. To date, I've never received a single follow up request for my services. The impracticality of the suggestion probably dawns on them when it comes time to book me and they realize I could be anywhere in the city at the time, and really, the reason they're using Uber is because of the app, not so they can go back to having to make phone calls to a driver service. Especially not a driver service with only one driver in it.

    It's definitely an obvious enhancement that could have been implemented, the "preferred driver" list that each passenger could build up as time passes. I think it would work well, you'd get an ongoing relationship with your Uber driver (or already have one, and want to help out a friend). But it's all complexity in the app, and the matching algorithm (which is literally to offer the job to the nearest driver first, then the next nearest, etc).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    he wasn't confident about the SH16 > Southern motorway transition

    I reckon that if you want to be a professional driver and carry passengers, you should need to do an advanced driving test and some form of local knowledge test - not London taxi standards, but knowing local landmarks, motorways, etc.

    The two Uber drivers I've had were fine, but I've had several regular taxi drivers who didn't strike me as confident, and you see many taxi drivers with bad habits - like coasting at 20kph with cars behind them.

    Having to do that would mean that in return for the effort of learning the neighbourhood and how to drive properly, there would be more chance of earning a decent living.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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