Confessions of Uber/Lyft drivers

Confessions of Uber/Lyft drivers

Hard-to-believe occurrences when strangers jump in their cars 

One of the trendiest ways to get around these days is through rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft. One gets picked up and dropped off by regular folks who use their personal vehicles and it’s all done in real time through mobile apps.

It’s been estimated that there are more than 300,000 Uber and Lyft drivers currently in the U.S., according to multiple sources.

But what’s it like to be a rideshare driver. We asked a few local drivers to confess all about what really happens when strangers hop in their rides.

Let’s call her Melissa.

She asked that her name not be used because of what she did for a year—often at night in her car with strangers. She said she’s not ashamed of it, but would prefer for those she works around by day in DeKalb government not know such details of her personal life.

Though she had and has a fulltime job, the African-American single mother of two left her home on many a night to drive people she didn’t know about town. Melissa was an Uber driver.

Melissa talked on the condition of anonymity and revealed the good, bad and the ugly of being a ride-share driver.

In her early days working for Uber, Melissa said it was not uncommon for her to make $300 to $500 a weekend, but as time went on and the ride-sharing giant tweaked its policies, it became less profitable for her. 

She said she mainly worked weekends—Friday evenings from happy hour to close of bar and club business, all day Saturday until after midnight and sometimes on Sundays.

“When I started the experience [ridesharing] was still kinda new,” she said, adding that back then passengers often had “unrealistic” expectations. Some riders elected for the basic service—the cheapest—but were unhappy when her sedan arrived instead of an SUV, which was a higher level service. Melissa also recalled one passenger asking “Aren’t you going to open my door?”

“People would get upset about things that were not in my control,” she said, adding that some were annoyed when she didn’t take a shortcut or route she didn’t know about.

Last summer—approximately a year after she started, Melissa got tired of being behind the wheel and decided the pain-to-gain equation wasn’t as favorable as it once was. She’s now a rideshare rider but not a driver.

On the upside, Melissa said meeting new and interesting people and learning about new places throughout the metro Atlanta area were among the highlights of her time on the road. She also cited as positives the flexibility of working when it suits one’s schedule and being one’s own boss.

“You can’t beat it,” she said.

Then there is the downside:

  • Riders throwing up in her car
  • Amorous couples who couldn’t wait to get to their destination before getting intimate
  • Teens who played their music singing along with derogatory and racially offensive lyrics

 

Drivers are rated by their riders which further complicates the relationship. Drivers seek good ratings so they can continue with the rideshare companies so they often bend over backwards for their riders or hesitate saying anything that might get them a less-than-stellar rating, Melissa said.

With laughter Melissa recalled the time a group of guys got in her vehicle and one took out a big bag of marijuana and asked if she wanted to partake. She declined. 

Melissa’s scariest experience was when a group of people helped an apparently highly intoxicated young woman into her car and then left. The woman started giving Melissa directions to her destination but at one point the passenger passed out. Melissa said she was unsure of what to do but was able to rouse the woman and she resumed giving directions.

Still Melissa said the majority of her riders were OK and just a few were exceptions.

Melissa said from the experience she learned a great deal about metro Atlanta including places she plans to go back to explore.

Jeff Killins, 29, has been driving for Lyft for two months and so far he’s had only good experiences.

“I love it,” said Killins, adding that meeting “new people, good people” is one of the pluses of being a rideshare driver. “I tend to just have great conversations with people.”

The credit union customer service representative from Decatur said the purchase of a new car—a 2017 Hyundai Elantra—motivated him to drive to bring in extra income for his car payments.

He drives about three times a week—usually Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays—and estimated that he’s made about 150 pickups.

He did have a reality check after getting a constant flow of riders in his first few outings and then hitting a dry spell. He recalled that on Memorial Day, he had only one customer during a two-hour period.

Killins said the most he’s earned in a day is $120 for three hours of driving and the least was $5.

He anticipates that in time he will have more to confess about the downsides.

“I know it’s going to happen sooner or later,” he said.

Asked how long he expects he’ll be a Lyft driver, Killins said, “I’ll do it until I get a raise or promotion.”

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