By on April 12, 2016

Uber ride, Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

If you weren’t at Desert Generator, you missed out. By the time I pulled my rented Indian Roadmaster up to Pappy and Harriet’s out in Pioneertown, a couple hundred vans had already shown up — so many that a significant percentage of the Pioneertown parking ended up being used as an overflow area. The vanners came from as far away as Calgary to show off their meticulously restored and upgraded rides. There were murals, carpeted interiors, lava lamps, and outrageous candy-color paint schemes as far as the eye could see.

There were also a remarkable number of very fine-looking women, contrary to some predictions on the part of the B&B. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself. Bonus points to anybody who can find me in there, as well. It was a good time, made even better for me by my decision to duck out of some of the louder parts of the concert to grab a filet at the Ruth’s Chris in Palm Desert.

Since this is The Truth About Cars, I won’t bore you with a panegyric to the mighty force of motorcycling nature known as the Indian Roadmaster. Instead, I’ll talk about the three Uber trips I took this weekend. Together, they paint an interesting picture of the “gig economy” and the future of mobility.


Trip #1: Uber Select From LAX To Redondo Beach.

uber1

Starting in January, Uber can now pick up fares from LAX. But there’s a catch: they have to pick you up from “Departures” on the second level. As you’d expect, there are all sorts of Uber drivers, in all the various categories, milling around right outside the airport waiting for a call. For my trip to my hotel in Redondo Beach, I chose Uber Select. Two reasons for that: I didn’t feel like squeezing into a Prius C, and I’d never tried the “Select” variant of Uber.

When the app told me to look for a Lexus ES, I was briefly annoyed. “What’s the point of paying double the fare,” I griped to my date, “if I have to ride in some fucked-up old ES300?” But I was wrong. Comitas, the driver, had a brand-new hybrid ES. The ride was pleasant and reasonably quick; I don’t think Comitas is ever going to win the Wayne Gerdes Award for doing 47 miles per hour on the freeway while school buses full of children swerve around you and burst into flames. The “energy meter” on the dashboard wasn’t in “Charging” very often. I find it fascinating that the hybrid ES, by default, offers much less information to the driver about what the Synergy Drive is doing than the Prius does.

Total cost of the ride was about what I’d have paid for a taxi.

Pluses: The ES was quiet and smooth and brand-new. Comitas was rapid but sane behind the wheel.

Minuses: Far more expensive than UberX.

Trip #2: UberX from Redondo Beach to Eaglerider La Cienega

uber2

It’s always a bad sign when the little headshot of your Uber driver looks like it was taken in a Juarez prison at the conclusion of a prison riot. But it’s worse when the Uber app is too stupid to understand where you truly are. It placed my pickup point about half a mile from the hotel lobby where I was sitting. Luckily, after some stilted conversation on the phone, Carlos realized where I was and made his way over to me. It took nearly 35 minutes from the time I called for a ride to the moment when his battered 12-year-old Tahoe arrived in the circular drive outside the hotel.

The photo didn’t lie: Carlos was a frightening-looking dude. His Tahoe was an utter and complete piece of shit. He also had a singular disregard for lane discipline, signaling before turning, or any other of the finer points of road usage. But he was a nice guy and he was very kind to my female companion, who was suffering from a little jet lag and a general headache. I gave Carlos five stars, even though it definitely wasn’t a five-star ride, because I felt bad for him. There’s no way that driving a Tahoe for UberX works out financially. I assume he’s doing it short-term because he really needs the money. The five-star rating was a way of trying to give him a hand up.

Pluses: cheaper than the same ride down in a Lexus.

Minuses: took forever, feared for my life.

Trip #3: UberX from Eaglerider to LAX

uber3

My rental Indian Roadmaster and I put 437 miles under our wheels in just 23 hours, which included an overnight in an Airstream and a brief stop at the Luftgekuhlt event in downtown LA the following morning. I was really sorry to see it go. Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Roadmaster? It will do 90 mph in light rain like it ain’t no thing. And you can even ride it on dirt roads. Kinda. Be prepared to hold the 900-pound bike up with one leg or another with very short notice when the front end slides out.

My total satisfaction with Eaglerider has just one little exception: even though the La Cienega location is the “airport Eaglerider,” there’s no airport shuttle. Enter Uber driver #3. This was a fellow after my own heart: a 32-year-old Asian car enthusiast driving — wait for it — a stick-shift Jetta GLI.

We talked about all sorts of stuff during the short drive: his experiences owning an S2000 and a couple of tuned-up Civic Si coupes, his favorite sports cars, his opinion of Motor Trend’s YouTube channel. He was a really nice guy and I think he’s just driving Uber for kicks on the weekend. He said he’s going to keep his 2012 GLI until it dies. He’s already replaced the turbo once, but as a VW fanatic he’s not overly bothered by this fact.

Pluses: fast, cheap, very pleasant.

Minuses: none.

Overall, I was pleased with my Los Angeles Uber experience. Compared to a taxi, two of the three rides were manifestly cleaner and more pleasant. All three trips together cost about half as much as I’d have paid to rent even the cheapest car and park it at the hotel overnight. With that said, of course my experience was pleasant: I was the customer. We live in the “gig economy” now. The corporation is king, the customer is pampered, and the employee is expected to simultaneously display tireless loyalty to his employer and expect nothing in return but the abject terror of knowing that he is disposable, replaceable, and valueless. Uber makes the predatory medallion-holders of New York City’s taxi kakistocracy look like benevolent philosopher kings. After all, taxi drivers don’t have to maintain their own cars. And you can tip them easily. And they can’t be fired on a whim if they get two four-out-of-five-star ratings in a single day.

Uber is a new kind of predatory capitalism in which the capitalists don’t even own the capital, but they still manage to get all of the profit. I feel genuinely bad for using the service. I have to believe that there’s a way to open-source the Uber concept, to create the equivalent of Craigslist for Uber rides and have the vast majority of the funds to go the drivers themselves. I’ll have to work on that as soon as I do all the other things on my very long to-do list. In the meantime, if you’re interested in getting a unique and intelligent perspective on the life of an Uber driver, I’d suggest you check out Up In The Valley.

I’d also suggest you check out the Indian Roadmaster. Have I mentioned it yet?

[Image: Top, Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr]

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124 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: A Tale of Three Ubers...”


  • avatar

    I love being Uber.

    Anyone can be part of it.

    Just buy cheap cars and use them to ferry people around.

    Pays for itself here in NYC.

    Always a fare in midtown.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “Uber is a new kind of predatory capitalism in which the capitalists don’t even own the capital”

    It’s an awful metaphor; it utterly devalues labour and resources. And it’s not just applicable to cars: you’re seeing it for food delivery, contract cleaning, construction and more. It’s the “with an app” version of the Depression-era “guy on a soapbox doling out gigs to desperate people”.

    If you thought McJobs were bad, UberJobs are McJobs, but without perks like, permanence, stability and safety.

    “I have to believe that there’s a way to open-source the Uber concept, to create the equivalent of Craigslist for Uber rides and have the vast majority of the funds to go the drivers themselves”

    There is a way to do it, but it still badly devalues non-capital pillars of the economy even if you democratize the platform. It’s almost a reverse-union inasmuch as you’re asking people to compete for the lowest wage and absolve them of any rights (and yourself of any obligations). The social problems this model will engender are spectacular.

    You didn’t even get this kind of thing under feudalism: at least your average lord had to provide some sort of security for their indentured servants.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      Give me a break.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Give me a break”

        Do you deal with front-line, entry-level employees? I do, and it’s awful for them. These people and their earnings potential and job security have been hammered over the last quarter-century, and Uber et al is just making it worse.

        The old promise, even if it was implied, is that if you worked hard you’d at least keep your job and/or be able to find another one. Even before the rise of collectivization that was at least the understanding. Now we’re going back to the bad old times of the Gilded Age, which is not a model you should want to see rehashed.

        I know that it’s fun to poke at poor people for being shiftless, lazy and stupid, but if you disenfranchise enough of them, you have a problem. We’re seeing the hints of this in the support that Trump and Sanders are getting.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “Now we’re going back to the bad old times of the Gilded Age”

          Expand on how this is possible with the current legal structure of this nation. I just happened to be looking at pictures of child labor in the early 20th Century, a hallmark of the Gilded Age, which is not possible to repeat for instance:

          http://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/30-shocking-photos-of-child-labor-between-1908-and-1916#.daaGZpvvK

          • 0 avatar
            stryker1

            “I just happened to be looking at pictures of child labor in the early 20th Century, a hallmark of the Gilded Age, which is not possible to repeat for instance”

            Give it time, it’s coming, or did you wonder what the fight against “job killing regulation” was all about?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Short of significant geopolitical events, I really don’t see child labor making a comeback.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            US workforce participation is quite low right now. There are plenty of pools of labor to tap before dipping below 16 years of age. Also, there is the issue of having a drivers license, which seems pretty essential in the taxi driving business, and tends to be correlated with being over 16.

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “US workforce participation is quite low right now. There are plenty of pools of labor to tap before dipping below 16 years of age”

            The point of child labour in the Gilded Age wasn’t that adult labour wasn’t readily available, it was that children were cheaper to employ and easier to abuse.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Just because we haven’t (yet) come again to accept the very worst of the Gilded Age abuses doesn’t mean we aren’t backsliding.

            The gig economy puts the onus on the worker to do things like fund health care and retirement without paying them any, let alone enough, extra money to be able to do so. It expects them to increase the level of risk to which they are subject without any commensurate reward. And it allows for immediate and brutal feedback, where a worker can lose the ability to get gigs based on a single bad review.

            I have no problem with the concept of a gig economy — the flexibility is valuable. But, as with other aspects of the current labor market, the worker is expected to absorb all of the costs without picking up any corresponding benefits.

            This is really a multifaceted policy issue. Combined federal and state tax policy has become over time very favorable to investors and punitive for most wage earners. Changes in labor laws have substantially weakened employees’ ability to bargain collectively and avoid competing with each other, while at the same time nonexistent antitrust enforcement and generous policy on noncompete provisions has made it much easier for employers to avoid competing with each other. Increased cost of education, paid over time via student loans, has effectively reduced pay further. It’s just not a friendly world out there for workers at the moment.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Nice post.

          • 0 avatar

            Not in child labor but in percentage of GDP paid to front line workers we are by most studies.

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          But when has this ever not been the case? Front line workers have always been exploited.

          The problem isn’t Uber’s ability to kick out four star drivers, it’s that five star drivers that remain deserve at least basic benefits. It’s the contractor part of this that is the issue.

          Uber must be allowed to fire bad drivers. Jack is part of the problem if he did not rate his unsafe drive poorly. Otherwise you are saying “it is better for someone to be employed rather than that they do their job well”, which will lead to the demise of quality and patronage of any industry.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I see where you’re trying to be all righteous but indentured servants providing a service (i.e. nanny) did so in the master’s property and thus would benefit from any security, permanence, or structure therein. If said I.S. were say a delivery man, they also would lose the benefits of the master’s property by going out in the world and risking life and limb (gotta watch out for those rivers, snakebites, and dysentery). There really is no direct comparison between the two.

      FWIW Uber wouldn’t exist if not for the failings of taxi companies. Jitney cabs have existed since long before I was born and they sprung up as a result of cab companies not venturing into downtrodden areas. Uber provides push button access to transportation which also undercuts taxi companies. Unless we see a whole series of transportation companies go belly up in the next year, the taxi companies are still making money charging more. If said taxi companies were cheaper in the first place, Uber would not have caught on.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “If said I.S. were say a delivery man, they also would lose the benefits of the master’s property by going out in the world and risking life and limb”

        And that’s true, except that said worker would have a job to return to after their travails.

        Uber’s model is that the mob at the gates competes to run the delivery, only without the guarantee of a house, land or a job tomorrow.

        Actually, Uber’s model is even worse: they just provide the service (and take the money) offering no guarantee to either the of the service as to it’s fitness, or to the seller as to their security.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Expanding on your last point, Uber is essentially acting like a hi tech pimp in this case.

          This is now how I feel:

          youtube.com/watch?v=j5xCOF65ols

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “Expanding on your last point, Uber is essentially acting like a hi tech pimp in this case.”

            Pretty much, yup.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wonder when the street pimps will go high tech?

          • 0 avatar
            psarhjinian

            “I wonder when the street pimps will go high tech?”

            I did a prototype app* for fun, once; a mashup of Tindr and Uber, that did exactly that. The problem is that the tolerance for “disruption” is much lower when it comes to, ahem, ride-sharing than it is for ride-sharing.

            But it’s probably doable. It’s also likely to happen. It’s also a bad idea, though, because, like Uber, it just makes the “driver” more desperate and more of a commodity.

            Frankly, I would rather see “houses of ill repute” and madams come back, in a regulated fashion.

            * I was pressed to come up with name; Ridr or bUber were the admittedly lame candidates.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I like the name “bUber”.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            …and for those with different tastes, “lUber”?

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I agree 100% with psar. I live in Chicago, where the taxis are expensive and rather suck, and I still take them and won’t take Uber.

        Uber’s attitude toward their workers is that they’re not theirs. They pose as a matchmaking service between passengers and independent-contractor drivers, but in fact they’ll be just as happy to replace those pesky, litigious humans entirely with autonomous cars. They’re a pox on humanity.

        One other thing: If you think child labor can’t make a comeback in America, you haven’t been paying attention to the comeback of 50+ hour weeks, weekend work, unpaid overtime, swelling medical insurance costs for employees, working Thanksgiving and Christmas, the abolition of pensions… Do I really need to go on? Do you work?

        BTW, the latest trial balloon from some employers is the complete abolition of specified paid vacation, replaced by “you can take as much time off as you want, provided it doesn’t interfere with the performance of your duties.” How do you think that’s going to work out in reality? Here’s what corporations will do to you: absolutely anything they can get away with. In the absence of government limits, that’s absolutely anything. Ignore that proven fact at your — and my — peril.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          But… but… but the market should self-regulate! We need less government intervention!

          • 0 avatar
            redmondjp

            That only works when there is a dearth of good employees and the employers must compete to get them. With globalization in full swing now with unlimited immigration (legal or otherwise), those days are long gone.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Wait, so now that there’s less government intervention, which lead to cross-border jobs and immigration, suddenly the less-government folks want government intervention again?

            Tighter controls on trade! Tighter controls on immigration! Tighter controls on outsourcing! Tighter controls on remote work!

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            To be fair, tariffs and immigration control were two of the three original jobs envisioned for the government by the founders.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Race car driver/ cool bike rider/ friend to the downtrodden/ editorialist/ rock star/ ladies man/ constitutional lawyer?

            You truly ARE a Renaissance man!

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Art I Sec 8 sets forth a lot more than three powers of Congress and the federal government, and that’s before you start to answer the “angels on head of pin” question of what other powers may be implied by the power, found in the very first clause of Sec 8, to “provide for . . . the general Welfare” of the United States.

            Amusingly enough, the power that everyone including Capital C Constitutional Conservatives now assumes to encompass immigration is actually defined using the word “naturalization.” It’s possible to make a perfectly cogent argument that regulation of immigration itself, as opposed to decisions about which immigrants should become citizens, is a power the founders intended to leave to the states.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      How is there no security? Uber drivers log in, catch rides. If anything it is MORE secure than some 9-5 job that could be outsourced at any moment. There aren’t any firings (unless you start shooting people) and you can work whenever you want, making vacations, sick days, paid days off etc unnecessary, since any day can be a day off. Some people are big boys and girls and can figure out taxes, health insurance etc without the government or a large corporation spoon feeding it to them.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Those whining the lack of job security for taxi drivers are the same people who hate the government for over-regulating small businesses with ridiculous rules that cause layoffs. Pick a side.

        • 0 avatar
          psarhjinian

          “Those whining the lack of job security for taxi drivers are the same people who hate the government for over-regulating small businesses with ridiculous rules that cause layoffs. Pick a side.”

          Not in my case, no. Not by a long shot.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I have the same misgivings about AirBnB. Never mind the hotels- they suck. I am eaten up by what it’s doing to real estate in the areas it operates. I have some friends in NYC who are living rent free (with 2 other couples in a 3 bedroom apartment :) ) off of Uber.

    Same time though, it is awesome and a much better experience and value than hotels. Wifey and I bunked with another couple in a little East Village shoebox on an NYC trip last October, and I smile just thinking about it. It was awesome and such a better experience than a hotel would have been. We are going to Europe in September and I’m pretty sure everywhere we are staying is an AirBnB.

    Maybe they can put all the people AirBnB is displacing into hotels :)

    • 0 avatar
      SomeGuy

      I’m a huge, huge fan of AirBnB. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would go to COTA whenever the F1 race rolls into Austin. The corporate hotel cost is out of this world.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        *shrug* I kind of view AirBnB as “icky.” I don’t know why anyone would want some rando staying in their place, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to sleep in someone else’s home.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Worked well for me in New Orleans and Las Vegas. A woman I met on the plane to LV said she was looking at purchasing a property for the express purpose of AirBnB. I questioned the profitability of this motive to which she replied it was possible if “managed correctly”.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            methinks a lot of that hinges on not disclosing its status as a rental property to the insurance company, which will screw her six ways from Sunday if whatever rando is using it trashes the place or burns it down.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Not only do you run risk with the insurance company but in most cases you are breaking local laws by renting for a period of less than 30 days.

            Late last summer I had a client’s condo listed in a hip area in downtown Seattle. I had a few Brokers who contacted me inquiring if I knew if a potential buyer could use it as a AirBnB place. I told them that from my reading they would certainly be breaking the Condo’s rules as well as the city of Seattle’s laws.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Jitney cabs were illegal in many places until Uber made them legal. I could see AirBnB doing the same over time as far as rental rules/laws.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I highly doubt that airbnb will cause a change in rental rules or laws. In the case of Condo rules rental caps are in place to preserve the value of the units. Many lenders will not lend in complexes that have more than a certain percentage of non owner occupied units. Take that pool of buyers out of the equation and the price goes down. Plus a change in the rules require voting by the memebers in most cases. I know I wouldn’t vote to change the rules not only because it could affect the value of my property but because I don’t want anyone that hasn’t been properly vetted that has no financial interest in the complex with access to the limited common elements.

            In the case of the downtown Condo it is a secured entry building and owners have payed extra to keep potential riff-raff out. In the case of regular rentals they actually require a 1 year lease and they require full checks to be run on potential tenants by a company acceptable to them. They also have lease language requirements as well as requiring the submission of the completed lease to the board.

            I also feel that in the vast majority of cases the laws will also not change. The number of people who would want to do the airbnb thing will be far out numbered by the owner occupied homes in most areas where you could actually get someone to rent though someplace like airbnb. So they will likely make a stink if the laws were changed to allow less than 30 day rentals.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Looks like its already happened in at least one US city.

            washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/10/08/how-airbnb-just-changed-the-housing-laws-in-san-francisco/

            I would not expect changes everywhere, but in some markets I could see more lobbying pressure applied as it seems to have been done here.

          • 0 avatar

            28 I was going to mention SF. The founder of Air BnB was on marketplace last year and they asked him about issues, apparently it’s not covered by the media much but they are in fights with several cities around the world. A lot of Condo Associations here in CT restrict renting, and a lot of towns restrict renting rooms. It will be interesting how that pans out if they step on enough toes to get the lobbyists out in force.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @mopar4wd

            I too will be interested to see what happens. I suspect the big guns will eventually come out in the areas where there is a good deal of money to be made.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            +1,000,000 on condos and owner-occupation!

            I’ve been on the Board Of Directors for my condo development longer than I or anyone else can remember, and we are nearly to the point where lenders will look askance at floating a note for a unit because of the number of rented units!!

            Of course, the Rules don’t apply to the trailer-trash (with apologies to the B&B residing in a modular home) in my development — they leave stuff outside overnight, don’t respect others by cranking their stereos or TVs to ear-shattering volumes, and can’t abide by a simple directive to keep the garage doors closed! (It got so bad in my building that in order to have a prayer of keeping it secure, I had to add the code from my parents’ garage door into the LiftMaster opener of the offending unit via my Accord’s HomeLink; their opener controls are on the INSIDE of the unit!)

            We’re finally going to update our By-Laws to require that any new owners reside in the unit (plus get a “Cliffs Notes” reference for the legal gobbledegook that is our Incorporation Documents, if said legalese is statutorily required to be there).

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I enjoy having a private room in a clean hotel. I would not sleep well in someone’s house, knowing there were other people about and I was “using” their property. Or worry about using the restroom during the night because hey, maybe their floor makes a lot of noise or I’d wake up the dog.

          I’d lay there, toss and turn, and wonder when I could get up and leave.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            In Vegas it was a timeshare in a condo type hotel, so it had all of the regular hotel amenities. In New Orleans it was someone’s condo but in hindsight I would prefer it to a hotel room (plus it was big enough for the six of us who went).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I have been in bigger family group vacations where we rented a condo. That’s not quite as odd when you’re the only people in the unit.

            The thing I don’t like is when you’re just upstairs at Bob Q. Stranger’s house.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          I have used AirBnb twice, and both experiences were terrific.
          The last time I stayed at the Circus Circus hotel in Reno, it was simply awful, and much more expensive.
          Personally, I would rather support the local folks than give my money to a large corporation whenever possible.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve heard Circus Circus in Vegas is equally awful, and its also located far enough from the strip where one cannot walk (although they are trying to build up the area). $3 Blackjack though.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I was considering doing a little Uber moonlighting. But I was going to do it the “right” way and get rideshare insurance. The quote on that killed the idea quickly. I’d have to be available a lot more than I had planned in order to offset the insurance hike. I’m sure a lot of drivers are just taking their chances, but I have more to lose than to gain unless I did that for a living.

    But they really will can you if you get 4 star reviews? That’s nuts! That’s like failing a B-student. Sheesh.

  • avatar
    slance66

    If Uber drivers think it sucks to be an Uber driver, they will stop doing it. Let’s not pretend that these are industrial revolution era factory workers. These people own cars…they have options. The flexibility that this form of employment provides is extremely valuable for some people.

    I am convinced that the model will self adjust, and the drivers will end up doing better eventually. All it would take is a truly competitive rival app that treats them better. It wouldn’t need to be open source.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      While I haven’t the facts on hand to back it up, I’m of the mind that there are enough people around who just drive a handful of times to keep Uber in business. The requirements are pretty low, the risk is (well maybe) low, and you can just stop at any time. You cut your own schedule pick your riders. Most see it as using a resource they already have to make a few bucks.
      However, that makes sense if you don’t expect to make a living out of it. If you actually bought the insurance that would cover you I’m guessing you’d find it costs you money to drive. Most people carry the state minimum insurance–you take three passengers with you and get in an accident, you’re more than likely going to cross you coverage payout if any get hurt. Now you’re on the hook for the balance of their medical expenses. I’m really surprised that the insurance companies aren’t all over this.
      On the risk side, one has to think about the use cases for Uber. As a car-owning adult, I almost never use public transportation nor taxis/Uber. Only when I travel for work will I take a taxi and still, I’m not paying for it so I don’t care that it costs more, I do what is convenient for me. So the use cases are people without cars (to be mean, poor), those who cannot drive, (elderly/disabled), and those who are wrapping up a night of drunken shenanigans. Of these groups I’ve pulled out of my arse, what’s the risk profile of hauling them around? If you got drunks, you run the risk of someone puking in the car. How much is your time worth to either clean it up yourself or to send your car out for detailing? If you pick up an unsavory character, what is your own personal safety worth? Any rational person would come to the conclusion that given the expenses, potential risk of accident and the resultant financial implications, puke cleanup and possible safety concerns, that driving for Uber just isn’t worth it. However there are enough people who will give it a go to keep it up and functional much in the same way that spam still exists–it only takes a few people buying Viagra from spammy messages to keep the enterprise profitable.

      Uber isn’t going anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        Eventually that insurance boondoggle will catch up with, and end, Uber in most areas. That was the big expense of that little suburban cab company – not the cars; not even the dispatcher (today, the lead driver would probably dispatch with a cellphone) but the million-dollars-a-cab (1984) insurance.

        Driving with state-minimum non-commercial individual insurance will work – so long as you have a compliant, understanding passenger who knows to keep his mouth shut. How many will do that, especially once the ambulance-chaser shysters start advertising for opportunities to sue the excrement out of Uber, its drivers, and the cities that haven’t yet shut down and banned Uber services?

        Depending on the region of the country, it might be a fine way to make pocket change. Long-term prospects, IMHO, are very, very dim…not just for a driving career but for Uber as an employment format.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I believe there is a provision for if they vomit in your car, and they get charged.

  • avatar

    My experience with Uber in Orlando was that instead of a Sub-Saharan or Indian Subcontinental driver ferrying you around in an aged and creaky but roomy Crown Vic, you got a Sub-Saharan or Indian Subcontinental driver ferrying you around in a relatively-new but cramped, buzzy, and nervous Versa.

  • avatar
    319583076

    “We live in the “gig economy” now. The corporation is king, the customer is pampered, and the employee is expected to simultaneously display tireless loyalty to his employer and expect nothing in return but the abject terror of knowing that he is disposable, replaceable, and valueless.”

    You keep beating your drum and I’ll keep beating mine. The “gig economy” is a choice. A four year engineering degree costs the same as whatever garbage majors your local university offers except upon graduation you’ll get a real job with real paychecks and if you get a professional license, you’ll have real job security.

    It’s not as easy as a party major or not going to school at all, but that’s the bargain.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      With the whole H-1B visa deals those aren’t so safe either. Hell, even without them you still need to get experience and network well before you are out of school. It’s not as simple as just choosing the right major.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        What is the basis for your comments? I know several H1B visa holders and I know what they and the companies they work for had to go through to create those jobs. A lot of the opinions here regarding this program are simply false.

        I didn’t say it was as simple as choosing the right major, either. What I implied was that if you’re going to school, choosing an engineering degree is better than most other four year degrees.

        • 0 avatar

          I know of several engineering firms that have started employing several engineering managers and that it for actual employees, the actual work is done by temps and outsourcing it makes it easier to “load level” basically they are making former well paying jobs into (still decently paying) gigs.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      In some areas, engineering degrees cost much more than non-engineering undergraduate degrees.

      Entry into engineering is limited. So those who do not get admitted should not attend university?

      Are all arts & humanities degrees in your estimation useless? If so why do dictators/invaders invariably eliminate or incarcerate university graduates? Obviously learning about history, sociology and critical thinking is important to a democratic society.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        What areas? I assume you mean geographically?

        How is it limited? I never said that you shouldn’t bother with college if you can’t get into an engineering program, you did.

        Let me be explicit – as expensive as college is today, it’s in everyone’s best interest to do a thorough financial evaluation of their declared major. A cost-benefit analysis, net present value of future cash flows, etc…

        I support arts and humanities, you’re putting your words into my mouth, which I do not appreciate.

        Practically anyone with a work ethic who can get admitted to college can get an undergraduate engineering degree and have a successful career. Successful careers in arts and humanities are much less democratic, which means they are more rare, which means success is available to fewer people. Which is part of the reason I support arts and humanities, because I lack those talents and I feel they are so rare.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @319etc: In Ontario where universities are with only a few religious exceptions public, tuition fees for engineering at Waterloo for example are listed at $6,700 per term. Those for applied sciences and mathematics are $3,117 per term. So engineering degrees are more expensive.

          Then there are the admissions requirements. In general a minimum of an ‘A’ average over the last 2 years of high school is required to get admitted to engineering and high school credits in maths and sciences are of course mandatory. Admissions rates are about 50% of those who apply.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            Why doesn’t Canada want to produce engineers?

            It’s a different story (as usual) in the US.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @319….: Our current government just introduced legislation to make university tuition free from those in families with gross annual incomes below $50k. Canada does produce engineers. I used Waterloo as an example as Bill Gates made a special trip to speak there. Admission space is not unlimited in engineering schools so admission requirements are extremely high.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “You keep beating your drum and I’ll keep beating mine. The “gig economy” is a choice. A four year engineering degree costs the same as whatever garbage majors your local university offers except upon graduation you’ll get a real job with real paychecks and if you get a professional license, you’ll have real job security.”

      Never mind that not everyone can get a degree, for various reasons (time, money, age, intelligence, literacy, immigration status)…

      Right now, Uber and it’s ilk are taking the low-hanging fruit: drivers, delivery, contract cleaning and such. I’ll expect them to move up into temps and other service-delivery jobs (clerks and such) shortly, basically displacing temp agencies, which are already sleazy affairs.

      The next step up will be credentialed employees, probably accountants at first, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Uber for lawyers, nursing/PSW and ECE. At that point, bad things will happen (at the inevitable UberChildCare offering) but it’ll be too much of a cash cow and I’m sure that companies, especially smaller ones eager to keep costs down, will use UberTemps for front-line engineers, accountants and such soon enough so that they don’t need to keep people on payroll, nor have to deal with the management of people.

      Will it be a good thing? Hell, no, but neither was the damn-the-torpedoes offshoring, and we still did that.

      Education hasn’t been the key to a good job in a long time, now, even in STEM.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Never mind that not everyone can get a degree, for various reasons (time, money, age, intelligence, literacy, immigration status)…

        We all make choices and play the cards we’re dealt whether we like them or not. I understand there are people who are excluded, but there are a *lot* of people going to college borrowing a *lot* of money to do so and a *lot* of them are finding out the hard way that their investment not only won’t pay off, but has essentially crippled them.

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        You think it’s bad now, wait a few years. Silicon Valley sorts are proposing things like “microcredentials” and “badging” so not only will your job be gig-based so will your education! Humanities are for chumps, just get micro on your knowledge and join the information assembly line. I’m sure the product will be fantastic.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      319, tell my engineer friends who’ve been fired for younger/more foreign/cheaper replacements. You’re awfully cocky about your good luck, but chances are you won’t stay that way. Unfortunately, in the meantime your callow arrogance will sentence me to the public officials and pro-corporatist laws of your choice.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Seriously Jack, I was surprized you went to the Rolling Heavy show. I knew you were a fan of GNR’s first record and all that, but I didn’t think Red Fang or Acid King were your speed.

  • avatar

    I just thought of something.

    If I wanted I could start an SRT HELLCAT UBER and go viral almost overnight.

    Sure I’d get arrested and fined, cars probably impounded, but I could spread the gospel to the 4 corners of the Earth.

    Decisions, decisions…

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Summary:
    A. I took 3 cab rides.
    B. Hang the rich!

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      OTOH, a CTRL+F for “phaeton” or “porsche” brought back 0 hits (okay, 1 for the Porsche tag at the bottom of the page) so there is that.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        “Female companion” did return one hit in the body of the text. And the photo receipts keep in the theme of conspicuous consumption. Still, net value of piece is positive.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Jack, There were some real dogs in those pictures. Sorry, had to say it.

    However if I were younger, richer, better looking and single there is one young lady in that picture that I would trade a body part to meet.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The Truth About… Uber…

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Where was all the sympathy for cabbies pre-Uber? Refresh my memory, because I don’t recall seeing Jack out on the picket lines supporting taxi drivers in the time before smart phones.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I’ve been writing about the abuses of the medallion system in New York for a long time, but I don’t expect you to read everything I write before you start talking about what you think I haven’t written. That would be CRAZY.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Fair enough, Jack,
          At heart, you are saying that returns to capital exceed returns through labor, whether because of the medallion system (i.e., cronyism) or a smartphone app.

          Piketty beat you to the punch, there.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Having been here for a decade, I have read a lot of your stuff, Jack. Didn’t you used to write how you actually paid the bills – through predatory payday loans?

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            That’s just one of the jobs in which I preyed shamelessly on the poor, although in the case of my check-cashing jobs I was also one of the poor at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I’m sure you were preying on the poor purely for research purposes, with the plan all along of valiantly coming to their aid as you do today.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was drawing attention to the fact Jack wrote a review of Uber, which like the previous piece on the murder of Mr. Smith, fits into a dubious gray area of the automotive space. I can’t help but wonder if they are being asked to contribute more than they actually have material for and thus have to resort to the gray area.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          I don’t see it as a grey area at all. Uber is one of the things promulgated by the media at large as a potential threat to the automotive industry as we know it. Ergo, it’s a perfectly cromulent topic for TTAC.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            We’ve been writing about Uber for a while.

            In a perfect world, I’d write twice a week about trackdays and club racing. I have a lifetime’s worth of material.

            But the readers would rather hear about “grey area” stuff.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Yup. Exploiting the worker to the benefit of the customer was feasible when they were usually the same person. Now that’s less and less the case.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Has Jack Baruth ever driven a taxi, or been close to a cab company? Ownership of the “capital” doesn’t inherently make the owner more noble or the service more valid.

    I drove for three cab companies, one in Houston and two in Cleveland. The final company was a suburban independent – and calling what he had, “capital” would have been an abuse of the term. Cast-off NYC police cars he’d buy at auction for low-three-figures each. He favored the Aspens and later the M-bodies; he’d stick with Slant Sixes and he’d run each one until he couldn’t. Then park the carcass in the yard and pick it apart – engine, TourqueFlite, or LeBaron front clip on a Volare, it was all the same.

    For that he’d get half of what our computer-meters (the only new thing in his biz; this was 1984) showed was made on the shift. The cars were grungy – they were clean, we had time and tools to vacuum; but a decade of prisoner and later fares’ dirt didn’t just go away.

    And a taxi-driver’s pay…it was good in those years, about $100 1984 dollars for a twelve-hour shift; but it’s since gone way, way down for the cab-company hacks in most places.

    Uber…by most accounts has, mostly, better equipment; more pleasant drivers (with exceptions, of course) and, in the end, better pay. And the driver can control it to some extent – no being forced to deal with a gas-guzzling clapped-out cab that gets six mpg from the gas bought, by order, from the overpriced cab-company pump.

    What Uber sells is the organization and some minimal screening and standards. And structure, organization, is the only thing that makes the business work. Take, for example, striking assembly-line workers. Without their plants and work-stations, their labor has no value – unless they find another employer or a self-employment gig. Most cannot do the latter.

    Uber, while it doesn’t buy capital, DID set up a structure and DOES run it. That is not only value added but the whole of the business.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Jack is confused by what capital means in this context today. It’s not the car, it’s the ability to use it. In NYC, the capital is the medallion, which last time I checked cost close to a quarter of a million dollars. For Uber, it’s the app itself which is the capital.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “Jack is confused by what capital means in this context today. It’s not the car, it’s the ability to use it. In NYC, the capital is the medallion”

        The capital is the the money of the person who owns the medallion, or the person who is operating Uber (Kalanick et al). I don’t think I agree that the app is capital; I would if it were a civic service or an open, agnostic platform.

        To extend the theory, the car is “land” in Marxist theory, the driver is labour. Under both Uber and the medallion system, land and labour are commoditized completely. They really are the same thing—rentier capitalism—only Uber is faster moving and “disrupts” things like law and regulation that give drivers and passengers even a modicum of protection.

        The medallion system sucks, to be sure, but Uber doesn’t fix why it sucks.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          That is the traditional human division of labor – rooted in biology.

          The social engineers are not going to be able to get rid of those who make their living by directing the labor of others – except by outlawing human organization of labor. That is not a step forward – the experience of Pol Pot should have taught us that.

          Nor does putting political low limits on the returns for those who organize and structure divisions of labor, work. What happens is the smart bunch finds other things to do. In People’s Republics where this is done, the Smart Set winds up in government. Once again, directing and controlling others.

          Drunks and the feckless wind up running the People’s Widget Works – and about as effectively as you might imagine. Ever owned a Yugo? Or known someone who’s had experience with a Soviet-era Lada?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Can I get a ruling as to whether Pol Pot mentions trigger Godwin’s Law?

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            Nope.

            When one starts advocating collectivism, for the “fairness” of the “working classes”…then one must be prepared to discuss previous experiences with government-mandated collectivism.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Having a great deal of experience with Soviet era managers, I can attest to the fact that their efficiency and productivity was much better than western propaganda admitted.

            Soviet military equipment,technology and productivity was as good as any.

            Their televisions did not blow up, the soles of their shoes did not fall off and their clothes did not fall apart.

            Instead due to a centralized economy, they produced according to their assigned numbers, not according to demand. So they may have produced 3 million pairs of a type of shoe that nobody really wanted. Due to this, consumers had product but little to no choice.

            As for Lada’s, those who owned them and enjoyed working on their own vehicle will concur that they were robust vehicles. Easier to work on and more dependable than many western European products of the same era.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            “Having a great deal of experience with Soviet era managers, I can attest to the fact that their efficiency and productivity was much better than western propaganda admitted.”

            Having witnessed exactly 3 Ladas in Canada – one forlornly FOR SALE in a roadside drainage ditch; one dead on the side on the QEW; and one unable to crank at a roadside gas station…I doubt that. My Internet discussions with Canadians suggest that Ladas, never popular sellers, were mostly purchased by proto-Hipsters to show fealty with their favored political system. Which, IMHO, was good – taught them something.

            My own experience was with a Yugo; and although I bought it two years old, 20,000 miles and under a grand, it was money wasted and endless heartache. After burning out a clutch, which I have never done on anything before or since; with that new clutch in there, the timing belt jumped off, destroying the engine.

            Soviet-style quality, indeed. Miracles of planned economies overseen by political officers.

            No, thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Freind;;

            Sometimes, a person must consider the Nationality of Creation of such an automobile as Lada’s. Where there was entire Communism in place for the creation (and leftover Communism at the end-part), you say “Oh, it’s not the America of production, there can only be a bad quality to it.”

            But a worker under a system like I mention, has created what he best could make under the residual provided with Communism! Moving on past it, maybe he/she/it (PC World, I know this – ha!) was able to move along under a new way, and make a real difference under Capitalism’s less-iron grasp.

            Who know, today maybe they create a nice Dacia or Fiat, only one of those is able to be seen in The American shoreline. Limited option, true free Capitalism I know.

            Best Wishes.
            Grango R.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            My uncle in Canada bought a Lada a couple of years after they started selling in Canada. I had the displeasure of taking a ride in it one summer. It was very outdated, didn’t ride very well, wasn’t very comfortable, and really had nothing to recommend it other than a low price. It was the worst car he ever had – different parts kept breaking or falling apart. I think it was a timing chain problem that destroyed its engine with not very many miles on it.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @justpassingthrough: my experience was not 2nd hand or anecdotal like yours. My longest serving friend purchased a Lada new. It was easier to work on than a VW Beetle and quite robust. Even had an auxiliary hand crank start. I drove it on many occasions and he kept it for many years as his winter beater.

            Or you can rely on James May who named it and its direct ancestor as ‘The Car of the People’.

            Yugo was another beast.

            However you must admit that the Kalashnikov is/was superior to any comparable weapon cranked out by capitalists, as were various Soviet era tanks, anti-tank missiles and MIG’s. And currently most of the world including America is largely dependent on Russian rockets for space travel.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            “justpassingthrough: my experience was not 2nd hand or anecdotal like yours…”

            Above you read direct experience. It corresponds with other reports, over the years and it’s universally negative.

            Obviously. Collectivist politics and consumer goods do not interact well.

            “Yugo was another beast.”

            Yugo was the same beast. Both the Lada sedan of the 1970s and the Yugo were castoff Fiat designs – the Lada, a VAZ 2101 being a Fiat 124 and the Yugo a Fiat 127. Fiat made money in those years selling plants, tooling and rights to Soviet-Bloc nations, including Mother Russia.

            Zastiva, Yugo’s State-owned corporation and VAZ, Lada’s commissariat, manufactured parts for each other – many components interchanged. This was documented by workers within the Zastiva and Bricklin companies. I know from my experience that Yugo’s heater system and steering column is exactly a Fiat 128’s; and probably the VAZ 2101/Lada was similarly identical to its Fiat roots.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “The vanners came from as far away as Calgary to show off their meticulously restored and upgraded rides. ”

    Way to rub it in.

  • avatar

    Taxi drivers don’t have to maintain their own cars.

    Depends on the city. In NYC and other medallion-heavy cities, drivers rent the cab (and medallion). They aren’t directly paying to maintain the cars, but it’s part of the rental cost.

    In some places, it’s common for taxi drivers to be owner/operators who own their own cars. Where I live in the Baltimore suburbs, it’s not uncommon to see taxis in their owner’s driveways or apartment building parking lots.

    I would guess that taxi driver as hourly employee is fairly rare.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Most hacks LEASE their cabs from the taxi company, as subcontractors – although this is changing in some parts of the country, because of tax laws.

      They lease, either flat-rate, or hours-plus-miles, or percentage of metered take; and what’s left over after the daily lease is theirs.

      Maintenance is taken care of by the Company; and done about like you’d expect. Someone who doesn’t have to work with the thing isn’t much going to care about how well it’s running.

      Some larger cab companies let experienced drivers buy their own cars and then paint them and install the hardware – and let them work as owner-operators, for a licensing fee. A better deal, but of course it puts more financial risk on the driver-owner.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @juspassinthrough; One was manufactured in Soviet factories that also manufactured armaments. Nearly all Soviet factories stood over concrete reinforced armaments factories and shared the same raw material imports and rail line exits.

        The Yugo was made in a different nation, using a different set-up.

        Comparable to the difference between a VW made in Brazil and one made in Germany.

        And if you read any reviews on the Niva you would realize just how rugged it is/was.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          Yeah, okay.

          That must be why it disappeared from the Canadian market; and why it never penetrated the American market.

          That high quality.

          It doesn’t matter how much concrete went into the plant. When workers aren’t paid a premium for superior performance and cannot be fired; when engineering is nonexistent (Fiat even did the modifications for VAZ; VAZ could do nothing) and quality-control is there to hurry product OUT to meet quotas, not make sure of delivery;

          …and when the same organization selling the car also can have you arrested for political crimes in criticizing it when it is found to be garbage…then it’s not going to be a very-good product.

          The same system, and ultimately answering to the same people, the Kremlin, was in place in Yugoslavia and Russia.

          Soviet cars; Soviet tractors, Soviet aircraft, Soviet steel…NOTHING Soviet or Russian has been able to stand alone in the marketplace, except for Russian vodka. Why that was not corrupted with wood alcohol, I’ll never know…probably because the plant managers were drinking a lot of it themselves.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Sorry, but I’d rather hear about the Indian Roadmaster. Partially because the last Indian Roadmaster I rode was either a ’49 or a ’50.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Why don’t you buy an Indian Roadmaster?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Virtually all of the touring that I want to do is on the coasts.

      It makes more sense for me to rent one six times a year at airports than it does for me to buy one and put it in the garage next to a bunch of other bikes that are all better-suited for short-distance riding. Does that make sense? But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about getting one just to get one. In the sparkly blue, please.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Saw y’all there with Danger Girl!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Oh come on, man, you’re the second reader who saw me there and didn’t say hello. Was it because I looked like a homeless person and you were afraid I was going to ask for two bucks to cover my bus trip home?

      • 0 avatar
        Austin Greene

        …in the photo booth pics on the hyperlinked webpage.

        Believe me, if I was there in the flesh, I would have misjudged my ‘driving’ and accidentally rammed my Swedish walker into your leg. But don’t take it personal. I seem to do it to everybody these days.

        http://www.trionic.biz/

      • 0 avatar
        Wheelman

        Hey, looking homeless is just part of blending in with the van crowd. To be fair, part of the problem was that I DIDN’T see you there.

  • avatar
    dwford

    If Uber doesn’t work out you can always sell cars. Talk about job security. Yes, you could get fired by the slimy manager at any moment for no reason, but you can also easily have a new job by the end of the same day at another dealer. And make at least $40k a year, even hung over and on coke. If you’re good, $60-80k isn’t too hard.

  • avatar
    the passenger

    It’s very interesting to me that you say you feel bad about using Uber. I have come to feel the same about it, largely due to criticism from my SJW-ish wife. But here’s a thing: I am unable to drive. I’m just too damn near-sighted. And while I live in a large metropolitan area with a fairly extensive public transit network, there are occasions when transit just doesn’t go where I need to be, or can’t get me there in a reasonable enough amount of time. (One particular destination takes an hour by bus with transfers, 10-15 minutes in a car.) And even though I’m married to a woman with good eyesight and a car, sometimes I need to get somewhere when she isn’t around. So for someone like me, Uber has made a big difference, and I will continue to use it despite my reservations.

  • avatar
    UpintheValley

    I’m the blogger/Uber driver known as UpintheValley, referenced in the article.
    I read Jack’s account of the three Uber rides, as well as the thoughtful follow-on discussion in the comments, with great interest.
    From the driver’s perspective, the difficulties of the Uber business model, contra certain readers assumption, are not the classic Marxist ones.
    You either feeling like driving on a given night or not. The hourly earnings rate either works for you, or it doesn’t. Free will governs.
    However….there’s a lot of driver churn in Los Angeles, hence the perpetual ads on radio for fresh ones. I have an idea why.
    In the earlier going of my Uber career, it felt much more like “rideshare” than it does today. There was a joyful collaboration between rider and driver. They get picked up in under five minutes for half the price of a cab, I make some easy cash. We’re in it together, and we both win. A mutually rewarding exchange.
    As the novelty has worn off, or to put it another way, as Uber has reached ubiquity in urban areas, attitudes have shifted. My car is now seen as the extension of someone else’s phone, and is expected to be a limousine, in Prius form. A limo for which people expect to pay UberPOOL prices. And by limo, I mean people expect to be catered to. They want you to double park in front of a club on a Sat. night while they make their goodbyes to their friends inside. For five minutes. In a bus lane. While dozens of people are crowded on the sidewalk flagging down other Ubers and valet parkers wave flashlights at you. Riders refuse to walk a hundred feet up the block where there is an easy pickup spot. Or cross the street, if it would spare both of us ten minutes of idling in traffic. “That’s why I take Uber. So I can be picked up at the door.” The real Uber money in LA is night work, so this is an escapable part of the job now.
    In the past, if I had a drop off in the clusterf**k that is West Hollywood, I could just turn the app off when I was done, drive out of the neighborhood, then turn it back on again. No more. The Uber app now sends new rider requests before the first ride is finished, and it appears as a small icon on the screen without a visible address, so you’re in the position of “accepting blind.” If you decline, the app will send two more inside of a minute, forcing your hand. A low acceptance rate will get you booted from the app. In theory, anyway.
    People also expect your car to be immaculate. Like a limo. My car is free of personal clutter, always has an air freshener, and I wash the windows before each night’s driving. That doesn’t prevent people from making passive-aggresive comments, like noting the scuff mark on the ceiling from a bicycle I had transported during my non-Uber life. This from a woman I picked up in Brentwood in under two minutes and whisked to her front door, eight miles away, for the price of valet parking.
    Therein lies the tension of the Uber business model, the mismatch in expectations being sold: to the driver, ridesharing; to the rider, concierge service. Hence, the churn.
    upinthevalley.org

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Whew ~

    Great thread with really good comments , it took me a while to read everything with the links and all .

    Jack , I think you’re supposed to move or change between the photos…..

    =8-) .

    -Nate

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