That Time When I Decided to Drive for Uber

So, I realize that this is not without it’s inherent issues – I say that I’m very pro-union, and yet here I am car-sharing, which might be the equivalent of scab who crosses a picket line, in a way.

But I signed up anyhow.

Money is good.

I have a newer to me car, and I’ve recently discovered that my need for my own personal time dwarfs my need to be financially independent. I’ve helped this along by moving into a shared living space as well – at least it will reduce costs. I signed up about three months ago to drive, and I ended up not being able to because of a pinched sciatic nerve.

Last night, I thought what the heck, I’ll log on. Within minutes I had my first fare: a couple of young women off to see a concert at Commonwealth. I had no clue. They broached the subject with me by saying “Don’t judge, we’re going to see One Direction”. It took us forever to get to the stadium because the traffic was a nightmare, but I got them close to where they needed to go, and moved along from there. This was their first Uber ride, and they called me their “savior” – which I’m entirely okay with.

I found my next fare, after I grabbed a cup of coffee, at Kingsway Mall. Another young woman who had been shopping and was going home near the University. She had taken Uber a lot, and – like me – after the initial hesitancy, the reliability and cleanliness of vehicles was miles improved over a regular cab.

I dropped her off and ended my sojourn for the evening, having already worked 7 hours at my ‘real job’.

I went home to have a look at the Uber website to see what I could see – I saw my two trips, the amount of money I ‘brought in’ for the company, and the amount that I would ultimately get paid. I’m still not entirely sold on the outcome of the overall amount paid – I ‘brought in’ $43.00 in fares for my two trips, and 20% of that goes right to Uber. The payment in my bank account will be $33 or so, but when tax time comes, I’ll be taxed at about 30% on whatever I can’t write off, so there will be taxes. That $0.55 per km – for $5.00, should be the amount of money I put into the vehicle for this trip pro-rated: so insurance, gas, maintenance. I was out from 6pm until 9pm.

So let’s say I made $10 per hour last night – was it worth it?

Let’s say I had another job where I was paid, even $12/ hour, for the time that I was at their store. I’d have to go to their location, dress in their clothes, and learn a whole new system of whatever it was I was selling/ buying/ doing. Fine, I’m flexible, that’s not a big deal. I would have to work their hours, when they required it, and – frankly – my stupid sciatic nerve might not like that too much. But finally – and this is it for me – I’m my own boss. I don’t have to answer to someone who is breathing over my shoulder or judging my work, other than the customers who are rating my performance. That is something I haven’t had in my adult life, being always employed in administrative support. The other aspect of this system that I like is that the riders are all pretty much documented in the Uber system with their credit cards – so – I would think – it reduces their inclination to try to do stupid things to the driver. We all know there are dicks out there, but at least there is a bit of a deterrent.

So the cons – from a safety point of view *as a driver* – I don’t know who my fares are. I also don’t really want to drive at night when there is the best opportunity to make money because I really don’t want someone barfing in my car. So that leaves me limits, and perhaps it might not pan out to make me that much money if I’m not willing to do those shifts. Also the money – I’m not sure that it is really worth it. For me right now, being out and about is better than being in the house, so that is a good step forward. And it’s a bit of socialization where I don’t have to worry about “being” something – either I’m a driver and I’m talky or I’m a driver and I’m quiet.

And then as far as being a scab, I think of it this way – this is the answer that the market has been looking for for years. I can’t tell you how many times when I lived in Calgary you just couldn’t get a ride if you tried when it snowed: half the vehicles in Calgary independently insured, so drivers wouldn’t go on the road when there was a bit of ice for fear they’d get into an accident and their rates would go up… so you get double the pressure on a system already, and you’d end up with double the riders looking for a cab when the weather turned. I remember precalling for a cab before work one day, and they cab wasn’t 10 min late, 20min late or 30 min late – he was 2 and a half hours late, which made me late for work for an event that I was organizing. I was trying to be proactive and ensure I was at work on time.

So, do I think Uber is the solution? No, I don’t think it’s a sustainable model at all, with the regulations that will be enforced over the next while, I think most will drop it as quickly as they picked it up. But places in Australia have really captured this as a new model of doing business – some cab companies have switched their fares to credit card only and require registration, making the fares safer for drivers; as well, their laws are open enough that invite others to join the sector instead of trying to shore up a dying business model that isn’t working.

Until our governments here start looking at public transport options in a blanket way (as per above), or nullify Uber completely, I’m not sure that I’m sold, but it’s a nice way to spend my extra time. If it makes me money – great; if it doesn’t make me a lot of money – it’s still better than sitting at home on the couch.

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