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Friday, April 11, 2014

Drivers Decry "Predatory" Uber

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Alas, for Uber Seattle, we do not live in a Randian utopia where entrepreneurs—because their inventions are so neat!—can do whatever they want. There's pesky stuff like municipal regulations! (They've vowed to fight those.) And now, drivers protesting working conditions at the company!

In a public event on Sunday at 2 p.m., the Teamsters Local 117 and OneAmerica announce in press release, Uber and UberX drivers will describe the company’s "predatory practices, the unwarranted deactivation of drivers from the Uber app and flaws with the company’s rating system," at the Yesler Community Center. Seattle City Council members Mike O'Brien and Kshama Sawant will be there.

"My rating went to a 4.6 (out of a five-star rating) and they suspended me," said former Uber driver, Will Anderson, in the release. "They just turned my phone off. They didn’t give me a warning, they didn’t give me a week’s notice...And they’ve done that to a lot of people. That’s huge—if you make an investment in a vehicle and you have a family you need to feed."

I'll have more on this next week, but in a statement—surprise!—Uber rejected the allegations. "Uber uses a rating system that is based directly on rider feedback and is an average of the rating they received after completing a trip with a rider," says Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger. "If a partner is consistently receiving negative feedback, partners are provided with the opportunity to improve their service level. If riders continue to complain, the partnership may be ended with that driver as they are not able to provide the level of service that our riders demand." And, she says, there's an appeal process for "deactivation."

Uber has been banned in Portland, New Orleans and Miami, and there's growing pushback from drivers and officials from Houston to San Francisco. But let's not throw it under the bus (remember buses?) yet. If the company's going to strike the right tone and handle worker complaints constructively, Seattle's a great place to start.

 

Comments (27) RSS

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seatackled 1
That’s huge—if you make an investment in a vehicle and you have a family you need to feed.

Well, I know times can be difficult, but what?! This guy bought a car for the express purpose of driving for Uber?
Posted by seatackled on April 11, 2014 at 2:23 PM · Report this
2
That's right, they buy a car configured to Uber's specifications. If they are deactivated they lose their ability to work. There is no labor relations policy at Uber. The Drivers are not employees, and Uber is not a transportation company. Uber supplies an app, that's it.

The question is who do we want to be setting the public transportation policies in our community. Should it be all of us that live here through our elected officials, or should Uber, Lyft and Sidecar bring in boatloads of money to overturn a City Council decision and set the rules to benefit their investors.
Posted by leon on April 11, 2014 at 2:42 PM · Report this
4
@2 Spot on!
Posted by Soto on April 11, 2014 at 2:55 PM · Report this
5

Uber supplies an app!

Exactly.

So all you need is an App where there is no "firing" or "hiring".

You put your rig out there, and if any one wants to ride in it, after reading the reviews, then so be it.

Craigslist taxis...

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on April 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM · Report this
Dougsf 6
Not to be that guy (I say that a lot, I might actually be that guy), but wondering when the Stranger is going to take on Airbnb with the same fervor you've put toward ride shares. It's an extremely analogous situation also looking as if it's soon coming to a legal climacteric.
Posted by Dougsf on April 11, 2014 at 2:58 PM · Report this
9
You put your ride out there, and if someone gets in your car and is drunk or high or just thinks that they are having a good time by giving you a bad rating, you lose your right to drive. No recourse. If you get a legitimate poor rating(s) then you should have the right and chance to improve rather than just being deactivated. The drivers have no voice yet they assume a large share of the risk. This system benefits Uber investors, often at the expense of the driver who struggles to make ends meet. If Uber gets their way and there are no caps, Uber will still make lots of money, but the drivers will starve because there is simply not enough business to keep unlimited amounts of drivers on the road earning money. A cruel lesson to learn after you have invested what little you have based on what Uber, sidecar and lyft recruiters tell you.
Posted by leon on April 11, 2014 at 3:15 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 10
@6,

I don't think AirBnB has the same impact in Seattle that it does, in say, San Francisco or New York. We don't yet have condos overrun by asshole partying tourists, and landlords have yet to start evicting regular tenants en masse to turn their buildings into de facto hotels.

From the perspective of someone in Seattle, AirBnB is simply a fantastic service that makes traveling to New York or San Francisco more affordable. (For the record, I don't agree with that assessment.)
Posted by keshmeshi on April 11, 2014 at 3:17 PM · Report this
11
What are the odds that Mr. Anderson wasn't suspended because his rating went to 4.6, but because of the content of one or two specific 1-star ratings?

I had an Uber driver berate me for not knowing how to get to my destination. It was insane (he had a GPS unit *and* a phone). And he drove angry, cutting people off and intentionally hitting brakes hard to make my ride uncomfortable. His rating was 4.6 or 4.7 before my ride; I left one star feedback and I seriously hope he was suspended (I did get a note from Uber that they would look into my complaint, but that's the last I heard of it).

So before we get the pitchforks, consider that some of these drivers may be complaining about being held to a reasonable level of customer service. Some (or all) may have legitimate complaints. But take it with a grain of salt.
Posted by also on April 11, 2014 at 3:21 PM · Report this
13
Taxis and taxi services are fucking ridiculous. The unions are useless at protecting both drivers and passengers, and the companies that own the cars couldn't give less of a fuck. I hope rideshares put the whole mess out of business - any cab driver in future who dares call me a racial slur, or not take me to my destination deserves to be fired.
Posted by johnjjeeves on April 11, 2014 at 3:26 PM · Report this
Dougsf 14
@10 True it's not at the same critical mass in Seattle, but the analogs I can think of are uncanny: you have a business knowingly skirting regulation by calling their model something cute, missing revenue for city coffers (as you know, hotel tax is major in Seattle), patrons being siphoned away from unionized businesses, and a perceived issue of safety. On the pro side, it's kinda cool when you want to use it.
Posted by Dougsf on April 11, 2014 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 16
Too bad we don't have transit, now that we are deciding to subsidize suburban drivers by underfunding transit
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on April 11, 2014 at 4:05 PM · Report this
18
For anyone that's confused about the insurance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_5FUffc…
Posted by Soto on April 11, 2014 at 4:37 PM · Report this
19
@2 is correct but glosses over the very mixed support the council has on this issue from the electorate. If the people ever get a referendum, that vote would have much more weight.
Posted by wxPDX on April 11, 2014 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 20
@10: the stories of landlords en masse turning their units into AirBNB hotels in SF/NYC are seriously overblown and dubiously sourced. The best estimate of the number of full-time AirBNB units in SF right now is just shy of 2000 -- and that's in a city with ~800,000 people and ~215,000 rental units in the market. It's a drop in the bucket.

Hotel owners, of course, hate it -- but I'm not sure why we should feel any particular sympathy for them.
Posted by Doctor Memory http://blahg.blank.org on April 11, 2014 at 4:56 PM · Report this
21
Yes, Uber deactivate drivers -- who are not employees -- when they provide poor service. That's why we get generally very good service from Uber drivers and why the taxis in this city are godawful terrible 98 percent of the time.

It's called accountability. It's a good thing.
Posted by Tyspace on April 11, 2014 at 4:56 PM · Report this
22
Yes, Uber deactivate drivers -- who are not employees -- when they provide poor service. That's why we get generally very good service from Uber drivers and why the taxis in this city are godawful terrible 98 percent of the time.

It's called accountability. It's a good thing.
Posted by Tyspace on April 11, 2014 at 4:58 PM · Report this
24
Not being able to fire taxi drivers is how we got such a shitty taxi situation.

That said, these folks should not be buying cars just to drive rideshare. (Lease, maybe). That's a bad decision.

@11 Wow, I think we had the same guy. I've only had to report 2 drivers in the past year or so. The vast majority of Uber drivers I meet are competent and friendly.
Posted by unpaid reader on April 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM · Report this
25
@21 & 22 - you're fired!
How's it feel now, this accountability? Speaking of which, Ansel - Stranger readers LIKE Uber and Stranger advertisers DISLIKE the $15 min wage, so be careful. Far better reporters than you no longer have jobs for failing to read the tea leaves.
Posted by pinch-flat on April 11, 2014 at 9:00 PM · Report this
26
My friend and I were caught in a transit-poor neighborhood. I introduced the friend to UberX. It was easy. The car came fast. We got a good ride. The price was fair. The friend was thoroughly impressed.

I don't care what kind of restrictions are put in place so long as Uber is able to continue to exist as one option in a wide spectrum of transportation options. Allow me more of everything, from sidewalks to bike share to car share to separated-grade transit.
Posted by Colin Miller on April 11, 2014 at 9:58 PM · Report this
27
Yes, instead the Uber drivers should create an intransigent union such that even the worst performers are immune from firing and can simply volunteer for a seminar after they take a week of paid leave. Maybe you should send Dom to go ask officer Saulet or Marion how one creates such a strong, unionized front that can cower the parent company.
Posted by ChefJoe on April 12, 2014 at 12:49 AM · Report this
30
Wow... bold concept, customer satisfaction as the main determinant of job performance. As any regular Uber user knows, your driver really has to be sub par to motivate you to give anything less than 5 stars. I can almost guarantee that some of these disgruntled poor performing drivers are actually former taxi cab drivers who are used to not having to provide 5 star service and/or be accountable in any way to their customers.

I am so sick of this debate. When is the initiative coming to eliminate the taxi licenses altogether and create a universal driver-for-hire license. One weekend class, get some required upgraded insurance, get a vehicle inspection, and done. Then you better bring your A game for customer service. The whole unchecked-angry-cabbie-with-attitude thing is a relic of a bygone era. Welcome to the modern times where the customer ALWAYS rules through technology.
Posted by Tiredprogressive on April 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM · Report this
NaFun 31
Getting me from A to B in reasonable safety and a reasonable time is not a 5 star. That's a 3 star, and Uber hates that that's how I rate drivers. It's also how I rate ebay sellers.
Posted by NaFun http://www.dancesafe.org on April 15, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
32
Bering a (former) Uber-X driver I can appreciate the rating system - when used honestly and appropriately. Uber will use if it is of benefit to Uber because there is no accountability ,or proof of the (poor) ratings. They terminated my contract when I brought to their attention that the numbers they were quoting, to exclude me from being paid a GUARANTEE that they offered, were wrong. Not only were they wrong, they didnt have the first clue about what the numbers stood for nor how they arrived at them - but they stood behind them 100%.
The Texas Workforce Commission will battle it out with them....but it has been my experience that there are so many things going on at Uber that nobody understands, and nobody is responsible for - that this could be a long battle.
Aside from offering the GUARANTEE and not paying it out - there is not a single "oversight" at UBER that is not in Ubers favor. They dont pay tolls properly and the cancellation fees - which the driver is to receive is seldom paid without asking and then only after fighting for it.
Add to that all the perks that Uber expects its drivers to pay for - a clean car, daily, water for riders, maintenance, upkeep and gasoline and to help with all these expenses - they lower the rates for the riders to a level far below what is necessary to break even.
I suspect that the rise of Uber will slow soon, lets hope it doesnt come tumbling down.
Posted by driver325 on April 16, 2014 at 11:31 PM · Report this
33
Is it possible that passengers over exaggerate about their drivers? I've gotten a handful of "1" star ratings out of 1000+ rides from my passengers.

One time my passenger took another Uber. I stayed behind to fix the problem with the rider who lost his ride. He thanked me for knowing how to respond to his lost ride. I even gave him a ride. How do I get rewarded for this ride? He gives me a "1" star rating?

I had nothing to do with the rider losing his ride. I could have easily canceled the girl who took his ride and who refused to cancel her ride.

Another time on Lyft a passenger assumed she was riding in a taxi. I gave her the option to ride upfront. She declined. She didn't like having a conversation with me. Lyft encourages us to be social. This girl gave me two cross-streets. I reached this location. Apparently, I heard from a Lyft mentor that she gave me a "1" star and said that when something doesn't want to talk to you, then get the hint. She also indicated I dropped her off 1 mile away from destination. This female rider bent the truth to support a "1" star I didn't deserve.

I believe ridesharing riders are misinformed about the rating system. For the most part, many riders understand the impact of the rating system. To wish that a driver gets deactivated demonstrates rider entitlement.

Drivers get a bad wrap. The end result of poor ratings is deactivation. I've never once had any conflict with any of my passengers, but some riders fired out "1" star ratings to affect me.

http://www.ridesharingservices.com
Posted by Rideshared http://www.ridesharingservices.com on June 28, 2014 at 10:02 AM · Report this
34
Is it possible that passengers over exaggerate about their drivers? I've gotten a handful of "1" star ratings out of 1000+ rides from my passengers.

One time my passenger took another Uber. I stayed behind to fix the problem with the rider who lost his ride. He thanked me for knowing how to respond to his lost ride. I even gave him a ride. How do I get rewarded for this ride? He gives me a "1" star rating?

I had nothing to do with the rider losing his ride. I could have easily canceled the girl who took his ride and who refused to cancel her ride.

Another time on Lyft a passenger assumed she was riding in a taxi. I gave her the option to ride upfront. She declined. She didn't like having a conversation with me. Lyft encourages us to be social. This girl gave me two cross-streets. I reached this location. Apparently, I heard from a Lyft mentor that she gave me a "1" star and said that when something doesn't want to talk to you, then get the hint. She also indicated I dropped her off 1 mile away from destination. This female rider bent the truth to support a "1" star I didn't deserve.

I believe ridesharing riders are misinformed about the rating system. For the most part, many riders understand the impact of the rating system. To wish that a driver gets deactivated demonstrates rider entitlement.

Drivers get a bad wrap. The end result of poor ratings is deactivation. I've never once had any conflict with any of my passengers, but some riders fired out "1" star ratings to affect me.

http://www.ridesharingservices.com
Posted by Rideshared http://www.ridesharingservices.com on June 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM · Report this
35
@NaFun,

Your 3 star does affect the driver. It would take them (10) 5 star ratings to get 4.82. It would be fair to know how you rate your drivers 3 stars so they have a choice to drive you or not.

Drivers would rather have a 5 star than a decent fare. Are drivers rating you a 3 star also? What would it take for you to rate a 5 star? A Sidecar passenger said he rates all Lyft drivers 3 stars. He didn't know that he may be impacting drivers. He said he would save a 5 star for dinner being served in the ride.
Posted by Rideshared http://www.ridesharingservices.com on June 28, 2014 at 10:13 AM · Report this
36
@Unpaid Reader,

Most app companies won't allow drivers to lease a car. They have to purchase a car or use another vehicle that has their name on registration and on the insurance. In my opinion, drivers must follow the rules or get deactivated.

Posted by Rideshared http://www.ridesharingservices.com on June 28, 2014 at 10:21 AM · Report this

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