Uber

Ride #1

Stats:

Date: Feb 7, 2017
Duration: 8:33
Distance: 2.54 km
Type: UberX

Conversation:
  • It’s bloody hot mate, very bad traffic
  • Just got back from 3-4 weeks holiday, wanted to work
  • Been driving taxies for 20-25 years
  • Been driving Uber for 5-6 months, give it another couple months and see how it turns out
  • Don’t want to drive a bus, stop start, open door, hundreds of times a day, maybe some drunk or angry passengers
  • Never had a problem with drunks, tell them you have no money and get out of car
  • Key is to use a proper company with number, don’t take hails from random people off the street at night
  • All these indians – countrymen – only been here 10 years, blocking up the city, parking in bus lanes, disabled spots, congestion – if you’re going to work, work right
  • Used to be only 7 or 8 companies (300-3000, Discount Taxi, etc), with some regionally locked ones, e.g. North Shore Taxi, etc – I looked the other day, now there’s 49
Personal:
  • A/C on, extremely clean car, white Corolla Hybrid
  • Anxiety about app not working, had I requested a car twice? What if two drivers showed up? (no internet connection). Worked fine once switched to 3G.
  • Extremely smooth process, could track drivers location in real-time
  • Very incognito cab, no visible signage, had to guess based on model
  • Get in front or in back, like a taxi company but not quite (don’t want to read too much into this but something here about belong to – but ‘disrupting’ – existing model)
  • Human dispatcher replaced by algorithmic service, zero ‘management’

Ride #2:

Stats:

Date: Feb 14, 2017
Duration: 8:21
Distance: 2.49 km
Type: UberX

Conversation:
  • Would say it’s been active morning, not busy
  • Rain = more pickups is a myth, doesn’t always work like that
  • Get a lot of cancellations, people that request Uber, never cancel, then taxi
  • Driving since April, so coming up to a year now
  • I’m in retirement now but don’t like golf, so thought, why not drive around
  • I keep pretty erratic hours, it’s hard to say how much I’m earning (unprompted)
  • It’s taken them months just to add the color of the car to the app, for an IT company they’re not very responsive to anything outside the box (global system)
  • I’ve asked to talk to them face to face – they say ‘what do you want to do that for?’ – well to discuss issues – they say, we don’t really do that
Personal:
  • Second ride, less anxiety about if pickup would happen, if I would recognize driver
  • But also less ‘magic’ about the request process and the car ‘appearing’
  • Even some regret that I didn’t request while walking, so I wouldn’t wait in drizzle
  • In other words, the operation quickly becomes normalized, even taken for granted
  • Holden Commodore, extremely glossy exterior and looked brand new – are drivers just ignoring costs of purchasing late model car completely? Intentional ignorance?
  • ETA counter counted down (3 minutes, 2 minutes) then back up again (3 minutes)

Uber Office

Notes:
  • Accidentally left my phone in driver’s car
  • Got email saying driver had an item of mine, here was his number
  • Got a second email saying that it had been dropped off at Uber office
  • Went to Uber office, this is their ‘onboarding’ office where they conduct all their training evenings, its also open during the day for more general support queries
  • Very young staff, between 20-25 years estimated, supervisor was 30+
  • Long conversation between driver who had been injured (not clear if this was on job or not) and Uber support worker.
  • Driver had been off work for several months – he had shown previous earnings to ACC (accident compensation corporation, which provides financial support after work related injuries), but this was not enough.
  • Driver was now requesting a statement from Uber, stating that based on on his previous earnings, Uber could guarantee that he would earn $25-$35 per hour.
  • The support worker stated that this would be difficult, that there are simply ‘too many factors’ involved (in predicting earnings, number of rides in a week, etc), and that he didn’t know what the driver would do with this statement.
  • Driver was insistent, asking for help, and support worker went next door to speak to his supervisor.
  • Worker came back and stated that it was not possible to provide such a statement.
  • Driver was insistent, said that ‘when I signed up, you guys told me I could earn between 25 and 35 per hour, and that you’d provide support’, this is what I need
  • Worker said they support drivers in every way they can, but this isn’t one of them.
  • Supervisor came out of side room and spoke to driver, stated that he used to work in a bank, and that drafting such an ‘affidavit’ was not possible, ‘there was no way I can make the wording on this work’ that wouldn’t blow back on Uber as company, have the supervisor lose his job, etc. We never guarantee earnings of a specific amount.
  • Driver, support worker and supervisor remained relatively calm throughout discussion, with empathetic phrases ‘I can see you’re between a rock and a hard place’, but it was equally clear there was disagreement and refusal to give way from either side, arguments back and forth
  • Uber support worker came over to me, apologized in general way for tenseness of situation (office is relatively small), ‘sorry that you had to be here for that’, and offered to help with missing phone.
  • The phone wasn’t there – worker said ‘it wasn’t someone from here who called’, but rather ‘someone internationally’ (e.g. Uber intl support or automated?)
  • Then followed a long search by multiple staff members, asking for same info, looking up support system for my driver or make of phone, none of which was there. Finally I asked them to just call the number, which they had to do with personal phone.
  • Everything seemed a little improvised, single laptops with no power cords on ‘bar style’ desks, managing largest city in NZ with handful of employees and software
  • Evidently drivers can flag item, say they’ll drop it, which triggers automated system, but then just not follow through – my driver wouldn’t drop phone until tomorrow morning