Five things we learned by lurking on a Toronto UberX drivers’ forum
Most media coverage of UberX is fixated on the histrionics at city hall, but it’s a good bet that all the best car-for-hire drama is happening on a much smaller scale. UberX is a business built on the backs of its drivers, whom the company regards as independent contractors. Because drivers deal directly with Uber’s app and have no easy means of meeting one another, the occasional class-action lawsuit has so far been the only true collective action open to them.
That’s why a certain Toronto web forum—which we aren’t naming, for fear of sending a deluge of unwanted traffic their way, even though the place is not hard to find on Google—makes such fascinating reading. The online discussion room is one of the only places it’s possible to overhear what UberX “partners” are talking about. It’s a living community of drivers, many of whom seem to be growing increasingly irate with their app-maker overlord. Here are five things we learned by browsing the comments.
They’re talking about you
When it comes to politeness, the stakes are unusually high for UberX drivers, because customers’ opinions can have direct consequences for their livelihoods. If riders give them low star-ratings, drivers can be banned from Uber’s platform. And so it’s no wonder they love sharing war stories about how they’ve handled out-of-control passengers. Like this driver who unwittingly ended up being a drug dealer’s chauffeur:
Or this driver who took passive-aggressive revenge on a 14-year-old who tried to eat pizza in his car:
Or this driver, who ditched a rude rider for $4:
They’re internally divided
Another possible reason drivers have so much trouble leveraging Uber into making labour-friendy reforms? They’re sometimes too busy fighting amongst themselves. The forum’s part-time drivers and full-time drivers express divergent interests: the former believe they benefit from UberX staying super-casual and loosely regulated, while some of the latter argue that they would probably be doing better if the service had to obey stringent, taxi-style requirements—if only because the higher bar to entry would force some of the part-time competition off the road. Here’s someone articulating the part-timers’ side, which is pretty consistent with Uber’s own position:
It doesn’t go over well with this full-timer:
They hate UberPool
UberPool, which Uber launched in Toronto in mid-January, is a good deal for passengers: it offers them a discounted fare as long as they agree to share their ride with a fare-paying stranger. In theory, the ability to carry two unrelated riders at once should be a boon to drivers as well, because it means they get to collect two simultaneous fares. In practice, it’s complicated: sometimes there’s no second rider, so the driver ends up carrying just one passenger for the reduced price. Uber reduces its commission on single-rider UberPool fares, increasing the driver’s share of the take, but many still harbour resentment over the company’s perceived meddling.
Instead of “pool,” they’ve taken to calling it “poo.”
UberX drivers are fare junkies
Entire threads are devoted to bragging about especially lucrative UberX rides.
A few drivers get a little wistful talking about the surges:
There’s an undercurrent of paranoia about Uber’s technical capabilities
Uber definitely is tracking all of its users’ movements, but probably not to this extent: