The Rideshare Rip-off

As you might have gleaned from my last few posts, I’ve recently begun doing rideshare full time as a stop-gap measure to keep the income flowing until I can find something more permanent. For the most part it hasn’t been too bad, and there are parts of it I even enjoy from time to time. However, the games that are played with the drivers have grated on my nerves for a few weeks now, and I learned something today that makes me feel completely ripped off.

I do my best to be completely professional during my rides. After confirming my passenger and waiting for them to get in the car, I drive pretty much in complete silence unless they feel the need to chat. I participate as much or as little as they prefer. Because I approach my job with a sense of professionalism, I’ve never asked personal questions or anything about the money they spend on the service. However, one of my passengers took it upon himself to volunteer that he had spent $39 on the 8 mile ride from his house to the airport, and I couldn’t help but be flabbergasted. You see, I only saw $11 of that massively expensive fare.

As someone who has a degree in business management, I understand that the company needs to take a certain percentage of the fare to pay the bills and make a reasonable profit, but somehow it seems like they’ve lost the plot entirely. As a driver, I’m assuming all of the risk (including having some psycho get in my car), providing all of the material assets, paying all of the expenses, providing all of the services…you know, doing all of the actual work. You would think that the result of that would be that I would receive the vast majority of the money being paid by the customer and Lyft would simply take a small percentage.

The reality is that it’s completely the other way around. I was angry enough at this revelation that I broke with my professionalism with my next driver to simply inform them that I made $6.28 for the 5 mile ride I performed for them, and yet again I got a completely shocked look. She started to tell me the she paid like $15 something, but I told her it didn’t matter. My concern wasn’t for me, it was for her. She’s getting completely ripped off, along with every other passenger I carry in my vehicle.

You see, the money I make doing this is somewhat reasonable. Yes, I should definitely make a fair bit more than I do given that I’m providing the vehicle and paying all my own expenses, but expecting a lot more than what I make now is a bit unrealistic given the skill level required to do the work. The expectation that I should be making north of $30 per hour after expenses seems a bit ridiculous given the skillset required for what we do as rideshare drivers. I could invest in starting my own professional transport business and maybe demand that, but as a rideshare provider it seems a bit much.

What bothers me about the situation isn’t so much that I didn’t get $30 out of a $39 fare…it’s that the fare was $39 in the first place. You see, part of the reason why doing rideshare full time kind of sucks is that the demand just isn’t there. Unless it’s the weekend, you can’t get consistent rides all day long, especially the kinds of rides that actually pay fairly decently. This is because they’ve made it so prohibitively expensive to travel more than 5 miles in any direction. For me, the rides that are worth my time are all at least 8-10 miles, and I love to get 20 and 30 mile rides because it’s more time with butts in the seats…meaning time that I’m actually getting paid.

I can only imagine how many more people would be using the rideshare service if the price they had to pay was much closer to what the drivers were getting paid. If that ride had only been like $15 and I receive $11, that would be a FAR more fair proposition. How many more people would be using the service if they could actually afford it? How many more rides could I get in a day if we had a lot more people requesting rides? How many more of the kinds of rides I like to do would be available if they were paying a fair rate for the service?

As much as I’d love to make $30 for an 8 mile ride, it just doesn’t seem reasonable or sustainable. I’d much rather drive for a fair rate and just get a lot more rides in rather than trying to rape customers out of money they don’t really have to spend anyway. I’d much rather be able to provide my service to many more people so they can actually afford to just get around on Uber and Lyft all the time. I’d much rather everything be priced at a fair value so everyone wins, including the rideshare companies.

But of course, greed and manipulation are never far away, and because drivers churn through so quickly and the new ones have no idea what’s been going on, nothing is likely to change. Unfortunately, this is one of those things where it will ultimately fall on the government to do something about it, and that will only happen if enough people, mostly the customers, complain loudly enough to get someone’s attention. So my advice is this:

Start complaining…

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