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Uber is hailed by many as the example of what the service workforce of the future could be. On demand, scalable, inexpensive, and easily replaceable. That last part is the ugly side of the ridesharing economy.
While my adventures in driving have been few and far between since my “how much does a driver make” experiment in January, I continue to be a regular passenger. And my writings about ridesharing have earned me several friendships with local drivers who share their stories with me.
Yesterday’s story broke my heart. My friend John Doe (I’m changing his name as this is a real-time issue) received this email yesterday:
This email is notification that, due to low user ratings and/or negative user feedback, Rasier LLC is deactivating your access to the Uber mobile application for drivers, effective immediately. THis email also constitutes notice of Rasier’s termination of its Transportation Provider Service Agreement with you, effective 30 days from today. Your final payment will occur within the next week. If you have any questions or need help with your account, please email email@example.com.
The email goes on to give instructions on how to return an Uber leased phone.
My friend, a wonderful driver with a 4.85 rating and a lovely car, was dumbfounded. Just a mere two weeks before, Uber had sent him a congratulatory email telling him he was a “Top Rated Partner” scoring ratings in the top 25% of all drivers in the Dallas Uber cachement area. I’ve been his passenger and concur – he is one of the more conscientious drivers I have encountered on the Uber platform.
His time with Uber was just terminated with no notice, no email exchange about any unusual incidents, and little recourse for appeal (more about that in a moment). In fact, John reports that he has only completed a few rides in the last two weeks and cannot recall anything remotely unusual about any of them.
Uber was his main source of income as a single dad who moved halfway across the country to DFW to continue to share custody of a young son after his ex-wife relocated here. And that income stream was cut off without so much as a conversation as to why.
He wrote into the email address given and this was his canned reply:
Thanks for writing in!
Due to safety issues, Uber Technologies is no longer able to partner with you.
And then the same canned instructions about how to return an Uber leased phone.
No explanation given. And apparently no explanation needed.
We consumers love Uber for the ease of use. We request a car and it shows up and charges directly to our credit cards, automatically adjusting pricing based on supply/demand. And most of the time the process goes well.
Drivers love Uber for the lack of barriers to entry. Make an online request to drive (or be referred by an existing driver like me under a bonus promotion to earn bonus cash), send in a copy of your drivers license and insurance along with your social security number and vehicle registration. If the online background check clears, congratulations – you are now a driver – with no mandatory training or in-person evaluation of you or your vehicle.
With that level of ease, checks and balances are obviously needed. Ratings and feedback (from both passengers about drivers as well as drivers about passengers) hypothetically keep the system free of problem individuals. At the very least, if there is a major issue, Uber should solicit BOTH sides of the story to find out what happened.
But right now, my concern is my driver. Something in that easy system has failed him – or his passengers – and could fail any of us.
I feel like he has a right to know why.
What do you think?