After all the successes my first two days, I was stoked to hit the road again today. It was a Sunday on a holiday weekend and my goal was to clear my whole day to make big money. At the rate I earned the first day ($20/hour) and second day ($32/hour), I was optimistic if I spent the full day driving I could turn a good profit. My strategic goal being to grab an airport run, hit up a re-match, drive a little, and then end the day with the same airport run, re-match. If that strategy worked, I estimated 5 hours on the road with $100-150. Off I went!
The red eye flights on United from Hawaii all land around 6-6:30am and seemed like the perfect candidates for a re-match. Which meant aiming for an airport run around 5:45-6:00am to get me there in time. I ended up being too excited and hit the road a bit earlier than expected so grabbed a normal run. Turned out to be a nice guy in his late 20s in my neighborhood that I’d guess got lucky last night and was heading home. We drove 15 minutes south which took me away from the airport unfortunately, making around $10.
From there, I turned the Uber settings to only match me with an airport run and then started making my way toward the airport. Uber only allows you to set the destination twice per day so it’s important to use them wisely. I drove the 45 minutes to the airport, eating the gas, with no takers. When I entered the airport queue at 6:45am I got assigned slot #11. The Hawaii flights landed, a few Ubers took off, but my number stayed at 11. A bunch more flights came in, Ubers took off, my number stayed 11. Hmm… Finally a little before 8am I decided I’d wait for a few United and Delta flights to land with hopes they’d clear more Ubers than all the Southwest flights that landed the previous hour.
After waiting over 90 minutes, my queue spot remained 11 and I decided to bail. It was a colossal waste of my time. In any given 90 minutes, I probably would have had quite a few runs and likely even an airport run which could have resulted in a re-match. Trying not to get frustrated by the huge waste of time and lost rides, I took it as a good lesson learned: stalking the airport is not for me. For some reason the app took awhile to reset and show I was no longer at the airport, but eventually allowed me to show back online for riders.
As I started heading back into town I got a ping, at this point I was so desperate for a hit and fixated on the airport I figured it was from the nearby hotels. Nope. It took me 6 miles south into the ghetto to pick up a guy wearing gang clothing to drop him off in another ghetto neighborhood. I’m not sure if he could tell, but I was incredibly uncomfortable. I kept trying to keep an eye on him and praying to God he didn’t pull anything. When he said nice car I was almost convinced that was an invitation for a gun point exchange of my vehicle. I dropped him off 8 minutes later for $4. Reality of being an Uber driver quickly hit. Was $4 really worth it?
I turned my Uber offline and scurried out of the ghetto, eating the gas money to get back to the good areas of town another 10 miles away. When I got close, there were no hits so I went back home, grabbed my portable charger (apparently my car charger sockets don’t work – which really bites as a driver btw). Taking a 20 minute break to cram down some food, I went back out trying to re-energize my perspective. A rider in my neighborhood pinged for a 5 min ride to one of the central neighborhoods with high activity. He was really nice and told me about his time as an Uber driver then tipped me $5 for the $4 ride. OMG I so needed that!
There was a bit of a lull before I got my next rider back in my neighborhood (which does seem to be the hot bed of Uber requests). Nice guy in his early 20’s who said he was having a bad day, but hopped in the front seat, and was a great conversationalist. I think I’ve decided though, I really don’t like when they come in the front seat. If the car is full, sure, but if it’s just them, it just feels weird no matter how nice they are. Around 6 minutes later, I dropped him off in Uptown, earning $4.
Since my neighborhood seems to be the hot spot, I figured all lines lead home. On my way, picked up a rider. A young man in his late 20’s, very quiet, heading to the Mattress store about 15 minutes away which got me around $6. No hits anywhere close by, so kept driving back north and finally got a hit to go 6 minutes for $4. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more in gas today than I’ve made. Starting to feel a bit like the Uber honeymoon period came to a crashing halt, I chinned up and carried on. Today I had to earn money. I just had too.
No hits in their drop off area so I headed back central and got a hit a few miles away. Three guys headed downtown to ComiCon. My first ComiCon customers! Though they weren’t dressed up. They pretty much kept to themselves, but seemed nice. I wasn’t feeling very chatty so it was all good. 12 minutes later I earned around $7. Stuck in ComiCon traffic I got my first ping downtown, though of course they were 2 miles away. Traffic was in gridlock not only with the convention but a small sporty Mercedes had a bad day. Beyond the cop cars and blocked roads, the little car laid off to the side, clearly having spun around. Sure hope the driver survived!
Luckily when I finally pulled up, the family was very kind about the wait. Turns out it was an UberXL ride to the airport (oh thank goodness!). We piled their luggage in, strapped in the two kiddos, and were off to the airport. They were a nice family but mostly kept to themselves sorting out travel stuff. It’s always interesting to be this invisible part of people’s lives for a short while. I imagine it’s probably similar to what nanny’s or other at home help feels like. So strange. It’s like you are there with them, but you’re not, to them, you’re invisible.
Having young kids in my car made me super nervous. All I could think about was how much higher the stakes were. Any small mistake from a car around me on the freeway, or from myself, could have such horrible consequences. These little precious lives, depending completely on my ability to drive. Holy crap! We got to the airport, piled them all out, it took around 30 minutes, earning $44, with no tip. Worst of all, no re-match. That means out of the 4 legs to/from the airport, I only got paid for one of them. Total bummer.
At this point I’d been driving for almost 7 hours, I was starting to feel frustrated at the financials and decided to use my last destination setting of the day for the airport. No hits. I eventually just drove toward home through all the higher income neighborhoods. Still no hits. Finally got home and just hung out in the driveway waiting. One more airport run and if I got a re-match would make this whole 7 hours of driving worth it, versus feeling like a total waste. Finally after 20 minutes of idling in my driveway, I got a hit. It was UberPool, but going to the airport would still be worth it, so I made my way over.
When I pulled up, it was a nice young Latin woman who spoke little English but was NOT going to the airport. No mam. Apparently, the Uber destination to the airport is not reliable. Very frustrating. From a driver stand point, UberPool is a discounted rate. So here I took a discounted fare to not even go to the airport. I was so sad. Luckily since she didn’t speak English, my complete lack of desire to talk was no problem. I dropped her off 20 min away in the same ghetto I visited earlier in the day for a mere $9, having to eat the gas money to get back home. I’m pretty sure I lost money on that trip.
To say I was disappointed in today’s results would be an understatement. I worked 7 hours, made $90 with $5 in tips, and spent $35 on gas. That’s $8.50/hour. I could have made more working at McDonald’s. Definitely need to rethink this Uber thing. Apparently my strategy of airport runs isn’t viable since the app can’t be trusted and I can’t screen every request to confirm. It’s not right to the riders. Maybe tomorrow will be better, though I may need to rethink the best avenues for supplemental income.
Oh and I’d like to retract my statement earlier about how you easy Uber is to contact. Apparently the chat only works during sign-up. Once you’re a driver and have issues, there are only two options: spend the $5 in gas each way to go to the Hub or send an email and hope it gets a response at some point. No phone or chat, so when you have issues like I did today there’s no one you can turn too, especially on a Sunday when the Hub is closed. Kind of sucks.
More to come,
PS – if you’re interested in joining Uber, you can use my link to get a sign-on bonus: https://partners.uber.com/i/sarac13944ui