PhotoYou do know that your Uber driver is rating you, don't you?

Uber makes much of the fact that consumers can rate the service they get on each ride but doesn't talk much about the fact that drivers can do the same for passengers.

So if you're an obnoxious backseat driver, someone who complains about it being too hot or too cold or if you are just one of those rude, condescending people who make up a fair portion of the human race, get ready to stand around in the rain wondering why no Uber car races to your aid.

We're told that drivers can't see the passenger ratings yet but  there's speculation that they may be able to soon. Also, it's possible that passengers could find themselves removed from the system if they get too many negative reviews.

A similar situation, we understand from its drivers, holds true for Lyft.

This is not really news, although it is getting a bit of media attention today for some reason. Just about every Uber or Lyft driver we've ridden with has promised to give us a good rating, and implied that he'd appreciate our doing the same.

You could call this a blacklist, of course, and no doubt it will be used by entrenched cab companies as another reason why Uber and its ilk should be shoved to the curb. Licensed taxis, they point out, are legally required to answer all calls in their service area and are barred from discriminating against minorities, the disabled and passengers who live in "undesirable" neighborhoods.

Those who believe these rules are actually followed can take comfort from them. Everyone else should remember to be nice to your local Uber and Lyft drivers.

Disenchantment sets in

Ah, but what of the Uber drivers themselves? How are they feeling? I detect a certain disenchantment lately. 

We were rocking along the snowy streets of D.C.'s Virginia suburbs the other day as an Uber driver complained that his car was showing the stresses of being on the road day in and day out. Also, his back was starting to hurt. Also, Uber had cut its rates to be more competitive, taking money out of the drivers' pockets and forcing them to work longer hours to maintain their income.

"A lot of Uber drivers are going over to Lyft," he said. "You're seeing a lot more pink smiles." This, of course, may be like consumers who get miffed at AT&T and defect to Verizon (or vice versa). One may be much like the other.

What actually seems to be at play here is that drivers are starting to realize that while they're not chained to a desk like a workaday 9-to-5er, they're not exactly out there blazing new entrepreneurial trails either.

Initially, many drivers initially calculated their "pay" based on how much money they took in. But in fact, they need to look at themselves as a business -- which means that "pay" becomes the "top line" -- gross receipts from which must be deducted out-of-pocket expenses, depreciation, insurance and the other intangibles that determine whether or not a business is profitable.

Oh, and don't forget the taxes. As self-employed independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers must pay their income taxes quarterly. They're not automatically deducted as is the case with employees. And, one must remember, there are no employer-paid benefits -- no 401k, no health insurance, etc. 

Ironically, all of this was just starting to sink in with our talkative Uber driver just one day after Virginia had legalized Uber and its competitors with much self-congratulatory prose.

“I am proud to sign this legislation, which supports innovation in our transportation system while also protecting the safety of citizens across the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. D.C. also recognizes the new transportation networks while Maryland remains a hold-out, once again complicating even the simplest tasks in the dysfunctional tri-state region that is home to the similarly dysfunctional federal government.

 

 


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