Monday, July 13

More Uber Lessons Learned from my first Weekend as a Driver - Part 1

I'm worn out.  It's odd that sitting in an air conditioned car would be draining, but I'm still in my Uber honeymoon phase and the app is making me loose sleep.  It's weird, but the "ping" I receive when someone requests a ride is like a drug - I get an instant endorphin rush every time.  Then when I am home, I am analyzing my shift, reading driver forums and blogs, and trying to figure out how I can be more effective.

On Friday, my second day as an Uber driver, I made some mistakes.  I started my day mid-afternoon by turning on the Driver App while I was at home.  I like it when my first ride is initiated while I'm at the house since I can relax and not waste gas riding around.   The first ride of the day started about two miles from my house, and was a drop-off at a condo on the beach.  It was less than $10, and I drove 6 miles in 15 minutes.  The next two rides were better:  on my second ride of the day, I picked someone up from a beach hotel about a mile from the first dropoff.  The guy was a local who'd hung out with a friend all night.  He was a recovering addict and I had to take him to his counselor.  He told me he would be arrested if he did not report by 11 AM - no pressure!  When we arrived, he asked me to wait and promised he would be back in 5 minutes.  As he left his backpack and phone in the car, I had no choice but sit and wait.  He was a decent guy though, so I was only bothered by the shady characters hanging out in the parking lot.   No one approached me, but three people were in a heated argument behind my car and I was scared it was going to get physical.  When my passenger returned, he had me drive him home, which was on the peninsula but close to the bridge to the beach.  That ride lasted just short of an hour, and I grossed $24.

I decided to stop by Publix for some juice and a snack.  As I returned to my car, I got another ping, less than a mile away.  The passenger was heading to the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach.  This was my first trip where I didn't bother using GPS.  It was so much easier just taking someone to a place I was very familiar with.  Even better, he tipped me $5 for the 4 mile trip.  My first tip, and on an $8 ride.  Sweet!

My fourth passenger was on the back side of the Hyatt, and I was pinged as soon as I pulled away from dropping off my last ride.  There was some initial confusion, as when I called the passenger, it was her friend, who had no idea her friend was using her Uber app.  She called her friend up though and three-wayed me.  See, one of the problems with the Uber app is the passenger doesn't always enter their correct pick-up spot.  Even when they do, you usually need to make contact with the passenger to identify them.  Based on the app, I had no idea where my passenger was, as it looked like they pinged me from inside the hotel, which is huge.  Fortunately, it took no time at all to find her.  She was headed home from a job interview.  Home was on the other side of Pinellas County, not far from where I live.  I only grossed $14, and the ride was 27 minutes and 9 miles long.  This is a good time to explain how low the pay is with Uber.  From the $14, Uber only paid me $10.54.  Take the standard mileage deduction of $.57/mile from the IRS ($5.13), and for my time I received $5.41.  That works out to $11.71/hour.  The problem is, my time is only paid when I have a passenger.  In other words, the most I can earn is about $12 an hour, assuming I am driving someone 100% of the time I am on the clock.  To make this work, I will have to come up with ways to keep my vehicle expenses below what the IRS says they should be.

After that trip I decided to return home.  It was getting hot outside, plus I had one mystery shop I needed to get done.  I took care of that shop (free pizza, so there's my lunch) and relaxed at the house for a while.  I turned on the app around 3 PM and almost immediately was pinged.  It was a short distance from home, but the drop-off was at Mellow Mushroom on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.  It was a quick $7 (after Uber took their money), but then the passenger tipped me another $7.  Sweet!

My next move was a mistake.  The Uber heat map was coloring the area around the Tampa airport.  I figured I would head that way just to see what happened.  My mistake was driving so far to chase after fares.  I drove nearly an hour in traffic to get to the airport area.  The first fare was in a business park with a convoluted address, so I wasted a bunch of time trying to find the passenger, who wasn't answering her phone.  Then I got stuck in the Tampa area during rush hour, and added three more fares, including an airport dropoff as well as a pickup.  The pickup once again was a pain in the rear, because I had to circle around the Interstate to return to the airport, and the passenger didn't answer right away so I had to circle the airport twice while I waited for his call.  The guy was an FBI agent, and I dropped him off at the FBI building near the airport.  It was kind of cool because I didn't know that building existed, and it was a heavily secured area.  I pretended I was on a covert mission for my country.  Patriotic!

My last Tampa fare was my first and only "surge" fare of the day.  I picked up a girl in South Tampa and took her home to Ybor City.  I used the Selmon Expressway, where there was zero traffic.  The drive was easy, and it was a 1.6 "surge", meaning I was paid 1.6 times the normal rate.  Of course, Uber miscalculated the toll I paid by about $.50, but I didn't bother contacting them because I wasn't sure how that worked.  Excluding toll reimbursement, I was paid $14 for a 15 minute ride that was 8.69 miles long.

I decided to get the hell out of Tampa.  Driving in an area I am not really familiar with, in Friday evening rush hour, just isn't much fun.  As I neared my exit off I-275, I was pinged from a hotel I was already passing.  Four guys in town for training at Raymond James' HQ were going to Tropicana Field for the baseball game.  Despite some traffic on 275, it was an easy trip.

I continued working Friday until just before 10 PM.  My net payout for the day was a measly $125.  I had driven 252 miles, but only 107 paid miles.  My lesson for the day:  no more chasing after fares.  Those unpaid miles killed my profit for the entire day.


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