Is Uber Unfair for Taxi Drivers?

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Uber is in the news all the time. Whether it is because financial analysts applaud its unprecedented valuation or because the underground Las Vegas mafia is plotting its Nevada demise, Uber will always come find you wherever in the world you are.

Everyone knows what makes Uber great i.e., the convenience, the mobile app, and the reduced risk of price gouging from unsavory taxi drivers. But, aside from all this, one question still remains: is Uber unfair to taxi drivers?

My experience as a taxi cab driver led to serious introspection as to whether I should or shouldn’t Uber.

After graduating from law school, heading off to business school, then passing the New York bar, I decided to become a taxi cab driver. As an author who spent too many days on the typewriter and not enough at the firm driving a cab provided me with two things:

  1. Quick cash to keep the power on my laptop on while I edited and reedited my manuscript.
  2. A unique marketing strategy for advertising my book, The Entrepreneur’s Compass: A Roundabout Way of Getting There. (Click here to purchase)

Beyond those benefits, driving a cab has made me appreciate the grind that taxi drivers face day in and day out.

For a moment, let’s assume that Uber was banned in all markets. Putting an end to Uber does little to help the cab driver because the real problem are the owners of the taxicab companies who hire cabbies as independent contractors meaning they have no health insurance, receive no benefits, and are usually not covered by workers’ compensation.

Each day, a cabbie has to go into the yard, pick up his car, and is charged (at least in Arizona) around $100 to take the car out for a 12 hour shift.

Let’s start running the meter on how much the taxi driver makes on a ‘good day’.

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The day starts by paying for gas to get you to the yard. Which car doesn’t fit in this picture?

Cost of gas $2; Meter: -$2

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Make sure you are wearing your uniform or you can’t go out that day.

Cost of Uniform $15 already paid: Meter: Still -$2

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Hopefully you don’t get a dated car with too many miles that breaks down mid-shift. This often happens.

Cost of taking car out: $105: Meter: -$107

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277,000 and still running strong!

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Can of soda for the road: $.75: Meter: -$107.75

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Make sure you do your inspection sheet.
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If your car comes back like this then forget the meter, you better carry your own car insurance.
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The sad Prius.
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Cab looks good from the front.
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And sexy from the back
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Don’t forget your ID. Fine is $300 if you do.

After twenty minutes of inspection, you are ready to hit the road waiting for fares to flag you down or come through the system.

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Meter Rates

Here’s some facts about the meter of which most people are not aware:

  • When you call a taxi and they come pick you up, that $2.95 you see, $2.15 of that goes to the taxi company in addition to the $100 paid for renting the vehicle.
  • When you call Uber simultaneously and he shows up first and you don’t cancel the call to dispatch, the taxi driver still has to pay the $2.15!
  • When you call a taxi to take you half a mile, the taxi driver still has to pay $2.15.
  • Everything above the $2.15 including tip goes to the driver. This begs the question, “Why should I tip?” The answer reveals itself below.

Call #1: 1/2 a mile down the street. Total fare. $3.45

Profit: $1.30: Meter: -$106.45

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Off you go darting all over Phoenix, putting over 300 miles in a shift.
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Pick up the rich who don’t tip!
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Avoid the police or your night is over

More fares, more fares, more fares. Don’t count your money now, you want to make sure it is hidden from the real threat of robbery.

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Stop for more caffeine.

Redbulls, Beef Jerky, Coke Zero $12: Meter: -$118.75

Uber isn’t the only competition, there are other taxicab companies out there vying for the smallest piece of the pie.

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Yellow Cab, our rival!

Not only do you have to deal with Ubers taking fares but let’s look at the impostor taxicab companies out there infringing on the trademark of taxicab companies. They are the most immoral of them all. Here are a few of the impostors: Read their names carefully. None of them say Discount Cab but if you’re slightly intoxicated you can see how easy it is to get confused. From there you get ripped off, believe that Discount Cab is the one that is cheating you, and then take it out on the next honest driver.

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And how can we compete with God himself?

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The Divine Taxi
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End of the shift carwash and vacuum are necessary otherwise you get fined.

Carwash cost $3: Meter: -$118.75

Gas for the night $25: Meter: -$143.75

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Waiting in line to check the car back in and hope I made money
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After inspection, park your car.
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Deal with the rude personnel who don’t care about your credit card machine not working, your printer running out of paper, somebody throwing up in your car, someone stealing your fare.
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Pick up your summary report and hope you don’t owe the taxi company money.
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Head to your favorite burrito joint, los betos.
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Eat all your food.

Los Betos $15: Meter: -$158.75

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Count your money

Meter: $200

Be proud that you made the hardest $200 you’ve ever made in your life.

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Sign off forever because it just isn’t worth it.

I worked 4 days a week at 12 hours a shift for two months. While there are plenty of funny stories and lessons learned, there were times of danger, times when I wondered how anyone can make ends meet while driving a taxi full-time.

Taxi drivers are caught in a system where they have to hustle hard everyday lest anything goes wrong and they end up underwater to the taxicab owners. Once that happens, it’s virtually impossible to recover. You may ask, why don’t they just work for Uber? Most taxi drivers can’t afford to be an owner-operator, where they keep everything they make let alone moonlight with their own automobile.

After this experience, I have concluded that Ubering may not be immoral but taking for granted your local cabbie’s efforts just might be.

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. You left out when the taxis drivers pass by people they don’t like the looks of, or take the long way to inflate the fare.

    And in DC where they’ve fighting credit card use for years. And of course when it’s cash only they never have any change, so just leave a bigger tip.

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