The Uber Mistake

I knew Uber was using social science to influence and manipulate drivers. Who doesn’t?  Corporations pay $$$$$ to do this. But, until now, I only suspected Uber was openly deceptive with their drivers. In an April 2nd piece published in the NY Times,  “How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons”, Naomi Scheiber  exposes Uber’s self-admitted, blatant deceptions and as a PR piece, it’s damning.

Business is Business

In Uber’s case “Busy-ness” is business. The busier the drivers are, the quicker the pickups and the more money in Uber’s pockets. Uber charges a pick-up fee (PUF) that drivers never see. It comes straight off the top of the rider’s fare. Uber justifies the fee to cover IT, app and other costs for intellectual property.

If a driver makes 1 pick-up and drives 10 miles, the driver makes money, “time + miles = $$” and Uber gets 1 PUF + 28% of the fare. If a driver makes 4 pick-ups and drives 3 miles in an hour, Uber makes more money - 3 PUFs + 28% of the total fares.  The more pick-ups per hour (PPH) a driver gets, the more money Uber makes.

The Sacred Surge

Uber calls a very busy hot spot a “surge”. It shows up as a colored area on the Uber driver’s map. The darker color the area is, the greater the multiplier on all rides inside that area. Drivers are encouraged, even trained by Uber with emotionally connected  treats ($$$), to chase “The Surge”.

Areas with Surges

In the East Lansing area, it’s not unusual to see surges on or near the MSU campus. This is a very large population of mobile adults.  Uber makes money when drivers pick those fares up and drive them 6 blocks or 6 miles to their next stop. But, the more PUFs the more $$ for Uber.

So, what else can Uber do to manipulate drivers?

Now, according to Naomi Scheiber, Uber has admitted to manipulating technology to emotionally manipulate drivers. To be fair, Uber makes no promise or guarantee for big fares in surge areas or any other area. My question is, can Uber manipulate the surge pattern to be near a high demand area, but not directly in a high demand areas? Can Uber manipulate surge areas to appear on a driver’s app outside the surge area but not on a another driver’s app inside the same area?

Drive your own business

I don’t chase surge, I stay around  “outside the rim”.  There have been times when I have accidentally ended up in a surge zone, (I even suspect manipulated into a surge zone), but I scurry out of those as fast as I can. The result? Maybe, 1 surge ride but, most the time, I get pinged for a ride just outside the surge area. As a driver, I make more $$$ driving people INTO large surge or venue areas than hanging around IN a surge area. Whatever the attraction is, it is already inside that surge area, so it can’t be far away. Remember, a driver needs miles to make money.

Sage Advice

As a rideshare driver, you’ve got to be smart. This is a business, not a carnival show. Tricks and gimmicks do not make profits. You should know, check out the area you’re driving in.

1)      Are there popular zones, events or large capacity venues?

2)      Look for manufacturing plants, hospitals and apartment complexes. When does shift change? When are people getting out and around?

3)      Check out colleges and universities. When is class over? What about student targeted events?

4)      How about seasonal events or clubs? Marathon runners would rather be driven to, rather than drive and park, near the check in point.

5)      Unless you’re working on an Uber guarantee that requires more PPH, Forget the surge!

6)      Finally, just like watching those silly commercials with sexual undertones, you KNOW the ones I’m talking about, know the tactics Uber uses to lure/manipulate drivers; recognize them and then ignore them. Make choices that are good for your business and leave Uber to theirs.

Uber On!