Tales from a Dallas Uber Driver

Have any interesting Uber tales? Please share them with with us!
Do you have any interesting Uber tales? Please share them with with us!

By James Grahovac

I remember sitting on the couch on a Friday night back in August scrolling through Facebook on my phone. That’s what you do on a Friday night when you’re married and you’ve put the kids to bed. No more hitting the bar scene, pounding shots and raising hell. That’s all behind me now.

So back to the couch, as I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a post from my best friend, he mentioned that he made some beer and pizza money driving for Uber. This piqued my interest. He has a great paying job so why is he driving for Uber? The next day, I texted him and he explained that the ridesharing gig was something he had just started to do to make some extra money. I welcomed the idea to make some extra cash on the side. Supplemental income is the appropriate nomenclature.

Uber 101
To participate and work as an independent contractor for Uber you have to apply. You go online and submit the paperwork. The people there execute a background check to make sure you’re not a serial killer or on the lamb. Uber also wants to make sure you have a reliable vehicle that is a 2006 model or newer with four doors. You then watch some training videos and download the driver Uber app.

If you make it through this process within seven business days you’ll be asked for your banking information to compensate you for your services. Oh, and you have to have a smart phone to utilize the app to ferry passengers to and fro. In Dallas and some of the other surrounding cities you should have a permit for your vehicle. Recently DFW Airport and Love Field approved Uber drivers to pick up and drop off passengers. Again you have to have the right permits to make this happen. It’s really simple.

Common Questions
Now that I have been driving for a few months, typically the first thing a passenger will ask is: How long have you been driving? Next up: How’s your day going? Followed by my favorite: Do you do this full time? I answer their questions professionally but laugh to myself about the full-time question. Driving for Uber is an opportunity to make some extra cash but I would not recommend it as a full-time gig since you cannot count on it to earn consistent income. Every now and then, I’ll have a passenger ask me to describe some of my “horror stories” as if they take delight in hearing the worst part of someone’s job. I wonder what would happen if I tried that anywhere else. Say a teller at Bank of America, the cook at Whataburger or a bartender at some bar.

The Pros
I can honestly say that there are several perks about being an Uber driver. First off, I am an independent contractor. I work whenever I feel like it. No schedule to follow except my own. No one asking for TPS reports in triplicate. No uniform. No time cards. No boss. I make my own decisions and have to live with them. Between rides, I can run errands, listen to what I like in my ride or take a break. If I don’t feel like working, I log off and I’m free.

As mentioned earlier, Uber will direct deposit your earnings and so far it’s always delivered. I am happy with Uber. Every now and then a passenger will give you a cash tip which is nice, but shouldn’t be expected.

One thing I should mention here is the double edged sword known as “Surge.” This is a basic supply and demand effect that causes fares to increase when there are more passengers requesting rides than there are drivers to accommodate them in a certain area. The positive for the driver is that with the increase in fare, earnings increase. The passenger has to sign off on the “Surge Price” before the driver can begin the trip. Everyone is in the know.

The Cons
The negative for the driver regarding “Surge Pricing” can be passenger complaints or a passenger with less than a pleasant demeanor. Additionally, as an independent contractor there isn’t a guarantee that the hours worked will be compensated. Short rides equal low fares and a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle. Also Uber with its cashless system has everything based on credit cards. The apps do not promote tipping. Uber also takes a 20 percent cut off the top of all fares. So when Uber lowers fares, the company is in fact lowering driver compensation.

Don’t have a smart phone? Uber will hook you up for a $10 per week rental. Don’t have a vehicle? If you qualify, Uber will help you lease a ride for $250 a week. Lastly, most passengers are not aware that Uber drivers have to maintain their own vehicle maintenance and pay for their own gas.

The Tales
I won’t go into all of them but here are some of the highlights: two gay men making out in the backseat while I drove them home. Two lesbians who didn’t make out and passed out while I drove them home. The heterosexual couple who made out while I drove them home. The douche bag who asked me to take him to Taco Bell and argued with the cashier about not serving breakfast at 1 a.m. The pimp who had me deliver his girl to a private party. The couple who had an argument about leaving the bar too early on a Friday night. The countless times that I showed up to pick up a passenger who canceled due to surge and not being compensated for my time and effort.

Riding Off into the Sunset
There are more and more Uber drivers operating in the Dallas market. Unless the number of passenger requests continues to grow, then fares will remain stagnant. Good for the passengers and not so good for the drivers.

I do enjoy driving for Uber and will continue to do so, let’s just hope the services continue to be marketed to the public to help grow customer base. If that happens, everyone wins, Uber, drivers and passengers.