Uber increases its booking fee. What’s a booking fee?

Uber is increasing its booking fee by 20 to 35 cents. A booking fee is a fee Uber charges the rider on each ride. The driver does not receive any of this money. It goes entirely to Uber.

What is a booking fee? Uber says the fee is “to cover safety as well as additional operational costs that could arise in the future.

The booking fee use to be called the safe ride fee. They changed the name a result of a federal class action suit over Uber’s safety claims. Uber claimed that its background checks for drivers was “industry leading.”

Uber’s background checks are not industry leading. In fact, they’re the opposite. Uber has fought against laws that would need fingerprint-based background checks for its drivers. Uber threatened to leave the state of Maryland if it required fingerprint-based background checks.

The Maryland Public Service Commission caved. They decided not to require Uber drivers to have fingerprint-based criminal background checks.

Maryland requires taxi cab drivers to have fingerprint-based criminal background checks.

Uber increases its booking fee. What's a booking fee? - Bent Corner
MODOK, the bioengineered living computer Uber uses to set prices and fees. MODOK also answers all support questions from Uber drivers.

The booking fee increase is hitting markets on an individual basis. Once the bioengineered living computer Uber uses to determine prices decides how much of an increase a market will receive, the new booking fee will be announced to riders in that market.

Riders will always know before a trip begins how much that trip will cost. With Uber’s upfront fares, riders will always know how much they will pay, no matter what the booking fee is. The booking fee is included in the upfront fee.

Drivers never know how much they will receive from a ride until the ride is complete. In fact, drivers don’t know how far a trip will be until the rider is in the vehicle and the wheels begin to spin. A rider’s destination is kept secret from the driver until the last possible second. The reason? Because many drivers would not accept rides if they knew the riders was only going a few blocks. Most drivers lose money on these types of trips.

Drivers aren’t paid to drive to a rider’s pickup point. That means, as a driver, you can drive several miles away to pick up a rider and then only drive them a few blocks.

This has happened to me multiple times. This is one of the reasons I don’t drive for Uber very often.

Uber will not leave Maryland

The Maryland Public Service Commission ruled that Uber and Lyft drivers will not be required to have fingerprint-based background checks. It means Uber will not be removing service in the state of Maryland as they threatened to do if they did not receive a waiver to the requirement. Taxicab drivers and other similar professionals are required to have fingerprint-based background checks.

As an occasional Uber driver, I was hoping the Maryland Public Service Commission wouldn’t cave to Uber’s threat.

Uber will not leave Maryland - Bent CornerAt the very least, Uber drivers should be required to have a fingerprint-based background check. I have no problem having my fingerprints used to verify that I’m not a dangerous criminal. I would welcome it. I’ve lived a crime-free life. I’ve never been arrested. I would like to use this fact as a way to set myself apart from the other independent contractors working with Uber. That’s what Uber drivers are, independent contractors.

I enjoy driving people for Uber. What I don’t like is waiting in between rides. As an Uber driver, you only get paid for the time a rider is in your car. You don’t get paid for the time you wait for Uber to send you a ride request. It’s monotonous and boring. If the pool of available drivers were whittled down because of more vigorous fingerprint-based background checks, it would mean more riders for me. Less qualified drivers would mean Uber would need to pay qualified drivers, people without a criminal record, more money.

I wish the Maryland Public Service Commission hadn’t caved to Uber’s threat.

Uber threatens to leave Maryland over background checks

Uber may not operate in the state of Maryland after December 22, two whole days before Christmas. The Maryland Public Service Commission is deciding if Uber and Lyft need to perform fingerprint-based background checks on drivers.

Uber said it would remove the service from Maryland if the state requires fingerprint-based background checks. Lyft hasn’t indicated that they would do the same. Lyft did point out that no other state requires fingerprint-based background checks.

Lyft doesn’t operate in Hagerstown. If the rule passes, I may have to complete my application with Lyft and commute to places in Maryland they operate. That’s even if I want to continue as a ridesharing driver.

My opinion on this is mixed. My fingerprints are already on file from being in the military. I have no problem with having my fingerprints taken again.

The state contends this type of security check is required to weed out dangerous sexual offenders and other violent criminals from becoming drivers. If Maryland knows there are dangerous, violent people in the community, why don’t they go and lock them up? These people are dangerous. These people are violent. These people were evidently released from prison even though they are dangerous. Are we supposed to believe they only pose a risk when they are behind the wheel of an Uber car?

I don’t think so.

If Uber is going to do more background checks, I’d prefer they do them on passengers. If someone is a dangerous sexual offender or a violent criminal, I don’t want them in the backseat of my car.  Uber has access to sex offender registries. It wouldn’t be all that hard to run checks on people using the passenger app against these lists.

Uber should strive to make their ridesharing service even safer than it currently is. They shouldn’t fight against increased security. If I were running Uber and the state wanted fingerprint-based background checks, I’d counter with not only fingerprint checks, but a DNA sample too. I provided a DNA sample when I registered to be a bone marrow donor, and it was super easy. They run a special q-tip on the inner cheek of your mouth. That’s it.

The Maryland summer is hotter than Satan’s armpit

Why do I live somewhere that gets so unbearably hot? I’ve lived here in Maryland for 22 years. Summers in western Maryland are sweltering. It’ a point of fact I’m more than acutely aware of, yet I choose to live here.

I don’t get it. I don’t like being hot. If I had to make a choice between extreme hot or extreme cold, I’d gladly take the extreme cold. With that said, I’ve lived most of my life in places that got ridiculously hot.

I grew up in the California Mojave desert. It routinely got over 100 in the summer. Later, when I joined the Air Force, I spent a year in Biloxi, Mississippi for training. In the 1988 movie Biloxi Blues, Matthew Broderick’s character accurately described Biloxi as being “Africa hot.”

I’ve never been to Africa, but I’ve experienced a summer in Biloxi. I don’t recommend it.

I followed up my stay in Mississippi with three years in the Philippines.

3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)
3rd CRS dormitory, Clark Air Base, Philippines (photo: Tim Tuttle)

There were two seasons in the Philippines, the wet season and the dry season. Both were sweltering. One just had a lot more rain than the other.

I then spent another two years on the island of Guam. The weather was a lot like the Phillippines, hot and muggy. One of the officers in my squadron died from heat stroke while jogging.

After Guam, I spent four years in upstate New York. Although it got extremely cold in the winter, the summers were brutal.

It's more hot than Satan's armpit - Bent Corner
Feels hotter than Satan’s armpit

I then got out of the Air Force and moved to Maryland for a job. I’ve been here ever since. Unlike the other hot places I’ve lived, I chose to live here in Maryland, where the summers are Satan’s armpit hot.

I wish I lived somewhere that remained cool year round. I’d love to live somewhere where the temperature didn’t get higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Does such a place even exist?

The Maryland license plate is terrible

Sheri and I bought a new car a few weeks ago, a 2016 Ford Fusion, and the license plates arrived in the mail a few days ago.


I hate it.

I love how this car looks. The idea of placing these terrible looking license plates on it pains me.

Our new car, a 2016 Ford Fusion.
Our new car, a 2016 Ford Fusion.

I don’t even understand these plates. They were evidently created to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812. According to my calculations, that was four years ago.

Why am I receiving these plates four years after the fact? Getting these plates now is like getting a graduation card four years after you graduate. Then again, at least said card would probably have a few bucks in it. The opposite is true with these plates. We had to pay for them.

I could care less about the War of 1812. As far as wars go, it’s one of my least favorite. The British were the bad guys. I love England and British culture. I would rather not dwell on such a dark stain in our history when Americans and the British were killing each other.

It was 204 years ago. It is time to move on.

The Star Spangled Banner is one of the worst songs ever written. The high-pitched notes and the ridiculously complicated lyrics make it one of the hardest songs to sing. Ordinary people cannot even sing it. What kind of national anthem is it when most citizens of that nation are incapable of singing it without their voice cracking?

As bad as the short version of the song is, the extended “deep cut” version is even worse. The full version even includes a bit about slavery:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave

Francis Scott Key
Francis Scott Key

That section of the song was a warning to lowly paid day labors and slaves tempted to take up arms and fight on the side of the British.

The song was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner and a co-founder of the American Colonization Society, an organization aimed at sending all non-slave black people to Africa. He is treated as kind of a Big Deal here because he was from western Maryland. That fact that Francis Scott Key lived here in western Maryland should not be a focus of pride. He wrote a bad song and wanted to send black people to Africa. Excuse me if I do not celebrate his existence.

This license plate just looks bad. The artwork looks amateurish. The fonts are ugly. It should not be the default plate for vehicles registered in Maryland.

So I guess it is supposed to snow

The weather experts are forecasting a major snowstorm for this weekend. It is supposed to start snowing at three in the afternoon or perhaps at seven in the evening. I live in Hagerstown, Maryland. We may get anywhere from 10-15 inches or 15-20 inches. That’s what the weather experts say.

The problem is, the weather experts are all a bunch of lying liars. They lie more than politicians or televangelists. Unlike politicians or televangelists, who sometimes get thrown in prison for their lies, weather experts are never held accountable for their lies and half-truths.

I don’t really care either way. I lived in upstate New York for four years. I’m no stranger to snow. I’ve personally witnessed massive amounts of snow and arctic temperatures. If it snows, it snows. I will deal with it either way. The only problem I can see is that because of the timing, the city may not be out plowing like they’re supposed to. Because it’s supposed to start Friday night and maybe continue into Saturday, the city may not be as concerned with getting all that white death off the roads.

And then there is the neighborhood we live in. Although we live in the middle of the city, technically, we live in a private community. I like to refer to it as a non-gated gated community. The city doesn’t pick up our trash. The city doesn’t pick up our recyclables. The city also does not remove the snow from our roads. Our HOA hires a private company to handle our trash pickup and another private company to remove the snow. I have noticed in the five years living here, we do not seem to be a high-priority to whatever company has the contract to remove our snow.

So we may not be going anywhere this weekend and that’s okay. As fate would have it, I don’t really feel like going anywhere this weekend.