Uber now informs drivers if a passenger requests a long trip

Uber rolled out a new feature sometime last week that allows a driver to know when a passenger requests a long ride (rides that take over an hour) when the request is sent to the driver, before the driver accepts the request.

This new feature rolled out for me Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand it so I couldn’t take advantage of it. Uber didn’t publicize this new feature before they implemented it. As far as I know, they still haven’t announced it. I haven’t received an email from Uber about it. Normally when Uber rolls out a new feature that’s part of its 180 Days of Change, they send out an email to its drivers.

uber-long-ride

I had a long trip request on Tuesday and the request looked the same as all the others. I had a long trip request on Friday and the request looked like the one shown above.

This is a fantastic feature. One of the benefits of driving for Uber is you decide when you’re going to drive. If you have a couple free hours, you can always jump on Uber and make some extra money. Before this new feature rolled out, you never knew where a passenger wanted to go until you picked them up. Once they got in your car and you began the trip in the app, Uber then told you were you were going.

If you found out a passenger was going to require more time than what you had available, you could always just cancel the trip and tell the passenger to get our of your car and try again. That could potentially get awkward very quickly.

Now that this new feature has been rolled out, I feel a lot more comfortable driving when I only have an hour or two. I don’t have to worry about accepting a trip that I cannot take because of my schedule.

Why not always tell the driver where the passenger wants to go? Because if a passenger only wants to go a few miles away, a lot of drivers wouldn’t accept the trip request. This behavior, in my opinion, is problematic. It’s not good for Uber if passengers get the impression requesting a short ride is not something they can count on.

Passengers should feel as though they can always count on an Uber driver getting them promptly and safely to their desired location, even if it’s only a few miles away. Some of the most enjoyable trips I’ve had were with passengers going a short distance. Now that Uber has added the ability for passengers to add a tip, you never really know how much money you’ll make from a trip, even it’s short drive. The first day I drove after in-app tipping was added to the app, I had a passenger add a $2 tip to a five buck trip, making it a lot more profitable.

Knowing that Uber is not done with its 180 Days of Change. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

My Uber week in review – July 23 to July 29

In my quest to find out if I can make any kind of living driving for Uber, I completed my first whole week of driving for the ride share company. When I refer to a week, I’m referring to a traditional work week, Monday through Friday. Here’s a snapshot of my week:

My Uber week in review - July 23 to July 29 - Bent Corner
I was logged into the Uber app available to accept rides for almost 21 hours. I accepted 16 ride requests and earned close to $262 for my effort. That works out to be around $12.47 an hour, more than I could earn stocking shelves at Walmart. One huge difference between driving for Uber and getting a low-paying conventional job is I will end up paying very little in taxes on the money I earned this week. The reason? The amount I can deduct for mileage this week.

From the moment you leave your driveway to begin driving for Uber to the moment you drop off your last passenger and return home, your mileage is tax-deductible. The IRS allows you to deduct $0.535 per business mile driven. Not only can you deduct the mileage someone is in your car, but you can deduct the mileage you drive in between rides when you are looking for a place to park were there are no other Uber drivers around. When waiting for a new ride request, I often fire up the Uber passenger app and try to find areas around Hagerstown where none of my fellow Uber drivers are waiting. When I see such a spot, I drive there and park.

I can deduct those miles too.

This past week with Uber, I drove a total of 527 miles. That means I can deduct $259 from the $262 Uber will be paying me. That results in a total of $3 in taxable income for the week.

My Uber week in review - July 23 to July 29 - Bent Corner

That doesn’t include the gas I spent this week. I burned gas not only driving, but sitting in park waiting for a ride. There were days it was in the 90’s and I had to run the air conditioning while parked. It also don’t doesn’t factor in the so-called wear and tear I put on my vehicle. It is what it is. Most of the conventional jobs I’ve had required me to commute. I burned a lot of gas commuting to those jobs. I put a lot of wear and tear on my vehicles commuting to those jobs.

Again, it is what it is. I had fun driving for Uber this week. I got to meet people I’ve never met before and I had some great conversations with most of them. For me, there’s real value in that.

My goal for next week is to do better than this week. I should be able to log in with Uber for more than 21 hours next week.

Can you make a living driving with Uber?

I signed up to drive for Uber almost a year ago. I started a small freelance WordPress development business and thought driving for Uber would be a nice way to augment the money I made from doing web development work. I didn’t take my first Uber passenger until September 16, 2016. At first I averaged driving about three or four days a month, never going over four hours a day. I then tapered off to driving once a month for a couple of hours. For me, Uber was truly a part-time gig. I drove not so much to make extra money, but to get myself out of the house and away from the computer. It was a nice break from looking at code and dealing with customers.

I decided last week I would start driving every day for Uber. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t think WordPress development is something I want to do long-term. It’s hard to make a living with WordPress. The reasons are many. My specialty is with eCommerce. I worked for First Data for over seven years, a majority of that time supporting the Payeezy eCommerce payment gateway. I published a WordPress plugin made specifically for Payeezy and I’ve generated a work modifying and customizing the basic plugin. Most of my clients have been other web developers. They work for clients who hire them to integrate their website with Payeezy. These developers then find my plugin on the WordPress plugin repository and contact me if they need something customized. I also created a paid plugin that adds Payeezy transaction record keeping to WordPress. I’ve made s few bucks from that, but not a lot.

In retrospect, one of the problems is the basic plugin available for free through WordPress. It does most of the things anyone with a WordPress website and a Payeezy account need. My biggest competitor in the freelance Payeezy integration market is my own free plugin. It’s hard to compete with yourself and it’s especially hard to compete with free.

Another problem I’ve run into are the organizations in need of my unique skills. I do a lot of work for religious organizations. Not all religious organizations are created equally. Although I don’t agree with the beliefs of any of them, some are worse than others. Working for some of them makes me feel like a complete hypocrite.

Another problem are the political groups. Last month an organization dedicated to raising money for Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential election approached me for work. The idea of doing anything to help fund a second term for that orange moron made me feel nauseous.

Speaking of nauseous, the largest job I’ve ever been approached with was an escort business. Each escort needed her own website with her own Squarespace payment form. I got the impression the number of escorts were in the hundreds. If I took the job, it would almost certainly be my only job. With that many websites, I doubt I would have time or resources to do work for other clients. I turned it down. The last thing I wanted to do was make money in the sex trafficking industry.

Just the idea of making websites for escorts depressed me.

Sheri and I are going to Myrtle Beach in early September. I’ve decided that when we get back, I’m going to start looking for a regular job. I don’t want to go back to working in a call center, but unfortunately, I’m good at doing call center work. The only thing that could stop me from seeking a regular job is if I can make a somewhat decent living driving for Uber. That would mean driving every day. That would probably also mean driving Friday and Saturday nights. I may even mean driving down to Washington DC and driving Uber passengers down there. Before I do that, I want to make sure sticking around Hagerstown isn’t a viable option.

Yesterday was a good day. I made $114.53 on seven trips. That doesn’t include the $10 cash tip I received from the rider I drove down to Baltimore. The way Uber works is you make a lot of money driving long distances, even if you’re only paid one-way.

I was logged into the Uber Driver app yesterday for almost seven hours. I made nearly $16.36 an hour, not including the cash tip. If I can make something close to that every day, I wouldn’t need to find a regular job after our vacation. The problem is, most days I wont get a trip down to Baltimore or Washington DC. These trips do happen, just not every day.

I need to do a long-term analysis over the course of many days and weeks before deciding if Uber is something I can do full-time. I’ve all but given up the idea of making a living from WordPress.

It’s either Uber or back to a call center I go.

Can you still pretend you are a male feminist when you kill a woman?

YouTube personality and male feminist Aleksandr Kolpakov (a.k.a. Russian Deadpool) is sitting in a Colorado jail cell awaiting trial for second-degree murder. Kolpakov shot girlfriend and YouTube channel co-host Heather Anable in the neck and chest, killing her.

If you’ve never heard of Russian Deadpool before now, I envy you. I’m only aware of him because he was the co-moderator of a “debate” between Carl Benjamin (a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad) and Kristi Winters. The debate was held on Kolpakov and Anable’s YouTube channel, The Skeptic Feminist.

Before you try to watch the debate, I recommend brewing a pot of strong coffee and snorting some crushed up NoDoz.

I tried to watch the debate shortly after it happened, but I found it too boring to watch. The topic was Is Feminism Good for the World. Kristi was debating for the affirmative, Carl was debating for the negative. My favorite part was the anime poster behind the two moderators. I don’t know a lot about formal debate, by I would think one of the first things you would want to do is get rid of decor that doesn’t have anything to do with the subject. How hard is it to take down an anime poster?

Is Aleksandr Kolpakov still a feminist?

If you’re sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial for murdering a woman, can you still call yourself a male feminist?  I don’t think so. I think killing a woman means an automatic expulsion from the male feminist club. There are many types of feminists practicing many types of feminism, but I’ve got to think a common belief all feminists share is the belief that killing a defenseless woman is wrong.

Kolpakov still believes he’s a feminist. He’s even still using the Russian Deadpool pseudonym. He’s been corresponding with feminist YouTuber Jenny McDermott. She’s made videos about their correspondence. In the first video, she held up a letter he wrote to her and you can clearly see where he signed it as “Aleksandr Kolpakov AKA Russian Deadpool.”

What a dirt bag. When you shoot and kill someone, maybe you should retire the YouTube username based on a comic book character who shoots people. I imagine Marvel Comics isn’t too happy to have their intellectual property associated with someone like Aleksandr Kolpakov. This case will most likely get more publicity when he goes on trial. Evidently Kolpakov is blaming his actions on poisoned psychedelic mushrooms, so I’m sure the case will have lots and lots of needless drama. If Aleksandr Kolpakov has any honor, he’d plead guilty and spare Heather Anable’s family the ordeal of a trial.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the trial shows up as a Dateline episode.

Travis Kalanick Resigns as CEO of Uber

Uber’s founder and CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down as CEO after he was pressured to do so by Uber’s investors. He was to take an indefinite leave of absence as CEO so he could “work on himself” and grieve for his departed mother. Kalanick’s mother died last month as a result of a boating accident.

Kalanick will stay on the board, he just won’t be in charge. Good. Travis Kalanick is so evil and universally despised, he should wear a black cape and helmet respirator.

I figured something like this was going on when I got an email from Uber yesterday. Here’s part of it:

Dear B342cb8a104fb90c71b3c108bc765557,

I like the new name Uber gave me. I normally go by Rick or if we’re being fancy or in a court of law, Richard.

We’ve heard you. You’ve told us what you want, and now it’s time we step up and give you the driving experience you deserve, because simply put, Uber wouldn’t exist without you.

Today, we’re making a commitment. For the next 180 days (and beyond) we’ll be making meaningful changes & improvements to your driving experience. Some changes will be big, some will be small — all will be the changes you’ve asked for.

Each month for the next 6 months, we’ll share major improvements that will make driving more flexible and less stressful, giving you earnings & support you can depend on.

Starting today: Earnings

To kick-off 180 Days of Change we’re launching the feature you’ve asked for most.

1.Tipping is Coming

Tipping is available in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston as of today. We’re starting with only 3 cities so we can create the best tipping experience for you and your riders. We’ll be adding more cities over the next few weeks, and will make tips available to all U.S. drivers, by the end of July 2017. Of course, Uber service fees are never deducted from your tips. Learn more.

2. Shorter 2 Minute Cancellation Window

You’ll receive a cancellation fee if your rider cancels after more than 2 minutes (down from 5 minutes previously).

3. No More Unpaid Wait-times

You will earn a per-minute rate if you wait for a rider, starting 2 minutes after arrival.

There was more to the email, but these were the major points, at least for me. These are the things drivers have asked for a very long time.

Under the iron fist of Travis Kalanick, drivers were never getting any of these things. He seemed to look at drivers as a temporary unfortunate necessity. He seemed to believe Uber was just a month or two away from using a fleet of autonomous robot cars and the lifeforms known as drivers would be relocated to special work camps where they would be forced to speak North Korean and build autonomous robot cars.

Under Travis Kalanick it didn’t matter what drivers thought or what they wanted.

Tip? Tip? Can I have a tip?

Personally, I’ve never cared about tips. I’d rather have someone be nice to me and leave a five-star review than hand me a dollar or two. I’ve never worked in the service industry where tips were part of the gig, so people handing me free money always seemed weird. When I tip in a restaurant, I never hand the waitress or waiter the tip. I leave it on the table.

New two-minute cancellation window

The two-minute cancellation fee is very important to me. I’ve had people cancel right before the five-minute mark and I was paid nothing for my time, miles, or troubles.

Hurry up and wait

I’ve pulled up to someone’s pick up point and then had to wait while they finished up whatever they were doing before they came outside and got in the car. Once I had a person wait about five minutes to come outside. They then proceeded to take their empty trash cans from the front of the house and return them to the back. I couldn’t start the trip until they got into the car.

There needs to be two per-minute rates

The per-minute rate shouldn’t be used for waiting. It’s not even minimum wage. In Hagerstown and the rest of western Maryland, it’s .1125 per minute. That works out to be $6.75 an hour.

There needs to be two different per-minute rates, one when driving and another when the driver is waiting on the passenger. The standard per-minute rate is normally added to the per-mile rate. In Hagerstown and the rest of western Maryland, that’s .825 per mile. When it takes you 15 minutes to drive ten miles, that works out to be a $9.94 fare, plus the base fare of $1.13 making the 15 minute, ten-mile trip a total of $11.07. For that and only that, the per-minute rate is fine.

When a passenger requests that you pull into McDonald’s so they can run in and pick up lunch, forcing you to wait in the parking lot for ten minutes, the per-minute rate is most definitely not fine.

You only earn $1.12 while waiting ten minutes on a passenger. That’s not right.

When you’re waiting on the passenger on a stop the passenger requested during the trip, the per-minute rate should switch to the per-mile rate.

According to Uber, they’ll be rolling out more changes over the next 180 days. Hopefully that will be one the changes.

Some Uber drivers are losing their minds

Uber rolled out a new methodology for paying drivers. Before Monday, driver pay composed of the base fare added to the per minute fare and then added per mile fare. Uber then totalled this amount up and then subtracted 25%, Uber’s cut. The driver got the rest.

Here in Hagerstown, this worked out to be the following:

$1.50 base fare
$0.15 per minute
$1.10 per mile

This meant that a 10 mile trip that took 15 minutes earned the driver $11.06. This amount was calculated using the following numbers:

Since yesterday, Uber stopped taking a percentage. Instead, Uber just lowered the fares 25%. Since Monday, the rates here in Hagerstown are the following:

$1.13 base fare
$0.1125 per minute
$0.825 per mile

The same hypothetical 10 mile trip that took 15 minutes calculates to the following:

See how much easier this is? It’s the same amount. The amount of pay has not changed. It’s just easier to figure out than it was before. The formula is now smaller and more simple. The problem is, some Uber drivers see that their base fare, their per minute fare, and their per mile fare has decreased and they assume that this means they are now making less money.

They’re not. They’re making the same.

It’s actually somewhat embarrassing. Some Uber drivers are even trying to organize a movement to have their fellow Uber drivers delete their app. One of these drivers is YouTube vlogger Randy Shear, also known as Uber Man.

Even though Uber Man’s entire video persona is tied deeply to the Uber Man identity, he’s encouraging drivers to ditch Uber and start driving only for Lyft. This seems insane. Lyft appears to pay drivers the same amount Uber pays its drivers. They do here in Hagerstown and everywhere else I’ve compared the two rideshare services. What’s the point of switching?

Uber Man is also a paid spokesman for Mystro, an Android app that allows drivers to stay logged in to both Uber and Lyft at the same time. Once a driver gets a request from one of the rideshare services, Mystro automatically logs them out of the other.

By encouraging people to delete their Uber app and drive only for Lyft, I’m not sure how great of a paid spokesman Uber Man is being for Mystro. And by that, I mean he’s being a terrible one.

Personally, I hope Hagerstown area Uber drivers take Uber Man’s advice and delete Uber. This would mean I wouldn’t have to wait so long between rides. The worst thing about driving for Uber is having to wait for rides. Less drivers in my area would mean less wait times.