Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thursday On The Dark Side

Thursday night was Uber night. Most of it was spent on the Contra Costa side of the Caldecott tunnel. In Oakland we call this the Dark Side.

7:00 Update the Uber app. Back at work.

7:15 Oakland to Walnut Creek $29.30.
Terry was a gentleman's gentleman. Second tip as a driver and really didn't deserve it because I took a wrong turn. Thanks, Terry. Faith in humanity restored.

7:58 Walnut Creek to Alamo $10.69.
Customer wanted me to a) take him to a bank, b) watch over him as he deposited a check (with the meter running), and c) let him walk into the sunset (destination unknown). I wonder if I could charge him for bodyguard services.

8:07 Lafayette to Lafayette $7.66.
Pickup was down a street with no lights in a rural (not suburban) neighborhood. If this had been anywhere but Lafayette it would have been CREEPY.

8:30 Lafayette to SFO $53.62. 
I made the trip so quickly the customer was almost upset that he got to the airport so early. (Yes, I am that good.) I was almost upset that it took me an hour to get home. If it weren't for Spotify I would have been h-e-a-t-e-d.

10:00 Home at last.

Thursday Night by the Numbers
Hours Worked - 3
Miles Driven - 94
Gas Consumed - about 5 gallons ($15)
Uber fees - $7 + $18.85 = $25.85
Pay - $65.42 (net),  $21.80 per hour

After 2 weeks of the Civic being in the shop, tonight was the first night of driving in a long time. Not a bad showing, either.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Does Bill Maher Have a Point About Uber?

I saw Bill Maher talking about Uber and it got me thinking...Is Uber Sharing? Does anyone care?

Is Uber Sharing?
Uber talks out of both sides of its mouth in part because it has two audiences: drivers and riders.

To drivers, Uber says it is part of the sharing economy. "Get paid weekly for helping our community of riders get around town. Be your own boss and get paid in fares for driving on your own schedule," or at least that is what their web page says this week. The Uber brand screams "Share your car (which you already have), with friendly people (which you already do) for extra cash (which everyone needs)." Mr. Maher humorously says this is akin to communism.

To customers, Uber extolls the virtues of the capitalist economy. "Everyday cars for everyday use. Better, faster, and cheaper than a taxi." Or "Get a ride that matches your style and budget." I've seen a lot of this add copy over the last few months and it always has a theme of "Get more of the pampered life that you want for less." Can't get more bourgeoisie than that.

So what is Uber? Capitalist or Communist? It is definitely NOT sharing/communist. If it were, my riders would sit in the front seat like my friends do when we share a ride. If it were, Uber wouldn't set fares VERY low and then take a VERY large percentage of those fares.

Bill Maher seems to think Uber is a company taking advantage of desperate (Maher's word) people who need extra cash. That is definitely true for me. How desperate am I to get enough money for a house? Uber desperate. This week my latest offer on an uber modest home was beat (declines, refused, laughed at) by an ALL CASH offer. That means someone paid over 1/2 million dollars in cash for this house. (If you look at this 1300 sq. feet of pure luxury pay close attention to it's proximity to the freeway (.2 miles) and rundown auto body shop on the busy, urban MacArthur Blvd.)

People who created Uber may be making good money but the drivers have reason to be desperate.

Does Anyone Care?
Mr. Maher also makes the point that desperate people are the only ones that would put up with strangers in their backseat (Uber) or their showers (Airbnb). He then makes a bunch of condescending remarks about people who don't vote or refuse to work within the system to change this "sharing" economy. He implies that lazy Americans don't care because they are greedy. In other words, desperate people are in a pickle because they don't care about anyone but themselves.

What Mr. Maher doesn't point out is that he got to be worth $30 million telling jokes about the evils of capitalist Republicans. My searches for his giving campaigns came up with nothing making me wonder who the greedy one is in this situation. But the real issue I have with this video is that Mr. Maher is neither identifying the correct problem (because he is part of it) nor contributing to a solution. Mr. Maher should heed the warnings of Nick Hanauer who says that when the economic system gets this bad, people don't participate in politics, they get pitchforks and come after the rich.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Ride Was Wrecked

For the past 3 weeks there have been no Uber posts from me because my car was in an accident. It was parked in front of a suburban house on a quiet street when someone coming out of a driveway ran into the front fender.

Makes me wonder what it is like for people who have to rely on Uber for a living. Accidents are inevitable so these drivers are going to have to plan for missing time from work.

The Uber experiment has been put on hold. Hopefully there will be a triumphant return, soon.

Where do You Sit in an Uber?

Front Seat or Back?
The first time I picked up Andrew it was at the Uber headquarters on Market. In his late 20s he cuts the standard SF Techie profile: handsome (but not too much), optimistic, full of energy and always going someplace cool. You would expect Andrew to use Uber as his personal car service because that is the way the company advertises its services to customers. Uber adds say, "Your personal driver," or "Your ride, on demand." So when Andrew enters my Civic like it is a Towncar limo I'm not surprised that he sits in the back seat.

When I first started Uber driving, people sitting in the back seat was really weird. That is because Uber advertises to drivers differently than to its customers. To drivers Uber is advertised as a "ride sharing" business. Drivers "give rides" to people like they would give a ride to a friend. And believe me, none of my friends sit in the back seat when they catch a lift (not Lyft). So naturally, I expected people to ride in the front seat with me, at first.

Not everyone sits in the back seat. Many people sit in the front seat like a friend might even though we've never met. They are just friendly. It is hard to tell where a person will sit by their dress or ethnicity or age just as it is difficult to tell who will be friendly when your are waiting in line at the grocery store with only 1 item to buy. One general observation: I have far more women sit in the front seat than men. Are women more friendly than men? Do men get intimidated by my manliness? Is it a Venus/Mars thing? Let me know what you think. Where do you sit in an Uber?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Throwing in The Towel

Buying a home seems like something I should be able to do and in fact SHOULD do. So I regularly look at my finances and think that it is possible to buy a house in Oakland. After all, the city has one of the highest murder rates in the nation so home prices can't be that high.

My mortgage broker just informed me that I'm pre-qualified for a $350,000 loan. After 5 years of saving and driving Uber for 14 hours a week I'll have the $88,000 down payment that goes along with a $350k loan. Of course, I'll save this amount if I give up vacations, cable TV, and eating at anything nicer than the awesome tacoria down the street.

In my joy at the good news I searched for a home. Here is a Zillow map showing the properties available in Oakland in my price range.

Here is a map showing the July crimes in the area where homes are available. Each colorful icon represents a crime.

This map only shows the area where homes are available in my price range. This map also is restricted to crimes involving drugs, violence or property theft (not destruction).

What does all of this mean?
Being a teacher AND driving for Uber (being an Uber Teacher) means living in neighborhoods where crime is as common as candy on Halloween. It is enough to make me want to throw in the towel.