By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Since Uber’s recent price decrease from $1.80 per mile to $.65 per mile, Uber drivers in Tampa have been protesting against the company and trying to find new ways of getting paid for their services.
Uber’s purpose for lowering their fare is to encourage more customers to ride with Uber during this slow winter season.
While Uber riders are benefiting from the price decrease, drivers are also being affected negatively as it is now harder for them to get high-priced fares.
“It sucks for the drivers but if I can save money then I can save money and I’m going to take advantage of that,” freshman nursing major HeLeena Herb said. “In the end, this price change is only going to make people take Ubers more.”
Kenneth Shobe, who signed up to be a driver with Uber back in August, said that because he signed the old contract, he isn’t affected by this sudden change in fares.
For example, if a driver were to get a fare for $12, Uber automatically takes $1.90 off for their fees, which then brings the revenue down to about $10. Uber then gets 20 percent and the driver gets 80 percent of that price. Therefore, with the old contract, if it were a $12 fare, the driver gets $8 but with the new contract, the driver gets $7.50. The difference now with the lowered rates is that it’s harder for drivers to get those $12-15 fares because they’d have to go longer distances, according to Shobe.
If an Uber ride costs $5.50, Uber automatically takes off the $1.90 and then gets their 20 percent. The driver walks away with $2.88 and in total, Uber gets $2.62.
Sophomore graphic design major Camila Fernandez doesn’t think it is fair that drivers pay decreases. “In my opinion, Uber is used so frequently that I can only imagine the amount of profit they make,” she said. “So if anything, the amount of profit Uber makes should decrease and not the amount the drivers get paid.”
Uber drivers also have to pay for gas, car maintenance and other mandatory expenses, including an insurance fee to drive people around. These fees are applied after the 20 percent is deducted.
The IRS figures out what it costs to drive a car and they give drivers a deduction for it, taking into account the depreciation of the vehicle, the miles and the maintenance.
“Last night I made $120 of fares and my IRS expense for my mileage is $130,” Shobe said. “It’s almost 50 cents a mile. So I didn’t even make 50 cents of the driving miles; instead I made about 45 cents. In essence, I didn’t break even driving because it wasn’t busy. So you can imagine with a driver that is trying to make extra money or trying to make a living off of driving Ubers, he’s not. He’s actually losing money.”
Many Uber drivers protested during Gasparilla by not working, forcing people to find other means of transportation which resulted in a low consumer demand for Uber Technologies. Because of the expected protest during a time of high demand, Uber guaranteed that the drivers would earn $10 an hour, bringing the estimated 100 protesting Uber drivers down to about 50 drivers.
Considering that the guaranteed $10 fares were only for Gasparilla and the the prices dropped back down after the festivities, the drivers recently decided to come up with another way to make back their lost money: tips. With their recent, “Lower Fares are Unfair” campaign, drivers are passing out a flyer informing people about the maintenance fees they pay with their own money, even with the fare change. Their ultimate goal is to either try to convince customers to tip when they ride Ubers or to contact Uber, via firstname.lastname@example.org, and suggest a tipping option.
“Uber drivers should receive tips,” Fernandez said. “It should either be a fixed percentage charged to your card or it should be an option for the customer to tip on the app. But I don’t think the driver should suggest tips.”
College students never tip because they either don’t walk around with cash and the Uber app doesn’t provide an option to tip or because “they don’t take into account all the expenses we have to pay for with our own money,” according to Shobe.
Lyft, Uber’s number one competitor, has a tipping function on their app. When a trip is over, the rider can leave a tip for the driver through the app. The majority of those protesting for tips are drivers who either used to or still drive for Lyft, according to Shobe.
“I feel like we should tip but knowing college students and the time-of-day that they usually take Ubers, encouraging intoxicated students to tip isn’t going to end well,” Herb said.
Another major problem Uber drivers have with college students is that on Friday and Saturday nights groups of students are hitching rides with one another, said Robert Ducos, part-time Uber driver and one of the leading Tampa Uber protesters.
“We don’t have a problem driving around college students per-say,” Ducos said. “We just want them and the public to know that we are being affected negatively by this price change and if they can be reasonable by at least tipping their drivers, that can help.”
When requesting an Uber, a regular Uber carries one to two people. There is also an Uber XL option, which is a van that holds four to six people. The price for an Uber XL is double what the fare would normally be for a regular Uber. Therefore if four to six students are hopping in a regular one to two person Uber, it may be seen as “ripping off” the driver.
There have been several nights where Shobe has kicked groups of students out of his car because they don’t even think to tip the driver.
“As soon as they hop in my car, I told them, ‘you need to call another Uber,’” Shobe said. “I’m not taking six students. One is that it’s against the law [for a driver with a 4-seat vehicle to carry more than four passengers] and two is that it’s just a wear and tear for my car. If you have a problem with it, you can go and I’ll just get another rider. I’m not trying to be rude about it but it’s inconsiderate and the students never tip. If they got into a car with six people and then slipped the driver $5 then I might do it, but they never do that.”
Uber did not respond for comment about this issue.