A Ride Around with Uber
December 6, 2019
In the past couple of years, ridesharing has slowly increased. From the slow progression away from taxis to ridesharing, Uber has emerged as one of the largest ridesharing companies. In their rise, Uber has continually increased its scope as it is has encompassed UberEats, Lime Scooters and it is even trying to project UberAir. In the investigation of the rise of Uber, Eastside has looked into the experiences students have had, teacher’s views on Uber and the safety for the riders and drivers. Eastside believes that Uber has become a well versed part of the highschool culture, where high schoolers use Uber as a method of safe driving and uses them in lieu of designated drivers. With this, Eastside has stated Uber’s relaunch of a new wave of security for the rider and the driver; however, leaning more towards the rider. With this mindset, Eastside wants to highlight this new version of Uber and emphasize the risks that pertain to both the rider and the driver. Get comfortable, buckle up and explore the path of Uber!
History of Uber
The Best and Worst Uber Experiences According to Eastside
Jiseon Lee (’20) – Eastside Photo Editor
My friends and I took a day trip to New York City during spring break of 2019. After shopping and exploring Times Square, we decided it would be a fun idea to try out new restaurants located outside of the city. However, the only way to get to these new restaurants was through Uber since the taxis were constantly busy. We also thought Uber would be easier to take since we are so used to using Uber back at home. So the four of us split the Uber rides. When we ordered our Uber, a young man arrived at our location. As soon as we got into the car, my friend Jay, who produces music, asked the Uber driver if he could connect his phone to the car through the aux cord. The Uber driver was so chill he that he said “of course, hook it up”. When Jay connected his phone and turned on his music, the Uber driver started bumping to it. During the seven-minute drive to our destination, the Uber driver and the four of us jammed out to Jay’s music and enjoyed our ride. Towards the end of our jam session, the Uber driver said, “Yo, this music is lit.” Then we all began to laugh and continued to enjoy the song. When we arrived at our destination, we were all kind of upset that the ride had come to an end. Even though we arrived at the restaurant, we wanted to continue the fun jam session we began in the car. After getting out of the car, my friends and I realized that Ubers can actually be really fun and that small, but memorable moments can be made in it.
My church member and her husband were moving into a new house and needed some of the youth group members to help them carry their stuff into their new home. So the whole day we were driving back and forth from the real estate office, to the old house, then to the new house. When we were at the office, we had issues with rides and had to figure out a way to get from the office to the new home. My church member decided that the best option for us was an Uber. When our Uber driver arrived, we noticed that the car was kind of small, but we proceeded to go in. As soon as I got into the car, a horrible smell filled my nose. I have a sensitive nose, so it was extremely hard to bare that smell. I did not want to be rude by pinching my nose so I tried my best not to breathe or inhale. Let me tell you, it was NOT easy. The five-minute car ride felt like hours. It was like torture. I have never smelled that kind of smell before and it was so unpleasant that it was traumatizing. When we arrived at our destination, I have never been so relieved to get out. I thought to myself, “wow, this was absolutely the worst Uber experience ever.”
Defne Alpdogan (’20) – Eastside Features Editor
Before I got my license, Uber was my best friend. I do still use Uber; however, it has become harder to use Uber when I can ask one of my friends to drive me places, but anyway. I would say I am a well-versed Uber rider. With a couple of experiences in my belt, the best experience I have had would have had to be one that only lasted around seven minutes (I am accounting traffic from school to my house). I had stayed after and needed a ride back to my house where upon my order of an Uber had met a wonderful man. I am a proud Turk and upon hearing his name knew that he also had to be from the same ancestry. The second I stepped into the car, he had pronounced my name correctly (in Turkish) and I knew from that moment, that it was going to be one of the best trips. Being an extremely talkative person, this man accompanied my discussion of my Turkish name and my ancestry. Being a middle school teacher himself, he had wholeheartedly talked to me about his own experiences in coming to the United States and his own struggles in the country. It was an interesting discussion as I was able to connect with someone who I had never met before about similar experiences and thoughts.
Oh, boy. If I could describe the experience as a trainwreck, it would not even dent how bad of trip I had. It started off with me wanting to go to my therapist’s office for a visit. That is all I wanted: a calm trip with no problems. Upon request, this man called me stating that he needed a glass of water, so I decided to bring him a glass of water. Upon arrival, I realized that I was in deep trouble. His car had two dents: one in the front and one in the back. The car reeked of marijuana and cigarettes and there was absolutely no A/C. However, I thought that the trip might not be as terrible as the car looked. I was wrong. He used the water to put out the cigarettes he had in his hand and then proceeded to pull out a vape pen and start blowing smoke into the car. I was not sure what to do at this moment so I just stayed quiet. All I wanted was to get to my destination and immediately exit the vehicle. In the middle of the trip, this man’s daughter called. He proceeded to tell his daughter that he was smoking in his car and then stating that he did not care “if he received a bad rating because he had so many good ones.” Not only was I baffled, I was stone cold in my seat. By the end of the ten-minute trip, I was so happy to be leaving that car. I sometimes think about how terrible that trip was and thank god I have never been through that ever again.
Remy Abrams (’21) – Eastside Culture Editor
As I opened the car door to the freshly smelling Uber, I sat in the back with a couple of my friends. The Uber driver greeted us with a smile and offered us water and mints. Though we did not accept this offer, his smile remained and we began the ride. The drive began as a normal car ride, nothing special, until he offered up the AUX cord. Due to the fact that I have the best taste in music — it’s true, ask anyone — I connected my phone and ultimately began the party. The four of us, including the driver, jammed out to the best music ranging from hype songs like “Burn” by Big Sean and Meek Mill to throwbacks like “Hot in Herre” by Nelly. The drive was about 15 minutes, so the four of us partied for literally every single second. The driver was very nice and fun and did not judge my friends and I for partying, and he even joined in, unlike other drivers in the past. Personally, I would have rather stayed in the Uber than go to the destination that I initially intended to go to.
When I saw the van drive up to my location, my friends and I looked at each other, all with the whole “white van stranger danger” scenario racing in our brain. When we initially intended to look into the window, we were unsuccessful because the windows were darkly tinted. After it was apparent that we could not see inside, the driver rolled down the window. However, we were hesitant to enter, not sure if it was an Uber because another person was in the passenger seat. After checking the license plate and asking their name, we confirmed it was truly our driver. We entered the car and the nervous feeling that accompanied the “white van stranger danger” situation disappeared. However, as the ride began, I found myself physically moving up and down due to the jerky driving. At one point I was even looking for a plastic bag in case I had to throw up. Ultimately, the ride became smoother, but that was not the end of the experience. The driver and the man in the front seat began talking to each other in a language that was definitely not English. This usually does not faze me; however, my friend who was sitting next to me was extremely nervous because she recognized one of the words spoken and did not seem to like it. She had texted me to look in the lap of the man in the front seat. After peaking over, I noticed that the man in the passenger seat was holding onto something black in his lap, though it was never clear what it actually was. Although this experience was one that I would not wish to experience again, the driver dropped us off at our destination and it ultimately turned out to be a seemingly safe ride.
Jacy Dickstein (’22) – Eastside Features Editor
As many common Uber users experience a wide range of different drivers, I haven’t met anyone in particular that was too unusual. However, one time, I would categorize the ride as downright strange. As I ordered my first Uber ride, I checked out his profile as my mom repeatedly reminded me to do so. Listed under “description,” the number one comment was, “great talker.” Oh boy, I said to myself. This is gonna be a series of small talk. As my friends and I entered the vehicle, I quickly concluded that his review of “great talker” was not at all accurate. The entirety of the 30 minute drive, not a peep was heard. Luckily, though, the awkward silence was covered up with abrupt blasts of Jamaican music. The car reeked of marijuana. I shifted towards the car door and shriveled in my seat, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. A thirty-minute ride somehow felt like a never-ending drive. The only form of communication the entire ride took place towards the end. As we neared closer to my house, I reminded him to make a right turn. The driver shook his head aggressively at my words and without hesitation responded, “I don’t like being told where to go.” I simply just shut up for the last two minutes of the drive. My biggest regret of the whole ride was accidentally pressing five stars when I got out of the vehicle.
The Experience of Driving for Uber
While many people view Uber as a convenient mode of transportation, some are hesitant about using the app, as they fear being picked up by a stranger. Often overlooked, however, are the fears of Uber drivers, allowing unfamiliar people into their personal vehicle multiple times a day. As I thought about why these simple interactions can appear so nerve-wrecking, I decided to ask Uber drivers for their perspectives.
A few days ago, my friends and I took three Ubers, simply with the intention of being observant passengers. The first two drivers did their job perfectly fine, but lacked in the department of engaging in conversations with us. On the contrary, our last driver treated us as if he had known us for years. I asked him what his experience was with meeting different types of people on Uber and he said he loves the whole social aspect of it. However, when he first started, he admitted to being a little hesitant at letting people he’s never laid eyes onto take a seat in his car.
Adam Leopoid, an Uber driver in Philadelphia, said he too has witnessed some interesting encounters with people as a driver.
“One time this guy that I picked up was a big conspiracist. He was trying to convince me that he had been abducted by an alien and that the government was listening into my thoughts. He further believed that the weather was controlled by technology,” said Leopoid, “I just simply nodded, trying to avoid an even more awkward car ride.”
Leopoid believes that some people treat Uber drivers like their therapists and share many details about their life as they rarely, if ever, see one another again. He thinks that people feel more comfortable venting about their secrets with a stranger because when they exit the car, they are likely to not meet-up again.
“My first day it was weird. I could tell the people who I drove that day used Uber in the past, and so they just got into my car acting all normal. It took awhile to get into the rhythm of random people getting into my car,” said Leopoid.
As intrigued as I was by this, I wanted to see if other Uber drivers viewed their job in the same way. One Uber driver, Matthew Smith, spoke about the perks of being a driver and also some of his unusual car rides.
I’ve had people that bring exotic pets in my car like snakes and birds. I’ve also driven Bam Margdra, an actor most commonly known for his role in ‘Jackass’. This was for sure memorable driving around a celebrity,
— Adam Leopoid
Smith told me that he had Ubered around 1250 people, and while a majority of them were everyday normal interactions, he has also had a few unforgettable car rides.
“I’ve had people that bring exotic pets in my car like snakes and birds. I’ve also driven Bam Margdra, an actor most commonly known for his role in ‘Jackass’. This was for sure memorable driving around a celebrity,” said Smith.
Both Smith and Leopoid mentioned the relationships they have established from Uber. Smith said he has met people that he has established connections with outside of Uber and has even gone on dates with. Leopoid explained a story to me about how he helped a woman out with her apparent distress revolving drugs, and even tied his personal experiences into the conversation to lead her in a helpful direction.
“Working for Uber is such an interesting experience that I suggest everyone try at least once in their life. It really lets you get a snippet into the lives of people from all walks of life doing all different things,” said Leopoid.
These conversations helped me to view Uber from a different lens than just an average user pressing buttons on the app awaiting the arrival of their temporary chauffeur. Aside from a handful of awkward experiences that make for great stories, a typical Uber driver simply takes a variety of people to their destination while maintaining some small talk.
Teachers’ Tips for Uber
Opinion: Uber Beats Taxi Any Day
Uber is on its way to global domination. In recent years, Uber has become a vital aspect of society. Uber feeds off of society’s laziness and the need for convenience. This ride-sharing app has provided a cure to anxiety from finding a ride home.
Let’s pretend it is 2008 and Uber has yet to be an option. You are at a party, having fun with friends until the clock hits 11:30 and the host is sending everyone home. What do you do now? How do you get home? Nowadays, this problem is non-existent. Before Uber, you would find yourself sitting outside a party in 30-degree weather, waiting for the seemingly lost taxi that you called 25 minutes ago. Fast forward a few years and within minutes you would be sitting in the heated backseat of a Honda Civic on your way home with your Uber driver, Dan, asking about your night.
Instead of chasing a taxi down the street or waiting countless minutes for a car service to acknowledge you, e-hail apps, like Uber, allow you to order a reliable car to the exact location that you desire and have it arrive within minutes. Similarly to the aspect of convenience, utilizing Uber allows users to become worry-free, as they do not need to bring a significant amount of cash in their ride, which taxis require. Upon registering for the app, the individual must link their credit card to Uber, allowing the user to pay, with the option to add tip, through card upon order.
This sense of convenience is lost when using a taxi. Some taxi drivers still do not accept credit or debit card, which can be seen as a major inconvenience to many who do not wish to carry loads of cash in their pockets. Similarly, there is not a set price for the trip. When using Uber, the exact price is displayed BEFORE ordering the ride. It seems to be a common occurrence within taxis that drivers cheat riders by giving them an inflated price.
Although safety concerns are prominent controversies surrounding Uber, the app was made specifically to serve as a safer and more convenient alternative to taxi-like services. Within the app, many precautions are taken in order to ensure a safe trip. These precautions include the face, name, license plate number and phone number of the driver. However, upon ordering a taxi, there is no system that provides the user with a name, number, license plate or photo of their driver before entering the car, assuming they inserted themselves in the correct vehicle. Uber has added a significant amount of safety features to its app. These features include the ability to share your exact location with loved ones, calling 911 with the click of a button directly through the app, and an alert that sounds when the driver is driving too fast.
feel free to enjoy the endless possibilities of your night without the burden of finding a ride home.
— Remy Abrams ('21)
Though the idea of “Stranger Danger,” which has been engraved into our minds since childhood, is an obvious concern, Uber provides users with a sense of tranquility upon utilizing its services. Although the rider has most likely never met the person driving him or her, it is hard to consider the driver as the outright ‘stranger’ our parents warned us about. The Uber driver is not a man in a white van offering you candy. The user that ordered the ride has all of the information that they need to ensure they are entering the correct, reliable and safe car. It is utterly vital that any user of this app thoroughly reads through the information provided to them about their driver. That being said, Uber is not a flawless company with impeccable service. Although Uber is a positive alternative to the previous ride-sharing services, it is not 100% perfect. Uber has taken the precautions that it deems necessary to protect drivers and users; however, unsuspecting situations are still possible. With that, it is crucial that the rider also partakes in such safeguards to guarantee the safest experience feasible for both parties. On that premise, feel free to enjoy the endless possibilities of your night without the burden of finding a ride home. At the end of your night out, remember to call an Uber for a safer, more reliable and better-smelling car ride with Dan. Don’t forget to chat up the driver, apparently they LOVE that.
Opinion: Don’t Overlook Uber’s Dark Underbelly
Over the past decade, technology has advanced nearly every facet of daily life. The phrase “there’s an app for that” is no longer so much a marketing slogan than it is a fact of life. So, when you’re at the airport and need a ride home, is there an app for that?
Enter: Uber, a company now worth almost $100 billion, according to NPR. Uber has been made out by many to be an unequivocal force of good for consumers, making rides more accessible and, in some cases, cheaper. With this universal praise, though, comes a dark underbelly that is often ignored.
On its face, no one could argue that a ride in a taxi cab – with its annoying CBS 3 snippets and barrier from interaction with a driver – could beat Uber when comparing customer experience. The rise of Uber and apps like it, however, have caused fates far worse than a bad cab ride. According to a study conducted by the University of Chicago and Rice University, the rise of ridesharing apps has led to a two-to-three-percent net increase in traffic deaths since 2011.
The primary issue with Uber is that its drivers simply do not undergo strict regulation in the way taxi drivers do. There is (thank goodness) a background check and driving record check in place for prospective Uber drivers, but often not to the standards of city taxi drivers. Cities have been striking back against this phenomenon, but to little avail. Take Philadelphia as an example: the Philadelphia Parking Authority, an agency which serves to regulate ride-sharing industry writ-large in the City of Brotherly Love, has reported insufficient funds and workers to properly regulate anything, meaning less safety standards for ride-sharing apps and an increased ability for taxi drivers to fleece those who cannot use apps like Uber or Lyft, for whatever reason, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Those positions are not likely to come back soon.
Another thing to consider in the taxi vs Uber argument is the welfare of drivers. When Uber and Lyft come to a major area, they overwhelm the market with vehicles, bringing in thousands of them in a bid to establish regional dominance over the other. The issue with this market-flooding is that with so many vehicles on top of the taxis already there, it becomes next to impossible for anyone to make a decent wage.
Take, for example, the case of Shah Golamkader, a taxi driver profiled by the Inquirer. In the early days of Uber in Philadelphia, he made the switch from his $500/week job as a taxi driver – enough to pay his bills, according to the profile – to an Uber driver. He was unable to match his earnings consistently as an Uber driver, so he switched back. Now, however, his earnings are down as much as $200/week, a fairly-common occurrence in this flooded market.
In New York, the cost has been even higher. As Uber has flooded streets once lined with signature yellow taxis, the ability of taxi drivers, some who made the investment in a taxi medallion (license) as a promise of new life in the U.S. years ago have suffered extreme financial despair. Last year, five took their own lives, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, attempts by Mayor Bill deBlasio to limit the amount of Uber drivers in the Big Apple have failed due to the popularity of the app and the enormous political influence its lobbyists have.
Even in cases where legislation to limit the damaging effects of Uber have been passed, the company has still managed to avoid it. Uber, for many years, was involved with an app called Grayball, which, according to a New York Times investigation, was designed to deceive authorities in areas that limited or banned Uber.
The crux of the matter is this. There is no argument that Uber is faster and in many cases, cheaper than taxis – although taxi services like those in Philadelphia are beginning to foray into the app world. However, with all of that comes a human cost that may be worth considering the next time you need a ride home from a party.
After all, when it comes to reversing tragedies like suicide and traffic deaths, there is, unfortunately, not an app for that.
Tips to Stay Safe in an Uber
Behind the Wheel: The Uber Driver Experience
My current youth pastor, Joe Park, not only preaches the words of the Bible, but he also takes people to their destinations. He lives in Philadelphia, PA, but our church is situated in Mouth Laurel, NJ, so he is constantly driving back and forth from church on Sundays, and drives all around the city every other day, making sure people are able to arrive at their desired locations.
“I am currently a full-time dad and a part-time youth pastor, so it was really hard to find the right place to work,” said Park.
Before I became an Uber driver, I was considering working in a place like Wawa and Giant. But none of those work sites fit my schedule.
— Joe Park
Park has one daughter, one son, and around ten youth group kids to look after, so he struggled to find a job that worked around his schedule.
“Being an Uber driver is fantastic. Before I became an Uber driver, I was considering working in a place like Wawa and Giant. But none of those work sites fit my schedule,” said Park.
Since drivers are able to designate their hours, Park, like others, is able to work when and where he can, choosing the locations that suit him.
Park also explained some of the safety measures that came along with being an Uber driver. Some of the safety measures include being fully aware of the car status when driving, being polite to the passengers, knowing that poor attitude will trigger an emotional response from the passenger, and knowing how to use the safety call on the Uber app. The Uber has recently added Ridecheck, which allows drivers to press a state of an emergency which automatically dials 911.
Park also has experienced different types of adventures with his riders. One includes Park driving three hours from the Philadelphia Airport to Virginia because the rider’s flight did not land in Washington D.C.
“His last two options were either to rent a car and drive by himself or call an Uber. Since he had a business meeting early in the morning, he called an Uber. It was me! At that time, if a trip is longer than 45 minutes, the Uber app is supposed to inform the driver if the ride is long distance. But for some reason, the app did not do that. If I had known how far it was, I would have refused,” said Park.
Park’s experience of using Uber and being a youth pastor at the same time shows the flexibility of Uber. In addition, drivers enter into the Uber business knowing the consequences of opening their car doors, for example the mess that riders can make, risk factors and safety risks that can come from riders. However, in more cases than not, Uber has set measures in protecting the rider rather than the driver. The new safety measures help the riders better protect themselves, but besides Ridecheck, drivers are left to their own security. While Park, like others, enters into his Uber vehicle with these measures in place, his experiences with his riders show Uber as a bridge between people: giving an opportunity to meet and form new friendships.
“[In one of my trips] there was pouring rain and thunder throughout the whole trip, but we [Park and the rider] had a great conversation. So we became friends. At the end, he told me that if our family ever visits San Francisco [where the rider lives], he will treat us to dinner. To this day, I still have his personal phone number,” said Park.