“It was like a trick”: Uber’s bait & switch

I was a cab driver. I used to drive my for-hire vehicle, and I picked up one of the Uber employees, and we sat in the car. He said it was good. He kept calling me, we started texting one another. I talked to the drivers who drive for Uber and they said, “Yeah, we're doing good.” I knew a guy who had King County & City of Seattle for-hire licenses—he went and turned in his licenses and went to work for Uber. I went in and they told me, “If you want to work for us, you can no longer be a for-hire driver. If you want to join, change the color of your car and come join.” I said okay. I went and turned my for-hire license back in, I painted my car, and I went to work for Uber.

"He saw many people going back to work, because they don't have any options."

Then last year, they dropped pricesdropped the minimum fare, dropped the price per mile. It used to be $6 minimum fare, it went down to $4.20. The miles, it used to be around $1.80 per mile, it dropped to $1.35. Things changed. I went out of town, and when I came back, people were having a demonstration. They turned off their phones, they didn’t work. I saw people not working, and I asked a friend, “What are you doing? Why aren't you working?” He said, “You don't know? They dropped the price down.” But I was desperate. I went to work. And that guy told me he saw many people going back to work, because they don't have any options. If they spend 4 or 5 days with no work? They have kids, they have other things. So they start working again. So that's what happened last year when the price dropped down.

You know, you continue working. You don't have a choice. I'd already changed the color of my car. I'd dropped my other license already. To change my license back to a for-hire license, I'd have to paint my car. I don't have the money to paint the car, get the license, pay for new insurance, new everything. I didn't have the money, so I just continued with them. For me, it was like a trick.

Then this winter, they changed the price again. They changed it from $4.20 to $3.80 minimum fare, and I think from $1.35 to $1.15 per mile. They sent an e-mail that said they're dropping prices. And that's when everybody dropped Uber. They turned in their cars, turned in their cell phone. When Uber saw that, sometime in spring they went back to the old prices, $4.20 minimum fare and $1.35 a mile. They lost a lot of drivers. I have some friends that didn't come back. They just said "Forget it."

When you bring somebody from downtown to the airport, a cab is $40. For us, at that lower price, it was around $20. But then they take $1.20 for insurance, they take 20%, and you spent $5 on gas. It's less than $13, it's no good. So they came back up to old prices.

Now, the lowest prices is $4.20. You pick someone up for a minimum fare, they take $1.20 for insurance right away. You have $3 left. Then they take 20%. You're left with $2.40. Or, for the airport, at $1.35 per mile, it's like $26. Take out $1.20 for insurance: $24.80. Let them take 20%. You're left with $20. Put in your gas. Both ways, that's like $5. Then you have $15. Then you put your mileage, your personal insurance. Repairs on your car. Cleaning the car. It all comes out of that $15, or that $2.40. That is what's going on.

—Peter, Seattle Uber driver