The Uberpool Dilemma: What Gives?

Riders love Uberpool. It’s cheap, (mostly) reliable, and quite efficient. When one isn’t pressed for time, one can enjoy the comfort of a regular Uber trip at a budget-friendly price. It’s not too hard to imagine why people prefer it as their go-to option.

Many drivers want it gone.

Why so? Well, it boils down to choice and cost – for the driver, that is.

Cost: Drivers spend both gasoline and time in getting to – and fulfilling – Uber trips. It is generally expected that a sizeable portion of one’s daily trips will be from Uberpool, especially from locations such as suburbs, schools, and similar high-density medium-income locations. As a result, drivers are have to pick up passengers as they get assigned and hope for the best. They spend these resources in trips that they hope will pay off – and if it’s a Pool trip, then they feel its not worth it because of the low payout. (Never mind that they could contest the fare, as some drivers claim they don’t have the time to do so.) It doesn’t help that Uberpool assignments are route-based: if the algorithm determines that a new rider is traveling to a location close to the final destination and there’s an empty seat, then bam!

Obviously, most drivers hope that they will have nothing but UberX trips all day. Not only does it net them higher revenue per trip (especially when surge hits), but it also makes better use of their time. They’re stuck in traffic less often, get more chances to get tips, and have more protection around their ratings thanks to lower rider volume (less riders, less chances to get low scores, more chances to make a better impression). But that’s not the case.

Choice: Drivers cannot pick between UberX or UberPool as long as they’re not on a trip. It makes for a frustrating pattern – while the volume of riders is supposed to make up for the difference in theory, the real world sometimes proves to be different. There are many cases of Pool trips that are 3+ km. in distance, but only get one rider.

It doesn’t help that a significant portion of Uberpool riders tend to be less than gracious in their conduct. Stories abound of riders who litter , while others loudly complain, and others still blame the driver for the delay in their travels. Or just about any reason that they can think of.

How bad is it? Some drivers now derisively refer to them as “Uberpoor” and deliberately downrate them on reflex, as if using Uberpool by itself was some sort of blasphemy. They share screenshots of their low-paying rides like stories around a campfire, eager to find validation from fellow drivers who have been in the same boat. And they get what they’re looking for. Some commenting among one another about how the service is a evil that borders on nearly intolerable.

Their conclusion is clear: Either Uberpool goes, or they go. It doesn’t matter for them that Uberpool helps fill volume for weekly incentives (which they then claim that they dislike as long as it’s over 35 rides, because they claim that it’s difficult to build up that many trips), or that it’s part of the service that they signed up for. And some do: they switch over to Grab, or wait till surge rises before logging in again to drive – a perfectly understandable tactic, these days.

As for me, I’ve been burned too many times myself by these drivers, and Uber’s support team, unfortunately, has been of little help. According to them, their drivers can do no wrong regardless of circumstances unless you have reams of incontrovertible proof and it’s always your fault. So these days, I just ride UberX. Less headaches, less hassles, and my rider rating is objectively assessed and judged, not downrated because I decided to pick a particular service to someone else’s biased point of view. As I told Uber, I don’t expect a perfect score, just a fair one.

In the end, it’s what works for me.

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