There’s a favor you can do for your next Uber driver: Tell them how much you are paying for the ride.
Drivers can no longer get that information. This, combined with diminishing earnings, has left many anxious over their already unstable income.
In fact, this isn’t the first time Uber has fiddled with the “customer payments” feature on the Uber app that drivers use. Mission Local discovered in July, 2021, that Uber was showing drivers an amount significantly lower than what the customer was actually charged.
The article gained tremendous traction, and Uber made a concession, announcing it would show drivers the full fare charged to customers.
“Obviously, we want to see if it’s fair, what the passengers are paying versus what we’re getting paid,” said a San Francisco Uber driver, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid potential retaliation from the company. For him, this is yet another example of Uber taking a bigger cut of the fee and giving drivers less, even as customers are paying more.
“They’re trying to see what they can get away with,” he said.
Uber drivers used to receive a breakdown on their app after each ride. It would show how much the passenger paid, how much Uber took, additional costs incurred, and how much the driver would ultimately receive.
Starting late this summer, however, the customer payments information disappeared, leaving drivers with no easy way to check their payment against Uber’s stake.
“I think it rolled out at different times over the last three months. They don’t do a sudden change to everybody all at the same time,” said Nicole Moore, president of gig worker group Rideshare Drivers United.
Uber has not responded to a request for comment on the change. Mission Local’s small experiment, however, illustrates one of the possible reasons for the abrupt change: Money.
Mission Local booked five Uber rides in San Francisco recently, and asked drivers to share the amount of money they received from each ride. With the help of the drivers, we came up with a crude average of their share: 49.5 percent. Essentially, drivers are receiving less than half the money customers pay. One of the drivers spent almost 25 minutes on the order but only made $6.67.
When Mission Local booked 10 Uber trips in July, 2021, a driver’s average take was significantly higher: 56 percent. Over the course of about a year, a driver’s revenue as a percentage of passenger payments has fallen by more than 6 percent.
Still, Uber seems to have left a small hole for drivers to peer through the darkness. At the bottom of the trip details page, there is a line that reads, “To see a summary of customer payments and Uber service fees, go to drivers.uber.com.”
In theory, drivers might be able to laboriously type the link into their browser and check the website. But when the aforementioned driver left the app and made the attempt, he was still unable to open the page a minute and half later.
Unsurprisingly, he gave up. “For me, it’s nice to know if I could just click a button and see a summary. But I prefer not to waste my time,” he said.
Some of the drivers Moore works with at Rideshare Drivers United have also spotted the notice in fine print and struggled to open it. “But not everybody told me they can find that, so I think that they’re trying to hide it completely,” she said. Drivers almost went through the whole website to find the individual ride breakdown.
Gig workers don’t have time to jump through such hoops. As Mission Local previously reported, full-time rideshare drivers are often in their cars at least 12 hours a day, and some even spend the night in parking lots to save time.
Drivers asking each passenger for the specifics on what they are paying just isn’t feasible. “I don’t want to be bothering them,” said one driver.
Lyft has a longer history of hiding customer payments from drivers than Uber. In 2019, Moore recalled, drivers discovered Lyft was charging customers “a lot more” money than it was paying drivers and, right around this time, Lyft hid payments from drivers as well. “Because they didn’t want it on the Internet, how much people were being charged versus how much drivers were being paid,” she said.
Lyft has also not replied to Mission Local’s request for a comment.
“The reason that Uber and Lyft both hide how much they’re charging passengers from the driver is because it is a huge vulnerability to the company for people to know that,” Moore said. “The companies are literally using drivers as their bank account, and they’re squeezing us dry.”
On a popular online forum for Uber drivers, a post titled “Uber — They’ve Finally Hid The Customer Payments” has been getting a lot of attention since August. Drivers were outraged by the change.
“This new hidden information policy is a blatant attempt by Uber to short change the driver, by hiding any customer price hikes to keep more of the actual fare price. THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS,” said one of the comments.
Another reads, “Probably best that I’m not tempted to look at what Uber charged while driving. If I want to have a stroke, I can log into the website from home where I won’t take anybody else out with me.”