I’m going to let passengers in on a little secret – I love canceling on you.
You’re probably sitting back thinking I’m crazy because that is losing money, and you’re not wrong. The thing is, Uber drivers are the cheapest form of transportation out there and if you’re in a big city, there is a very high chance that the trip is going to be 1-2 miles yet take 20 minutes due to traffic. In a more expensive market like Boston, we make only 15 cents a minute, so that 20-minute drive is $3 plus the $2 or so for miles (we make 96 cents a mile in this city). In a smaller market, drivers are making half that if they’re lucky.
To compare, an average taxi cab makes 47 cents per minute and $2.80 per mile (taxiwiz). That same 20-minute trip then becomes $9.40 with an additional $3-6 for mileage.
Because Uber rates are so low, our demand is pretty high which is usually evident by the number of Uber stickers you’ll see on cars around a typical city. It’s a busy gig which makes up for the lower rates. That allows us to be far more selective than other forms of transportation, so we can cancel a trip knowing full well there is a high chance we’ll get a different request in another minute or two.
What all that means is that we don’t have a problem canceling on difficult pickups, and some of us (me included) drive away happy knowing we dodged a potentially difficult customer. If I get an express pool customer who calls or texts telling me to pick them up at a location other than the designated spot, I’ll ignore it, go to the designated spot and get my cancelation fee. That is a trick passengers do to circumvent the express pool rules, so they deserve to lose out on that fee. I explain how all that works in my express pool sucks post here.
Another person I love to cancel on is the passenger who requests a trip while living on a super busy street and isn’t waiting outside for me by the time I arrive. This situation has a few conditions as I will give them a little time if I’m about a block away when they request – especially in poor weather. Even the most considerate person doesn’t expect a driver to pull up 15 seconds after they request a trip. If there is a spot to safely pull over, I’ll give them a little more time because many people are still pretty new to Uber so they want to be careful before jumping in a stranger’s car. This extra time is so they can check out all the nearby cars and make sure the license plate matches what the app says.
However, one way to earn an instant cancel is by requesting in a busy area and then calling or texting me after I arrive and telling me you’ll be down in x minutes. I don’t even care if I miss out on my cancel fee in that situation. It’s rude to request a ride when you’re not even ready and that is multiplied by 100 if you do it on a busy street in a busy city. My only hope is that you were crunched for time and my cancel made you late for whatever event you were trying to attend.
I know that sounds spiteful, but people need to learn to respect the time of others. Uber drivers make a bulk of their money when their wheels are moving, so any time you are making them sit around and wait is money lost. That includes time when you ask them to go to a store or a drive-thru. If you ever request a driver make a stop for you, the least you can do is tip them for it. It doesn’t have to be a big tip, but more of a sign of gratitude that you appreciated the driver losing money while you ran an errand.
Here is my boring disclaimer part –
I do not condone canceling on a passenger out of discrimination or because you found out the trip is shorter than you’d like. Once a person gets in your car and you start the trip, you own that trip until the end. For example, this driver is a dick. I also don’t condone calling a passenger to find out where they’re going and then canceling on them because the distance is too short. This happens frequently at the airport and it’s a shitty thing to do. Airport trips are risky where you could score a 100-mile trip or get stuck with a 5-mile trip. That’s the price you pay for playing the airport game and need to accept what you get and move on.
The only time I think this is appropriate or understandable is if you’re nearing the end of a night and simply don’t want a super long trip going in the complete opposite direction of your house. Uber needs to rectify that by allowing us to filter the locations we’re willing to drive to like they had a few months ago. They took it away because drivers abused it by unchecking local zones which guaranteed them longer trips. Uber and Lyft do give us a (limited) destination filter which guarantees trips are heading in the direction we want, but for some reason, they disable it if you’re in an airport queue.