Aisle Of Wit

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Food Don’t Lie

So I started a new job last week.  No, don’t be that excited–it’s not one that I’m particularly excited about, nor am I planning to do one of those “I’m happy to share that I started” form posts on LinkedIn that it seems only the most tangentially connected people in my contact list seem to be posting of late–you know, those that are somehow more often than not younger and more diverse than yours truly.

And it did come of the heels of being let go from one of my previous “stopgap” ways to earn a living–rideshare driver for Uber.  The same Uber that I most recently had achieved “gold” status, was at a 4.9 customer rating out of 5 stars and had only a night before received my largest-ever tip–more than 100% of my remuneration—from who seemed to be a frail elderly gentleman who turned out to be a multimillionaire who had begun the day in the emergency room and was so grateful I let him talk for the entire ride about his family and career, still reeling from a near-death experience which I can certainly empathize with.

And then, my next shift began with the “comfort requested” couple who were late to an expensive dinner about a mile from where I picked them up, said nothing to me other than “please turn down your radio” (it was my phone, for the record) and impatiently told me to “step on it” as they argued between them.

Which I did, narrowly missing an SUV who cut in front of me while turning into his carport, without signaling.  After I recovered from the shock, I politely rolled down my window, stared at the clueless imbecile who nearly T-boned my passengers and calmly said “Could you at least apologize?”,

Apparently, that was an even more unsettling experience for my passengers, for a mere hour or so later at a stoplight I saw this lovely message from Uber appear in my inbox:

Hi Steven,

We’ve received multiple reports from riders about problematic behavior associated with trips on your account. We previously notified you that repeated reports of a similar nature could lead to loss of account access. As a result, your account has been deactivated. 

If  you think this deactivation was an error or can provide additional information (video, photo, or other documentation not previously submitted) that’s relevant to your deactivation, you can request a review here. A member of our team will review your account and any information you provide with your review request.

The review process usually takes 7 business days, but we sometimes need additional time. We’ll send you an email letting you know the outcome of your review.  Signed, Charlotte.

Well, after dropping off what turned out to be my final fare, I immediately responded to “Charlotte”, with essentially the same exact narrative that began today’s musing, pleading my case.  I received a nearly immediate reply:

We understand you want to continue earning with Uber.

While we know this may be frustrating, our decision to deactivate your account has not changed.

Our Community Guidelines outline what is expected when using the Driver app. We received feedback about your account describing behavior that violated these guidelines.

Signed, Kat.

Gotta tell you, that’s a far superior response rate than the old-fashioned court system–you know, the one where one actually gets to appear in front of a human judge to plead a case?  Not in tech world!  Within a couple of hours on a Saturday night, two “judges” considered my appeal.  I must certainly be a valued employee!!

No, I don’t have dashcam video footage–I’ve got way too many other bills and priorities to invest in anything that elaborate, and my phone doesn’t mount in a way where I could use an app to provide such surveillance.  Apparently, that’s the only kind of evidence that these “judges’ respond to. since the truth of what actually transpired from my perspective couldn’t possibly be more accurate than Mr. and Mrs. Karen provided.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, within far less than seven days, my next response from Uber read as follows:

After carefully reviewing your account and the information you submitted as part of your deactivation review request, we’ve determined that your account will remain deactivated because you violated your agreement with Uber (which includes adhering to our Community Guidelines). This decision is final.

(P)lease discard or return any Uber-branded decals or signage that you may have used for your vehicle as outlined in our Community Guidelines.

Keep in mind, local and/or state laws in your area may prohibit the display of decals to impersonate a rideshare driver, and criminal penalties may apply.

Thanks for your understanding.

This missive was unsigned; so I can’t quite tell if it was Charlotte, Kat or someone else who personally wrote this correspondence.

And, per a recent LOS ANGELES TIMES piece by Brian Merchant, I’m now part of a fairly large club, one he described with a story of a fellow driver who had an even stronger track record than moi:

By any metric, James Jordan was an exemplary Uber driver. Starting in 2016, he worked 10 hours a day, six days a week. Over the course of 5½ years, he logged 27,000 trips and maintained a rating of 4.95.

He drove so much because he needed the cash. A 55-year-old single father of five in Inglewood, there were plenty of expenses, and Uber was his family’s source of income. Then, one day in March 2022, that source was abruptly shut off.

He had been driving in the morning when he logged off to pick up his daughter. When he opened his phone to prepare for his next shift, he got the message: He’d been “permanently deactivated” — the gig work industry’s euphemism for fired.

Jordan is far from alone in experiencing this particular kind of bad feeling. A new survey of 810 Uber and Lyft drivers in California shows that two-thirds have been deactivated at least once. Of those, 40% of Uber drivers and 24% of Lyft drivers were terminated permanently. A third never got an explanation from the gig app companies.

Deactivation hit even the most experienced drivers: The report, conducted by Rideshare Drivers United and the Asian Law Caucus, found that drivers who were deactivated had worked, on average, 4½ years for Uber and four years for Lyft.

Like everything else in the world of gig work, deactivation happens through the app. There’s little to no human contact at all, in most cases. No phone or Zoom calls, no text or emails, and certainly no in-person meetings. Most affected drivers said they logged onto the app to start their workday, only to find a notification that they’ve been deactivated.

“It’s cruel, man,” Jordan said. “It’s almost like Uber sees their drivers like a piece of equipment or a gadget or something, and they can just flip a switch and turn you off.”

Well, I’ve yet to meet James Jordan, but all I can say is, I feel you, brother.  I’d like to at least buy you a meal to commisserate and sympathize.  In fact, I’ll personally deliver it to you.

Because, thank G-d, I’m one of the newest “dashers” for DoorDash.  Unfortunately, I’m not currently a resident of New York, but should I actually wind up there, I’ve apparently joined them at the right time, as the tongue-twisting Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria of USA TODAY reported; 

DoorDash, the food delivery service popularly used among gig workers, is allowing Dashers to earn their pay by the hour.

The company announced a series of updates on Wednesday for the food delivery drivers to include new location sharing features, earning money by the hour or per offer, and keeping 100% of the tips.

Starting next month, food delivery app workers in New York City, who work for DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats will get pay raises, according to an announcement by Mayor Eric Adams. An estimated 60,000 food delivery workers in Manhattan will see their pay increase from $7.09 per hour to $17.96 per hour, and $19.96 April 2025. 

Dashers will have the option to earn money by receiving a guaranteed hourly minimum rate that starts the moment they accept an offer until it’s dropped off, and 100% of tips, or they can continue to earn per offer.

The hourly minimum rate is set by the city the Dasher lives in and they can decline up to one offer per hour when they earn by time.

So I’m blessed that at least I had another option out there to continue to earn enough to avoid homelessness, and unlike Mr. Jordan, I don’t have five children relying upon me to be fed and clothed.  I can only hope his dealings with his ex-spouse are favorable.

But in my case, I also don’t have a family readily available to have any regular interaction with.  My passengers were an endless array of fascinating stories, diverse, interesting, engaging.  Often friendly, frequently tipping, almost all giving me five-star reviews.  For a few minutes at least, contrary to the life I’ve been leading with people who are so busy or, in far too many cases, still too petrified and judgmental to even consider leaving their homes or ride unmasked in a stranger’s car, that for most of most days the only phone calls I get are “spam risk” and the overwhelming majority of my meals are prepared and eaten alone, I felt like I was still among the living.

So honestly, while I’m exceptionally grateful that an option like DoorDash was out there, I’m more determined than ever to find some outlet to actually interact with people in person.  Anyone who has read any of my more personal musings know far too well exactly how much and why that means so damn much to me.  So do forgive me if you’re capable that I’m more than a bit bitter at Charlotte, Kat or anyone else on Uber’s team of 24/7 humans who were so quick to pass judgment on my ability to earn for them.  Given what I’ve read from more than a few other sources, it’s far more likely Charlotte and Kat are actually more similar to Hal from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY or Samantha from HER.

So, yep, those Uber decals are gone.  And if you’re hungry and within my ordering radius, I’ll look forward to cheerfully handing you your order.  Because, bluntly, for as much as I need the work, I need human contact far, far more.  I’d like to believe you’re more capable of understanding that reality than Charlotte or Kat was.

On the other hand, at least I’m less worried about being cancelled by anyone named or emulating the name Karen was capable of being to me.  At least food don’t lie.

Until next time…