It’s time to confess: for the past six weeks I have been driving for Uber here in the Napa Valley. Up to this point only a handful of people have been in on this little secret, but it ‘s finally to the point where I want to share this interesting new endeavor and relate some of my experiences and opinions.
Over the next couple of weeks I will write a few blog posts about different aspects of my Uber life. There is far too much to communicate in a single post, and I learn or observe new things every day, so I will want to keep it current. My hope is that you will find these writings to be educational and maybe even humorous. If you have any questions about Uber, and how it works, let me know and I will be happy to answer them. It has been interesting to me that many Uber riders do not fully understand how the system works, so I am happy to share what I know.
Before I go much further, I want to say this: I am having a blast! This has exceeded my expectations about how much fun I could have driving around in my car for several hours a day. The experience is also teaching me what makes some people very successful in the customer service industry, while others fail miserably.
For those of you who have yet to experience Uber personally, Uber is a point-to-point ride sharing service that is part of what is now being called “the sharing economy.” At Uber, a person like me can turn his personal car into a taxicab, for all intents and purposes. A rider requests a ride using his smartphone, and is immediately paired with a driver in the area, who is also logged on to an app on his smartphone. A map guides the driver to the rider’s location, at which time the fare officially begins. The driver then takes the rider to the desired location, using a navigation map provided by the driver’s smartphone app. At the completion of the ride, the rider exits, the driver marks the ride as completed, and the fare is calculated and automatically charged to the rider’s pre-supplied debit or credit card. No cash changes hands, unless the rider wants to offer a tip in cash. The driver and the rider must rate each other on a scale of 1-5 stars before either can take a subsequent ride. The total fare (based on time plus distance, and any surge fees for low-supply/high-demand situations) is split thusly: the first dollar goes to Uber for a rider fee, then Uber takes 25% of the remaining fare and I get 75%. Uber calculates my fares each day, in real-time, and deposits my earnings into my bank account every Thursday.
There is a little more to it than that, which I will cover over time in my posts, but that is the simplistic explanation of how this works.
To complete this first blog post, I want to mention why I decided to abandon my never-ending pursuit of “all things wine” in favor of driving tourists around the Napa Valley. Since moving to Napa a little over four years ago, I have come to realize that the valley is not about wine; it is about hospitality. People here, whether in the wine business or not, want to share their bounty and good fortune with locals and visitors alike. Sure, there are always exceptions to this theory, but it never ceases to amaze me how generous and giving the people of the Napa Valley are with whatever they have.
I mentioned this to a passenger yesterday and he practically jumped out of my back seat and said “Yes! I agree with you 100%!” So, for me, driving for Uber (in Napa, anyway) is my way of sharing my home with visitors from around the world. I thoroughly enjoy being an “Ambassador for the Valley,” as another passenger referred to me just this morning. Because I know about the history of the valley, how wine is made, the economics of the industry, and personally know so many of its players, I am a really good tour guide for my guests. So much so, that several have hired me to be their guide for the day (all through Uber, of course). So this has become a way for me to amuse, delight and educate my guests, to the extent they are interested in that. And it is more fun than I ever thought it would be.
I will share more about the experience, my opinions of Uber, my observations on riders and much more in the coming weeks. And as I stated before, please let me know if you have any questions about Uber and how it works.