The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I drive for Uber and Lyft, with over 1300 rides so far. I'd like to comment on Economics of the Sharing Economy What I like about these services is that I was able to get approved to drive for them easily; and once approved, I can go online whenever I want, work as long or short as I want, and I'm not restricted in terms of where I can drive (locally). I'm authorized to drive for Uber and Lyft anywhere in Arizona. I wish it were possible to go to cities in another state and drive for them there, but the system currently does not allow that. I'm not sure why, but it would be nice if this restriction were lifted. I'm also involved with the Postmates delivery service. Unlike Uber and Lyft, they tell me I can work for them in any city in the country where they provide services. I like this aspect of being an "Independent Contractor". I think the noise being made that drivers should be regarded as employees is misguided. I've worked for myself for long enough where I can say I have way too much freedom to be considered an employee. That said, my biggest beefs with Uber and Lyft is that we drivers have no say in the fares the companies charge. I believe they're presently too low -- after taxes, insurance, car expenses, etc., I'm not sure I'm making minimum wage earnings. I also think both Uber and Lyft treat their drivers like crap. Uber loves to refer to us as their "partners", but there's no evidence that they regard anything that we "partners" say as relevant. The biggest single complaint I get from Uber riders is, "How can we leave a tip for you guys on our bill?" Well, they can't. Why? Because the folks at Uber Corporate think that their "Driver Partners" don't deserve to get gratuities, even when riders WANT TO GIVE THEM! I think it's inappropriate for the company to make both their customers and so-called "partners" WRONG by refusing to allow a way for riders to give drivers tips on the platform. They should not care. But they do. They care so much that rather than add a tipping option to the app, they're wasting millions of dollars in legal fees defending lawsuits from idiots who are trying to sue them into doing so. It's absurd. The only control drivers have over anything is "take it or leave it". The term "partners" implies some level of say in matters. The FTC should prohibit Uber from referring to their drivers as their "partners" unless there's some kind of clear evidence that they are willing to listen to and accommodate what these so-called "partners" want. To date, they don't. WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: as gas prices fluctuate and other variable costs go up and down, drivers have no means to adjust the fares charged to riders. Fares are set by corporate at levels that fit whatever analytical models they're targeting. As a case in point, while most of the country's business slows down in the winter, cities like Phoenix in the sunbelt have our peak tourist season. So while it makes sense to cut fares to encourage ridership in colder areas where things slow down in the winter, prices for EVERYTHING in the Phoenix area go WAY UP in the winter -- except Uber CUT FARES. We "partners" had no say in this matter. Sure, our business went up, but you can only drive so many miles in an hour. My income dropped 30% during the PEAK TOURIST SEASON!!! As an Independent Contractor, I should have some say over how I'm compensated, other than "take it or leave it", short of unionizing. We don't get Worker's Comp or any kind of insurance to cover health issues that arise from the services we provide. If someone gets into the car who's got the flu, we can catch it and be laid-up for a week. Or we can be hurt by a rider and unable to work. I think this needs to be addressed somehow, as it affect everybody who's providing services in ANY sharing economy.