Uber has transformed the way people, including students at the University of Richmond, live their daily lives. Services such as Uber have made on-demand transportation and food delivery possible.
A Thursday-night ride to downtown Richmond or a Saturday-morning carpool to brunch has never been as accessible as it is now. However, this accessibility wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the thousands of people who have signed up to be the drivers.
Most students know what it is like to ride in an Uber or order food to be delivered, but being the driver is a whole other experience.
Senior Dale Weingarten chose to be an Uber driver over other part-time jobs, such as babysitting, because of the power it offers.
“You make yourself your own boss,” Weingarten said.
In an environment where demand for on-the-spot transportation is increasing, student drivers shared their opinions on the benefits and drawbacks of driving with Uber.
It’s a good way to make money and the ability to make your own schedule is a key factor, said senior Kyle Crowley, an Uber Eats driver.
Another Uber Eats driver, senior Emma Thomas, chose to work with Uber because of the flexibility, she said.
“I was working another job with unpredictable hours, so driving for Uber Eats allowed me to log on and off whenever I had time,” Thomas said.
There’s no commitment to being an Uber driver, senior Chilton Gaines said. This past summer, Gaines would wake up at 9 a.m. and be on the road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. He purposely avoided rush hour and would take days off when he wanted to hang out with friends, he said.
After this past spring break in New Orleans, senior Andrei Buna applied to be an Uber driver to make up for his spending from the previous week, he said. In the two weeks that he drove with Uber, he made over $600, he said.
Not only did Buna pay off the money he had spent over break, he also received life tips from some of his customers and now has crazy stories that he hopes to one day combine into a book, he said.
Buna said there had been moments when he had thought: “Am I on Jeopardy or something? Like what is going on?”
Gaines said he had enjoyed being an Uber driver because of the new people he had been able to meet and the new places he had discovered, even in his hometown in New York. This part-time job allowed Gaines to connect with strangers. He said it was like networking in a way.
Similarly, Buna said he would talk with strangers and tell them about his future endeavors. He found that customers often tipped him more when they heard about his plans, he said.
“It’s funny, because it’s almost like you’re trying to sell yourself,” he said.
Both Buna and Crowley thought being a student driver was an advantage, they said. When Crowley dropped off food and his customers saw he was a student, he would get larger tips, he said. People would treat him nicer because he was young and still in college, Buna said.
Some Uber drivers provide amenities, such as phone chargers, mints and water, in an effort to get better ratings and tips. Buna did not “pimp out his car" in this way, but he did entertain his customers by engaging in conversation, he said.
Buna’s customers ranged from soccer moms to a man who had just gotten out of a psychiatric ward, he said. His chats with riders were a way to keep things interesting after driving for four or five hours in a row, Buna said.
“I also am still trying to get a five-star rating,” he said.
Getting customers to open up about themselves revealed stories he never would have thought to hear, Buna said.
Driving with Uber was a quick and easy way for Buna to make money, he said. He said, however, that he probably would not do this again, and he advises others to “proceed with caution.” This was not the overall consensus, though.
When asked whether she would recommend driving for Uber, Thomas said, “If they don’t mind driving and need something super flexible – definitely!”
Crowley also recommends driving with Uber to many of his friends, and some have already taken up his suggestion after hearing about his experience, he said. The additional $300 he receives when friends sign up with his code doesn’t hurt, either.
“If you want to join the movement, use my code kylec4269ue," Crowley said. "We can talk about making a deal later."
Contact contributor Kaori Tachibana at firstname.lastname@example.org.