Most Uber rides are pretty uneventful but once in a while you’ll encounter a new situation or an unexpected scenario. Today’s article is a guest post from RSG reader, Dave, who got a strange request one day while driving for Uber. It was something he never expected but he handled it with a lot of common sense and it ended up working out very well for all parties involved.
For many UberX drivers, like myself, each day can bring a whole new experience. Recently, I accepted a ride request that would bring me a whole new Uber-adventure, and would also give me insight to a lot of money that Uber & Lyft are leaving on the table.
On this day, I accepted an Uber ride request and navigated about 5 minutes away to a commercial building. After pulling up to the front door, the rider approached my car, motioning me to roll down the window. He had a request. He wanted me to drive to the destination he entered, but he did not want to go with me.
The man explained that he had a B2B package that needed to go to a destination about 50 miles way. He saw no reason why he had to merely accompany the package, with the return portion merely doubling his cost while taking him away from his business.
I had never been confronted with this issue, but I began to consider it. Uber, a company hardly known for good communication/relations with it’s drivers, had never advised (to my knowledge) on the limits of what cargo I may or may not transport. What I do recall was that I was referred to by Uber as an “independent contractor”. That means I use my own vehicle and make many of my own decisions of how I conduct my business while driving for Uber. In America, if it’s not illegal, it’s legal, so I considered the delivery request.
The “passenger” was making a lot of sense. What a great way to get your package instantly delivered. Sure, he was paying a premium but he was also utilizing the on-demand economy in an elegant way. He was meeting an important customer need that suddenly arose and, since it was after 3pm, there was no way FedEx or UPS would accept such a same-day delivery request. I realize there are other courier services but Uber delivery offered other benefits such as immediate pick up and a beeline route directly to the destination that the customer could also monitor on their smart phone.
I began to think of how I could do it professionally, then presented the “rider” with these terms;
1) He had to unseal the package and allow me to examine the contents. I had to confirm that I was not transporting drugs, guns, explosives or anything else forbidden or dangerous.
2) I required a contact name and cell phone number for the person who would be accepting the package at the destination. I also required that this person must pick up the package from me at curbside, promptly after my arrival. Lastly, I required this person to sign for the delivery.
3) If the contact at the destination did not show up within 10 minutes of my arrival, I would have to leave & I would not deliver the package to anyone whose name was not provided to me by the “rider”. Rather, I would merely END the ride, with all charges applied. I would then return his package to him the next business day at no charge to the rider/shipper. (During the trip, the “shipper” texted me to change the name of the destination recipient, as the originally-intended recipient might be away from the office)
Applying these basic common sense rules, I accepted the request. Everything went as expected and it took just over an hour to complete the delivery. At the destination, the designated person arrived curbside to accept & sign for the box within 10 seconds after I tapped “ARRIVED”. Everything went smoothly.
It cost this company about $85.00 for this delivery (no tip). For this small business, that was a small price to pay for immediate pickup and immediate delivery, by an experienced driver whose only job was getting his package to the right place, right now.
About 2 weeks later, I did it again. This time, the package was a tube and it was only going about 5 miles away. I applied the same rules as before and again, everything went smoothly.
As a driver, this was easy and if Uber or Lyft doesn’t do this in the future, someone else will. It just makes too much sense. Of course changes would have to be integrated, such the use of proper documents that a customer fills out legally stating the contents, agreement to pay and other standard terms. Each of my customers took a chance because no insurance was covering their delivery so that would also have to be addressed.
Personally, I would much rather drive a cardboard box than a Happy Meal. It was a nice change-of-pace from the regular routine and it was just too logical to NOT do it. But if you think the taxi drivers were upset with Uber & Lyft, I’m sure that FedEx and UPS, along with countless other couriers, would now see them as Satan on wheels
But for me, UberPACKAGE or LyftBOX is a logical, needed next step that adds additional revenue streams, provides drivers more ways to make money and provides a whole new approach to a service already in demand. FedEx & UPS may be in every neighborhood but Lyft & Uber are on every street. It can be taken advantage of by individuals who just want to send a birthday gift or big companies like Amazon, when their new delivery drones just aren’t right for the job.
Or maybe the drivers should just do it ourselves: “CarGO: if it fits in our car, we deliver it, right now”.
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What do you guys think about the situation and how David handled it? Would you have done anything differently or do you think drivers should stick to transporting people?