Over the last few months, I’ve met some incredible people through the Show Me the Money Club (SMTMC) on YouTube. The diversity of our community is our strength, and I believe if we all work together without labeling anyone, we can achieve our common goal, which is fixing what is broken with the gig economy.
Is everything great in the gig world? Of course not, we need to keep fighting for our rights, from wanting to stay independent contractors (ICs) to fair pay and benefits. That’s why we need to work together and understand each other to keep fighting for our interests.
Speaking of working together, while hosting a SMTMC event, I met a man named Jeff, who I originally called “The Uber Kool Aid Drinker.” For him, Uber could do no wrong. As you all know, I don’t think Uber is perfect, and I’m skeptical of those who do.
Wanting to better understand Jeff, I decided to reach out to him and see why he felt this way about Uber, how he got started with Uber, and why he accepts (almost) every request that comes his way.
Meeting Jeff the Uber Driver
Jeff spends a lot of time around drivers, and he drove as an independent contractor courier. Jeff also worked at several major companies, so I believe he’s qualified to speak on both sides of the argument between independent contractors and employees.
In Jeff’s words:
“I was an I/C driver and a manager of drivers for 25 years, delivering newspapers, magazines, fliers, phone books, etc. I was a driver and circulation manager for two companies, THE USA TODAY and Auto Trader. As an East Coast transplant in Myrtle Beach SC, I worked three years full-time as an I/C courier. As a political science major, I love to read and understand both sides of an issue. This carries over to being able to see driver/management problems and why I can support Uber at times when others don’t.”
Getting Started with Uber
The freedom and flexibility aspect of the gig economy offers millions of people like Jeff an opportunity to earn extra cash. Some drivers like Jeff make a good living during these difficult inflationary times and supplement their retirement benefits. And if you are as outgoing as Jeff is, your success is guaranteed.
I would put Jeff’s tip percentage against any driver in the US. He has figured this gig out, and I can assure you that his infectious smile is definitely a weapon for success.
These are some of the conversation starters in his car, a Ford Transit Passenger Van. Below, you’ll see bills he has collected from many tourists visiting his town as well as this handwritten note.
“Five years ago, my wife had this crazy idea to drive for Uber. I couldn’t understand why she would want to sit in a parking lot, wait for a stranger to contact her, go pick them up and take them where they wanted to go and somehow make money. As usual, in our 39 year marriage, she was right. We had decided to downsize and move from New Jersey to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She gave one ride in New Jersey, which kept her interested for many months. I had my own business, Sunshine Man Distribution, distributing free magazines for 6-10 publishers. I worked six days a week, sometimes 12-19 hours a day, and had 8-15 I/C drivers. I knew moving to South Carolina, wages would be lower. I would need full-time and weekend work, which turned out to be Uber. I had no clue how good it would turn out.”
As I mentioned above, Jeff may be the top tip-receiving driver in the US on any metric one chooses to use. He is so proud of this that he has kept detailed monthly stats of his tips.
He does this to figure out his profitability, since he treats Uber driving as his small business but I think the amount of tips he receives from tourists and locals has become a substantial part of his weekly earnings.
Take a look at his monthly stats from 2022! Seriously! He gets tipped on 46% of his rides? I think my best ever week was 12%, and I was mighty proud. Jeff makes me and a majority of drivers in the US look like an amateur.
Jeff’s Philosophy in Accepting Every Request
There is one point where Jeff and I don’t see eye to eye: accepting every ride request. As the top cherry picker in my city of Los Angeles, I may have called Jeff an “ant” a few times. It is part of rideshare lingo I am used to; we are still trying to convince each other to walk to the dark side but I think we will ultimately decide to continue doing what we see fit for our personalities and the city we drive in.
Even with Uber introducing Upfront Fares and Upfront Destination, Jeff continues to accept 98% of the ride requests.
Every city is different, and I must respect each driver’s decision to do what is best for their situation. Jeff believes that it all evens out that the almighty Uber algorithm will be fair to him at the end of the day. He also hates the word “trip” – to him, there are no trips, they are all “rides”, there are no “passengers”, there are only “riders”. I don’t know about that, but if that will increase my tip percentage to 46% like Jeff’s, I will stop calling them pax.
Why does Jeff accept so many rides? In his words:
“When I drive, I have the following in mind:
1. Treat each rider as a friend
2. Give them the best ride they have ever had
3. Give the rider something extra that they don’t usually get
4. Treat them like I want to be treated
5. Have as much fun as possible while driving safely
6. If someone in the future asks them, what’s the best ride you ever had, I want them to think of their ride with me
I also realized that other drivers were not picking everyone up, and I have rescued many riders who were desperate to get a ride. I learned that they rely on us to help them in many situations. I’m not concerned about taking a couple of rides that may not be profitable, I’m picking up 22-25 rides a day, and I always get profitable rides each day.”
Jeff drives three straight days for 12-hour shifts. He starts early, finishing before dinner time.
He also can drive in two different markets, Myrtle Beach and Charleston. According to Jeff, driving for Uber is the most flexible and fun driving job he has ever had. He is not making tons of money but calls his earnings terrific, and he has improved his results year after year.
Takeaways for Drivers
Anything you do in life, do it with conviction and the belief that you will succeed. Looking at the negatives and complaining is easy, but Jeff is another shining example of what the gig economy is all about.
Can I do what Jeff does? Absolutely not, I don’t have his southern charm and his infectious smile. He has figured out how to be a successful driver in his own unique way in a tourist town. Uber should be grateful to have drivers like Jeff on the platform, if it was not for drivers like him, I would see many stranded riders.
Jeff is also a prolific writer in his own right, and one of his hobbies is writing about funny and thought-provoking experiences that took place in his car. I use some of his one-liners on SMTMC with his permission, but I would like all of you to visit his blog to read some of the stories he’s collected over his 9000-plus trips.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Jeff about the best parts of rideshare driving:
“The best thing about driving rideshare is that you can take it and inject it into your life. You have so much flexibility that you can make it fit you. The perfect way of doing this is the way you choose. For me, I love driving for Uber. They are not perfect, but it has been great for my wife and me, and that’s what I choose to do.”
What do you think of Jeff’s story?
-Sergio @ RSG