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Tales From An Uber Driver: Why I'm Anonymous

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Lexus Driver (Photo by cotxe87.com via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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Starting next week I will be writing a regular column here on LAist about driving an Uber around L.A.

I will be using a pseudonym. Why? Because for all the good Uber has done for commuters, they tend to have a fair amount of disdain for their "partners."

There are countless accounts of the multi-billion dollar company deactivating drivers for a laundry list of reasons. Some of those reasons revolve around being critical of the transportation company in *gasp* public.

The irony is my feelings about Uber and Uber corporate are generally favorable. But because I now rely on the money that I earn from driving on the Uber platform, I wouldn't want to jeopardize that because someone at the company felt threatened by what I wrote or took something I said the wrong way.

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As with any company, there are policies and strategies that make the employees nervous. Even though Uber does its best not to call its drivers "employees" (so that it wouldn't have to provide unemployment, minimum wages, and other benefits non-independent contractors receive), we are employed at the company's mercy. The slightest infraction can get us kicked off the system. And unlike the typical employer-employee relationship, there is no HR department to appeal to, there is no boss to tell you what you did wrong, there is no way to appeal the decision.

I have been driving with Uber for two years now. The first year I drove under the popular UberX platform and I was overjoyed with the $20-$30/hr take-home pay and the vibrant interaction with my passengers. After the company hit drivers with a series of controversial rate cuts, I chose to trade in my vehicle for a Lexus so that I would qualify for the Uber Plus platform and drive passengers willing to pay about double the UberX rates for the pleasure of riding in style.

The demand for Uber Plus isn't what it once was for drivers because Uber has allowed, in my opinion, far too many drivers in L.A. on that platform, and the company refuses to advertise what Uber Plus is. But one of the invigorating elements of driving for Uber is learning the "hot spots" and times when more potential customers are demanding our services.

How do drivers learn these tips? Certainly not from their corporate partner. Uber seems to have no interest in helping its drivers cull data that the company has accumulated over the years. Therefore the only way to learn is first-hand or from other drivers (who are also their competition).

My purpose of writing about Uber on LAist isn't to bash the company. Sure, it's awkward that as Uber becomes bigger and bigger in their valuation, the take home pay of the actual drivers gets smaller and smaller, but that doesn't make for interesting blog posts.

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The readers of LAist would rightfully say "if you don't like it, quit. Welcome to capitalism. Stop whining."

But sometimes when talking about Uber it would be impossible not to touch on some of the curious actions of the company. And history has shown that any driver who criticizes Silicon Valley's darling "technology" company quickly becomes a former driver.

So, let me introduce myself. I am Lexus Jones.

If you have any questions for Lexus Jones to answer in an upcoming post just leave them in the comments or you can shoot an e-mail to us.