Uber is a mixed blessing. It provides quick, cheap rides from school to work, work to home, or your favorite bar to the house of that person you drunkenly messaged on Tinder Saturday night. While the battle between the taxi industry and app-based ride services remains muddled in terms of what's fair and ethical, one thing is extremely clear: Uber is sweeping the market with unimpeded ease.
With a greater demand for Uber rides has come a bigger opening for Uber drivers. Thanks to practically nonexistent background checks and flimsy regulation, everyone from your grandma to your pot dealer is driving Uber in his or her spare time. It's easy money, but that also comes at the risk of getting stuck with shitty passengers (even 4.7 passengers can be a 1 star sometimes) when drivers get bombarded by anonymous orders that pop up on his or her phone.
While the most lucrative times for an Uber driver are during hours where prices surge—such as rush hour or when there's a transportation disaster—the constant hotspot for ride requests is on the weekend, when we're all too drunk or disorganized to bother taking transit. To find out what it's like to be on the receiving end of the equation, we asked Uber drivers in Toronto about their worst customers.
You're an Uber Black driver. Do you get some pretty interesting clients?
You would think, yeah? But no. It's people with money to spend—not people with money. Sometimes kiddies get money from mommy and daddy and take [Uber Black] for their friends to party in. Some people just want a big ride to themselves. These aren't necessarily rich people.
But you must have some bougie clients.
[laughs] During the day, yes. People on Bay St. [in Toronto] don't like rolling out of their office meetings or whatever they're at in a poor man's sedan. Many times it's on the company's tab.
Tell me about your shittiest Uber customer.
Yesterday. Some guy had asked me that I drive him to a number of locations over a two hour period, which is fine, that's something I can do. But he assumed that when we stopped, I would just shut off my fare and wait for him. Like, a personal chauffeur paid by the hour. When I finally dropped him off, the bill hit his email and was something like $400 [$315 USD]. He absolutely lost it and wouldn't leave. He kept yelling, "Fix it! Fix it. I'm not paying this."
What'd you do?
I told him there was nothing I could do and that the app automatically accumulates fare based on distance, the surge he agreed to, and time spent. I also told him that I needed to get to another customer, but he wouldn't get out of the car. He told me to call my manager—like I fucking have one—and then he threatened to report me to the police. I just parked the car and asked him repeatedly to leave. He finally got out, but not before slamming my door and taking a video of me and my license plate.
Jesus Christ. Do you think it's worth the stress?
Well, I made a few hundred dollars off two hours of driving. I would say yes. I have anxiety meds for this sort of thing.
You're kind of old for an Uber driver, aren't you? Does that mean you've seen more shit?
Uh, yeah. I used to be a driver for [a popular Toronto cab company], and I am no idiot, so I went to Uber. I had really bad experiences as a taxi driver, not as much with Uber.
But you've had some, surely?
I've had fewer, but the worst ones? They are with Uber.
Is it the millennials? How do you feel about driving around drunk teens?
They are not always the worst. They are just loud. It can be hard to bear their yelling, and a lot of them want to talk to you the whole ride when they're drunk. Some can be very rude. I think many of them understand Uber more and treat [us] better than people around my age. I get dangerous, irate people on the weekends who are married [people]. They have jobs. They are not what you'd imagine them to be.
Tell me about your worst ride.
OK. I picked someone up from Pearson Airport who wanted to go back to Hamilton, so it was a long ride. This person, I don't know where they had come from or if they were new to [this country], but they didn't understand basic dignity at all. Within two, three minutes, they had taken their shoes off and their socks off and began talking on the phone very loudly. Their feet smelled horrible, and they were cursing very loudly. About halfway there, they asked me to pull over on the [highway], so they could urinate.
Did you do it?
No! I told them I would get a ticket and that I would bring them to a gas station, and then they started saying that because they had paid me, I should do whatever I told him to do. I brought him to the nearest gas station and told him to leave. He was angry, but he got out of the car, and I canceled the trip.
You don't take shit from anyone.
I am a peaceful person, but I was raised with respect for myself.
How much do you like driving Uber?
It's a mixed bag. I try to only drive during the morning when everyone's trying to get to work and the surge is high, and around rush hour when it's the same sort of deal, except people are trying to get home and don't want to talk to you.
So I'm assuming you aren't a fan of Friday night drunks?
It's where a large portion of the money's at, so I have to do it, but I hate it. Yeah, I don't like it, that's fair to say.
What's your worst Uber experience been like?
I actually got propositioned by one of my passengers for a threesome.
That doesn't sound horrible.
Well, it was, because they were basically finger-banging in the back of my car—two older women—and then they asked if I wanted to join, and the destination was so far, so I told them no, and I had to focus on the road, but I really just didn't want to at all. I kept asking them to stop, and they just kept giggling and doing whatever it was they were, y'know, going at it back there. I tried to ignore it, but they were full on moaning, so it was kind of uncomfortable. I was in an irritated mood; otherwise I might have found it kind of funny.
Did you get them to stop?
Nah dog, they were on it the whole ride. I was driving really fast on the highway and turned the music up, but I'm dead sure that just turned them on more. I dropped them off at their place, and they slipped me a number on a piece of rolling paper—very ratchet stuff. I'm from Scarborough, and I haven't seen freak shit like that in public. I think they stained my back seat, so I got it scrubbed.
You drive Uber in your mom's car. How does she feel about that?
It's extra cash! She never cares what I'm doing with the car, as long as I'm not drinking and driving or having sex in it, so it works out. I get really bored on the weekends or when I'm not at school. I'll probably be doing a lot more in the summer.
Do you enjoy it?
I take Uber pretty often, so I know what people, around our age and stuff, want out of a driver. You gotta have the AUX cable and good tunes, and be conversational. I like it because I get to meet a lot of cool people.
Have you had a bad Uber ride before?
I actually did just a few weeks ago when I picked up my ex from a restaurant where he had his date.
Yep. Yep. It was horrible. I really don't like this guy—we just left on a really bad note, worse than I usually leave with my exes. He got in and immediately started stuttering and looking at his phone. His date didn't know what was going on.
Did you confront him in front of his date?
Nope, but I love to torture people mentally, so I kept dropping subtle hints as I made conversation with them. Just little references to our past and really tried to poke fun at them being on a date in a non-aggressive way. When they got out, I got a text from him twenty minutes later. Like, a really long paragraph, and it was just all over the place. He was sorry but also angry, and then he said that we shouldn't talk until after his date was gone. Like, sorry bud. I didn't want to talk to you anyway.
What'd you do after you dropped him off?
I actually did a few hours more of driving to blow off steam. The nice thing is that I can decline rides when I want to, and there's nothing like flying down the highway with the Rolling Stones blasting to just let it go.
How long have you been driving Uber for?
Since I started my second year of university. About two years.
Why did you start driving Uber?
I'm a real jackass while driving because I just love going fast and listening to good music. I would rather be driving than going to a party or something—it's just [stress relief] for me, and I figured I should get paid for doing it.
What's the worst experience you've had driving Uber?
There was this guy who told me that he had to be at the train station [in downtown Toronto] in, like, thirty minutes, and we were way up north at fucking Finch Station, which is fine, because I drive fast and can get there, but it was getting to around midnight on a Friday, and that is an issue because that's when everybody's out and calling cabs. About halfway down Yonge St. [author's note: The highway was closed because of an accident], he tells me that he needs to pick somebody else up from [a bar]—but that I still need to get him there on time.
That sounds annoying. What happened?
OK but wait, that's not even the worst of it. So I pick up his friend—some girl, I think she must have been ten or twelve years younger than him, and he was, like, forty or some shit—and she gets in the car totally messed up. She was drunk enough that would normally make me cancel the ride, because chances are someone will throw up or die in your car, and I don't need that noise. So, whatever, I am driving them to Union [Station], I still have five minutes to spare, but out of nowhere, I get pulled over. Now I'm like, "What the fuck?" And the guy in the back is like, "What the fuck! I'm going to miss my train."
Why did the cop pull you over?
Just hold on because this is where I lost it. The cop comes up and says, "Are you an Uber?" and I don't know what to say because I know it's not technically legal, so I just say, "Uh, I don't know." The cop just tells me he doesn't care, but he wants my passengers to get out of the car and for me to shut the car off. I have no idea what's happening now, but I just go ahead and flip the car off. The guy in the back is now saying he "can't believe this," and I'm just thinking, Fuck this man to hell and back.
The cop wanted the passengers?
Yep, and right when that happened, the girl is getting out, and she throws up. All over my fucking door. It's leather interior, and it got in all the nooks of the door and stunk terribly, just awful. She must have ate and drank. Then the cop goes over and said, "Ma'am, we were told that you skipped out on a bill. Did you pay your tab?" She starts mumbling, and the cop could tell she's messed up, so they just detained her on the spot.
What happened to you and the other guy?
The cop told us we could go, but he was pissed because he missed his train and his friend—or girlfriend—got taken by the cops, so he just slammed my door and said he would walk. I got a one-star rating, which fucked me up, and I had to call Uber to fix it.
You still drive, though?
Definitely. The girl ended up having to pay for my cleaning.
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