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Transportation Businesses The Almighty Buck

When Their Shifts End, Uber Drivers Set Up Camp in Parking Lots Across the US ( 726

A feature report on Bloomberg today illustrates the lives of several Uber drivers, who find shelter in car parking at nights when it's too pricey and tiring to go home. An excerpt from the story: In Chicago, Walter Laquian Howard sleeps most nights at the "Uber Terminal." "I left my job thinking this would work, and it's getting harder and harder," Howard said. "They have to understand that some of us have decided to make this a full-time career." Howard has been parking and sleeping at the 7-Eleven four to five nights a week since March 2015, when he began leasing a car from Uber and needed to work more hours to make his minimum payments. Now that it's gotten cold, he wakes up every three hours to turn on the heater. He's rarely alone. Most nights, two to three other ride-hailing drivers sleep in cars parked next to his. It's safe, he said, and the employees let the drivers use the restroom. Howard has gotten to know the convenience store's staff -- Daddy-O and Uncle Mike -- over the past two years while driving for this global ride-hailing gargantuan, valued at $69 billion. "These guys have become my extended family," said Howard, 53. "It's my second home. We have this joke that I'm the resident. I keep asking them: 'Hey, did my mail come in yet?'"
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When Their Shifts End, Uber Drivers Set Up Camp in Parking Lots Across the US

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  • America! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:02PM (#53721757)

    America! Fuck yeah!

  • by Provocateur ( 133110 ) <> on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:07PM (#53721791) Homepage

    Sleep at night?

    Safe? If I did not put on this costume, after my Uber shift ends, and devote my nighttime hours to fighting crime, there would be no place to stop for them; no place to sleep.

    Rest easy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, it's almost like they encourage people to do this job full time. These people used to be called taxi drivers before marketing got hold of it.

  • by rnmartinez ( 968929 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:12PM (#53721823)
    They all seem grateful for the work and only work as much as they want. Also a taxi license plate sells for $125k in my Soviet Canadian city - Uber is a great deal for those needing a bit extra here. I would seriously consider it if I got sick of my business.
    • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:47PM (#53722187)

      They all seem grateful for the work

      Well, not starving is high on people's lists. The fact that they are grateful for the work cuts against the 'they don't need the money' argument you're about to make.

      But yes, children in sweatshops were also grateful for the work.

      >Only work as much as they want

      Which may include over 40 hours a week. After all, most people convince themselves they want to do something if they are forced into the situation. And people tend to want to work over starve.

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:13PM (#53721831)
    put them all out of work, taxis too & city buses, maybe even trucking industry and railroad too
  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:13PM (#53721837)

    Interesting article, it pretty much explains why regular taxi service employees are so against Uber. When you have a competitor that undercuts the service so much that you need to live out of your car in a parking lot, it's somewhat hard to make a living from it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:33PM (#53722031)

      And makes you realize that the economics of Uber are not understood by the "contractors". They compare something like "$20/hr" from Uber to $15 an hour somewhere else and think Uber is better without realizing their effective wage may even be less than $0 from Uber after taxes. It also makes you realize how we ought to prioritize protecting people like Uber drivers rather than worrying about increasing minimum wages. Uber has destroyed many people's lives, generally to the benefit of the upper middle class and the wealthy having lower taxi fares.

      I am a conservative but until we add financial literacy to the high school curriculum we need to protect the idiots that fall for these scams where you bring in the depreciating capital equipment to bear for another company. Uber is essentially a modern day Ponzi scheme. The only difference is you are not giving Uber cold hard cash - you are amortizing your capital investment in a car for their and their customers benefit.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:14PM (#53721841)

    leasing a car from Uber sounds like the company store days of the past where they lock you into the job and when the work slows down / something bad happens your on the hook to make the company full and you are not even an W2 worker.

  • Basic income (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djinn6 ( 1868030 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:16PM (#53721855)
    This is why we need basic income. Nobody should have to live like that, especially people who are motivated and actively looking for more work.

    As a society, we have 3 options:
    1. 1. Ignore the problem as more and more people end up jobless, homeless, in the hospital or worse.
    2. 2. Impose minimum wage regulation, which doesn't fix the problem and makes the jobs disappear instead.
    3. 3. Give everyone what they need to live.

    Now which one is it going to be?

    • Re:Basic income (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:21PM (#53721905)

      This is why we need basic income. Nobody should have to live like that, especially people who are motivated and actively looking for more work.

      He chose to quit the job he was currently in and drive for Uber instead. His biggest mistake is leasing a car from Uber. To be fair, Uber is in trouble currently for not meeting the advertised terms and conditions of the leases and it could be argued he was misled into believing he could easily pay off the lease at the rate they promised. However, you really shouldn't be driving for Uber unless you have your own car. And if he had his own car, he would have been better off keeping his original job and using Uber as a side job for extra cash. Of course, Uber nothing more than an illegal cab company exploiting poorer or disadvantaged people as a cheap labor force and skimming everything they can off the top.

      • Re:Basic income (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:40PM (#53722089)

        How does basic income solve any problems long term? Won`t all prices just simply adjust due to market forces and we are back to square 1?

        Example: Rent in a rich nice area of town is $2000/month. Right now only lawers and doctors can afford that.

        Universal income comes in and gives everybody $5000/month. Now pretty much everybody can afford those apartments. There is an increase in demand but no increase in supply. So the monthly rent jumps from $2000 to $7000/month. Poor people can once again not afford those apartments.

        • Re:Basic income (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Paco103 ( 758133 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:16PM (#53722429)

          It's pretty simple. You can't make the UBI be comfortable for the 99%. It should be "enough to survive", not $5000/month. Switzerland tried that with a $75K year minimum and it was shot down at the polls in overwhelming numbers. That is way too much money, and the fact that until you find a job that exceeds that you get no benefit means very few people would have incentive to work. Even if I do make more than that, why would I work 40 hour weeks for 48+ weeks a year for a mere few thousand dollars extra? I sure wouldn't.

          But let's adjust that, lets give everyone the poverty level. Sure, maybe you can afford rent in a studio, or have a room mate. Maybe you can eat cheap, but you can't buy anything of luxury. Yeah, some people will take that one bedroom studio, ramen, and a bag of pot and an World of Warcraft subscription. Fine, they're out of the way and not committing crime, they weren't motivated to start with and arguably provide little value to society, and now they're out of the way and not resorting to crime for 'easy money'.

          But single mom Jane can now afford to go to school and just work part time. Poor orphan kid can go to school when he turns 18, instead of just being dumped on the streets to figure out life on his own because he aged out of the social care for children. Abused uber driver can afford to quit and get a better job. Incredibly smart but poor entreprenuer can afford to take time to build out his idea and make a million dollar business. Yes, these are all hypotheticals, but Finland is testing that right now. (

          The thing is, a family father trying to provide for his family needs to see benefit from going to work as a janitor. Not everyone can be an engineer, and lets face it at some point even that job will be replaced by automation. Now he gets that UBI, but when he goes to work he still makes his family's life better. Sure, maybe he's taxed at 50%, but he still benefits, so he does a job that nobody else wants to do.

          Let's face it, all minimum wage is is a UBI that is only applied to people lucky enough to get jobs, and it encourages companies to not offer some jobs in the first place, or try to automate them away as fast as possible. And then by requiring benefits ONLY to people working over so many hours just ensures they don't let people work over that many hours, and hire 2 people instead of 1. Is it bad to spread the wealth over 2 people instead of 1? Probably not, for the executives of the world. 10 people making $100K is arguably much better than 1 person making $1 million and 9 people starving.

          In order to get to a UBI, the first thing we have to accept is that UBI doesn't mean you get everything taken care of. It means you can survive while you try to better yourself, or you can stay out of the way. We already do this with various food stamp, rent assistance, child care credits, and scholarships, but the problem is the beurocratic overhead, stigma, and it's hard to get everything to line up to where you can actually get out of the dependency loop. Yes people do it, but can we make things better? UBI might be a bad answer. Finland will tell us soon. Right now we're stuck in a loop of doing things the way we do them because that's the way we've always done them, and that may not be the right mindset.

          • by Falos ( 2905315 )
            UBI tests so far have found that most people working kept working, and the "indulging" was families being social, spouses becoming housewives/spouses, one parent at home with kids, ect. These aren't conclusive signs of long-term UBIs, of course.

            I do actually anticipate rising costs alongside any UBI. Pretty much every job out there is an upwards cash vector, pretty much all your money goes back to the 1%, not your fellow John Does. Bills, car, mortage, insurance, services - how much goes to your neighbor
          • Re:Basic income (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @05:48PM (#53723893) Homepage Journal

            the fact that until you find a job that exceeds that you get no benefit

            This is not true, or shouldn't be and doesn't need to be true.

            Let's say we set the basic income to 50% the mean wage (which would be about $25k/year basic income, or a little over $2k/mo), and fund it by a 50% tax on all incomes (which is more than offset by the basic income for about 75% of the populace who currently fall below that mean income). A homeless with no income thus suddenly has a free income of about $2k/mo. But every nominal dollar they earn on top of that, they still get to keep 50 cents of it. If they get a full time minimum wage job, that amounts to over $600/mo extra. If they get a full time median-wage job (around $25k), that amounts to around $1000/mo extra. On top of the basic income. By the time they're working a full-time mean-wage job (around $50k), they're making twice as much as the basic income, after basic income and the taxes they pay to fund it are factored in (and the basic income and the taxes they pay to fund it exactly cancel out in that case). And even at that point, there is still motive to continue working; if they make twice that again, they're still going to end up with yet another extra $1000/mo or so (compared to the mean income) after taxes and basic income are accounted for.

            If you were to make the basic income something more like $1000/mo, which is barely enough to survive off of in many places (that's slightly more than what my destitute mother's SSI pays), or about 25% the mean income (or half the median income), and fund that with a 25% additional income tax, then instead people would be able to keep 75 cents out of every dollar they earn, on top of their basic income.

            In any case, you'd have to set the basic income up in some kind of pants-on-head retarded way (like the way current welfare payments like SSI are set up) in order for it to not pay off to work unless you can get a job paying more than the basic income pays. Any sane way of doing it would provide incentive to work more at any income level. Yes, even the people making a millions per year: if the choice is between doing something that beings in another million of which you get to keep half or three-quarters or whatever, or not doing that and getting nothing at all, which do you think people are going to choose?

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Pretty sure some combination of 1 and 2 until it gets so bad everyone can see we need to do 3. Given how things are going with climate change, I fear that it will be cities on fire bad before we make that change.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      4. Head in sand.

      5. Build a wall.

      6. Start a war.

      7. ???

      8. Profit!

    • He quit his day job to work for Uber. Basic income won't do a damn thing to prevent people from making stupid decisions. If anything, it will reward stupid decisions because failure effectively has no consequence.

      • Re: Basic income (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:08PM (#53722367) Journal

        With a basic income, the consequence of failure will no longer be debt and homelessness, but there will always be an economic incentive to succeed.

        And you're correct that a basic income will reward stupid decisions, which means it will also eliminate a big part of the risk of starting a new business, and that would be a very good thing for the economy.

      • Re: Basic income (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:22PM (#53722485)
        You're assuming that his day job was a better alternative and that he was foolish to give it up. That's a pretty big assumption.

        And no, Basic Income won't stop people from making bad decisions about their work, but that was never the point. With a Basic Income, he could be a complete idiot who vastly undervalues his own labor and works for $1 an hour, and still not have to worry that he'll starve. It's not about protecting you from yourself, it's about ensuring that you can survive even if you are unable to negotiate sufficient payment for your time/labor to do so.
        You could argue that someone might still be an idiot and blow their Basic Income on strippers and drugs/booze, and then starve because they didn't have any money left for food, but there is NOTHING short of 100% state control that completely protect someone from their own idiocy.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:17PM (#53721863)

    Hours-of-Service Safety Regulations uber does not give a dam about them but what will happen when an uber driver falls asleep at the wheel and does big damage?

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:08PM (#53722353)

      Hours-of-Service Safety Regulations uber does not give a dam about them but what will happen when an uber driver falls asleep at the wheel and does big damage?

      Nothing will happen. Mr Driver will be held responsible just like any Joe Sixpack that fell asleep behind the wheel. If he says anything about being an Uber driver:
      1) Uber will bring up their "independent contractor" (not our employee/liability) business plan.
      2) His insurance will bring up their "you're not covered under your personal policy if you're acting as a ride sharing/taxi-for-hire service" clause... and more of them have this nowadays.

      The loser will be victims in the accident.

  • London Too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:17PM (#53721867)

    I live in central London and we have a similar situation with food delivery bike riders. A couple have a very organised camp setup at a local church park. Another sleeps every morning at my wife's gym (where I presume he has discovered a membership is far cheaper than rent). I don't think I've ever seen a situation where there were so may people working yet homeless. There was a story in the paper recently about a guy who got a job at a pub that opened till 3am, and would then wonder around until one of the train stations opened at 5am so he could go in and sleep.

    I just cannot see how this situation can continue. I don't think I could personally stand visiting the big empty homes of rich people to deliver them overpriced takeaways every night, while knowing that I'll never be able to buy a home of my own anywhere on the wages I'm earning. At some point surely these people will realise they outnumber the rich they are delivering meals for, and something is going to happen?

    • Sure it can (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:55PM (#53722269)
      look at India, South America and large parts of China. And that's just the places we pay attention to. This is nothing new and nothing surprising. For most of the world's 6 billion inhabitants this is they way things are and always have been. The best thing you can do it get over the surprise that it's like this while keeping that feeling of disgust. Don't let the fact that these situations are so far outside the norm for you let you turn away from the truth in disbelief. It's like that old quote: The greatest trick the devil ever did was convincing the world he didn't exists.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:19PM (#53721883) Homepage
    marketing: our billion dollar business idea is to empower the gig economy with a system that frees them from the shackles of the traditional labour paradigm by allowing drivers to work their own hours on their own terms. the government hates us because we're revolutionary disruptors of traditional capitalism
    Reality: live out of a parking lot, subsist on slurpees and hotdogs, work more hours than you ever imagined, get sick, die somewhere conveniently outside any media scrutiny of your mean, app.
    • by e r ( 2847683 )
      Yes, freedom means that you can make un-worthwhile, or unwise, or even outright stupid decisions with your life.
      Part of being an adult is recognizing that and behaving appropriately.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:23PM (#53721933)
    I'm always amazed when I hear stuff like this. People really believe that other people will treat them right when a) it's not in their interests and b) they're not being forced.

    When I tell people I'm a socialist one of the responses is: "Well, are you gonna force people?". Yes. Yes I am. This is civilization. You don't get to say 'no' to civilization. Just like you don't get to say no to the polio vaccine. That's because your actions do not happen in a vacuum. They don't just hurt you, they hurt me too.

    So yeah, I'm gonna force Uber to pay a living wage or go out of business. I'm gonna force everyone to give everyone else health care (aka "single payer"). Because that's civilization. We're all humans. We're all valuable. Yes, everybody gets an ever-loving Gold Star. We all earned the right to a good life simply by being born human.
    • by anegg ( 1390659 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:43PM (#53722133)

      How will you decide what to force people to do? The economy is a very complex ecosystem. The risk of unintended consequences are high when tinkering with complex systems. I'm amazed when people who force a corporation to do something get upset when the corporation adapts to what they were forced to do in a manner apparently not envisioned by those forcing actions on the corporation. For example, forcing a corporation to pay more taxes, then being surprised when the corporation passes on the cost to customers.

      I thought that the "grand experiment" in centrally-planned economies showed that central planning not only couldn't outcompete economies with distributed planning, but that centrally-planned economies couldn't even provide a reasonable living environment for the citizens. If you are going to force people to do things the way that you think they should be done, I hope you have a very good way to understand the consequences of what you are forcing on people.

      I can't tell if you are trolling or not... is that a I here?

  • Well, there's great news for this guy. In a few years, autonomous cars will eliminate the need for drivers, and this guy won't have a car to sleep in, or an income at all. The moral to this story is if you want to make a good living, get a marketable skill that takes some skill to develop and is in demand. Since virtually every adult in the US can drive, driving services were never going to be a cash cow. Machinist, electrician, elevator repair, commercial equipment service and repair, etc. are the way

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:34PM (#53722039)

    I hear so many people saying what a wonderful thing the gig economy is -- how much freedom they have, how much they love not working a traditional job, etc. All of that may be true, but just wait until all the traditional jobs go away and most people are forced into squeezing out a tiny living doing things like driving for Uber. I highly doubt everyone would be super-happy at that point.

    The relative economic stability of the last century was driven by consumers consuming, buying stuff, paying taxes, etc. and that was driven by those consumers having a stable paycheck or other source of income to fall back on. When that gets kicked away in the name of disruption, society needs to have a better answer than "oh, we'll figure something out later." I've been lucky to have stable work, but I know that I cut back on spending when I think something might be afoot at work. I can't imagine never knowing whether I'm going to have a good or bad week coming up.

      I think a lot of the gig economy cheerleaders are mistakenly thinking that Uber drivers are in the same league as, say, a flavor-of-the-moment software or IT contractor making $200+ an hour. I know a lot of people like this, who do nothing but travel around the country and get paid obscene amounts of money to implement the new hotness at random businesses. It's not super-stable, but they make enough to survive bad times. Uber drivers are barely breaking even, especially if they're financing their own vehicle purchases, etc. Like them or not, their business model is exploitative at best. Driving a cab is often the last resort job for people.

  • Not sure why uber drivers stay in these abusive relationships. Use a more decentralized app like Cell 411's free and you keep 100% of your fares: []

  • by jeffreyxcav ( 451116 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:44PM (#53722147) Homepage

    I use Uber several times a month. I love the service, and I believe that some of the improvements in Uber over Taxis are due to technology and innovation rather than just taking advantage of employees. Especially in smaller cities like mine, where critical mass for traditional taxi service is not there, but being able to track and summon Ubers works pretty well.

    That being said, I have noticed that drivers are getting less happy. One problem I see is that people underestimate the wear and tear on their car. This is a real expense - more frequent oil changes, tires, etc.

    The other problem is I've noticed less surge pricing. Uber has recruited drivers so aggressively they have effectively gotten the price down. If you think about it, Uber's model is great, because they raise the price until someone picks you up. This ensures you get a ride home. However, their base prices are probably unrealistically low, so if they can flood the market with drivers, they are basically getting them cheap.

    Now they will churn through drivers doing this, but I wonder if Uber thinks there are enough drivers out there to churn through to tide them over until they have fully self-driving cars?

    In such a wold of automation, you need to wonder about basic income.

  • GigEconomyScam (Score:5, Informative)

    by sdinfoserv ( 1793266 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:45PM (#53722153) Homepage
    This just so exemplifies the scam aka – Gig Economy.
    Looking at his numbers
    Let say he makes $300/day, that’s $230 after gas and a couple of 711 munchies.
    Well, since he’s self employed, he pays full SS & Medicare tas of 13.85% - which goes against GROSS receipts of $300 = $41.55
    Secondly, reading through most Uber forms, people who work 55+ hours per week drive © 300 miles a day. A DAY!. The Federal allowance for vehicle maintenance is $.54 / mile. At 300 miles = $162.
    The reality is he will have to change his tires, breaks, engine oil, much more often, and that costs Probably not far from the fed estimates.
    So, take is net after gas, subtract $41.55 in SS/MC taxes, subtract $162 in maintenance leaves $96.45, which he as to pay Federal Income Tax of 10%.. or $9.65..

    This leaves him with a NET of $86.81, for a 10 hour shift – or $8.91 with zero benefits.
    You’re WAY better off flipping burgers.
    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      You forgot that he's leasing the car from Uber, so there's also a monthly cost to that. He's probably making under $8/hr with that factored in, and in a large city (the only place where Uber is really viable as a full-time job) that's basically nothing.
    • he pays full SS & Medicare tax of 13.85% - which goes against GROSS receipts

      You must be mistaken, hardly anyone makes profits in the double digits of percentages. Most business men make like 1-2% profits. If you calculated tax on gross, no businesses would survive.

  • And that's why I always tip my Uber and Lyft drivers. They aren't making as much as you think, and most people aren't doing it as their first choice of employment.

    OTOH, if I were unemployed and since I have a decent car, I'd probably start driving for Uber or Lyft immediately while I looked for another 'real' job.

    - Necron69

  • "Howard has been parking and sleeping at the 7-Eleven four to five nights a week since March 2015, when he began leasing a car from Uber and needed to work more hours to make his minimum payments."

    So you basically sold yourself into slavery just to skip taxi driver laws?

  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:07PM (#53722347)

    A few years ago, a friend of mine who had been working in a full-time job in the hospitality industry, had signed up to be an Uber driver during his spare time. He claimed to be making an extra thousand dollars a month or so, which he used to finance a used vehicle.

    I probed for more details. "What about insurance," I asked. "Have you accounted for wear and tear on the vehicle due to increased mileage? Is this a sustainable income model? What if the pool of drivers increases and you face increased competition for fares?" He was completely nonchalant: at the time, Uber was still growing, there weren't as many drivers as there are now, and since he was still receiving a salary, he had no concerns for wage instability.

    Months later, he mentioned that he quit his full time job because he could make more money driving for Uber, and it was lower stress. He seemed happy. Well, we know how that turned out. He ended up essentially destitute, unable to afford food and rent; unable to fix his car when the inevitable breakdown occurred and would cost thousands to repair; and still had payments to make on the loan.

    I'm not saying that these kinds of jobs cannot be sustainable as full-time employment, but it is a great deal more difficult to make it viable than the vast, vast majority of people enticed into the idea are led to believe. The fact that these companies make it sound like it's easy (for obvious reasons) is the modern-day equivalent of selling Amway.

  • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @04:09PM (#53723003)

    He likes driving, but, he said, “They need to stop lowering their rates.”

    They won't until people like you stop driving. If you are willing to drive at X rate, then they lower it to Y rate and you are STILL willing to drive for them, they have zero incentive to go back to X rate. In fact, next stop will be an even lower Z rate.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.