On a recent trip to Manhattan by way of Newark, I encountered a new cancellation scheme some Uber drivers are employing to preserve their rating at the disparagement of their riders.
It’s Tough To Get A Ride(share) at Newark
I flew into Newark, NJ on United this week ahead of an event and bypassed the train to take an Uber into the city. I had a work call and didn’t want to disturb others or manage switching trains on the phone with bags. Booking a professional driver and utilizing a car service made the most sense.
I was out on the curb, opened the Uber app, and typed in my drop off location, the Hyatt Grand Central Station, New York. I received a fare estimate and the Uber cost was in line with what I expected. I requested a ride, I tracked their arrival in real-time, and as the car approached on the app I spotted it further down the very full lane. As I confirmed the vehicle details matched my Uber trip I was disappointed for the first time of the morning; the driver cancelled. The second, an Uber black car driver followed the same process. The third arrived approximately 20 minutes after I first requested an Uber, and luckily, the only estimate change was in terms of arrival time and not cost.
Drivers Cancelling Rides Under New Reasons to Avoid Blowback
Drivers who cancel on riders can be penalized which is why most drivers ask a user to cancel a ride instead. Drivers cancelling has been an issue for different reasons, like this issue raised on ThePointsGuy whereby drivers would ask riders their destination to make their own price estimate and ask riders to cancel the ride awarding an automatically charged fee to the driver. Not all Uber drivers do this, I have met more great drivers than I can count.
But on my morning ride, both of the drivers cancelled and stated that I wasn’t wearing a mask. I got a notification about this in Uber. To be clear, not only was I wearing a mask outside as I was ready for my ride, but the drivers that cancelled were not even close enough to see my face. I only confirmed that the suspected cars were, in fact, my ride when they drove close enough for me to confirm their license plates.
I did not incur a booking fee for either of these cancellations, but that’s beside the point. The drivers were clearly shopping for better fares. By saying that they cancelled because I wasn’t wearing a mask (there’s no dispute to this that I am aware of, just a link to the CDC website) they were able to shop for more expensive rides without damaging their own rating or risking a rider reporting them cancelling due to destination. The 40-minute ride was slated for just less than $60 according to the Uber fare estimator at the time I called the ride so it wasn’t a case of a driver waiting an hour for me to request a five-minute ride.
Consequences For Riders?
There’s certainly an irritation for riders who wait for drivers just to have their trip further delayed. The question that remains is whether or not this will result in a further penalty. I suspect that it will not negatively impact riders as I had just two cancellations in a single market. However, I’ve known others who have been locked out entirely from Uber without any recourse at all.
Further, I was fortunate that the third driver was able to take me honestly to my destination but had the wait been longer I could have been subject to surge pricing not to mention the loss of time.
I understand that all (Uber X, Uber Black drivers, and even Lyft) drivers, are just trying to feed their families and it’s tough right now. Looking at the fare calculator, Uber added just $0.55 in a fuel surcharge when that wouldn’t account for the difference in a single gallon of gas over the two months. It’s also clear that Uber doesn’t give drivers enough options to cancel rides for legitimate reasons to make rides a worthwhile opportunity. That doesn’t make this ok and penalties to bad behaving drivers as well as unsuspecting riders should be made clear.
What do you think? Has an Uber driver cancelled your ride nefariously for mask compliance despite being compliant?