The Rideshare industry (just like any other industry) has both good and bad people. As we have mentioned before, the rideshare industry is plauged with what we like to call the “Airport Mafia”. These drivers cheat the queues, cherry pick riders, and when they are caught and their accounts are deactivated, they simply work under a friends account, or buy a new account from someone who sells them. There was one guy in Florida that did this, unsure if he still does, but if there is one, we can safely assume there are others.
When drivers cherry pick riders, this creates a negative user experience. One that can force the rider to seek a alternate mode of transportation/drive themselves to the airport. Cherry picking is when a driver either starts the app (without the rider, to see where it is going) , or like in most cases, they call the rider and ask where they are headed. If the ride is too short, or not in the direction they want to go, they either cancel on that rider, or force the rider to cancel
So why do they matter to me, a regular rideshare driver?
Sure, there will always be a crazy amount of drivers ahead of you in the queues, but the drivers who leave their phones in the queue, either in the ground, with one of their “friends” or wherever, they are effectively blocking the surge. How? The surge is based on supply and demand right? If there are more drivers in the queue, compared to riders, the surge will never turn on. Sure, surge comes on still, but it could be higher, and more often.
For it to mess with surge, wouldn’t that be a lot of phones laying around?
Yes! There are anywhere 100-150 phones that are left in the queue WITHOUT their owners being there. Think this is a crazy estimate? The airport TNC lot at IAH holds roughly 200 cars, according to Airport Operations. Through out the day, we can see 300 cars in the queue, and that is only on UberX. That is not including UberXL, UberBlack, etc. (Generally, the higher tiers see more of activity from the #airportmafia, these tiers have higher payouts, but generally double, triple the waiting time as a UberX, because there are less riders).
Have you ever waited at the airport and lost signal/lose your place in the queue?
There have been reports of drivers using “jammers” inside the lot. Without getting too much into it, these either weaken, or block the signal between the cell phone tower and your device. The reason why these work on other drivers and not themselves is that different phone companies use different bandwidths. Therefore, the person controlling the jammer can be on Verizon, but can jamming AT&T signals only.
If you think jamming is occurring, remember, most “civilian” jammers only have a range of up to 50 feet. (and that is a really good one.) If you travel to another side of the lot, and your signal gets better, then there is a jammer within a 50 ft radius of your previous location. Because the cell phone is bigger than what most jammers can jam, you won’t see someone leave the queue all of a sudden, but they will move up in queue by a few spots. Hobby airport is especially bad because it is so small. This is one of the reasons why Hobby’s queue moves extra slow compared to IAH.
Just FYI, jammers are HIGHLY illegal.
So why complain? Can’t you drive somewhere else?
Why yes I can. But why should I drive somewhere else? Airports (according to the S-1 filed by Uber with the SEC) are critical to achieving profitability, so much so it gets its own bolded text on page 38 of the S-1 filing:
“We generate a significant percentage of our Gross Bookings from trips in large metropolitan areas and trips to and from airports. If our operations in large metropolitan areas or ability to provide trips to and from airports are negatively affected, our financial results and future prospects would be adversely impacted. “
If you have ever been stuck doing $5-$10 rides (as all of us probably have) in the city, you will want longer rides. The airport, is still your best bet for a longer ride. Why should a group of drivers who collude together have a right to keep us honest drivers from making money at the airports, a place where Uber said is their best bet for profitability? If Uber is unable to profit off small rides in the city, how can drivers be profitable while absorbing the expenses of driving a vehicle for hire? Driving in the city can be just as good, sometimes better, but if you are a full time driver, or want a more consistent paycheck from Uber and Lyft, you will want to work the airports. You are always guaranteed a ride. With these cheaters colluding together at the airports, it extends the wait greatly. It is not fair to the honest driver.
Okay, it may not be fair, but life isn’t fair. Is it illegal or against policy?
Check this out:
While, this seems to be directed at drivers and riders connecting together for rides for promotional purposes, there are a couple of key principles we can take away from this. (It is harder to find material as it relates to cheaters at the airport, simply because Uber and Lyft do not lose money over drivers colluding and committing fraud at the airport. The rider still ends up getting picked up, therefore, they have no reason to actually do something about it. This can change if drivers complain enough.)
- Collusion is an agreement between two or more people to limit open competition by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others (in this case Uber) to obtain an objective forbidden by law typically by defrauding or gaining an unfair market advantage. Fraud is the deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain.
- Fraud is the deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain.
Does the #airportmafia meet the definition for Collusion? If you answered, yes, you are correct!
Reasoning: Sally offers to hold Johnnies phone that is logged into Lyft. Because of this, Johnnie is able to complete a Uber trip, and come back in time to do the Lyft trip that has been sitting in the lot for 1 hour with Sally. Did Johnnie gain an unfair market advantage? Yes he did. Did he do it with the help of another driver? Why yes he did. Sally and Johnnie meet the definition of Collusion, as defined by Uber.
Does the #airportmafia meet the definition of Fraud? Yes they do!
Reasoning: Because drivers who collude with one another by leaving phones with each other, on the ground, etc. They are able to reduce their wait times in the TNC lot by half! Imagine for a second if you could take double the amount of airport rides. By definition, they are committing fraud because they are able to make more money, by deliberately deceiving the apps (Uber and Lyft think they are at the TNC lot, when really they are not right?) and because of this deliberate deception, they are securing a unfair gain.
Legally, these drivers are colluding and committing fraud, which are both illegal in the United States. They can be arrested and thrown in jail for this,
Considering the average trip is $20 from IAH, it takes a while for it to get high, enough for it to warrant an actual investigation, especially since we will need to prove they defrauded other drivers out of x amount of money. This does not mean that we should give up. We can still put pressure on local law enforcement, the Houston Airport System, Uber, and Lyft to realy start coming down on these drivers hard.
Ok, I want change, but how can we change this?
Report, Report, Report.
Airport Ops – (option 5)
I can not stress this enough. If we become a nuisance to the Houston Airport System (Airport Ops specifically) Uber and Lyft, Local Law Enforcement (use non emergency lines ONLY), they will eventually get tired of us complaining and will end up doing sweeping changes.
I really feel there should be security in the lots, that will facilitate that drivers are not just thee to hang out, aka collecting phones. Anyone caught leaving a phone by said security should be banned for life from the airport.
With that said, there should be a time limit a car should be in the lot. If the security guard notices a car is there for 6 hours, it is obvious they are not there to take rides. The security guard should take note of their place in line in the app when they suspect something and should walk back and check on that car every so often until they get a ride.
If a driver does not accept a ride AND does not use the decline option to decline a ride, it is painfully obvious that driver is not by their phone. Uber and Lyft should log them out of the airport for the rest day when this happens, maybe give them a warning or two, and then ban them from the airport if that behavior continues. I sometimes skip rides, but I always use the decline option. Sometimes we do genuinely miss a ping, because we don’t hear it, fall asleep or whatever, but that is why I say Uber and Lyft should log that driver out for a certain time period, like the rest of the day. If the driver didn’t hear a ping because they were asleep, do we really want that driver taking riders?
It is going to take sometime but that is why we must report and complain. Just like the principles of fraud that Uber has defined, it is unfair to other drivers that there are groups of drivers essentially stealing money from the rest of us. It’s time we stand up for this change.