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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Does Uber use algorithms to influence Partner Promotions and Incentives?

Last week, an Uber Partner earned the $100 Monday bonus. He completed 10 trips before midnight and exceeded 80+ trips for the week, locking him in to this $100 payout. The week before reaching this bonus, the Uber system appeared to connect this driver with tough trips and wasted time to slow down his progress. Last night, the Uber ride platform may have revealed its true colors.

The Uber driver went online at 8pm. He needed 10 trips, which should've been easy for him to reach. On the first trip at around 8:30 pm, a client requested a shorter trip and this took little time to complete. The next trip compromised this $100 Monday bonus.

A requesting client from a Berkeley restaurant didn't input her destination, which the driver later learned she required 3 SF stops and the final destination would end in the slowest part of San Francisco. This trip took a huge chunk of time to complete, making it extremely tough to reach 10 trips before midnight. An entire hour was lost completing this trip for only $20.

About 10 minutes before 10p.m., this Uber received his third request. It took 5 minutes to reach rider and another 3-5 minutes of waiting time to start trip. 2 hours remain to complete 10 trips. 2 trips completed and a third about to begin put this drive at risk of missing the $100 bonus.

The Uber driver started the third trip, taking 12 minutes to complete. This client was driven to the Outer Richmond, which was slow and it would take a few minutes after to make another ride connection.

It was the next trip that ate up valuable time. Ten past 10p.m, a request arrived to make a pickup near Geary Blvd. This driver reached rider in 4-5 minutes. He waited a few minutes. A 16 minute trip time convinced the driver it would be impossible to complete an additional 6 trips in the next 90 minutes, within San Francisco. UberPool requests were far and away, no connecting trips, and requests were going dormant at the worst possible time.

The Uber driver made a smart decision to leave San Francisco because the previous 2 trips predicted that additional rides like these, would eliminate him from contention. Two trips, no UberPool connections, took greater than 40 minutes of pickup, waiting and trip time. At this rate, going for this $100 incentive would be an utter failure.

Keep in mind, the two short San Francisco trips took an hour to complete. No UberPool connections to help with trips, putting the promotion that seemed probable out of reach. However, this Uber driver refused to throw-in the towel. He made a valid attempt to accomplish this Monday promotion.

With 90 minutes of time remaining, the Uber driver coasted back to Berkeley. He got hooked with rider #5 near the Bay coastline. This client gathered his fishing gear and took a quick 5-6 minute trip. After completing this trip, the next request would complicate the goal and put the promotion almost out of reach.

As usual, Bay Area riders can't rely on BART. No riders from Berkeley could enter San Francisco a quarter after 10pm. Rider #6 requested a trip to downtown San Francisco, a ride that took away time this Uber driver needed to reach the promotion. A second time, the driver was taken back into the slow San Francisco landscape that didn't deliver quick results.

Normally, San Francisco would connect UberPool riders and attract UberPool riders. Neither of these events happened on Monday night. This is where possible algorithms may come into play to cheat drivers. No filters to block out San Francisco rides; toll bridge fares increase operating cost.

The BART problem, a consistent theme for Bay Area riders, jeopardized this Uber driver's attempt at reaching his 10th trip before midnight.

Upon driving rider #6 into San Francisco to catch the Montgomery BART back to Daly City, the time required to reach 10 trips seemed impossible. Nevertheless, the Uber driver didn't give up. He had that "Never Say Die" attitude.

A SF rider requested a ride 10 minutes past 11pm. After 4 minutes, this client canceled the trip.

For the second time, this Uber driver faced another challenging decision that would make or break the $100 Monday promotion. Based on the cancellation, loss of time taking BART rider into city and 45 minutes to complete 4 trips, he drove back to the East Bay.

Rider #7 arrived at 11:30 p.m. This trip took only 4 minutes to complete. The riders didn't take long to enter vehicle and be on their way back home.

Rider #8 requested a ride from a local bar. With 15 minutes remaining to reach 10 riders, the client required a quick trip into Oakland that took 6 minutes, leaving the Monday night promotion within reach. This Uber driver needed an UberPool request to make the goal possible.

A random 9-10 minute pickup request arrived on the driver's phone. He decided to let this long request expire out since taking this UberX request would eliminate him. By the way, 9-10 minute pickups between all ride requests increase downtime and decrease earning potential.

With 7 minutes to go, finally an UberPool request arrived. This gave the Uber driver a shouting chance at reaching the 10 trip incentive before midnight.

But unfortunately, all this extra effort and never giving up didn't work out. At the busiest time of night and with 7 minutes remaining, the Uber driver never received a 10th rider. At 2.2X and no UberPool connections, this Uber driver got disqualified from completing 10 trips on Monday.

At the beginning of Monday night, the Uber driver shouldn't have had any challenges to reach 10 trips in 4 hours, especially on a fairly busy night following Easter Sunday. Nonetheless, poor ride matches, a long city request with 3 stops, BART issues, slow San Francisco ride requests and longer than expected trips there, the Uber driver was going up against a possible algorithm that would deny him a reachable bonus.

Under normal circumstances, this Uber driver would get connected with a second rider on UberPool. Three UberPool trips, two in Berkeley and one in San Francisco went without a ride connection. Rider #2 didn't input a destination, which she revealed would require 3 stops in San Francisco.

Therefore, the Uber driver was driving uphill to achieve the Monday bonus. This trip only counted as 1 trips, took 1 hour of time and eventually put the driver in an extremely slow area in the outer Sunset. Slow requests in San Francisco, long pickup times, and no UberPool match on UberPool trips didn't fair well for this Uber driver. Inability to filter out San Francisco trips, which rider #2 didn't input when requesting trip, cost this driver $100. BART's lack of action to repair lingering problems required this driver to take another trip into San Francisco.

Too much was wasted going into a city with no UberPool connections, slow demand and longer pickup times.

The Uber driver battled the perfect storm to put himself in reach of the Monday night $100 trip incentive of 10 trips before midnight. He accepted that coveted UberPool ride with 7 minutes remaining and this rider #9 could make the 10 trips possible. Usually, a connecting rider would link up and this promotion could be accomplished. This time around, UberPool didn't find a match for the third time within 4 hours on a Monday night.

As time expired, the Uber driver felt the Uber platform blocked him from reaching this promotion. He also missed the top promotion the night before by a few trips. Two nights in a row, a total of $250 was lost. On Sunday night, UberX hooked the driver with a 1-hour+ trip - in traffic - into San Francisco. With 7 hours of time to complete 18 trips, this driver didn't get a fair shot to succeed.

On Monday night, no UberPool connections, poor filtering, rider requesting multiple stops, slow San Francisco demand, longer than expected trips in city, BART issues, and lastly no UberPool connection within the last 7 minutes, this Uber driver got blocked from reaching the $100 Monday promotion.

What did this Uber driver learn from the past two nights of missing valuable trip incentives? Don't trust a system that is up against drivers. Complete trips early in the day and don't risk getting denied deserving results. Do what is expected and drive when it is busy. On Easter Sunday, this driver should have completed 8 additional trips before returning back to work again on Sunday night. Taking at least 1-3 trips after 4am Monday morning would have allowed the Uber driver to reach the 10 trips.

Respect this Uber driver for trying to reach the Monday night $100 trip incentive. He made quick decisions to position himself. With the last UberPool ride request reaching with 7 minutes to go and during higher demand, surge pricing probably played a role in delaying the final ride request (10th trip).

There were so many factors that made accomplishing this Monday night promotion impossible. The Uber driver never gave up, but the stormy conditions between constant BART malfunctions, lack of trip filters, rider requesting multiple stops to lengthen trips, not counting longer trips at higher trip multiples, surge pricing, no UberPool connections on any of the 3 UberPool trips, and other setbacks kept this driver from succeeding.

Two weeks ago, a 50 minute trip into the slowest city in Marin County eliminated this Uber driver from accomplishing the $100 Monday night promotion. He made certain to complete some trips the following Monday morning. Losing $150 from missing 120 trips early Monday morning and failing to get that UberPool connection last night with 7 minutes of time, caused two competitions to end without the maximum rewards.

What makes this situation interesting is that UberPool connections were made with ease, after midnight and well into the early morning hours. 7 trips were completed between midnight and 2am. For the night and in the morning, the Uber driver reached over 20 trips. This doesn't change the fact that most driver could face uphill challenges to complete promotions and maximize their earnings. It is no easy task to face an empire with little interest in paying out additional incentives.

Most people going after the American Dream don't reach their goals. People believe they have a fair chance, but the social and economic conditions will favor those who reach extremely deep to take major risks - the 80/20 rule. 80% of people stop trying at 20% stress level, whereas 20% of the population are willing to go beyond 80% of stress to achieve the best results.

This Uber driver made quick decisions, under time constraints, to accomplish a usually easy 10 trips. He gave himself 4 hours to reach 10 trips, but twice San Francisco blocked the final results. UberPool failed to deliver second ride connections. For reasons beyond the driver's control, no connecting riders were matched on 3 UberPool trips.

The 10th trip before midnight didn't arrive in time to validate the Monday night promotion. Wouldn't this short story show perseverance, persistence, patience and passion if the driver reached the 10th trip after making so many conscious decisions using statistics and economics to locate trips?

The Uber platform didn't experience any problems matching UberPool riders after midnight. Even a third connecting UberPool rider attempted to link up after leaving Oakland Airport. Unfortunately, the second rider had way too much luggage and bags that there was no way to pick up the third rider.

It seemed UberPool was on snooze mode before midnight. With the promotion in reach, the Uber driver failed to complete his goal. He won't let these two consecutive failed nights block his future driving.

Uber, count long trips at a higher trip value. Losing an hour to an unappealing East Bay to San Francisco trip kept this Uber driver from reaching their desired goal. If possible, allow drivers to filter out trips that send them into certain areas. They have no way of knowing where a trip will go.

We've heard of several 50-70 minute ride requests reaching drivers at busy times. A 3 minute downtown SF request (30 minute travel time) once reached an East Bay driver at the busiest time on a weekend evening. Poor pin drops, wrong addresses, clients making drivers wait, no-shows, driving long hours, and many other factors influence drivers from achieving promotions and incentives.

Are drivers really getting a fair chance to reach promotions and incentives?