Sunday, August 31, 2014

Taking a Lyft Zine and a Lyft to the San Francisco Zine Fest

Assembling Lyft zines for the San Francisco Zine Fest


Rush out the door in the morning for day one of the SF Zine Fest and the car won't start. Flashing lights on the dash, flickering needles, an ominous clicking sound... 

Since the car spent the previous afternoon on the fritz, we have a contingency plan. I grab the two boxes of zines and dump them into our large rolling suitcase. The Wife calls a Lyft. 

A few minutes later, a nice older gentleman in a minivan drives us to the Bart. He's a retired dispatch supervisor for the city of Oakland. Doesn't like driving in San Francisco. Says when he gets a fare across the bridge, he turns off his app and hightails it back to the East Bay. I tell him I do the opposite. It's not a long ride to the MacArthur station. With Lyft's recently implemented lower rates, the fare is a shameful $5. The Wife tips him another $5. 

After some difficulty getting through the turnstiles and almost taking the wrong train (I never use Bart and the Wife, who does, is still half asleep), we race under the Bay at warp speed. The doors are literally shaking. 

At 16th and Mission, the closest Bart station to the Inner Sunset, where the fest is being held, we request another Lyft. Our driver this time is a former cabbie. Says he loves working for Lyft, but gripes about the new low rates. I know, I tell him. I'm making about $200 less a week from a month ago. The Lyft guy who shuttled the Wife to my rescue when the car stopped working the day before in West Oakland had a long list of grievances and seemed absolutely grateful to have a opportunity to express them to another driver. Not to mention the chorus of complaints I read every day on the Facebook groups for drivers. Lyft and Uber drivers are in open revolt, pawns in the rideshare price wars... 

We talk about metaphysics and relationships for the rest of the trip. Pull up to the venue only ten minutes late. 

the Wife and our table mate Sarah Bitely

Set up next to our regular table mate, the lovely Sarah Bitely who does the comic Pimpkillah. While the girls catch up (it's officially been a year since we started tabling together), I make the rounds. Say hello to some folks. V. Vale. Joe Biel. Tomas Moniz. John Marr. Score a Flipside from '82 for a buck at a vintage zine booth. Head back to the table. 

As suspected, the Lyft zine is popular. The other two zines I just reprinted, the Cult of Teddy Ruxpin and The Murky Realm, are moving as well. And people like the SHUT UP AND PUBLISH stickers. I give away a bunch. The "disrupt the disruptors" stickers are almost gone. 

The fest ends sooner than expected. We say our goodbyes, eat burgers and walk out of the congestion along Irving as two Muni trains go by. We have to feed two cats in the Mission for a friend at Burning Man. Too exhausted to figure out how to use the Muni, we call a Lyft. The ride to the fest was only $11. 

Within two minutes, a young guy in an Altima picks us up. Drives us over the hill into the Mission. Only been doing Lyft a few weeks, but after telling him I drove too, he goes off about the low fares. All those $6 rides, of which we only get $4.80 after Lyft's cut. The ride this time is $12. I round up again and leave a nice comment when I rate him 5 stars. 

Hang out with the cats awhile, water some plants and make the long slog back to Oakland. Crash out. Still one more day of the fest. And plenty of Lyft zines to move.

My wares for the San Francisco Zine Fest


We stumble bleary-eyed and half-caffeinated into the sunshine at ten AM on Sunday for day two of the SF Zine Fest. Walk to the Bart and catch a Millbrae train right away. After the last Oakland stop, it rockets under the Bay. Google says the Bart can go up to 80 mph, but with all the shaking and the deafening hum, it feels like we're heading to the moon. 

We get off at 16th and Mission. Stroll up to Church to see where the J Line goes. Not Golden Gate Park. Call a Lyft. It's 25% Prime Time. We get an older guy. Says he just started driving for Lyft. Does it part time. Knows his way around without navigation though. Tells us he's lived in the Western Addition twenty years. A pleasant, friendly ride. We talk about the low rates. He asks if there's a difference with Uber. I tell him it's basically the same deal, price-wise, but there's no tipping and the passengers aren't as friendly. He likes Lyft. Says he prefers to talk. It makes the ride go faster. I agree. The three of us chat. Next thing I know, we're at the venue. 11:30. It took an hour and a half to get from Oakland to the Inner Sunset after a combination of walking, the Bart, a little more walking and a Lyft. Which was $11 with $2 extra for prime time. Wouldn't 25% be $2.75? I guess Lyft rounds down. I add four more dollars to the total. 

The fest starts off slow. And stays slow. Our table mate Sarah drops in for a little while, packs up and leaves to take a brief tour of the city before she heads back to LA. She doesn't miss much. On Saturday, I used my Square card reader at least ten times. Today, not once. Some cool trades though. I make the rounds again, talk to folks, sell a few Lyft zines and give away a bunch of stickers. 

Around 3:00 things pick up, but an hour later, the fest is over. We load up and say our goodbyes. Walk down Lincoln. I'm dragging the suitcase, leaden with unsold zines and books, wooden display boxes and a full bottle of wine. 

Six blocks later, I check the Lyft app. No drivers. We summon an Uber instead. Within 2 minutes, a former cabbie in a suit and cap pulls up and tries to load the suitcase for me. I protest. Heft it into his trunk myself. We get in the back. He suggests Oak Street and off we go. Traffic is bad, but he and the Wife are talking about his career as a cabbie and subsequent transition to Uber. He says he does UberBlack as well. Hence, the suit. Started with Uber when he was still driving a yellow cab and Uber just had UberBlack and UberTaxi. At first the cab companies didn't mind Uber, he says. They were getting more rides from the referrals. But after UberX was introduced, business went down. He switched over to rideshare and drives a taxi one day a week to keep his place on the cab medallion waiting list. He's also looking to get a TCP license. After that, he's legal no matter what. I tell him I've been noticing a lot of TCP cars around town. This is how Uber will win, he tells us. Regardless of what happens with ridesharing, they will always have the TCP drivers and the ability to lure cabbies away from the taxi companies with the promise of starting their own businesses. And he has a point. His car looks more like a cab than somebody's vehicle being used to ferry people around town as a side gig. There are credit card stickers on the window and a huge GPS system on his dash like you'd see in cabs. He seems happy, chatting away as he weaves in and out of traffic with a keen eye to the fluctuations in traffic. Like a pro. He is a much better driver than me. 

The Wife is looking at the map in the Uber app which shows our car moving through the city. She suggests we go to the Civic Center Bart instead of the one in the Mission. Our driver agrees. It's about the same distance by car but one stop less on the train. He takes Franklin to Grove. I tell him to just let us out a block away where it's safe to pull over and get the suitcase out of the trunk. 

We head to the station entrance. The escalator is not working. Lug the suitcase down the stairs as people scoot by on the left. A Pittsburgh train arrives as we reach the landing. The train is packed. With each stop downtown, more people pour in. The Giants game just let out. While we grasp the handrails and do the herky-jerky with our fellow passengers, the Wife completes the Uber transaction. Our ride was $11.34. The same rate as Lyft. I can't tip, she says. Then it hits me. Uber doesn't allow tipping through the app. You can't pay more even if you want to. But I have cash! It just totally escaped my mind. I feel like such a tool. After complaining bitterly in the past about not getting tipped as a driver, I do the same thing! Oh well. 

Our weekend of using rideshares is adding up. But it saves us from having to take the bus, which would increase the already long commute by an hour or so. And we get to meet some interesting people along the way. 

Like the guy on the Bart who calls himself Elvis. He's standing right next to us and, gesturing at our suitcase, says, I take it you're not coming back from the game. We tell him about the zine fest. He's curious. We explain zines and independent publishing. The Wife gives him a Lyft zine. Another guy behind me asks if I go to APE. I say I had in the past, but the APE is more for comics. All the while the conductor is yelling over the intercom, pissed about somebody jamming his doors. A few people wonder aloud if he's having a nervous breakdown. It's a relief to finally reach our stop and make the final slog home. That bottle of wine has our name on it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I'm an Uber 5 Percenter... Despite Trashing Uber Every Chance I Get

For the past few weeks I've been performing an experiment. When passengers ask me how I like driving for Uber or Lyft, I let them know how the companies really treat their "partners" and that the lowered prices impact our bottom line. They are always shocked. What did they think, that paying a pittance for the use of my car and time is a square deal in this grand sharing economy of ours? Uhm no. And I don't want your leftovers either. I want to able to buy my own food.

I wasn't sure how my honesty would affect my rating, but judging by the email below, I'm either getting 5 stars out of pity or I just happened to have dealt with a decent bunch of people this past week. Either way, the experiment will continue. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Get Kicked Out of A Lyft Driver Lounge: Write a Blog Post

For the uninitiated, or those just joining us, this is the timeline and the links to the blogposts that got my kicked out of the official Lyft Facebook group for drivers in San Francisco, the Pacific Driver Lounge. 

I started driving for Lyft in March of 2014. From the beginning, since I fancy myself a writer and publish the occasional book and/or zine, I planned to keep a “driver’s log” of my experiences as a Lyft driver. In July, I published a zine called Behind the Wheel. Some of the material I’d written for the zine didn’t make the cut. For whatever reason… perhaps it wasn’t good enough or maybe it was too technical… who knows. (Just don’t ask the Wife about it… she's a brutal critic.)

Anyway, for the hell of it, I posted several outtakes on my Medium page, including a very ad hominem take on the fanaticism of Lyft drivers:

A few weeks later, in a late night, pot- and alcohol-induced flurry of impulsivity, I posted a link to the piece on a Facebook group for rideshare drivers called Uber, SideCar, Lyft Drivers Community. Not expecting much but a few page views (who doesn’t love clicks), I woke up the next morning to a shit storm. Somebody from the community forum had posted it on the Pacific Driver lounge. Other drivers had reposted it on Lounges for their cities. I had over a thousand page views in a few hours and the clicks just kept on coming. Not only were Lyft drivers reposting the story, Uber drivers were propagating it as well. The response was overwhelming. Some people laughed, most people got upset, numerous people talked smack... people did all the things people do on the internet. It was hilarious that folks would get so upset over a half-baked rant written on my iPhone as I was passing out from a hard night of Lyfting in the city (and a few stupefacients when I got home).

Some of the comments were pretty funny so I collected a bunch and posted them on my blog:

Since it seemed germane to the group, I posted a link on the Uber, SideCar, Lyft Drivers Community forum. I tweeted a link to it as well. Which isn’t saying much. I only have 190 followers.

Shortly after that, Matt Jensen, a community outreach person for Lyft, or something called a "Lounge mentor" (if anybody can clarify his position, please leave a comment), tweeted at me asking for suggestions to improve the Lyft experience. I posted this constructive and very earnest -- at least in my mind -- response: 

After posting links, I was no longer able to access the Pacific Driver Lounge. 

Not that I was surprised. After all, I collected all the comments because I figured I'd be kicked out. I knew, from being a member of the Lounge that people got expelled from the Lounge all the time. And not just for getting in accidents, but for the silliest of offenses, like talking bad about Lyft.

C’est la vie. No more Honey Boo Boo for me.

About two weeks later, I found a personal message from Matt Jensen about being removed from the Lounge in my “other” inbox on Facebook. (Why do we need an “other” inbox anyway?) It was rife with paranoia, suggesting I shared “lounge details” with Uber. As if I had some connection to Uber, besides taking $500 from them for that one ride deal they offered back in May. 

Even though it was somewhat offensive that I never received an official email letting me know that I was banned from the Lounge, sending a Facebook message that he had to know would go to my “other” folder on Facebook since we weren’t friends seemed a little… unfriendly. Still, it was nice to get some communication about it. I took a screengrab and posted it on my blog:

So that about wraps it up.

Well, not exactly.

Recently, a lawyer contacted me about a case she was working on for another driver who was kicked out of the Lounge. Something about unlawful retaliation in the workplace or discrimination in the workplace… Wanted me to discuss my experience with Lyft and the Lounge… I wrote this blogpost instead.

I don’t know, man… lawsuits are a bit of a stretch. If you're able to sift through all this social media/blogpost nonsense, it’s obvious I was toying with Lyft. They made a play, I countered and they cried foul.


The Lyft folks are a bunch of big babies. Somebody needs to call them a wahbulance.

The only downside to all this tomfoolery is that I got kicked out of the Lounge. Which sucks. Not only is the Lounge a place for drivers to get information about changes to Lyft policies and the driving experience in San Francisco, it’s also extremely entertaining. Is there anything better than gawking at a collective lack of self-awareness?

Lyft, please let back into the Pacific Driver Lounge.

I miss my Honey Boo Boo!


Lyft Zine Distribution in San Francisco

Behind the Wheel: A Lyft Driver's Log is now available at Press, Adobe Bookshop and Alley Cat Books on 24th Street in the Mission and Bound Together in the Haight. 

Stock has been replenished at Dog Eared Books and Needles and Pens in the Mission as well City Lights in North Beach.

Copies will also be available at the San Francisco Zine Fest on Aug 30 and 31. I'll be at table 55.

Disrupt the Disruptors

It's a sticker.

My Official Removal from the Lyft Pacific Lounge Notice

I found this message from one of Lyft's "lounge mentors" Matt Jensen in my "other" folder in Facebook a few weeks after I'd noticed I could no longer access the Pacific Driver Lounge:
I guess they could have deactivated me, like they did with this driver from Chicago.

Read the full story behind how I was "removed" from the Pacific Driver Lounge here.


Ten Annoying Questions I Get Asked as a Lyft Driver - The Listicle

I made a listicle on Buzzfeed from an old blog post: the ten most annoying questions I get asked as Lyft driver in San Francisco.

I'm so 21st Century.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chasing the Surge; Or, Tip Your Uber Driver, You Cheap Bastards!

Most rideshare drivers chase the surge. There are Lyft and Uber driver groups on Facebook seemingly devoted to posting screengrabs of high-ticket fares during price surges. Drivers click “like” and make comments like, “Lucky you!” or “I wish I weren’t already in bed or I’d get in my car right now!”
I’ve always been ambivalent about Uber’s surge pricing and Lyft’s “prime time.” I get the concept of supply and demand, but I’d much rather let the passenger decide how much my service is worth with an actual tip.

Surge pricing forces generosity from people who would otherwise not give you a penny more than what is required. And since Uber discourages tipping, the only amount required is whatever comes up on the app. Surge pricing is the only time drivers get more than what the app determines. So it’s no wonder drivers revel in it and respond to high fares like they just won the lottery.

While Lyft at least has the option to tip in the app, Uber is sticking to the no-tip rule. They even discourage drivers from accepting cash tips when passengers offer them. There are even some drivers who follow that rule.

Regardless of what Travis Kalanick thinks is a better model for transportation, driving is a service-based task. Only assholes stiff service workers on tips.

So, you may be wondering, who cares if passengers have to pay more — or a LOT more — when demand is high? Doesn’t the extra money make up for all the times they didn’t have to pay extra for the luxury of being driven around town, oftentimes receiving water and snacks along the way?

Perhaps, but telling riders they don’t have to tip and then forcing them to tip when it’s busy is ass backwards.

Why did Uber take tipping out of the equation anyway? It’s not like we’re getting paid more than taxi drivers. You wouldn’t stiff a cabbie on a tip, so why do it to rideshare drivers?

The no-tip rule is an absurd aspect of Uber’s business model. It may seem like a good idea to the consumer during normal times, but when they’re looking at a $400 dollar fare, like the unfortunate festival-goers at Outside Lands this year, all of a sudden, tossing a few extra bucks to your driver doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.


Rideshare Chump

I’m idling in the bike lane on Valencia with my hazards flashing. For the past five minutes, I’ve been pulled to the right as far as I can so I’m not disrupting the flow of traffic anymore than I have to. I cringe each time a bicyclist has to swerve around my car. I watch a cab pull up to a couple. They climb in the back and the driver takes off. He glances in my direction as he passes me. He’s probably thinking, what a chump! And he’d be right. Rideshare drivers are total chumps! No self-respecting cabbie would wait longer than a few minutes to pick up a fare. If the passenger isn’t ready to go when they show up, fuck em! I’m inclined to split, but I’m giving Glen the benefit of the doubt. Cause I’m a chump. I just called him and he assured me that he’s on his way out. So I wait, like a chump, grateful I’m not in a worse position.

What’s wrong with this guy? I swear, some passengers can be real assholes. Not only do they request a ride and then make you wait, they don’t want to take more than a few steps to get in your car. So you have to make sure you get as close to their pinned location as possible while you block traffic waiting for them to mosey outside. Otherwise… otherwise, what? They rate you low. 

Uber passengers are definitely worse than their Lyft counterparts. Uber passengers make you flip a bitch to pick them up on the opposite side of the street. They send you into awkward driving situations without a single concern for what it’s like to drive a car in this city. And they make you wait. Its an epidemic.

Fuck you, Glen! You fucking scumbag dickhead cocksucking motherfucker!

Oh, is that him with the girl?

I look at them imploringly. Please be my passenger...

They walk past me.

Fuck! I fucking hate Glen! I wish I hadn’t called him and had just canceled. Now, because I’m such a chump, I keep waiting. Another Uber car pulls up behind me. Hey, fellow chump. I wonder how long you’ll have to wait.

Well, fuck! His passengers are ready to go. Lucky bastard.

Just as I’m about to hit “cancel-no show,” dickhead Glen shows up with his chick. They climb in the back.

“Sorry for the delay,” the girl says.

“No problem.”

As I take them downtown, listening to them discuss their lame-ass jobs, I hate myself just as much as I hate them for playing along with their self-entitled douchebaggery. 

I think this is the last time. From now on I won’t wait longer than two minutes. Three at the most. Maybe four, if it’s not a busy street.