Uber finally throws dog owners a bone with a pet ride-hailing option in some cities
In my experience having a passenger bring a pet with them on a rideshare trip is very rare so I suspect the new Uber Pets policy will have little impact on me.
With almost 14,000 lifetime trips, 3 and a half years’ experience I’m guessing I’ve had pets (mostly dogs) in my vehicle a few dozen times… that would mean about 0.003% of my rides… so we’re not talking about something that happens often.
Service animals cannot legally be denied but I’ve never asked any passenger if their pet is a service animal… when people ask if their pet can ride I say sure.
I like dogs and since it rarely happens who cares? Not worth getting uptight about.
I keep a lint roller in the glovebox, if a pet gets some hair on the seats it’s easy to clean up and the roller only cost a few dollars.
Denver Takes New Uber Pets Program for a Walk
Denver is a test market for the all-new Uber pet-friendly policy.
From the news story reporting Uber’s announcement (the article referenced for this blog post):
“Uber Pet will be an option in the same place that UberX, Uber Pool, and other types of rides are listed on the app, and drivers can opt out if they don’t want four-legged passengers. If they do take dogs, drivers will get a portion of the pet surcharge.”
Frankly my first response after reading the article was thinking: “drivers will receive only a portion of the pet surcharge?”
If you follow my blog, you know I’m not one to whine about how Uber and Lyft choose to run their businesses… but my initial thoughts were:
“If the driver is the one allowing the pet… and cleaning up hair or anything else the pet does to mess up their vehicle… then why wouldn’t the driver receive most if not all of the surcharge?”
Seems like this could have be a great PR opportunity for Uber?
- Passengers say they want to bring their pets on some rides…
- Drivers always want to earn more income…
Uber could have announced they were adding the Uber Pet option because passengers were asking for it and Uber is passing all of the service fee to drivers as well as giving drivers the option to say yes or no to transporting people’s pets.
I think this was a huge missed opportunity for Uber… the potential additional revenue is probably small compared to the potential goodwill… I think Uber had the opportunity to show with actions they are committed to do “the right thing” for passengers and drivers?
Uber could use all of the positive press they can get?
Well I got over my initial response, got my “mind right”, and a few days later saw the notice from Uber in the driver’s application.
The notice from Uber did not say how much passengers would be charged or how much extra drivers would earn… okay not very helpful for my decision-making process.
The notice from Uber included this sentence:
“While driving with Uber Pet, you’ll receive all other trip requests.”
I thought this was an interesting sentence to include in the announcement.
Driver Matching Algorithm and Uber Pets Program
Uber hit on a concern I’ve had over the years about signing up for “extra” services… primarily Uber Eats and options to accommodate passengers by installing a ski rack or bike rack on my vehicle.
In these cases, I was concerned if the software algorithm knew I was (as example) willing to do an Uber Eats delivery would the software skip me over for a nice long trip to the airport?
If I have a bike rack would the software pass me over to insure there were bike rack vehicles available in case there were a passenger request?
I believe the fact that the Uber Pets notice specifically said
“While driving with Uber Pet, you’ll receive all other trip request”
is a good indication I’m not the only driver concerned that opting in for special services might have unexpected (and probably unintended consequences).
As drivers it’s important for us to remember that software not people are passing us trip requests and managing essentially everything about how we do our “jobs.”
Software is not perfect and tends to be buggy. Bug fixes are addressed in order of perceived importance.
Please hear me say I have no direct knowledge about the internal workings of Uber’s software algorithms or software development processes… I’m just sharing my logic-based thinking which is supported by decades of experience and background with computers; technology; and the inner workings of technology companies.
If there were a bug that had the unintended consequence of passing drivers over in case an Uber Pets request occurs… this is unlikely to be a high-priority bug in the bug fixing process?
Anyway… I’m thinking about this new Uber service… deciding if I’m going to opt-in or opt-out.
Do I Opt-In or Opt-Out?
While writing this blog (reading the Uber notice and referenced article) I realized that Uber Pets is a service where I have to communicate that I do not want to participate.
I might not have noticed had I not written this blog post… I assumed like Uber Eats and bike/ski racks I would have to communicate through the Uber driver application that I wanted to participate.
When Uber launched the Pets program in the Denver market, Uber added a driver’s application setting and the new setting was already turned on… drivers have to turn the Pets program off if they don’t want to participate.
Makes sense though, over the years Uber has probably learned that mostly part-time hours drivers aren’t watching/reading driver application communications closely… better to assume every driver wants to earn more income and won’t mind the occasional pet. If they launched the feature with the driver’s application setting turned off passengers might be requesting a service that most drivers didn’t understand they had to turn on.
What About the Occasional Inconsiderate Pet Owner?
Here is the thought process I went through to make my decision on Uber Pets.
- More money is always good, on the other hand in my experience passengers with pets are rare so probably not talking about a lot of extra income.
- I have some concern software algorithms might skip over me to keep an Uber Pets driver available in case there is a passenger request nearby.
- Then what I call the “1% Wildcard” occurred to me.
In life I’ve noticed that there are countless examples where 99% of people are governed (at least in part) by the behavior of 1% of people.
Most of the examples have to do with a very small percentage of human beings that just can’t seem to be respectful of other people and respectful of other people’s stuff.
I’ve had my “1% Wildcard” idea for decades… it has been solidified and given its official name due to my experienced as a rideshare driver.
Without question at least 99% of my passengers have been respectful of me and respectful of my stuff, my vehicle.
Also without question, there have been about 1% (probably less) who simply are not!
In my case this means 99% of my potential passengers will never get picked up by me after midnight because it is more likely to get part of the “1% Wildcard” passengers after midnight… and they will be greased up with alcohol and as result will be in as my father used to say: “Rare Form!”
So, applying this line of thought to the new Uber Pet option I decided I would not be opting in… at least not at this time. (Remember drivers, if you don’t want to accommodate the new Uber Pets service you need to opt out… find the setting in the driver application and turn it off.)
It’s unlikely I’ll be missing out on much extra income or missing out on “better” rides… because even with the new Uber pet policy passengers with pets will probably still be rare.
I’m saying “No” to Uber Pets because I think if I say “Yes” I am essentially telling the “1% Wildcard” passengers I’m cool with them bringing their pets in my car… no matter what.
No Dogs Allowed – Sorry, Uber Pets
The 99% are not going to expect a rideshare driver to transport their wet dog after playing at the dog park pond or stream that runs next to the hiking trail.
The 99% are not going to bring their pet’s muddy paws in my car tracking up my seats and carpets.
The 99% are not going to bring their dog who sheds like crazy; or jump around; or won’t follow the owners commands; or slobbers everywhere; or presses noses against the window; and on and on it goes.
So there you go… if you have a pet and are part of the 99%... I’m sorry but as in so many other areas of life a few people are probably always going to be messing up a good thing for the rest of us.
Service animals will always be welcome in my rideshare vehicle but I will be opting-out of the new Uber Pets program. I may lose a little income but I won’t be cleaning up after some inconsiderate pet owner.
Uber finally throws dog owners a bone with a pet ride-hailing option in some cities