What Internet Era Luddites Actually Look Like

You can find them at D.C.’s* National Airport (boldface mine):

Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available—creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.

It’s happening in the Uber and Lyft parking lot outside Reagan National airport. The lot fills with 120 to 150 drivers sometimes for hours, waiting for the busy evening rush. And nearly all the drivers have one complaint:

Uber doesn’t pay us enough, what the company is doing is defrauding all these people by taking 35-40 percent,” one driver told ABC 7.

“They are taking all this money because there’s no system of accountability,” another unidentified driver said.

ABC7’s Sam Sweeney asks: “Do all you guys agree with that?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!,” the driver says.

Drivers say after three years of pay cuts, they now have to fight back. By turning off their apps at certain times, drivers are able to artificially manipulate the Uber and Lyft apps into higher fares.

“All the airplanes we know when they land. So five minutes before, we turn all our apps off all of us at the same time. All of us we turn our apps off. They surge, $10, $12, sometimes $19. Then we turn our app on. Everyone will get the surge,” one driver says.

This driver explains how they organize it.

“Someone is standing by that corner. I stand by this corner and the other one stands at this corner and we say turn the app off and then go online.”…


“You gotta wait, you gotta wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait.”

A man running the operation , alerts drivers that the time to shutdown is just around the corner. Using another app, he knows the precise moment to have everyone power down, ensuring the largest surge.

“Hey! We gotta wait, we gotta wait.”

“Alright—go off go off. Go, go, go, go, go, go.”

“10-12 10 -12.”

The surge rises to $12 within seconds. The organizer watches his phone closely.

“It’s still going up. It’s still going up.”

“It’s 13 still going up, it’s still going up. It’s 13. Don’t go on yet! You up?? Refresh it!”

In less than 2 minutes it’s over. Passengers now pay an additional $13 on their fares.

“When we find out what the highest surge is, that’s when we say everybody on. And that’s when everybody gets paid what we think we should be getting paid,” the man who ran the operation says.

“And does everyone oblige? Does everyone do it?, Sweeney asks.

“Yes 100 percent. Everyone do it. Everyone knows it’s not worth it. They know if they take a ride from here without surge, without pumping the surge up, it’s not worth it.”

In less than a minute, about 50 drivers are locked into the surge.

It’s like we work as a family, like a team together. Like as a team. We do it. Every night. We do it again. We drop off, come back again, it’s a routine. We do it to 12 o’ clock.”

These drivers tell ABC 7 they do have a sense of guilt. They say they don’t want to do this, but because Uber and Lyft keep reducing their pay, they tell us they have no choice. They can’t afford to pickup people at Reagan for $4 in rush hour traffic.

They shouldn’t feel any guilt, since the ‘ride-sharing’ services are exploiting them. Of course, there will be some Red Queen action, with the programmers at Uber and Lyft altering the algorithm, followed by the taxi drivers (let’s just be honest, that’s what they are–no shame in that either) coming up with a new trick, and so on.

Good for them.

*The airport is in Arlington, VA, across the river, but if I said Arlington’s National Airport, no one would have any idea what I’m talking about.

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4 Responses to What Internet Era Luddites Actually Look Like

  1. Pat says:

    It’s like they’re unionizing for better pay! In a spontaneous, organic kind of way.

  2. sglover says:

    Direct worker action at its finest! Inevitably some libertarians are going to whine about cartels, when the *real* cartelization has always been the goal for the “sharing” economy. These drivers are just using the owners’ own levers to cut themselves in on the cartel’s gains. Which is only just, as those gains were earned by the workers

  3. kaleberg says:

    It’s ironic that Uber and Lyft are complaining about drivers gaming their system. If you ever chat with your Uber or Lyft driver, as I often do, you’d realized that Uber and Lyft are ALL about gaming. They construct a game full of bonuses, extra points, penalties, and requirements to get drivers to work a certain number of hours a day at certain times and driving certain routes. They penalize drivers who don’t play the game to their satisfaction. I met one driver who was quite happy. He regularly got the commuter run bonus on his regular morning commute to his job in construction, then he got an extra hour of bonus pay time before having to report to the job site. I met over drivers less happy about their deal. A serious Uber or Lyft driver, and most of them are serious, live in one of those pinball machines trying to activate the gate and get the triple word score. Complaining them about gaming the system is ridiculous. That’s the whole point of the system.

  4. thesseli says:

    Reblogged this on Thesseli.

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