Big events like the Coachella Music Festival a few weekends ago, and Stagecoach Music Festival last weekend usually mean high demand for Uber/Lyft drivers. Because of that, Uber sends out mass texts to its drivers throughout Southern California to converge on the Coachella Valley for the expected surge. That usually works out pretty well for passengers and drivers (case in point, Coachella), but not always (case in point, Stagecoach).
I figured this would be another good weekend for driving, so Friday afternoon, I clicked on the app and headed out. And sure enough, the calls were steady and by mid-afternoon, surge pricing was underway. It was a good afternoon.
Among my first passengers were Kelsey and her friend from here in Southern California. Funs girls who I thought would set the stage (no pun intended) for a good Stagecoach weekend. In fact, I figured that Saturday and Sunday would be even better since more music lovers would be in town and heading to the festivities in Indio.
While that may have been true, what also happened was a flood of Uber drivers descended on our small valley. I went online about 10:00 Saturday morning and within five minutes had a call to take two ladies from a condo they were renting to a restaurant nearby. And … that was it for Saturday morning. I went to the areas where I have learned demand is high on weekends … trendy hotels where Gen-Xers stay. Nothing. I went to downtown Palm Springs and hung there for a while. Nothing. After an hour of no calls, I went to the gym, then home for lunch. I looked at the rider app (which is different from the driver app), and there were so many Uber cars waiting for calls from passengers who never materialized, the little car icons were stacked on top of each other on the map.
The Coachella rock crowd apparently is more tuned into ride sharing than the Stagecoach country crowd, and as a result, the market was saturated with drivers with a lack of passengers. Eventually, I did get one ride to the festival, and once down there, I had a few local pick-ups in the Indio area. But not a lot. It was a different audience than the previous weekend for Coachella.
To totally generalize (which admittedly isn’t really fair), the Coachella crowd was more drug oriented, laid back. Better educated. Happy hippy type people. Accepting. The Stagecoach group (again, not all but a lot), are boozers. Drunk early in the day, loud, foul mouthed, demanding.
Saturday afternoon about 3:00PM, after a fairly dismal day, I got a call for a pick up at the Motel 6 in Indio. When I arrived, there was no sign of the passenger. I called his number, but got no answer. Just as I was ready to cancel the ride and move on, this drunk guy (well dressed in cowboy clothing, early 30s) stumbles up to the passenger door with a beer can in hand. “Hey man,” he mumbles, “no need to call. I’m here.” And I’m thinking, why didn’t I cancel the ride when I had a chance?
I tell him he can hop in, but no open containers allowed. So he tosses the beer in the bushes. Classy. Just then, I see three others emerge from the side of the motel, another guy and two girls, one who is being helped to the car because she is so drunk. All have beer cans in hand. When I tell them “no open containers,” the drunkest girl starts swearing. I should have left then, but the guy who first showed up apologizes and says there will be no problem. I tell him I don’t want her puking in the car, and he says she won’t. The other three toss their cans into the Motel 6 parking lot, and we take off for the festival. The guy was actually cool, but the two skanky girls were nasty, totally wasted, and every other slurred word that comes out of drunkest girl’s mouth is the F-bomb. The guy in the back seat kept telling them to shut up. At one time I looked in the mirror and saw the drunkest one is taking a swig from a plastic flask. I get them to the festival grounds, get them out of the car, give them the lowest one-star rating (which they did the same to me). That was my last ride for Stagecoach. Next year I’ll pass on that festival.
The good news …. This week I started driving for Lyft as my ride share experiment continues. And so far, Lyft is a superior experience. Cooler riders, better pay. Nicer company. More later.