We take the Uber challenge
After 30 years as a journalist with News Limited I was tapped on the shoulder just before Christmas.
My position had been made redundant.
I’d survived several rounds of redundancy over the years but they had finally found me hiding in a corner.
The way things are going in the news business, I suspect it will be everyone’s turn sooner or later – as the company fights to stay relevant in a rapidly changing media landscape.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not all that unhappy about this turn of events.
I got a stack of spending money to take with me and a belated travel voucher in recognition of my three decades of toil – after the penny dropped.
It wasn’t quite enough to pay off the mortgage, so I’ve been looking for some part time work.
Finding someone to write about cars for was easy enough, but finding someone to keep in the lifestyle to which I was accustomed was going to be a tougher assignment.
As a high flying, nationally syndicated motoring journo, I’d used Uber plenty of times as a passenger over the past couple of years, flitting around Sydney, dropping off and picking up test cars.
After a parade of rattly old Falcons, Uber really was the proverbial breath of fresh air.
The cars were newer, cleaner, and turned up amazingly quickly, with drivers who were cheerful and always up for a chat.
It was something of a novelty at first, but I soon discovered it was cheaper than getting a cab, especially when it came to longer hops (and I hoped it would keep the bean counters off my back).
In hindsight, maybe I should have taken the train?
You didn’t have to worry about handling cash or credit cards either.
The fare was automatically billed to your account and a receipt emailed to you within minutes of being dropped off.
Thanks to some electronic wizardry the transactions even turned up in the company’s electronic expense system – how good was that?
So, when it came to looking for a bit of part time work, I was always going to give Uber a crack.
But I’ve got to say the accreditation process turned out to be longer and more complex than I had anticipated – about 5 weeks in all from start to finish.
First and foremost you need a car that’s less than 10 years old and it has to have four doors, for reasons that would become obvious later (did I mention I had to buy my first car in 10 years and, cough, pay for fuel).
It also needs to be fully insured and roadworthy, so getting a pink slip is part of the process (Uber pays for this).
Then there’s a bit of form filling out required.
As a prospective driver you must submit to a police check and you also need to apply for what is known as Private Driver Higher Authority – which in NSW you get for $80 from the RMS.
Uber will submit the application for you, but unfortunately you’re up for the 80 bucks, although it can be deducted from your account once you’re up and running.
After that it was just a matter of plucking up the the courage and finding time in my busy semi-retirement schedule to actually go “Ubering” – and that took another whole month.
It’s true what they say – how the hell did I ever find time for work?
But as I sit here writing this I have just completed my first day as an Uber driver.
I’ll let you know how it went later – not to mention all the things they neglect to mention.