- Some Uber drivers are being charged, rather than paid, for rides because of a glitch in the app.
- One driver was charged $2.20 for a 16-minute journey. Another lost $50 on a single ride.
- Both were later reimbursed but said they quit the app because of the experience.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Some Uber drivers have effectively paid to drive their passengers around because a glitch in the app left them out of pocket after completing rides.
One driver in Illinois said he lost $2.20 on a 13.5-mile journey. The driver, who spoke to Insider on the condition of anonymity, said he had stopped driving for Uber and Uber Eats after what he said was a poor experience with the company's driver helpline.
Another driver said she was charged nearly $50 for a ride and didn't receive a fare for another.
Uber took days to reimburse the fares on some occasions, the drivers said.
The Illinois driver said he decided to drive early morning on May 30 after noticing that prices were spiking. Uber pays drivers more during these so-called "surges," when it hikes up fares in areas with high demand and few drivers.
The driver said he accepted a request to drive a passenger from downtown Chicago to the city's Midway International Airport – a 16-minute, 13.5-mile journey.
But, after dropping the passenger off, the driver checked his earnings on the Uber app and was surprised to find a negative balance for that ride.
He said it was the first time it had happened in his two years of driving for ride-hailing apps, which he said included nearly 1,700 rides for Uber and 500 for Lyft.
When the driver first accepted the ride, the app displayed an estimated fare of $36.67, higher than normal because it added a surge multiplier, he said. But when he checked his account, he saw Uber had removed the surge and the passenger was only charged $9.06.
And after Uber deducted a $11.26 service fee, the driver lost $2.20 from the trip, he said.
The driver sent Insider screenshots of the app that verified these claims.
"It was completely crazy to me," he said.
He isn't the first Uber driver to encounter this problem.
After sharing his experience on Reddit, other drivers said that a common glitch was to blame, and that he'd be refunded.
In a separate Reddit thread, another Uber driver shared screenshots that showed they were charged $56.71 for driving a passenger, also in Chicago.
"It's been going on for months now, and people post about it here almost weekly," one Reddit user said.
Brianna Woodham, a former Uber driver in Atlanta, Georgia, told Insider that it had happened to her twice, and that she had stopped driving for the company as a result.
It happened once in early April, when Woodham was charged $49.54 for a ride, per screenshots seen by Insider. This was due to a surge fare being deducted, rather than added, to her account on the app. During another journey two weeks later, Woodham drove a passenger for 46 minutes – and earned nothing on it, screenshots shared with Insider showed.
Other users on Reddit said that on some occasions, they had only received their tip and not the full fare.
An Uber spokesperson told Insider that fares for certain trips booked through Uber Reserve, which lets riders book journeys up to 30 days in advance, were miscalculated "due to a software bug."
"This was a terrible customer experience for drivers, and for that we apologize," the spokesperson said. "We've ensured drivers have been paid in full for all affected trips, fixed the bug, and have put new safeguards in place."
But both drivers Insider spoke to said that their glitched journeys had been booked through the standard UberX service, rather than Uber Reserve.
Drivers say they had problems contacting Uber for help
The Illinois driver said he called Uber's driver support line from the help section of the app. But the line is only staffed from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, according to the automated message drivers get when they call out-of-hours – meaning no one was there to answer the phone when the Illinois driver called.
"I didn't think it was right for me to lose money on a trip and then have to wait two days to call support to have them fix it," he said.
The spokesperson told Insider that all drivers have access to 24/7 support via in-app messaging, and that drivers who have completed 3,000 trips or are Uber Pro Gold, Diamond, or Platinum drivers have access to 24/7 phone support. Drivers at the blue level have access to phone support on weekdays, the spokesperson said.
The Illinois driver told Insider that he then turned to the Uber Twitter support account for help – and that after some back and forth, the Uber Twitter account stopped replying to his messages.
The driver sent Insider screenshots of the Twitter conversation that verified his claims.
The driver decided to tweet about his experience. The tweet went viral – and Uber finally paid attention. A rep contacted him and Uber paid him the original $36.67 estimated fare, he told Insider, plus an extra $25 that the representative said was "for the inconvenience."
"It took the will of the internet to even get the issue addressed," the driver said.
Woodham, meanwhile, said that she was refunded by Uber for the first journey around a week after it happened – but that she still hasn't been paid for the second, glitched ride more than two months later.
She said that she had reached out to Uber multiple times, but never received a helpful response or refund. She didn't think the issue would ever get resolved, she told Insider.
Drivers quit Uber as a result
Because of the lack of support he received from Uber, the Illinois driver said that he was worried he'd be in danger if a serious incident happened. Drivers were "sitting ducks," he said, and referred to a recent incident in Cicero, Illinois, where a driver was shot and killed.
"If I have a serious issue, it just opens my eyes to the fact that unless it's Monday through Friday business hours, we're out there on our own, there's not gonna be anybody there to reach out to, to address an issue," he said.
He said that he had stopped driving for Uber and planned to turn to food delivery instead, and Woodham also said that she had stopped driving for Uber her the second glitched ride.
"It just made me rethink which gigs I do want to do," the Illinois driver said. "I should never be charged to work by anybody."