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Tales from Kenyan Uber driver

By Anyango Otieno | February 12th 2018
By Anyango Otieno | February 12th 2018

NAIROBI, KENYA: Just like night guards, Uber and other taxi drivers see the dark secrets that rule the wee hours. And they have seen it all - from near-death experiences to dealing with clients who are downright frightening.

During the launch of a new taxi service known as E Safaris at a city hotel last week, one Uber driver opened up about their experiences - on condition of anonymity.

Due to the push to make a reasonable income, Sam (not his real name), like other taxi drivers, works long hours. Sometimes he ends up carrying criminals.

“Another driver who operates in Eastlands once revealed to me that he often carries members of the Gaza gang. He doesn't like it but he needs the money," Sam said.

Gaza is a criminal gang known to operate in Eastlands.

Once, he picked up a young overly-affectionate couple that spent the entire trip making out in his back seat.

“So I drop the couple off in one of the city estates and leave to pick up my next client. Then I hear a mobile phone ringing in my back seat and realise my passengers must have left it, and pick up to let them know I have the phone and will come back to drop it off," he said.

"Turns out it was the man's wife calling to check how his business trip was going."

Business trip

Unknown to the wife, the man's business trip was right in the city with another woman.

"The man gave me Sh500, which was double the money they had spent on the trip," he added.

According to Sam, some passengers are scary. He narrated how another driver picked up two men of West African descent. They wanted to be driven to a club in Killimani. One sat in the front and the other in the back.

“My friend told me that as soon as they got on their way, the one in the front seat started asking about Uber driving," said Sam.

The passenger apparently asked the driver what he would do if someone grabbed the steering wheel and ran the car into a bush. 

Meanwhile, the one in the back asked: "Have you ever thought about what would happen if someone in the back seat tried to strangle you while you were driving?"

Sam said his friend was very afraid, and greatly relieved when he arrived at the destination.

“He was happy to get to the club and get them out of his car. A bonus for him was that the bouncer at the club gave him an extra Sh500 for dropping them off,” Sam said.

That was the man's last trip as a taxi driver.

Uber drivers have also found a way of cheating the company. Because they are paid commissions, the more one drives, the more one earns.

Sam said sometimes clients are hard to come by, which means no work and, therefore, no pay. To secure their commissions, drivers use screenshots of fares from previous rides.

Cancels ride

“As soon as the client gets into the car, the driver cancels the ride so that it is reflected on the control system. This is mostly done during the rush hour so they can make a lot of money. When the client reaches his destination, the screenshot is shown to the client and he pays,” he said.

The drivers are also registered with many e-taxi apps to help them make more money.

“Many drivers operate the Uber, Taxify and Mondo apps at the same time. One could get an alert from Taxify while dropping off an Uber client.”

Because they do not want to cancel the trip themselves (this attracts a charge), the drivers come up with excuses that will cause the clients to want to cancel the ride.

“The driver may tell the client that a previous passenger left something in his car and he is returning it, which might take time. The waiting client will most likely cancel the ride,” said Sam.

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