Uber is now rolling out an experimental incentive wherein drivers pay upfront to make a bonus percentage on their earnings for a set period, according to a screenshot of the Uber app posted up on a forum and found by Medium writer Alex Rosenblat. The company is offering its drivers the chance to pay $115 from their next pay check in exchange for a 33% pay hike over the week of October 23 to October 29, one of the more profitable weeks for rideshare workers due to a large number of Halloween events happening early to reserve the actual holiday for blowout parties and trick-or-treating. If they take advantage of this offer, drivers would have to make $349 or more over the course of that week in order to break even or make a profit.
According to Uber, this offer is actually a part of an academic research study being conducted hand in hand with researchers from MIT, and will be limited to the Houston market for the time being. Drivers getting on board have to opt-in and are informed that the data that they generate will be used as part of an academic study. Additionally, choosing to accept this first offer makes drivers eligible to participate in future offers created in connection with the study, which will reportedly be going on through December 31 of this year.
Whatever the reasoning behind this move, the reception thus far has reportedly been mixed, to say the least. In his piece on Medium, Rosenblat pointed out a few ways that the notification from Uber that drivers receive seems designed to steer them toward taking the gamble. It should be noted that this is the common notification design for the Uber app, but in this case, its design queues could be seen as purposeful. The header text is big and bold, and is written with a positive connotation that conveys to drivers that they will be poised to earn more with the offer than they otherwise would have. The text box that a driver has to tap in order to actually take the plunge simply says "Claim your offer," which again implies that this arrangement is bound to be a net positive for drivers. Such language is commonly seen in online advertising, where a user has to complete multiple offers in order to get a product. Rosenblat goes on to explain that Uber's recent move to classify drivers as consumers of its app and underlying technology could mean that this offer could end up being seen by the FTC as potentially deceptive advertising, adding to Uber's troubles.