Poaching passengers: An Uber driver endorses Juno


There have been plenty of “dirty tricks” stories about competing employees for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps trying to poach drivers from the others. But I was not ready for the efforts of a driver to poach me as a rider a few weeks back. I had a credit with Uber so I was happy to take the free ride home. As I got in the car the conversation immediately veered into the slightly bizarre.

Do you use ride-sharing apps?

“Yes” was the obvious answer. After all, that’s why this guy was now driving me to my apartment. But as the conversation continued his angle became clear. He was pretty much pissed at Uber and looking to convert me to Juno, the latest player in a market that seems keen to burn investor cash with impunity. We spent the next 15 minutes talking about the different companies and his preferences among them. In the end it was no surprise why Juno is his favorite: He gets paid more. They pay drivers for the empty car portion of the ride to collect a passenger and offer a greater share of revenue to the drivers as well. He also managed to send me an invite to the program during our conversation. This was not just a theoretical conversation; he wanted more passengers on Juno, not Uber.

Juno’s messaging to customers also focuses on the higher pay rates to drivers. The website focuses on that angle and the ride receipt email includes mention of such.

Juno wants you to know that it pays drivers more than Uber
Juno wants you to know that it pays drivers more than Uber

The challenge, of course, is in meeting customer demand. With a massive car service infrastructure already in place New York City is a relatively easy market to get established in. Even with that advantage the wait for a ride this morning was a few minutes longer than is typical with Uber or Lyft. Not a huge deal and we still have plenty of time to grab breakfast before boarding the flight, but at peak times I could see that as more challenging. And there’s also the challenge of only operating in NYC right now. When my flight lands this afternoon I’ll need a different option for my next ride.

To me it is all the same car with the same driver and mostly the same ride pricing structure. In that context I don’t really care which vendor processes the payment. There are plenty of stories lately about why to hate on Uber but for me it is mostly about trying to avoid the inevitable monopoly pricing that is destined to arrive if one company can fully dominate the market. And if it happens to mean more money for the drivers I’m okay with that. too. Getting 30% off rides for the first two weeks doesn’t hurt, either.

Fare breakdown from Chelsea to JFK this morning. The 30% discount for a couple weeks is nice.
Fare breakdown from Chelsea to JFK this morning. The 30% discount for a couple weeks is nice.

But the fact that drivers are actively trying to convert riders to other platforms – this is not the first time I’ve had such, though it was the most aggressive – has me curious. Yes, Uber has much greater market penetration around the world and it is doing great things with different types of transportation in different markets. And it has a massive war chest with which it can likely ride out most challengers. But it is also pissing a lot of people off lately and is not so unique that it can really keep the competition at bay forever. So long as investor capital continues to flow in to the space there will be plenty of opportunities for riders. And maybe even some good news for drivers, too.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

15 Comments

  1. You live in NYC. Juno drivers have been recruiting passengers from day one. That is their business model. Passengers can’t refer other passengers.

    The New Yorker even wrote an article on their business model.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/10/juno-takes-on-uber

    Not sure why this is news/blog-worthy?

    Personally, I used to use Juno when they had a 35% discount promo and their prices beat the competition, but now that the discount is down to 10% I find (I fare-shop when requesting rides) that they are more expensive. I mostly use GETT (flat fee, no Surge) and Via (yes, it’s a ride-share but unlike UberPool, they don’t pack people in cars, it’s all high-end cars and they don’t drive out of their way to p/up or drop off and you can’t beat the price. Also no eating food or talking on phones. And they will take the FDR or West Side Hwy so it’s quick). I rarely use Uber or Lyft these days bc of their business practices and ridiculous surge fares. It’s been a while since I have used Juno but they were good.

    1. ‘Twas my first experience with the company and it was an interesting one. I also write about airlines that have been flying for decades.

  2. Uber is a massively unethical company that steals from drivers, taxpayers, cities, underinsures riders, and looks to be defrauding investors by claiming to have workable self driving cars on the near horizon. They are also engaged in tax avoidance.

    Maybe you should care what sort of company is driving you around.

    I assume you are not a totally unethical individual.

    Do you insist on cage free chickens, do you eat veal, do you indiscriminately pollute, do you disdain Walmart for how it underpays employees, do you buy phones assembled by workers committing suicide?

    What is your major malfunction dude?

    1. To answer a few of your questions, Yes, I eat veal. No, I don’t insist on organic or cage-free. Yes, I own an iPhone. No, I don’t indiscriminately pollute.

      Life is far more nuanced than that. Pretending otherwise is likely to leave you disappointed.

  3. Oh yeah, they have paid fines to the FTC for misleading ads, and their Chicago lobbyist was finded $90,000 for breaking the law.

    In other countries, Uber’s allowing drivers to take cash has ended with assaults, robberies, and murders.

    In the US, Uber’s distracting app has led to terrible accidents including the death of a six year old female pedestrian.

    Please tell me man that you are not okay with this.

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