When your car becomes your office, you open both your doors and yourself to the world.
After driving for Uber for more than a year now, Marc Tondre, 57, has driven more than his fair share of intoxicated college students, quarrelling couples and rude passengers, but he still manages to enjoy certain aspects of the job.
“I’ve met some pretty interesting people,” Tondre said. “It’s kind of interesting to see what people’s imaginations are.”
On some of Tondre’s more pleasurable rides, he has played chauffeur to art students designing their own furniture at the Rhode Island School of Design, writers, a Ph.D. candidate who develops toys to help children learn mathematics, tourists, or even just people looking to him for advice. Not all of his passengers want to talk with him during their ride, but for those who do, Tondre said he has been amazed with meeting and learning about new people.
Driving for Uber is not Tondre’s ideal choice of employment, but said providing for his family is a necessity with a wife and child at home. Tondre previously worked in sales for most of his life, where he made much more money before being let go.
“I think you reach a point in your life where people are unwilling to pay for your experience,” Tondre said. “They look at you as being overqualified, even if you’re willing to take a job for less money. They figure you’ll find something better and quit, so they won’t hire you. It’s a difficult time to be in the job market.”
Currently, Tondre also drives for a private limousine company, and only drives for Uber on slow days when he only has one job. Despite Rhode Island’s low fares and Uber’s 25 percent commission charge, Tondre said being able to drive people in jeans and a T-shirt is preferable to a suit and tie.
Most of his current customers with Uber are University of Rhode Island students, since the Kingston campus is so close to home for Tondre. Surprisingly, Tondre said he appreciates the young clientele. Still, the money is not great, but he needs it to get by.
“In this job, you don’t get a lot of tips,” Tondre said. “Uber told everyone early on that tips were built in, but it’s not. I look at it this way; if people want to give you a tip, they do, and if not, they won’t.”
Tondre said he still tries to go above and beyond the call of duty for all of his passengers, regardless of the sometimes bothersome tip situation. He will always help people bring in their luggage, come to the rescue of those in need of a ride during snowstorms, or return wallets and phones left behind by those too intoxicated to realize they were missing in the first place. He even brought a woman in labor to the hospital once, stopping to park his car and help her walk in.
The wonderful experiences behind the wheel do not always make up for Tondre’s fatigue and frustration when driving for Uber, however.
“At this point, I shouldn’t have to be driving people around and taking them wherever it is they want to go,” Tondre said.