Uber Connect Drivers May Be Unwittingly Transporting Drugs – Entrepreneur
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And if they tell, drivers are worried they could risk their own safety.
Drivers for Uber’s courier service have reportedly been put in sticky situations: unwittingly transporting illegal drugs.
Six drivers in the U.S. and Australia told NBC News that they had been in uncomfortable situations where they felt they were possibly transporting illegal substances. One said he had tried to get in touch with Uber, mostly unsuccessfully.
Levi Spires, an Uber driver in upstate New York told Entrepreneur that he “most definitely” has been in situations where he is driving someone who has said they are a dealer of drugs.
“As a non-drug user, I get really concerned about my safety,” he said.
Uber has a courier service called “Uber Connect,” which launched in April 2020.
It allows people to “send items whether it’s a care package for a loved one, a gift for a friend’s birthday,” the company said at the time. You can use the regular Uber app to do it — you just press the package icon, load it into the car, and send it to its destination.
The ease of the service, however, has made it a possible new middleman for transporting illegal substances.
Several drivers said it is happening, despite provisions against it in Uber’s policies, such as alcohol, firearms, or drugs.
One Arizona-based former driver, Kyle Brock, told NBC he made a delivery at 1 a.m. between two motels to a person who appeared scared of a grocery bag seemingly filled with trash. He suspected it was narcotics.
“I dropped off the package with quite a bit of dread,” and then stopped being a driver, he told the outlet.
Another driver in Tampa, Florida, told NBC they drove a plastic bag seemingly full of a crystal-like substance to a police station (it is currently in lab testing but tested negative in the field).
Several drivers said reporting the concerns to the police is its own risk — i.e., blowback from the person who sent the drugs.
That person has “everything but your last name,” a driver in Miami told NBC — including vehicle type, license plate, and a first name.
“Do we choose morality, or do we choose our safety? You have to choose your safety,” the driver added.
Spires says he has never worked for Uber Connect but said he would feel comfortable, likely, dropping off a suspicious item with the police. Riding with a live person, however, is another story.
“With the passenger in the vehicle I am 100% at [their] mercy,” he said.
Drivers have previously expressed similar concerns, per CBS News. Chicago and Tampa-area police departments said they have seen cases like this, but several others including Washington D.C. and Houston said it is not an issue.
Drivers also said they are worried they could get caught up in a legal case.
“Imagine trying to explain handing a package with drugs off to an undercover that doesn’t know you’re just Uber Connect,” Brock, the driver from Arizona, told NBC.
“You’re almost certainly getting arrested in that situation.”
NBC noted that this is a relevant topic on the driver forums. Two years ago, a Redditor (who could very well not be a driver) posted, “I’ve done 5 Uber connect rides and I’m 100 percent sure 4 of those were drug runs.”
The Tampa driver told NBC they got transferred 27-odd times while trying to get in touch with Uber while concerned about a substance being illegal. Others worried about being deactivated.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment but told NBC that drivers have had customer service experiences that “fell short of our standards, and we’ll work with the relevant teams to learn and improve our processes.”
The company added that drivers would not be punished for stopping a delivery out of safety concerns, and would be reimbursed for bringing a substance to the police.
Spires said that, as far as safety issues go, drivers are more likely to get kicked off the platform than riders.
“Honestly, Uber talks about our safety a bunch. They want us to be safe. But my impression is they don’t have the perspective Uber drivers have,” Spires said.
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