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Uber in Tijuana is the Wild West

Cash payment option means drivers need to track each other

From Tijuana Uber site. "We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous."
From Tijuana Uber site. "We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous."

“My shift ends in about an hour. I stop work at 10 pm,” said Daniel my Uber driver in Tijuana. “It’s not drunks that concern me, it's the crime.”

I’m a frequent Uber client and I usually have casual conversations with my drivers. My go-to questions are how they are doing and how much longer they plan on working.

“I am in a WhatsApp group of Uber drivers,” continued Daniel. “Like a week ago, one of my partners picked up a passenger, an Uber cash client. He drove him far, some place near La Presa, and there he got ambushed by a white truck. They stole his car, took his phone and his money, stripped him of his clothes, and left him on a dark street.”

An Uber driver was killed by two gunshots to the neck and chest on March 30th at around 11:15 pm, newspaper Zeta reported. José Humberto Félix Méndoza, the young driver of 28 years of age, had been working for Uber only for three days. He picked up two American tourists in front of Papas & Beer in Rosarito and was on their way to the luxury condos Club Marena where the tourists were staying, when a car approached them and started shooting. The passengers ducked and were unharmed.

“Just picked up the client, dropping him off nearby,” Vicente, another of my drivers got on the radio as soon as I got in the car. “I'm talking to my Uber partners; it’s dangerous out there. We all follow each other on GPS and keep in constant touch. I am usually in Rosarito, where it's safer. I try not to drive in downtown Tijuana, much less at night.”

It was the first time I saw an Uber driver communicate on a radio. Despite being early in the afternoon, Vicente seemed jumpy. Ironically, he felt safer in Rosarito where the Uber driver was murdered, than downtown Tijuana.

“Before picking you up,” continued Vicente. “I had to deny a customer because he had a five-star rating. We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous. You have 4.8 stars, another driver probably gave you a low rating just so you don't have a perfect 5.”

“We don't know where the person we pick up is going to, we don't know if they are paying cash or with a cloned card. The problem is that if we deny more than three customers in a row, Uber punishes us and we are not able to work for an hour or more.”

Since the beginning of 2017, there has been registered over 90 assaults, robberies, gun attacks, physical aggressions, and sexual assaults against both drivers and passengers. According to Tijuana deputy attorney general Jorge Álvarez Mendoza, the rise of Uber-related crime started when the application started to offer the cash payment option.

The minimum charge for an Uber in Tijuana is 26.50 pesos (less than $1.50 USD). Besides crime, Uber drivers have to deal with aggressive taxi drivers, threats for operating illegally, credit card or other scams, competition from new apps (like Cabify; there is no Lyft in Tijuana yet), long hours, and unpleasant customers.

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“His fingers kept twitching. His sweaty head was a little shaky. His lips were moving, but no words were coming out.”
From Tijuana Uber site. "We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous."
From Tijuana Uber site. "We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous."

“My shift ends in about an hour. I stop work at 10 pm,” said Daniel my Uber driver in Tijuana. “It’s not drunks that concern me, it's the crime.”

I’m a frequent Uber client and I usually have casual conversations with my drivers. My go-to questions are how they are doing and how much longer they plan on working.

“I am in a WhatsApp group of Uber drivers,” continued Daniel. “Like a week ago, one of my partners picked up a passenger, an Uber cash client. He drove him far, some place near La Presa, and there he got ambushed by a white truck. They stole his car, took his phone and his money, stripped him of his clothes, and left him on a dark street.”

An Uber driver was killed by two gunshots to the neck and chest on March 30th at around 11:15 pm, newspaper Zeta reported. José Humberto Félix Méndoza, the young driver of 28 years of age, had been working for Uber only for three days. He picked up two American tourists in front of Papas & Beer in Rosarito and was on their way to the luxury condos Club Marena where the tourists were staying, when a car approached them and started shooting. The passengers ducked and were unharmed.

“Just picked up the client, dropping him off nearby,” Vicente, another of my drivers got on the radio as soon as I got in the car. “I'm talking to my Uber partners; it’s dangerous out there. We all follow each other on GPS and keep in constant touch. I am usually in Rosarito, where it's safer. I try not to drive in downtown Tijuana, much less at night.”

It was the first time I saw an Uber driver communicate on a radio. Despite being early in the afternoon, Vicente seemed jumpy. Ironically, he felt safer in Rosarito where the Uber driver was murdered, than downtown Tijuana.

“Before picking you up,” continued Vicente. “I had to deny a customer because he had a five-star rating. We are suspicious of the five-star customers, it means that the account is new and potentially dangerous. You have 4.8 stars, another driver probably gave you a low rating just so you don't have a perfect 5.”

“We don't know where the person we pick up is going to, we don't know if they are paying cash or with a cloned card. The problem is that if we deny more than three customers in a row, Uber punishes us and we are not able to work for an hour or more.”

Since the beginning of 2017, there has been registered over 90 assaults, robberies, gun attacks, physical aggressions, and sexual assaults against both drivers and passengers. According to Tijuana deputy attorney general Jorge Álvarez Mendoza, the rise of Uber-related crime started when the application started to offer the cash payment option.

The minimum charge for an Uber in Tijuana is 26.50 pesos (less than $1.50 USD). Besides crime, Uber drivers have to deal with aggressive taxi drivers, threats for operating illegally, credit card or other scams, competition from new apps (like Cabify; there is no Lyft in Tijuana yet), long hours, and unpleasant customers.

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Comments
3

Matt - why do you stay?

May 26, 2017

A number of reasons:

My girlfriend got her VISA taken away. Cheaper cost of living (rent is $340). A booming scene of food and craft beer. I truly love this bizarre city, it's just going through a rough patch that I hope dies down soon.

May 26, 2017

Good story, Matt.

May 26, 2017

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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