On the Record with Stephen Chatterton

DeKALB – Stephen Chatterton has had ups and downs with the ride-sharing industry.

However, for Chatterton of DeKalb, the negatives far outweigh the positives. His experiences include close calls with nauseous riders, drug deals and being kidnapped.

Chatterton shares these encounters in a book titled “Better Than a Taxi?: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About Ride Sharing,” which was published in 2018.

Chatterton will be one of 14 writers to showcase their work during a local author book fair to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St.

The library’s main lobby will be filled with booths, where people can meet the authors and purchase their books.

Eight authors will provide a brief presentation in the lower level Yusunas Meeting Room during the event. Attendees can listen to them read excerpts from their books and ask questions. Chatterton’s presentation will be at noon.

For more information about the local author book fair, contact Samantha Hathaway at samanthah@dkpl.org or 815-756-9568, ext. 1701. A list of authors attending the event, as well as a schedule of presentations, can be found at http://dkpl.org.

Chatterton spoke with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about his book and his experiences as a ride-share driver.

Milton: What is your book about?

Chatterton: It’s the true story of the ride-sharing industry told by sharing my firsthand experiences. Within my first month of working, my best friend told me that I should write a book after some of the stories I told him. It was very dangerous.

Milton: Why did you decide to write a book?

Chatterton: You only hear about stories from the passengers, never the drivers. The riders were horrible. I researched and there were no other books out there with the negative side to ride-sharing about the drivers’ experiences. I talked to more than 1,010 drivers. In my opinion, about 60% of ride-sharing drivers are former taxi drivers who were forced out of the industry. The book is 77 pages, so it’s a short and fast read. I sold more than 700 books out of the backseat of my ride-sharing vehicle in six months. I think everyone liked meeting the author and they received an on-the-spot autograph.

Milton: What is the good of ride-sharing?

Chatterton: The good is that it provides a source of income for those with no job experience or higher education. All you need is a car and no criminal background. The bad is that you can’t afford to stay on the road. I was going through one vehicle a year. I needed oil changes every five weeks. Dogs were shedding all over. Luckily, I never had anyone vomit in the car, but I had a few close calls. I had to stop the car on a country road. The man stepped out, vomited, and grabbed some leaves off a tree to wipe his mouth. He then hopped back in the car and said that he felt better and was good to go now.

Milton: What is the bad?

Chatterton: Between the miles I put on the car, brakes, oil changes, tires and wear and tear, I was losing money instead of making money. You also have no idea where you’re going. If you pick someone up in DeKalb, they could be going to Milwaukee. If I picked them up in Chicago, they could be going to Indianapolis. You also have to worry about where to park at airports and getting tickets.

Milton: What is the ugly?

Chatterton: The companies do not protect the driver. I was the driver on a two-and-a-half hour drug run. I was waiting in a parking lot in Woodridge for the drugs to arrive. The ugly of the industry is that I was kidnapped. When I told my company, they did not answer my letter. They said it was all alleged. For more of that story, you’ll have to attend my talk at the library. For the name of the ride-sharing industry, you’ll have to buy the book.

Milton: Why did you become a driver?

Chatterton: I am a tax preparer, and I know that there are a tremendous amount of tax write-offs for ride-sharing. For the first six months, I enjoyed it. Then the company emailed me threats, I had constant phone calls. The customer said this or that. One instance, I had squeaky brakes. I took my car to the mechanic, and they said it’s dust in the brake line. I had to have the mechanic sign off on it. All it took was a customer to say your car is unsafe, and they suspend your account and you can’t drive.

Milton: What are some misconceptions about ride-sharing?

Chatterton: Most people think that by using one of the apps, they’re getting a cheaper ride, and they’re not. Most taxi cab companies have a flat rate. Also, a lot of the customers are drunk or alcoholics. They’re using the service to avoid getting DUIs. Nobody knew how much we get or don’t get for a split. We also are not allowed to refuse a passenger a ride. … Most people tip taxi cab drivers, but only one out of 10 ride-sharing drivers get tips. One out of five gave me a tip. I gave them a dollar bill if they could guess the endings of my jokes, I put strobe lights in the car. I made it entertaining.

Milton: Would you recommend becoming a ride-sharing driver?

Chatterton: Well, if you want low pay, to risk your life and go through a vehicle a year … the answer is no. I would not recommend it.

Milton: Are you writing a new book?

Chatterton: I’m writing another book, “Better than a Job: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of NetWORK Marketing.” It is expected to be out February 2022. It will be a sequel series.

Katrina Milton

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.