I don't know about you, but I'm always conscious about being the best Uber passenger possible, even when holding a conversation is hard work (you know, after a few wines). I want that 5-star rating, dammit! And I'm aware that a lot of drivers, in LA at least, are driving on the side - they're not career cabbies. Sadly, Uber is yet to really take off in Sydney - there just aren't many drivers on the road at the moment - but I live in hope. I practically used UberX as public transport in LA, it was so cheap. Anyway! Rachel knows a thing or two about how to have the best Uber ride, for everyone, and she's shared a few insights below. Oh, and they work for cabs, too. Over to you, Rach...
Until yours truly is making a living dishing out etiquette advice, I have all sorts day jobs and I may have spent last year as an Uber driver in Los Angeles. I have moved on now, but I still get asked lots of question about my experience. Besides, “Did you like driving for Uber?” or “How much did you make?” The main question I received from riders was, “What do Uber drivers hate?” So I thought I’d address that here, as it falls under how to be a considerate passenger in a ride-sharing situation.
Many riders don’t realize that they get rated as a rider. Your rating, like a driver’s is important. Some drivers will not accept riders that have a low rating - which might be why some riders experience long waits for an Uber ride. (The next time you’re in an Uber, ask the driver what your rating is.)
When a driver gets a ride request, they see your name, your pickup address and your rating. Every time you exit an Uber car, your driver has a chance to rate you as a passenger between 1 and 5 stars (5 being the best). Similar to driver ratings, rider ratings are also done anonymously, so most drivers rate you honestly.
So, since Uber etiquette is a two-way street, here are some things you can do to be a (5-star) passenger:
Let your driver know if you are running late to the pickup location. If a driver has waited for you for over 5 minutes, without any communication as to why you’re running late, you might lose a few stars. A simple text to your driver, communicating your reason for not being ready and your ETA can be very helpful. On this note, don’t request a car until you’re ready to go.
Stand somewhere that is visible and easy for drivers to pull over. If you’re standing at a dangerous/congested/red zone/valet zone/bus stop, you may lose some stars. Drivers in this situation risk getting a ticket, backing up traffic, or causing an accident. Take a detailed look around you when you request a ride. Can your driver safely stop at your pickup location for a few minutes to greet you and enter your location into a gps?
Don’t make your Uber driver play “Where’s Waldo?” to find you. If you are somewhere crowded with lots of other people, such as an open outdoor shopping mall, send a quick text clarifying where you are standing and something identifying about your appearance. “Hello, I’m in front of the Whole Foods, wearing a blue rain coat.” is sufficient.
Treat your Uber driver the way you would treat any other human - with respect. It can be difficult to remain patient and understanding if you’re sitting in traffic or running late to the airport. But it’s important to remember (as in dealing with ANY person providing you a service), that mutual respect, patience, kindness and consideration are always a requirement, not a just a nice-to-have. Communicate clearly, but try not to boss your driver around. It’s in their best interest to make your trip as safe and efficient as possible.
Don’t eat a saucy, smelly lunch inside the car or attempt to smoke a cigarette. The moment you exit the car, your driver will be called to pick up the next customer. This will leave them scrambling to air out their car so the next rider isn’t offended by the smell. A driver can get a poor rating from their next passenger if they’re sitting in a fog of offensive smells.
If you can walk to your destination, then walk. Sure, Uber is super convenient and is a great tool to have your disposal when you need to get somewhere. And there’s no official rule for how long or how short a trip needs to be. That being said, it’s not fun to drive someone 100 yards.
Call for an Uber when you are absolutely ready to be picked up. If you cancel and re-request trips in quick succession, you might receive a low rating from your driver. The reason is this: the closest driver to your pickup location receives your request. So if you cancel and call for a new ride, it’s most likely going to be the same driver who is being electronically jerked around.
Leave the clown cars to the clowns. If you try to stuff more than 4 people in the car, you might be in for a low rating from your driver. For uberX, the minimum car requirement is 2 doors and 4 open seats (with seat belts) for each rider. It’s a matter of safety- don’t pressure your driver into breaking the law.
Be engaged and communicative about where you are going. If you choose to give your driver verbal directions rather than provide an address for them to follow in a gps and then forget to actually give verbal directions, that is going to assure you a low rating. It never bothered me to follow verbal directions from a rider, IF they were paying attention to the drive, and providing directions in a timely fashion. An address is always the most preferred, but if you are going to give directions, don’t zone out and expect the driver to read your mind.
Avoid confusion by clarifying who you are and what driver you’re waiting for. The great version of this goes like this: Open passenger door or speak through an open window, “Hi, I’m Ryan, are you Rachel?’ Your driver should also be mindful of covering this ground with you. We are trained to say, “Hi, are you Ryan?” And wait for your reply until we even allow you in the car. Don’t be offended by this. Wrong riders get into cars all the time, and it’s a mess when they do. This can happen especially at busy downtown locations or when the bars let out and many people are calling for rides. Some people assume that it doesn’t make a difference as long as they get a ride, but it definitely causes a lot of logistical errors when riders get into the wrong Ubers.
Oh lord, try not to throw up. It’s understandable that sometimes this situation is unavoidable and it’s great that you are using this service rather than driving. If you were to get sick in the care, drivers do have the option of adding a cleaning fee to the trip total, but it will be the end of the night for them. If you plan on getting very drunk, make a plan for your ride home before you leave the house. Try packing a gallon ziploc bag in your purse (it folds right up!) and writing your home address on a post-it you can just hand to the driver. If there’s no avoiding it, roll down your window.
Don’t say, “You’re about to make sooo much money on this trip!” There is no other way to describe this comment-it’s rude. Would you say to your server, “Oh man, I’m getting a steak AND a bottle of wine - you’re going to make so much money from me tonight!”? - Probably not. Uber is an elegant system because it eliminates the need to communicate about or exchange any money.
Clean up after yourself. Take everything with you when you exit, including all trash. I once found a cellphone in my back seat and spent an hour driving back to give it to the rider.
Only take the snacks you need. Drivers pay for water and any extra snacks out of pocket, be courteous and only take what you need.
It’s ok if you:
…Don’t want to talk. My rule of thumb was to try and make conversation twice. If a rider doesn’t keep talking after these attempts I would let the conversation fall to silence. I never minded this. You’re not obligated to chat with your driver. Some of my most pleasant drives were when we would greet each other, clarify the address, and then ride in silence.
*ways to get out of talking: put your headphones in, fake sleep, ask to be quiet, ask to listen to the radio.
…Need to work. Saying something like, “I have to do a little work before I get to the airport” is a big hint to leave you alone.
…Need to sleep. If you’re going to sleep, be sure to be clear about your destination with the rider before you doze off.
…Need to be on the phone. Try, “Excuse me, I’m going to make a couple of calls.” I also never minded this, especially when they would communicate with me. Even when they didn’t, a calm phone call was totally fine.
…Need the temperature changed. Just politely ask. No big deal.