Dear Uber driver*,
(* or Lyft driver or Curb driver or yellow taxi/black car/pedicab driver… I’ve been in dozens of your cars in 2015 already and the lines are blurring so this is really for all of you)
How’s it going?
Listen, I know its tough out there with the lowered fares (or bogus bonuses, unfair competition, passengers trying to cheat the system, weather, or whatever other monkey wrench your organization has thrown your way today).
I feel your pain.
Lately I haven’t been driving as much as I’ve been riding. In fact, I’ve only completed three rides since figuring out that I wasn’t even netting minimum wage.
But the new low fares make it more attractive to take Uber or Lyft now than to pay to park (whether downtown at my office or at the airport) so it seems like I ride everywhere and thus wear the weird hat of being both one of you and one of THEM.
I’ve had close to 60 rides in the last two months as a matter of fact – on Uber, on Lyft, via taxi and black car, and even one in a pedicab – and I’ve gotten to see what the best of the best looks like. And I’ve also seen a lot of things that make me shake my head.
I see it like this – if you want to succeed in the long range and see the market prices adjust, the service has to be something consumers are willing to pay for. Otherwise it’s nothing more than glorified hitchhiking for a fee.
I think there is a lot that companies can do directly that would improve the services for both drivers and passengers. But there are also a few things you – the driver – can do too. In the past, I’ve shared with passengers the things they should know or do to make the experience better. And now, I’m passing on the favor to you.
I feel like I’m a decent passenger (and my 4.9 passenger rating seems to back that up) and I know I’m a good driver (4.91 after eight months) so my worlds align pretty well.
Here are ten things you should do if you want your passengers to have the best experience possible in your Uber/Lyft/taxi/hovercraft/rickshaw:
1. Understand how both sides of the app work. I’m surprised how many drivers have never seen the user interface for their brand’s software or taken a ride as a passenger. For example, when I comment to an Uber driver that I can see them driving down the wrong street or driving in the opposite direction of my pickup location, they seem shocked that I know where their car is. On Curb, some drivers don’t even understand that there is an actual app involved and not just central dispatch. Learn how the interface works and your ratings will improve.
2. Stop calling me. Nothing annoys me more than pointless calls from drivers. Calling me to say “I’ll be there in five minutes” is a waste of my time when I can see the five minutes on the app (see number 1!). Calling me immediately to tell me you have arrived is a waste of my time when the app tells me you are arriving (see number 1!) and is going to set a bad tone when I need to set my alarm and grab my things and make my way out of the house. That’s difficult to do when I’m stopping to answer my phone so I’m going to be annoyed before I ever open the door! Park and cool your heels for 30 seconds. (Uber drivers, the training video that you supposedly watched tells you to wait five minutes before calling to avoid ratings hits… heed that advice unless you are truly worried you are in the wrong place!)
3. As an addendum to #2, don’t screen me if you DO call. When you call me under the guise of verifying my address (which I entered in the app), I know what you are probably going to ask next – “where are you going”. I’ve had more than a couple of rides cancelled right after a driver hangs up if I haven’t given you the “correct” answer (which is apparently “the airport” or some other place with a longer/larger fare). If you only want to drive to and from the airport, apply to be a limousine driver or become a frequent traveler, because that’s not how this works. Also, all you are doing is encouraging passengers to lie. (“Oh, I need to go to the airport but first I need you to swing by this other location.”) Let’s not go there.
4. Pick me up where I ask to be picked up. This isn’t about those dropped pins. I hate the dropped pins. This is about you deciding to park a half block away despite having an exact address entered. And even if you do because you are confused, when you see me coming out, pull up to meet me. Don’t make me walk up the street towing my luggage because you didn’t want to look at the house numbers. It’s especially annoying in bad weather so just don’t do it.
5. Drop me off where I ask to be dropped off. It’s equally annoying to have you stop the car two houses away from where I live after I’ve said “it’s that grey house on the left with the blue front door” or to go to a different spot at the airport terminal after I’ve said “upper level, second door please!”. And don’t get me started on how I regularly have to walk a block back in the correct direction because the “right here please” gets ignored on my work commute.
6. Don’t lie. I’ve heard some of the most ridiculous driver lies lately. Just blatant rubbish, either out of not knowing the company policies and/or making things up to avoid following them. I will call you out on your lies as a fellow driver if I think you may honestly not know. And I will report you after the ride ends if you do know and are still perpetuating untruths. Here are some of my recent favorites:
“Uber won’t allow us to accept rides that are less than a mile in distance.”
“We are required to follow Uber’s GPS – I can’t drive you the way you want to go.”
“We aren’t allowed to make stops anymore. If you need to stop for any reason, you have to request a second ride – but don’t worry, I can wait for you and do the second ride too!”
7. Learn to read people. If I climb in the backseat and pull out my iPad and start answering emails on the way to the airport, its a pretty good sign I don’t want to have an involved conversation about your grandchildren. And if I take a phone call from a client, it’s not your cue to turn up the radio loudly. And asking me seven times if I want water/gum/mints/hand sanitizer when I have said no the first six is just annoying.
8. Remember that your riders are not a captive audience for whatever you are pitching. Please don’t try to convert me to your religion, sell me a car, hit me up for a job, ask me to read your manuscript/resume/manifesto/Bible, or hit on me. That last one in particular gets really icky when you have picked me up or are dropping me off at my house. Just don’t.
9. Take a critical look at your vehicle. The battered torn stepped on Kleenex box floating around the backseat. The trash in the seat pockets. The trunk full of junk. The tacky stuff hanging from your rearview mirror. And the smells. Oh, the smells. Make it a point to sit in every seat in your car every day before you drive to make sure that what the passengers are experiencing is ship-shape. And hide the pine tree air fresheners (if you must) in a seat pocket or under the seats.
10. If you dislike Uber, talk about that with other drivers, not your passengers. No one you are driving genuinely cares about the rate cuts or bonus issues or how you feel about the other companies. This especially applies to taxi drivers complaining about Uber ruining their business by charging less. And for goodness sake, enough about the damn tipping already.
I know this is a lot to process… and if you are thinking “my car, my rules”, it may make you a little angry too. I get that (trust me, I hated when Uber decided to use Spotify to give riders control over my stereo!). But the “my car, my rules” mentality stops when it conflicts with the rules of the service or the comfort of my passengers.
These guidelines are my own rules for how I rate my rides at the end – and how I determine whether there is an issue that needs to be reported to the service. And if you do all these things, I might even give you a tip!
Safe driving… Uber on… fist bump, whatever your lingo,