Is your car in the shop, but you need to get to work? Do you want to party into the wee hours of the morning then get home safely? Is your license suspended until you complete your online traffic school? Is owning a car just unfeasible for you right now? If the answer to any of those is yes, you’re probably already familiar with ride-sharing companies, the biggest of which is Uber.
Easy to Apply
For those new to this idea, or those who have just been devoted to taxis their whole lives, Uber is the company that is putting taxis out of business. Their prices are usually cheaper because the drivers are using their own cars, and in most states, just about anyone can become an Uber driver with minimal effort. In fact, when I signed up almost five years ago, I simply filled out a very quick and simple form online, with just enough details for Uber to run a background check. One week later, I was on the road making money! I only had to go through a half an hour of online training without ever talking to another human being.
If you’re not comforted by how easy it is to become an Uber driver, you’re not alone. However, let me assure you, the sign-up process is the last easy thing about being an Uber driver. The hours are long, and the pay is far from guaranteed. In fact, once you factor in depreciation and all the extra gas, maintenance, and car washes, the driver is really only making pocket change. Also, because what the driver makes is a percentage of the total cost of the ride, every time Uber drops the prices for the customers, it’s a pay cut for the drivers. In other words, if your driver is grouchy, it’s not without cause.
However, there are a few things riders can do to ensure a smooth ride and a happier driver. Remember, drivers must rate their riders, and your rating can affect how quickly you get picked up next time you call, so try to remain on their good side!
Be on Time
Time is money, and your driver is not getting paid until you’re in the car. And here’s a fun fact not many people know: if you take a very short ride with Uber, your driver gets about $2.40 after Uber takes their cut. However, if you don’t show up after the driver has waited the required five minutes, your driver cancels the ride and collects the cancellation fee, which nets them a whole $4.
This means that if you made your driver wait four minutes and then took a short ride with the minimum fare, your driver would have made more money had you taken another minute and they’d cancelled. If your driver is already having a bad day, they’re not going to give you a good rating at that point.
The AUX Cord
Maybe you’re taking a longer ride and want to enjoy some music. That’s totally understandable. I highly recommend headphones. If you want it to play through the car’s speakers, you’re going to have to ask your driver to use their AUX (or auxiliary) cord. This is a question that fills drivers with a sense of overwhelming dread. At the end of the day, not everyone likes the same music. If you demand the AUX cord and then put on music your driver doesn’t like, I can guarantee you’re not getting five stars.
Even though I consider my music taste to be eclectic, after three years of listening to other people’s music, I was handing out one-star ratings like candy. Eventually I tried to negotiate with the riders, politely saying something along the lines of, “Yes, I have an AUX cord, but please, for the sake of my head not exploding, I beg you to put on anything but [whatever music genre I was avoiding that day].” The riders would sometimes comply (five stars!) and sometimes put on that genre seemingly just for spite (one star!). After enough bad experiences, I’d just lie and say the cord was broken.
Luckily, there’s a simple fix for this one: talk to your driver. Most of them would probably also like to have music on. There are countless genres of music out there. With a simple conversation, you and your driver are bound to find at least one genre of music that you enjoy and that doesn’t make your driver want to jump out of the moving car.
Don’t Throw Up
This one should be a no-brainer, but somehow it still happens enough that it needs to be said. Not only will you be charged a cleaning fee that can range from $50 to $200, but your driver will lose all wages for the rest of the night because their car will be out of commission until it’s cleaned. Even the most compassionate driver is still going to give a one-star rating to someone who pukes in their car. In fact, even someone who looks like they might puke is likely to earn a low rating (I’d usually give two or three stars) because of the tension the driver feels as they pray the rider can make it just a couple more blocks and out of their car before the inevitable explosion.
Apart from hurling, there’s not much bad behavior a cash tip won’t make up for. Just recently Uber has allowed tipping through the app, and it’s highly likely the driver won’t see that you tipped them until long after they’ve rated your ride. Even if you end your ride by saying, “I’ll tip you, I promise,” your Uber driver is tired and has been lied to many times.
If you like to listen to a specific artist that the driver might not like, or if you’re going to be riding with friends and you don’t want one of them to badly affect your rating, carry cash. A couple bucks, maybe $5 on a long ride, will absolutely guarantee your driver remains content and will not post a story about you on one of our secret rideshare driver forums.
Follow these guidelines, and your driver will be happier, and your ride will be less of a chore for both of you. Check back next week to learn some things Uber will never tell you about the rating system!