You probably check your Uber drivers’ ratings before you hop in their car, but those drivers pay attention to your rating as well. And a bad rating can make grabbing a ride a lot harder in the future. To keep your passenger rating as high as possible, you need to know what drivers look for in passengers, too.
Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Make Your Pickup Painless for Both of You
You can save yourself and your driver a lot of headache with just a little forethought before you call your ride. When you are ready to set your pickup location, think about things from the driver’s point of view. They can’t safely stop in the middle of a super busy street, especially during a really busy time of day. Michael Morales, a driver for Lyft, explains at The Bold Italic that they’re not taxis with their own lanes, or taxi stands for pickups. Morales suggests you walk around the corner and choose a location that will avoid a possible accident or ticket. It’s easier for the driver, and it gives you a way to get into the vehicle safely. Stand near a place they can pull off the road, or take a quick stroll to a side street if you can.
It’s also good idea to wait until you’re ready to go before you summon your ride. Salvador Rodriguez at Quartz recommends you hold off on your request if you think there’s a good chance you might cancel before they get there. If a driver gets assigned to you and you cancel within a certain time window, you won’t be charged anything, but you can easily miss that window if you’re not paying attention. Not to mention the fact that you’ll have wasted that driver’s time, effort, and gas when they could be picking up people who are ready to go.
Also, don’t keep your driver on the edge of their seat by withholding your destination until they arrive. If you wait until you’re in the car, the driver won’t be able to plan the best way to approach your pickup location or know which direction to go as soon as you get in. This makes them a sitting duck in traffic, and it costs you money while they try and figure out the best route to your destination. Dayami Gomez at Dancing Through Detours suggests entering the actual address you’re headed to, not the name of the destination, to avoid any mishaps. At the very least, always double check that what you entered is correct. If you’re not careful, you might end up heading to the wrong place with the same name.
When your driver arrives, be ready to climb in and go. If you don’t think you’ll be at your pickup location by the time they get there, let your driver know. You can either text or call your driver with information within the Uber app. A quick heads up can keep your rating from plummeting, and let them know they’re not just wasting their time. Naomi Chrisoulakis at the Creme Lifestyle blog also recommends you separate yourself from the crowd if you’re near other people. Don’t make your driver play “Where’s the Fare?” When their car pulls up, approach them and clarify who you are and who you’re waiting for. Open the car door, or move up to the window and say something like “Hi, I’m [your name], are you [expected driver’s name]?” There have been problems in the past with people getting into other people’s Ubers, so drivers will ask for your name anyway.
Choose the Right Seat for Your Situation
There are no official rules for where you should sit when, but these guidelines can help you choose the best seat depending on the situation:
- Sit in the front seat if you want to talk: Uber welcomes passengers to sit in the front seat next to the driver, but it’s not required. If you want to talk and get to know your driver, sit in the front seat. If you’d rather be left alone, have business you need to take care of, or plan on napping while you’re stuck in traffic, hop in the back.
- Sit in the back if you have a pet: Uber allows pets, especially dogs, but the decision comes down to your driver. If they say it’s alright, Dena Levitz at CityLab recommends you sit in the back seat with your pet so you can keep an eye on it. The last thing you want is your dog distracting your driver. Also, to avoid any problems when your driver arrives, it’s best to call them or text ahead of time and let them know you’re bringing a pet.
- Stay close to your drunk friend: Take it from me, ride sharing services make drunken nights on the town with friends awesome and safe. That being said, if you’re travelling with a buddy who managed to reach true enlightenment, sit with them and tend to them. Morales, the Lyft driver, explains that you’ll be responsible for whatever they do. If they puke all over the car, you’ll be the one who gets fined. If they flail around in inebriated glory and break something, that’s on you. Nobody likes to babysit, but you’ll be glad you did.
- Ask before you get in the back seat with someone else: If you’re using a multi-rider service like UberPOOL, Allison Davis at GQ suggests you check with the other rider before you hop in the back with them if the front seat is open. They will probably be fine with it, but like sharing a table at a coffee house, it’s polite to ask before you jump into someone’s space.
Don’t stress too much over where to sit, but keep these in mind for your next Uber ride.
Don’t Be a Jerk to Your Driver and Other Passengers
Even if you’re riding solo with an UberX, you’re still in a shared space. The driver is using their personal vehicle, so Leslie Williams at the official Uber blog says it’s polite to ask before adjusting the vehicle’s temperature or rolling the windows down. Alexandra Ma at Huffington Post also recommends you ask before touching any of their gadgets, especially their radio. Most of the time they will ask you about music and volume, so keep your hands to yourself. Generally speaking, it’s best to consider basic “aeroplane rules” while riding with Uber, especially if you’re using a multi-rider service. That means:
- Don’t eat smelly food (and ask before you eat or drink things in their car).
- Don’t smoke (unless they say it’s OK — they may join you).
- Don’t wear excessive cologne or perfume (and definitely don’t spray it while you’re in their car).
That being said, don’t be afraid to try and make your ride more comfortable. You’re paying for the service, so don’t hesitate to ask for A/C, heat, or if you can roll the window down to escape their own poisonous cloud of excessive cologne. If they say no, press the issue. You shouldn’t sacrifice your comfort for politeness.
Also, try to keep phone conversations to a minimum when you’re not riding alone. We all know how annoying it is when someone near us is yelling into their phone about something, especially if it’s personal or they decide to use speaker phone for whatever god-forsaken reason. If you want to strike up a conversation with your driver or fellow passengers, go for it, but Levitz recommends you treat it like a first date. Avoid touchy or offensive subjects, and keep it classy. It’s fun to make new friends, but there’s no need to make someone feel uncomfortable while they’re trapped in a car with you.
On a personal note, please don’t get mad at your driver’s navigation system, or your driver for following their navigation system. I recently rode with a man that was furious with our route to my destination (I was picked up first so I was getting dropped off first on the way to his destination). He was drunk and he couldn’t fathom why Waze was taking us to the freeway, so he forced our poor driver — who had literally just moved here from Taiwan — to drive all over Los Angeles until finally realising the freeway was, indeed, the best option. Eventually he simmered down, apologised and turned out to be a pretty cool dude, but it was incredibly awkward to be around this. You may know a super-secret route to your destination, but your driver is following directions they know will get you there. Regardless of what city you’re in, there are thousands of streets and route options. If you know a better route, you can suggest it as soon as you get in the car, but don’t get angry. It doesn’t help anyone. Many drivers will ask if you have a preferred route, but even if they don’t you can check your phone’s GPS to find a preferred route and give them directions if it’s important.
Thank, Rate and Tip Good Drivers
If your driver did a good job, let them know when they drop you off. Thank them as you exit the vehicle, and don’t forget to rate them within your Uber app. Deciding how to rate drivers can be controversial, but consider what a low score can mean for them. As Rodriguez explains, you might think a three or four star rating is good enough, but drivers can be deactivated if they slip below even a 4.6 rating out of 5 (which isn’t all that low). Personally, unless the ride was beyond terrible, I give drivers a maximum rating and save my judgement for the tipping process. Rodriguez does the same thing, and most drivers usually do the same thing with their passengers.
Tipping can be convoluted and controversial as well. Uber discourages you from tipping drivers at all, and there is much less of a tipping culture in Australia than the US. You can still tip them with cash, however, if you feel like being kind. They may not accept at first, but they will if you insist. At the very least, you can offer them a verbal compliment and write a few nice things in their comment box that pops up when you rate them within the app. You may not think it matters much, but people do read those.