A Quick Refresher on Uber Etiquette
Of all the Uber drivers out there right now, there are probably a few who moonlight as murderers. That's not any kind of commentary on Uber's hiring practices (even though they literally have none), but rather the effects of operating at scale – just like someone who rents out an Airbnb had their stuff stolen this week, or someone who works at a Walmart killed someone last night. After all, it's just probability… not all Uber drivers are that bad, right? Well, maybe not that bad, but a lot of them are still pretty bad. Since we've all collectively forgotten how we're supposed to act in this transactional service, let's take a second to agree to a basic code of conduct in ride sharing.
Don't fucking talk to me, man. I don't care if you're desperate for human interaction, or even just a friendly person – if I want to talk to you about something, I'll talk to you. My Taco Bell cashier doesn't chat with me the whole time I'm waiting for my food. The TSA agent doesn't try to chat me up while patting me down. I don't want to tell you about why I'm going or where I'm going, or where I'm from, or what sports teams I like, or if I have any plans for the weekend. I don't care about why you're an Uber driver, or what your kids are like, or what your thoughts are on mundane things like traffic and weather. I'm good. Let me just sit here and do nothing and stare angrily out at the road in front of us, waiting for the time on the GPS to go steadily down. Don't make me feel like a dick for giving one-word answers and finding a brief pause to sneak on some headphones so I can be visibly disinterested. The only acceptable conversation for an Uber drive to initiate is "hey" or "how are you" or "are you (name)?" That's it. I'm fine with not knowing what your voice sounds like.
Quick Note: By the way, this rule extends to riders as well. It's an even worse offense to be a chatty passenger, because the driver is required to be professional and can't just tell you to shut up. I was in a pool with a fellow passenger who wouldn't leave the driver alone, asking her what her ethnicity was (Indian, of course), what field she worked in (recruiting), how she decided which people to recruit (that's when I stopped paying attention), and on and on. To her credit, the driver was polite, but she didn't really have a choice – her 4.9 star rating depended on it.
Getting picked up has to be the most stressful part of the entire Uber experience. You get excited when you're told that the driver is only three minutes away, but that excitement evaporates five minutes later when they're still three minutes away. If you're going to take longer than the app says you should to pick me up – that is, if you're going to go off in a completely random direction for no reason – don't even bother taking the ride! You don't know the streets better than the GPS, and if you need proof, try racing against Google Maps. It's like a masochistic video game, where I have no control over the little car icon, but I'm desperately rooting for it to make the right turn. And you should know exactly where I'm going to be! If I'm at the southwest corner of an intersection, you don't need to drive around that intersection and call me a bunch of times. I'm exactly where I said I was.
When you finally get here, I don't need any help. I've been getting in and out of cars myself since I outgrew a car seat. I don't need the door opened for me, or a hand with any of my stuff unless I ask for it specifically. If I wanted that, I would have ordered an Uber Black, not a damn Express Pool. If I needed an extra bit of luxury, I'd have gone through the effort of getting a limo. There's a reason you're an Uber driver and not a chauffeur. It actually takes more effort to not instinctively get out of the car and wait for you to come all the way around and open the door for me (in the business, they call that a reach-around). But there are some standards – right when I get inside the car, you can't have all your shit inside. If I try to get in the front seat (a spot which I personally prefer), I don't want to accidentally sit on your Bible (something that actually happened), or have to move your clothes (ditto). The front seat shouldn't be all the way forward, because cars are actually designed so that people in the front seat and back seat can both have plenty of space!
After you pick me up, there should be absolutely no reason you ask me where I'm going. I told the app where I was going, and you accepted the ride knowing where I was going! What if I wanted to go to the moon? Would you just kick me out right there? I didn't change my mind on where to go in the minutes between requesting the ride and actually getting in the car. And on that note, don't try to drop me off anywhere except where the app says you should drop me off. If the app is telling you that there's still 200 feet to go, don't brake seven houses down and make me tell you to keep going. I didn't try to trick you by putting in a fake address – you don't have to try to guess which house is mine.
The vast majority of the time, the audio situation inside the car is far from ideal. Perhaps somewhere along the line of becoming a driver, you should take a step to realize that you are not a DJ. You don't have to try to pick out the perfect station for me, or read my expression and see whether I'm enjoying the music. Most likely, whatever music I have on my phone is superior to whatever you're playing. It's cool to have the radio off, or you can even keep it on a non-music station (e.g. NPR) if you don't like the silence. And if I'm having a conversation – either with someone that I'm traveling with, or on the phone – you don't have to offer your thoughts on what I was talking about. You can listen in (mostly because it's very hard to not listen in), but if I wanted to have that conversation with you, I wouldn't have called the other person to have that conversation!
At any point during the ride, if you casually joke about me leaving a tip, I'm not going to leave a tip. Granted, I probably wasn't going to leave a tip anyway, but now I'll press the 'no tip' button with an extra hint of irritation. There's no reason to tip your Uber driver unless they (a) helped you put your shit in the car, or (b) got you to your location faster than the estimate, something which never happens. It makes no sense to tip an Uber… it only kind of makes sense to tip at a restaurant. The amount quoted on the menu is for the food and the tip is supposedly for the service, which is slightly weird because you can only reward/punish the service by leaving more/less of a tip, but you can't do the same for the chefs dependent on the quality of food (something that I have issues with more often than the actual service). When I'm getting a ride, that's all I'm getting. I'm already paying you for that!
Some quick hits:
If I tell you that I'm in somewhat of a rush to get somewhere (like, trying to catch a flight), don't accept someone else's ride while I'm still in the damn car! I'm sitting here trying to estimate exactly how many minutes I'll have to get through security and how many people I'll have to ask to cut in front of, and you're going to cut it even closer?
Keep the windows up! If you want to open a window, open the driver's window or the one next to me, not the ones I can't reach. There is no excuse for keeping windows down while you're on the freeway.
You had better know your way around – if you don't, don't drive in that area! If you're asking me for the best way to get to a certain place, you're doing it wrong. As exciting as it would be if my mechanic asked my opinion on where to put the flange, I don't think it would necessarily make my car run any better.
You have to have a charger available. There are only two chargers you have to have! And they'll probably cost about $10 combined, which is definitely less than that obnoxiously glowing Lyft sign you keep on your dash.
If you're bored during the ride, that's not my problem. You can't be texting while driving me, or taking a call longer than "hey can I call you back later" while you're driving. Part of the benefit of having an Uber is that I can do all of those things – catch up on texts, e-mails, etc. – because I'm not driving. You're not working from home where you can take care of personal tasks.
And finally, we'll end with a message to Uber. We know that Express Pool isn't a real thing. In Express Pool, you walk to a different location that's only a few minutes away, and they give you a couple bucks off a regular Pool. It's obviously a way for Uber to lower their prices while not *really* lowering their prices to try to get customers back from Lyft. When you request the Express Pool, a timer of five minutes starts counting down, during which Uber tries to find you a driver already going in your direction so they can maximize their profit. But after the five minutes expires, they'll sometimes still take their sweet time looking – which is not cool at all. The deal that Uber and I make is that I give you five minutes to save money on your end, and if you can't get your shit together, then only I save money. Not you!