The dos and don’ts of taking an Uber
Ubers are, well, über convenient – the concept combines the best of public transportation and hiring a private driver – but like any good union, it also requires a lot of compromise on both sides. That starts with an understanding of the polite habits most people dislike.
“I had an Uber driver recently who put a potent air freshener on the air vent in the back by me,” says Nanette Paddock. “I understand he was just trying to be nice and make the car smell better, but I don’t like artificial smells, and I knew it was going to make the whole ride miserable for me.”
Unsure of the etiquette rules, she at first tried to ignore it, because she didn’t want to bother him or make him feel bad, but several minutes into the ride, she finally spoke up, saying, “Hey, I prefer my air plain. Do you mind if I take this air freshener out?” The driver honoured her request but politely told her he would have preferred if she’d spoken up at the beginning of the ride. Despite their best intentions, both rider and driver ended up feeling not-so-great about the experience, she says.
This super-polite exchange highlights a conundrum many rideshare users face these days, says Valerie Sokolosky, an etiquette expert and the author of Do It Right!, a comprehensive etiquette guide. “Drivers and riders, we’re all trying to do our best and be polite, but it doesn’t always come across as we intend,” she says. (Not to mention the fact that we want to maintain good passenger ratings on Uber so drivers accept our booking requests!) Just as there are some “nice” things drivers do that passengers don’t appreciate, there are some “polite” things riders do that get in the way of drivers doing their jobs … or are just plain annoying, she says. Here’s the scoop on passengers’ top etiquette mistakes – namely, which “polite” habits actually drive them nuts – and what to do instead.
Suffering in silence
Paddock’s silence is a prime example of the top “polite” habit that Uber drivers say they don’t like: Not speaking up when something is wrong. “Our success depends on happy riders, and while I try to do everything I can to anticipate what people will want, it helps me a lot if they just tell me at the start of the ride if they need something or if something is bothering them,” says Kelly J., a platinum-level Uber driver who has been driving for the company since it first launched. “The worst is when people don’t say anything during the ride, when I could have fixed it, and instead complain on the app, give me a bad rating or don’t tip me.”
Do this instead: Politeness doesn’t dictate enduring discomfort, especially not during a service you’re paying for, says Sokolosky. “Share your concern, politely and accurately, as soon as you recognise the problem,” she says. This gives the driver time to remedy it.
Calling or texting us directions to “help” us pick you up faster
Worried that your driver is running late because he or she can’t find where you’re at? You may think it will be helpful to call or text your driver to give them more detailed directions. “Pax [that’s Uber speak for ‘passengers’] can see where we are through the app at any time, and our GPS shows us the best route to get places, so there’s no need to give us that extra info, and we’re already coming as quickly as we can,” says Solomon T., a platinum-level driver. In fact, he says that the texts and calls can actually slow down your ride, as rules state that drivers can take calls or respond to texts only while pulled over to the side of the road.
Do this instead: Keep your “pin” (location marker) updated in the app, and then be patient. Instead of calling your driver to ask where he or she is, check the Uber app. “So many problems could be solved by people learning to use the app correctly and being patient,” says Solomon. Patience is one of the top etiquette rules for every situation, adds Sokolosky.