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Uber has revolutionized transportation in almost every market where it has become available. No longer must one rely on prebooked black car services, flag down taxis, or try to figure out public transportation in a strange city.
Yet there are several Uber secrets that a casual user might not know about the service that can greatly affect the quality and cost of your ride.
These are the top things I’ve noticed that passengers complain about – and will rate drivers lower for – despite them being factors outside of driver control.
I’m a regular Uber passenger, not only in my own town but also in those I travel to. I also started driving for UberX last month and have begun to learn the secrets that drivers know… and I’m sharing them with you to help improve your ride quality!
1. Your Uber driver does NOT know exactly where you are going.
That is, not unless you put in your exact destination. In July, I wrote about one of my bad Uber experiences in Manhattan when I discovered that Uber did not transmit the destination information I had input to my driver. That has since changed – and now the Uber Driver app (which is what we use to do all of our Uber business) will give us an exact destination – but ONLY if you input one.
To do this, you need to enter a destination before you request the ride.
If this does not pop up automatically, you can go into the fare estimate part of the app before requesting the ride.
There is a dropdown menu once you start typing that will let you select where you are going.
Takeaway: Enter an exact address (or select the name of the business you are trying to visit.
2. Be certain your pick up location is accurate.
The “pin” that drops for your pickup location is derived using your phone’s location services feature and sometimes can be wildly inaccurate.
If you know your exact location, it’s helpful to enter that. If you don’t, if you can drag the pin to the nearest intersection where you would like to be picked up. You can initially enter an address as well and then the pin can be dragged to a more accurate spot on the screen.
I have noticed that my location is rarely accurate when I request a ride – or sometimes its too accurate. For example, if I’m in the back of my house when requesting a ride and don’t input my address, it tells the driver to go to the street behind my home (which does not provide access to my street). Sometimes at work, it will show my last location in the parking garage a block away because my location is hard to determine. And occasionally when it pulls a correct address, it’s on the opposite side of the building on a different street corner than where I want to be picked up.
Most important – if you are somewhere (like a sporting event or neighbor’s house) but plan to migrate to another location before the driver arrives, when requesting your ride, put in the address where you want the driver to come to, not the address where you currently are.
Still, this gets messed up enough that if I see a green pin dropped (which shows up as “Go To Pin”), I’m almost always going to call to get an exact address or double check the location, as I’ve seen individuals drag their pin to an empty field over a mile away from where they actually are!
It’s also important to know – your driver cannot change the pick up location once you have requested the ride, which affects the GPS portion of the Uber app – so even if you call and change it, the Uber navigation will only guide us to the original destination which may result in delays while we try to use an alternate system to attempt to locate you.
Takeaway: Enter the correct and complete pick up address if you can – or make sure the pin location is accurate for where you plan to meet the car!
3. The Uber navigation system isn’t that great.
In fact, its pretty bad. In my town, it tries to take me down roads that have been closed for two years and does not have some of our newest fastest shortcuts visible. But if we have the app open as we should, it’s the default map that will show up and if you see us driving in circles trying to reach you, its either because we are trying to reach a pin versus an inexact address (see item 2) or the navigation is not accurate.
Most drivers used to use their own phones to navigate separately from the Uber phone and app. This was great because could have the Uber app open but still navigate independently (and take your calls/texts if you were trying to reach us. But Uber recently started charging us $10 a week to lease the Uber phones so many drivers promptly returned to avoid those fees.
So now many drivers are using their own cell phones which means they are now toggling between their own phone’s navigation and the app (which we are required to have up) unless they have onboard navigation in the car or another separate form of GPS. And we are also taking your calls/texts about your ride on that same phone – it ends up being a lot going on at one time, while we are supposed to be driving!
I’m lucky to have hands-free calling and also onboard navigation… but other drivers are trying to do it all on one device!
Takeaway: If you see your driver on their cell phone, they probably aren’t texting and driving – they are trying to get you from point A to point B.
4. We don’t actually have your phone number – and you don’t have ours!
If your Uber driver calls or texts you to confirm your pick up location, all we see is a generic phone number assigned to us – the same one you see. After your ride ends, we have no way of reaching you as that number continues to rotate from passenger to passenger.
So don’t be freaked out that your driver sent you a text and now knows how to reach you – he doesn’t. But what also happens is that you technically have our number as it turns out, or at least if you were our last passenger. Before I turned in my Uber-issued phone, I received calls at 4 am one morning from the last passenger I’d driven earlier that evening screaming at me because I couldn’t help her find the Uber driver who just dropped them off (drunk, apparently) because her friend left her purse in his car. She called me a variety of unrepeatable names because I could only give her generic contact information for the Dallas office and couldn’t track down her driver.
Takeaway: If we call or text you, please answer – chances are, is related to issue 2 (we can’t find you)!
5. Ratings really DO matter – ours AND yours.
At the end of your ride, you are given the opportunity to rate your driver on a scale of 1 to 5.
Those ratings are really important.
If a driver’s rating falls below a certain threshold (which can vary by city), their Uber app will automatically be shut off and they can no longer drive until they’ve been reinstated by Uber (which may require taking online training or going in for a car inspection, from what I’ve heard). If it drops lower, they can lose all driving privileges permanently.
That threshold is relatively high too – in some cities with more drivers than passengers, it’s rumored to be as high as 4.6 or 4.7. So every rating less than a 5 can jeopardize a driver’s ability to stay on the road.
I’ve had a passenger give me a 1 – and tell me she was doing it – because SHE entered the wrong address (and after I tried to confirm three times that she really wanted to go there – it was a known bad neighborhood – tried to blame me for purposely going for a higher fare, even after I “ended” the ride and drove her five miles back to the right location for free).
I’ve also had a lot of intoxicated passengers give me lower ratings – for not letting them smoke in my car, not letting them vomit in my car, or not letting them ride six passenger in my four passenger car without seatbelts. I’m to the point that I am not driving at hours where I’m likely to transport intoxicated passengers anymore because I can’t afford the ratings hit.
But… we also get to rate YOU. So if you are that jerky passenger who insists on doing something in my private vehicle that I don’t like, I can give you a bad rating. Get enough of those, you can be banned by Uber. Or you may see drivers accepting and then promptly canceling rides with you because of your low rating. I haven’t done it yet – but others report they do it, so it could be you.
Takeaway: Rate fairly, but awarely.
6. Speaking of cancellations – don’t play the multiple ride game.
I’m told that the new thing to do in my town is to request Uber at the same time as requesting other transport (Lyft, Curb, etc.) and then cancelling the ones that don’t arrive first. This is particular problem on the college campus near me.
I have a couple of problems with this. One is that many of the drivers for one service are also on the others – so all you are really doing is creating artificial surges for demand – which in turn drives up price surges and sends drivers scurrying to the source of the surge. In the end, you don’t get a driver that much faster but it may cost you more in the long run.
The other problem is that we as drivers do not get paid if you cancel unless we have already arrived to pick you up. This is also why you will often see a notice that your driver has arrived while he is a couple of blocks away, especially if you are on one of those ambiguous pick up areas (like I described in point 2) and/or you haven’t been answering our call/text to find you. We’ll slide to arrive so that if you jump in another car, we at least still get paid for the cancellation.
Takeaway: Play the multiple ride game at your own risk… you’ll pay for it in the end.
These are just a few of the things your Uber driver wants you to know, because we value your business AND we value your time.
If you have other Uber secrets you want to know, ask away – I might cover them in a future post!