Archives for December2015


Cancelling Trips after 5-minute No-Show Limit

Interpretation of policy: “A driver must cancel a rider’s request for a ride if they have been a no-show 5 minutes after your arrival.”

Ok, so maybe that’s not exactly what it says. But the automated system in place automatically grants you a fee for the ride getting cancelled after that 5-minute window. Did you invent the Uber system? Are you a managing director of the company who has a say in the operations of the company? Most likely not. So then why take it into your own hands to be lenient with the policy? It’s there for a reason. The longer a rider makes you wait, that rider is now taking a driver away from the road that could easily be picking up a needy rider that is desperate for a normally-priced ride.

“Normally-priced ride?” Yes. Surge-less. Standard rate.

“What does cancelling a ride have to do with the surge rate?” As a driver, your job/goal is to transport as many passengers by continuously taking requests as they come in. While you’re sitting still waiting for a passenger to take their time, there are more riders requesting rides that are actually ready to go. When this wait time starts to build up and you multiply that with exponential effects, you get surge pricing going higher and higher.

“Do I cancel every ride as soon as it gets to 5 minutes of wait?” Uber seems to leave this to the driver’s discretion. In my opinion, it’s left to be implemented into my strategy of making as much money as I possibly can. I actually have a sand timer that I flip when the app has notified the rider that I have arrived (about 5-10 seconds before the driver gets there). It lasts for 5 minutes. Once that sand is out, I cancel the ride.

“Do you use the timer for every ride?” That is where the strategy comes in. There are many factors that are accounted for and have been practiced. What you want to weigh is if you can make as much money on the ride as you could in the amount of time it will take to cancel the ride, acquire another ride, and arrive at the next location.

“Wow that sounds complicated.” Not at all. Here’s how I figure it:

  1. Was this a request for an X or XL ride? (POOL is excluded because you’re supposed to cancel that ride after just 2 minutes) If the ride is an XL ride, I would most likely hang on for several more minutes because the rates for XL are almost double in Massachusetts than for X.
  2. If it is just X, what is the surge of this ride? Anything above 1.3x, I try to hang onto as long as possible. If it’s 1.3x or less, the 5-minute timer is rolling and I’ll be cancelling right at or shortly right after the 5-minute mark. Keep in mind, I always do everything possible to try to get the ride. I send the rider a canned text stating that I am right outside their location and that I have the door open for them.
  3. If the surge is 1.3x or less, but the distance I travelled to get this rider was over 5 minutes… When you had to travel anything in the direction of 10 minutes for a rider and the surge was 1.3x or less, that means the number of people requesting rides is dropping quickly and the surge is going away or gone for that area. If it’s going to take you potentially another 5-10 minutes to get to another rider, then it’s worth hanging onto this ride longer and waiting for the rider to show up.

Why bother cancelling the ride at all?” #1. You make money when done properly. #2. It allows the rider to potentially complain to Uber about the cancellation fee. #3. When the Rider complains, if it is the first time hitting the time limit, Uber support may refund them. However, they will not keep doing that moving forward and Uber will explain that to them. Thus, the rider is getting trained to be a better rider for the system. If you don’t cancel rides when appropriate, you are enabling them to continue the behavior of requesting rides when they’re not actually going to be ready in time.

UberX vs UberXL by number of people or level of comfort

Taking UberX allows you to request a ride that will fit a minimum of 4 passengers in addition to the driver. However, sometimes, it’s just nice to get a little bit more space if you have the extra money. Rather than splurging on UberBlack or UberSUV, which are both great service but have a price tag along with it, you may find it more appealing to request UberXL for a more spacious ride even if it’s just you or you and another person.

 

I’ve driven dozens of people in my Dodge Grand Caravan who’ve requested UberXL just to have more space. Even more 4-person only rides of XL because stuffing 3 of the 4 people into the back seat of a smaller-sized sedan doesn’t work out so well to keep people comfortable.

If you request an UberXL ride inadvertently and you didn’t mean to, it is not your driver’s job to know, just because it’s only you, that you really meant to just request UberX. It is assumed by drivers that you wanted to have the next notch up of service all to yourself.

Transportation of Alcohol

Transporting alcohol in most states is only legal by means of a closed container. You may not enter a vehicle with an open container. Though, there are those of you who are out there that will try.

I don’t understand this. What I don’t understand more is the level of intensity of anger the rider or more likely group of riders in this case gets to because the driver asks them not to bring in open containers.

You know it is illegal. You know the driver would be putting their career on the line… just for you to have a ride with drinks in your hand?

Please respect the driver and their livelihood and don’t even ask to take open alcohol containers into the vehicle. You’re more at risk for having those spill anyways and your driver will have no problem gathering pictures of your beverage spill, submitting it to Uber, and waiting on them to decide on a cleaning fee in order to prevent dried up alcohol smell in the car.

You’re risking it for everyone involved. Don’t do it.

Surge Price vs. Taxi Cost

Surges go up. Price of Uber rides goes up. In the city of Boston, the rates of taxis are lower for rides more than a mile when the surge ends up over 2.2x. If you’re near a taxi stand and it’s easy to grab one, by all means, help us out and grab a taxi. There’s no need to crazily over spend. Taxis are never going to go away. They’ll always be around, however, just not dominating. That is why Uber also has UberTaxi in major cities so that you can request a taxi right through the app. The surge is not applied to the taxi fee (Though I have no source for that, so correct me if I’m wrong) and therefore may be beneficial to you this time around.

 

I did try to get a taxi in a rainy mess one rush hour evening for 45 minutes because the Uber surge in my area was at 3.6. Insanity! NEVER goes that high! My Uber driver was 40 minutes away! (Really? On the app? No, there was an accident on one of the main roadways causing loads of traffic which he had to sit in it get to me.) So I tried to get a taxi. 20 minutes of running around in the rain trying to get a taxi. So ridiculous! So I folded…. Went to grab some food, waited 45 minutes and returned fired up that the surge was now a mere 1.3.

 

It CAN be worth the effort to go grab a taxi, but even with the cost difference at about 2.2x+ being cheaper for a taxi, it is still worth getting an Uber just for the ease of use and safer way to request a ride.

Being a 5-star Rider

There’s a decent percentage of the Uber-rider community that is unaware that the drivers actually rate the riders as well. I have personally ridden with drivers who tell me they give all riders 5 stars. “Woah, wait a minute… WHY?!”

If you want to give every rider 5 stars, then sure… go for it. But that is not helping the general population with improving the efficiency of using Uber. There are several effects on the pricing of Uber rides based on low-score riders.

A typical less-than-5-star rating would be given when a rider makes the driver wait for several minutes. When a driver is waiting, that’s causing the entire amount of time that driver is taken up to be extended. This causes surge pricing to happen when it’s multiplied by several riders in a dense area.

When you’ve requested a ride, you should be prepared to be ready within a minute of requesting. Once the rider is on his way, you should drop off about 25% of the minutes for the estimated time of arrival. If they’re 12 minutes away, expect them there in 9 minutes. This is due to the worst-case routing estimate by Uber’s GPS. However, a large majority of drivers use Waze or Google Maps which routes a with a slightly better estimated arrival time.

There are many other factors to being a 5-star rider, many of which are covered in other training links. One of the more common lower-score ratings comes from using UberPOOL and whining about picking up other riders or asking your rider not to pick up other riders on the way. This is 100% no allowed and all riders must understand that UberPOOL isn’t cheap for you because Uber is giving you a deal… it’s cheap for you because they’re algorithmically placing you on routes with other riders. Changing pickup and drop-off locations is not allowed, nor are stops on the way.

You can learn more about using UberPOOL here.

Smoking in Uber Vehicles

Smoking in a driver’s vehicle, whether enforced by Uber policy or not, should be absolutely forbidden. Here in Massachusetts, we have the 4th lowest percentage of smokers in the country at 16.3%. That means that 84% of all other riders we take don’t smoke, can’t smoke, have an allergy to that smoke, or just cannot stand the smell.

As a smoker, I’m sure you’re aware, but if you’re not, everyone else is definitely aware, that the smell of cigarette smoke sticks to everything and is quite potent. One rider smoking in the car will definitely affect the next several rides no matter how much you try to keep the smoke out the window.

Drivers are not willing to risk low ratings by several riders in a row being privileged to the odor of nicotine in the air. However, in more suburb/rural areas, they will potentially fold and accept the smoker-ride because they could be 10-15 minutes away from another ride coming their way at that time of day.

Leave the habit out of the car. And you really don’t have to be a jerk to “stick it to’em” by sucking in your last drag, getting in the car and then pretending to get it to blow out of the car. You’re looking at getting yourself a 1-star no matter what you end up doing along the rest of the ride.

Top drivers spend a lot of time making their vehicles are taken care of, clean, and odor-neutral. There is no reason they should feel the need for their rating to be affected because they have to say no you smoking in the car. As a rider asking this question, you should expect your ride to be cancelled on the spot and your driver to drive off.

Entering Your Location Accurately

Entering your location accurately is the only way the driver will be able to find you without having to call you. There are 3 ways to enter in your location and your destination:

  1. Pin Drop Tool: Accuracy: low. (Pickup Location Only)
    • The Pin Drop tool is a very good way to get an estimate of where you are. However, the reliability of the accuracy is limited due to the need for the rider to really pay attention to which street the tip of the pin is actually pointing to. Many people seem to put the head of the pin at their location rather than the tip itself. Which, in a dense array of streets like Boston, could put your driver a few blocks and up to 10 minutes away due to all of the one ways.
  2. Entering in the address: Accuracy: Medium-high
    • Putting in the address manually is the most common way to get your location and destination to the driver. In residential areas, this is the only option. The occasional problem with this is that there are several different cities and towns that have the exact same street names. You must pay attention to which city is showing up when you select the street name in the search results. To be most accurate with this method, you should start typing out the city name as well before selecting the address from the search results.
  3. Entering in the name of the place: Accuracy: High.
    • When you enter the name of the place you’re at, the GPS coordinates of the location are used from the information database rather than the mailing address. Here is an example of accuracy. Say you want to go to Uno Pizzeria & Grill on Boylston St in Boston. You decide to put in a little extra effort and go find the address for of Uno’s in an attempt to be helpful and accurate. Here’s what happens when you enter in the address:Rider - Entering your location - Pic 1Notice that the pin location is closer to Public Alley 441 than it is to Boylston St? Here’s what happens: your driver is given a set of directions to get as close to that pin as possible.  That means, up Exeter St and then they’re directed to drop you off on Public Alley 441. This is a problem because the driver knows you don’t want to be dropped off there. Now, the next choice is to either get dropped off at the corner of Boylston and Exeter and hoof it to Uno’s or have the driver navigate all the way around the next block. Either way, you’re not going to be thrilled and will not want to give the driver 5 stars. All the while, this could have been avoided by using the name of the location instead of the address.
    • Here’s what it looks like when you enter in the name instead:
      Rider - Entering your location - Pic 2
      Notice that the location is more accurately closer to Boylston St. So instead, the driver will receive directions to get you right to the front door of that location. And everyone will be much happier!

Making your riders feel safe

Whenever someone is expecting to get into a strangers car, whether for Uber or even a friend’s car, there’s always the subliminal thought that reminds them, “I am not in control right now.”

Making a rider feel safe throughout their entire trip from boarding to unboarding is extremely important.

It’s important to have them feel safe 100% of the time… OR… at least give them the impression you’re trying extra hard to make them feel safe.

When you arrive at a rider’s pin or address, you’re now hunting for a person on the side of the road that is also hunting for you. A third of all rides are picked up or dropped off at a local business. It’s safe to bet, you most likely won’t be having a parking lot at your leisure for the pickup or drop off.

Here are some things to avoid:

  1. Don’t force your rider to cross a busy street or intersection to get to you without a crosswalk or walk signals. Most state laws allow them to feel safe in a cross walk… or defy death outside of one.
  2. If a Passenger is waiting for you in the street near parked cars, do not drive by them. Stop in front of them and let them come to you. This avoids the passenger having to gasp at the thought of their toes almost getting run over.
  3. Don’t tailgate. For the love of god DO NOT tailgate. Give yourself the distance you were taught in driver’s ed. It’s not just about feeling safe… it actually is the law! Most of them go something like this: The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.
  4. Don’t multi-lane cross in one shot. #1, it’s illegal, and #2, the rider does not see what you can see in your side and rear view mirrors. If a rider has to look in the direction that you’re going or about to go other than straight, then you have just potentially made them feel unsafe. Not gonna lie, some people just have that habit of looking, but you’ll notice the difference after that look. They might be watching your every move.
  5. Stop BEFORE crosswalks and at or before the stop line. The worst feeling to have as a rider is reaching for the brake pedal only to find out you don’t have one back here! Give them ample time to understand that you have recognized there is a stop sign or red light up ahead.

Things to Focus on:

  1. On busy, parked-on streets, look for a decent-sized opening between cars and aim your back (or active passenger) door for between those cars so they can feel shielded by those cars from the traffic.
  2. Pay attention to puddles… Your passengers do not want to get out into a puddle.  They will remember you for the rest of the day and when they go to take an Uber again and have to rate you… it won’t be a good rating.

Avoiding Triggers – Biggest Rating Factor

Hey Uberers, here’s a really good point for keeping your rating up as much as possible. That is to avoid negative triggers. Really, they’re just called triggers. I would say probably 99% of riders get into a vehicle knowing that if everything goes smooth, they’re most likely going to give 5 stars. No rider (okay, maybe very few riders) gets into a vehicle saying, “Alright this guy’s going to have to work his butt off to get 5 stars from me.”

Triggers set off the rider into picking apart your driving, your vehicle, and very quickly your rating.

I signed my cousin up to drive for Uber. Within a couple of Days, he had 20 rides under his belt and less than desirable 4.2 rating. “I don’t get it, I’m driving fine. I haven’t really messed up anything. Except this one ride, the GPS took me a completely crappy way and the passenger was pissed!”  (Learn more about Rating Recovery)

I put a heavy bet on him having a rather influential set of triggers throughout the riders experience with him.  “Well, I bet you probably have a nasty stain or something back there and people are just grossed out.”

I had said that partially joking. I could not understand what it was either.  He’s a great person. So I told him to come over to my house, leave the car as is. So he came over. I went on a ride with him as the passenger. He drives a 2002 BMW 335i with a standard transmission. So there’s a couple strikes against him right off the bat that he has to make up for. “How are there TWO strikes?”  First strike, it’s a moderately small car.  Not entirely frowned upon, but there are some pretty big people out there.  And second, when people see a stick shift, they automatically get nervous if they’ve never driven one before.

No chargers, No water, no nothing… So He wasn’t really going into this shooting for the moon, but he should at LEAST be able to get a 4.6 or a 4.7 for good driving.

To keep an already long story short, we headed to Job Lot to get some cleaning supplies for the tape residue the dealer left on the back window from the car label… gross. Trigger #3. He had some of his own personal belongings in the seat pocket in front of me. Golf Tees. Interesting, but whatever. Cool. He golfs. Trigger #4. Looking further around. Left seat pocket… Deodorant stick… ok now we’re getting personal… Trigger #5… and omg, what…. is that!!? Is that a … I don’t even want to know what that is! Above the opening to the seat pocket was a nasty-looking stain on the back of his seat. Trigger #6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and game over. I wanted to get out right there. And we hadn’t even gotten to the end of my street yet… I’m on a ¼ mile dead end. “Dude… I found this gross stain back here.” He chuckled a bit and followed up, “Hahaha, yeah right.”

Triggers are key to ratings. ESPECIALLY long-duration rides.

Here are some things you can do to avoid triggers:

  1. Keep personal items out of view of passengers.
  2. Inspect your whole car. You should sit in every seat of your vehicle at least once a week (or depending on how much you drive) and look around… at EVERYTHING. Make sure there are no “ew” triggers.
  3. Don’t scare riders with your driving. Drive like you have your Grandmother is sitting beside you in the front seat.
  4. Keep all of your windows clean.  Especially the front window.  The riders will mostly be watching what you’re doing the entire time.  Your perspective may have a clean view of the road in front of you while theirs is blocked by smudges or residue.
  5. Vacuum the car once a week.  Use the $1.50 gas station vacuum that gives you 5 minutes of sucking power.  Save your home vacuum.  It’s not worth the candy or gum that could get sucked up into it and ruin it.
  6. Food wrappers.  We all have to eat, but don’t keep your half-eaten Subway sandwich on the front seat for them to see while getting into your car.
  7. Keep odors NEUTRAL!  Everyone has a scent they like.  But most people have more scents they dislike rather than what they prefer.  The odds are not in your favor that your little hangy smelly tree is going to help mask the odor in the vehicle.  (Learn More about getting rid of foul odors.)

After I helped my cousin with all of the issues he was having that he didn’t even realize, within 3 days, his rating was back up to above 4.7.  Pretty good for just starting and having had all those low ratings already.

Triggers are extremely important to understand.  It really means everything to your rating and they’re not very difficult to maintain avoiding.

Unwanted or Uninvited Passengers

This is, by far, the most serious topic I could cover for all of you Uber Drivers. Riders should pay attention too.

Allowing people to get into your vehicle that do not belong or just want to pay cash is hugely an absolute no-no.

I drive a moderately interesting ride. There are people that constantly come up to my vehicle and ask if they can pay cash. And sometimes, I have the door open for the rider as they’re on their way out. If someone gets into my vehicle that does not belong, I do not treat them with any respect whatsoever.

“Well, you’re just a jerk!”

Absolutely not. Here’s why. Uber has done the research on developing the system that works within the confines of the law. Not I nor the unwanted passenger has done any of that. Here’s what I KNOW is illegal: Picking up a directly Hailed Ride on the street without a Hackney Carriage License is a $500 fine in Boston. Do you think I’m going to sit there and let any under-cover stand-byer tag me for $500 for taking an offer for a cash ride? Absolutely not. Nor will I let them. They have 5 seconds to get out of my car for getting in illegally after I demand that they get out. Who cares… there’s no pay exchanged and there’s no rating that I need to worry about. However if there’s a nice couple that comes out to my vehicle and sees 3 drunk girls in my vehicle, they’re going to be less than pleased… and there goes my rating for that ride.

Here are some things to avoid:

  1. Over-trusting people on the street getting into your vehicle. Pay attention, confirm names and destinations. If the rider has NOT put in the address and you’re questioning whether or not the passengers you have are legit, ask them to put in the address. If they say, Just go to blah blah blah, tell them Uber needs to inventory locations entered by passengers and we can’t do that at this time of night. Lie? Sure. Really? Probably not. Uber needs to know that the Rider entered in the address so that IF there is an error in the drop-off location, it’s NOT ON YOU from entering it in yourself incorrectly. It’s on the Rider.
  2. Being talked into a cash ride. It’s great! It’s Cash! It’s illegal! AND… that $10, $20, or $100 bill they’re waving at you is the absolute target the undercover enforcement is looking for through your windows at the start of your ride. They’re also listening. If you accept a cash offer from someone for a ride… Expect someone to appear in front of your vehicle with his hand up. Shortly thereafter, you’ll be holding an 8 ½ x 5 ½ citation with a $500 fine triple-circled as your heart sinks and your stomach ends up in your throat.
  3. Allowing drunk groups to take advantage of an open door. Uber’s cleanup fee does NOT cover non-uber riders. If the ride was not hailed by that person, Uber is not charging anyone for the cleanup and therefore, you’re not getting paid for the cleanup. Resulting in another form of loss for the day or set of days in that case.
  4. Physically forcing the passenger out of your vehicle. DO NOT TOUCH THE PASSENGER! Seriously… that’s a law suit all in itself that you don’t want, nor do you have time or the money to defend. Just stay away. If they approach you pissed for not driving them, put your hands up by our shoulders or head, shut up, and back up.
  5. Feeling bad for people. It’s sad. There are many people that just need to get from point A to point B and can’t afford it. Helping someone with a ride puts a MASSIVE target on your back… I’m not super familiar with taking a passenger as a show of courtesy or good will, but is that effort really worth the risk? Not in my book.

Things to Focus on:

  1. Allow the unwanted passenger 5 seconds to correct their error and begin exiting the vehicle. 15 seconds tops to get out completely.
  2. If they do not comply, remove yourself from the position of accepting that they are in your car.
  3. Get out of your vehicle and position yourself in the direction of a safe passage to exit and state: “You are illegally in my vehicle, get out. The next step is I find the closest law enforcement officer.”
  4. Thank them for leaving your vehicle and not causing a scene.
  5. Be sure to take note of your rider looking for your vehicle and if they noticed the person causing problems, explain that it was just someone trying to steal their Uber and you followed protocol and verified they were the wrong passenger.