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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.