We asked an Uber driver about his worst passenger experience

The long suffering plight of Uber drivers: Not making enough money, alleged homophobia, the fear of slipping below a 4.6-star rating and being cast aside by the multi-billion pound company.

And then there are the passengers. There are drunk ones who ask their driver to take them to see a prostitute. Or passengers who think it’s ok to pretend to be disabled, give the wrong address, and try to force their driver to take them and their giant rat to the beach. That’s what happened to one San Diego-based UberX driver called Richard.

I spoke to Richard about his experiences driving for the taxi hire app. He didn’t want me to publish his surname, but was happy to talk about his sentiments working for Uber. Since starting in July last year, Richard has completed more than 1,500 trips in his Hyundai Elantra and earns about $US40,000 a year. That’s close to the average for someone who works about 35-50 hours each week. He’s got a 4.8 rating, he said.

Richard told me that 99% of the passengers he takes are “friendly, nice people” — but there are those deserving of the dreaded 1 star rating. They’re the customers who “leave trash, slam doors,” Richard explained. “The late 2am crowd urinating on your seats and throwing up in cars. Mean people and bad perfume.”

“The late 2am crowd urinating on your seats and throwing up in cars. Mean people and bad perfume.”

Richard added that he rarely gives bad ratings, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. His most horrible experience certainly sounds like 1 star was fair.

Here’s what happened to Richard on the worst Uber drive of his life:

“I was called to an Uber Assist (a disabled person car request), and went to an address on the app. I called the passengers and sat there waiting. After about 10 minutes found out they were actually at a different address 15 minutes away.”

“As I believed he was a disabled person and his phone was dying I told him I was on my way. When I arrived 15 minutes later there was no disabled person but two guys that were drunk. One of them had a giant rat cage (and rat). He tried to put it into my car and said he wants ‘to go to Pacific Beach’. Luckily the cage didn’t fit and I explained that he’d have to put the rat in a box. It was a very big rat.

I explained that he’d have to put the rat in a box. It was a very big rat.

“(When we set off) He was very combative with me, arguing with me over the names of streets. I actually felt a couple of times that he smelled like alcohol — and we had to stop at a liquor store. When we got to his destination he left a bottle of booze in my car and slammed the door. That’s why he got 1 star.”

Despite Richard’s occasional rat/alcohol-based dramas, he mentioned that he feels the company, at least as a model, is “amazing” and praised Travis Kalanick for modernising taxi services. Richard enjoys the “free enterprise” and believes it’s created a new wave of transportation that America (and elsewhere) has needed since the 1970s.

He did tell me about a couple of other gripes, though — namely the reduction in fares the drivers take home and the fact so few passengers tip. “In September 2014 Uber lowered my commission by 20% and in January 2015 commissions were lowered by another 20%,” he said. “Uber says ‘more rides, more fares,’ but they don’t take into the fact that with more journeys there’s more wear and tear on vehicles.” He’s optimistic for the future.

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