- Uber and Lyft have taken the world by storm.
- Business Insider spoke with more than 20 drivers to learn more about what it’s like to work for the ride-hailing apps.
- Topping the list of complaints was smelly food and crumbs, but other pet peeves might surprise some riders.
Every day, an army of nearly 4 million drivers provide 16 million rides and deliveries across the world for Uber, according to numbers the company provided ahead of its massive initial public offering.
Those drivers meet all sorts of passengers, good and bad.
In recent months, Business Insider has spoken with more than 20 drivers for Uber and Lyft (as well as other ride-hailing apps, including Via) to learn about their experience working on the platforms.
Together, these verified drivers have provided more than 10,000 rides on the Uber and Lyft apps. Business Insider is publishing only their first names and general work area for their privacy.
Every driver we spoke with said that they have had problems with rude or smelly passengers and that tips are often few and far between, even with the addition of a tip function in the Uber app about two years ago. Still, they described a workplace that’s highly flexible around a driver’s busy schedule, and instant payments are a big plus for those who need the money quickly.
Have you driven for Uber? Have a story to share? Fill out this form and a reporter will be in touch. You can reach the author of this story at [email protected]
Here are drivers’ biggest pet peeves when it comes to the passengers in their back seat.
Eating smelly foods
Noxious smells easily topped the list, with almost every driver complaining about pungent food.
“You get to eat your takeout when you get home, but the smell can linger into the next trips,” Michael, who drives for Uber in Virginia, said in an interview. “It’s not a huge deal, but if it’s something strong it can be annoying. It’s also bad when I’m hungry.”
Then there’s the issue of crumbs. No one wants to get into a dirty car, and drivers don’t want to take time out of their day to clean up after you.
Another driver, Matt from Wisconsin, said he didn’t mind going through drive-thru windows for passengers if they ask, but on one condition: “I tell them, ‘We can absolutely go to Taco Bell or KFC or whatever, but you have to wait to open it until I drop you off.'”
While food smells are a matter of personal preference in most cases, marijuana odor – or even the perception of it – can cause even bigger headaches for a driver.
“If you smell like weed, I have to air out the car before picking up the next person,” said Mahmoud, who drives in Los Angeles. “I don’t care necessarily, but I have to protect myself. The person who gets in next could complain or say I was driving under the influence.”
Other drivers said that a rider’s complaint that the car smells like marijuana or that the driver could be driving under the influence could automatically get them temporarily removed from the Uber platform. While these can usually be resolved quickly, they can still cause an unexpected interruption in somebody’s income.
“I’ve had this happen to me too many times to count,” said Toni, who drives in New York.
Disagreeing with the route
Many riders take a car to or from their home, where they might know the streets really well. Still, Uber provides drivers a GPS-based route and encourages them to follow those directions.
“We DO have a GPS,” said Jenny, a teacher who drives in northern New Jersey during breaks in the school year. “Some people will try to tell you where to go because they don’t like the GPS route and then will get mad and leave fewer stars when I follow it.”
Slamming the door
In most markets, Uber and Lyft drivers are using their personal vehicle to shuttle customers to their destinations.
“There’s only one thing that really gets under my skin, even if it really shouldn’t, and that’s slamming my door,” said Frank, a driver in Palm Springs, California. “It’s probably less than 1% of passengers who I’ll never see again, but it’s still one of those things.”
Like many service employees, drivers often bear the brunt of customer service.
“Do not be rude to the driver,” Toni said. “Everyone has a bad day, but you are in someone’s personal vehicle.”
Michael, who drives in Atlanta, said he felt a need to provide customer service for passengers, since most have little to no interaction with the company outside the app.
“We’re here to get a customer from point A to point B,” he said. “But we’re also the face of the company, so I’m happy to help answer people’s questions.”
Making female drivers uncomfortable
Many of the female drivers who spoke with Business Insider said they worked only during the day to avoid uncomfortable nighttime encounters.
“I get rude and harassing comments from men in the day, so I don’t even want to know what it would be like at night when people are drinking,” Jenny said.
Not being ready to go
Uber drivers are paid for the time between arriving at a requested ride and beginning the trip, but it’s not much. Since time is money, drivers can get frustrated having to wait for passengers.
“Be ready when you request the ride,” Toni said. “Drivers in my market are only paid less than a quarter per minute to wait, which is not a profit since I could be making more on a trip. It sets a negative vibe for the whole ride.”
Uber in 2017 added the ability for passengers to tip inside the app (Lyft had previously added a similar option), but drivers still struggle with a lack of tips from many rides.
“Most people do not tip,” Jenny said. “I’ve found they’re more likely to tip if I have a conversation, but a lot of people just don’t want to tip.”
Toni also had a similar experience.
“A big sore spot for drivers is the lack of tipping,” she said. “An example is the day before Christmas I gave 12 rides, and not a single person tipped. It’s the lack of etiquette and entitlement passengers have been lulled to feel it is not necessary.”
Overall, however, drivers were conflicted about how necessary tipping is as opposed to other service industries, like restaurants, where they are expected as part of a worker’s total pay.
“For myself, I never expect it,” Frank said. “It all depends on the rider and is at their discretion. It shouldn’t be mandatory, and it’s not what we signed up for. We’re already getting paid, so if they do tip, it’s a plus.”
Using an incorrect or inaccurate pickup point
Most addresses are easy to find – after all, there’s probably only one house or apartment building at your address. But for businesses, things can get more complicated.
“For ride requests in malls or shopping centres, it’s cool to put the address but also the name of the place,” Toni said. “Especially when it’s not a residence.”
Your Juul might be less noticeable than a cigarette, but it’s still annoying for someone who has to smell the vapour long after you’ve left the car.
“Vaping is a huge thing right now, and people will be in the back seat secretly trying to vape,” said Michael in California. “It’s very rude and annoying.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.