Ordering a rideshare

(See the introduction to these pages.)

The first, most essential thing to emphasize is that ordering an Uber or Lyft is not rocket science. From my perspective as a driver, it should be extremely straight-forward:

  1. You order the ride.
  2. I get the order.
  3. I come to pick you up (after dropping my present passenger off if I have one).
  4. I take you where you’re going.
  5. I drop you off.

That should be it. This is not Starfleet. Weird is not part of my job[1] and when you’re being weird, when you’re having to send me text messages, when you’re calling me on the phone before you’re even in the car, I’m getting paid a pittance[2] if anything at all for it.

Remember as well, that when you call me on the phone, I may be in a conversation with a passenger. Your call may be an unwelcome interruption and, in my experience, the probability that this interruption will be justified is vanishingly small.

But more profoundly, ‘weird’ implies a deviation from social norms. Social norms include that we are reasonably honest with each other and we don’t harm each other, so when you’re weird, I’m wondering about the safety of myself and my car. I’m wondering if I’m going to have a mess to clean up, taking time that I should be using to make what little money I can, at the end of the ride. Being ‘weird’ isn’t about your ‘creativity’ to me; rather it’s very likely going to be a red flag about your ride and if it’s serious enough, I’ll cancel the ride. Because one way or another, it’s not going to be worth it.

Both Uber and Lyft require that passengers under the age of 18 years be accompanied by an adult. I am supposed to check your identification if I suspect you’re an unaccompanied minor.

I don’t care how skinny you think you are or how small your kids are. Do not expect me to accept more passengers than I have seat belts for and each of you should be wearing one. The UberX limit is four passengers. More than that is both illegal and an abuse of my vehicle.

Children, no matter how young, count as full passengers; young children are legally required to be in properly secured child seats.

Do not plan on me being your babysitter or your nanny. You are responsible for your child’s behavior. It is absolutely not okay if your child makes any kind of mess in my car and you being on the phone or otherwise being distracted does not relieve you of responsibility for monitoring your child.

You have the time it takes for me to get there, plus the time the company allows for you to come out to get out of where you are and into my car. You shouldn’t even be ordering the ride before you’re ready. If you fail at this, I’m canceling the order and I’ll decline any subsequent order I think might be you trying to get me back. Because you’re wasting my woefully under-compensated time.[3] But worse than that, you’re signaling to me your sense of entitlement, your disrespect for me.

Do not expect me to block traffic while waiting for you. My willingness to wait is directly dependent on the existence of a safe, sane, and legal place for me to wait. Again, this is a matter of your respect for me and your sense of entitlement.

Do not get into an argument with me about where your order is. It is your responsibility to place the order for where you are. Again, this is not rocket science and your phone’s global positioning system (GPS) failures are not an excuse. When you call me to tell me that the order is somewhere else, I’m immediately doubting your honesty, even before you’ve gotten in my car, because I might not get paid for the no-show if you aren’t at this different location either, and I’m thinking you might just be trying to get out of a no-show fee. This job pays poorly enough[4] and you trying to get out of a no-show fee is pathetic.

Do not expect me to do anything illegal or unsafe in the course of picking you up or during the course of your ride. Your ride is not worth a flat tire. Your ride is not worth a traffic ticket. Your ride is not worth a collision or any damage to my car. You are one part of my day; these things ruin it.

Fig. 1. My car, photograph by author, July 14, 2021.

Just as I’m wondering about you, you should be wondering about me. Enough bad stuff happens that you should be sure you’re getting in my car and not somebody else’s. The color might be slightly off because the companies offer limited selections of colors to describe cars (mine, figure 1, is actually a sage green that Toyota calls “lunar rock” and isn’t the hue most people associate with ‘green’) and also because some paints appear to be different colors under certain lighting (mine will sometimes appear grey). But the make, model, and license plate should match what the app says and, if the app isn’t glitching and there isn’t a network connectivity issue, I should know your first name (as you’ve put it in your profile) and where you’re going.

Do not have an attitude toward me when you’re getting in the car. I’ll cancel the ride for your behavior. I’ll believe you’re trying to power trip me and no, I won’t have that or you in my car.

If, after all of this, you still get a message indicating I’ve canceled the order, I might not have canceled the order. I have seen Uber cancel orders, tell the rider the driver canceled, and tell the driver the rider canceled. I don’t know why but I’m guessing the company wants to rearrange the orders.

In my experience, Lyft is very aggressive at rearranging orders. In one case, I was on my way to an order and the company changed it four times. I was driving in circles. Yes, I have a hybrid. Yes, I get good gas mileage. No, I still don’t like driving in circles. From what I’ve seen, Lyft just does it—they don’t tell each party the other party canceled.

Next, and I can’t believe I have to say any of this, but behave yourself while in my car.

  1. [1]“We’re Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job.” This line was spoken by the character of Captain Kathryn Janeway on the Star Trek: Voyager television series in 1995. Quotes.net, “Star Trek: Voyager 1995,” n.d., https://www.quotes.net/mquote/865238
  2. [2]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  3. [3]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/
  4. [4]Dhruv Mehrotra and Aaron Gordon, “Uber And Lyft Take A Lot More From Drivers Than They Say,” Jalopnik, August 26, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-take-a-lot-more-from-drivers-than-they-sa-1837450373; Alexa Noel, “Revised MIT Study Says Uber, Lyft Drivers Make About $8 or $10 per Hour,” Points Guy, March 8, 2018, https://thepointsguy.com/2018/03/revised-mit-study-says-uber-lyft-drivers-make-about-8-or-10-per-hour/; Kari Paul, “Uber drivers plan shutdown over ‘poverty wages’ as company goes public,” Guardian, April 25, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/24/uber-drivers-strike-ipo; Rida Qadri and Alexandra Mateescu, “Uber and Lyft: woo drivers with stable pay, not short-term honeypots,” Guardian, June 20, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/20/gig-economy-companies-uber-lyft-drivers-pandemic; Faiz Siddiqui, “You may be paying more for Uber, but drivers aren’t getting their cut of the fare hike,” Washington Post, June 9, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/06/09/uber-lyft-drivers-price-hike/