Most people assume that being a rideshare driver is pretty easy, you pick people up and take them from point A to point B. But there’s so much more that goes into it. Today’s contributor, Christian Perea, is going to detail one of those ‘routine situations’ that isn’t actually that routine at all.
Its 1:48AM and you finally get a request at 2.2X after sitting in the DMV parking lot for 45 minutes. You watch the little screen tick down as you half-consider the 4.6 passenger from that one intersection that EVERY drunk person seems to request from. For some stupid reason you hit accept. Now the fun begins.
They are at THAT ONE intersection with six bars and about 2000 other drunk people looking for their Uber/Lyft/Ambulance team at any given time. You never quite realized how much every party-goer looks the same until you started doing this job.
You get to the magic intersection and check the app again and the little pin is dropped in front of Zarby’s the Sports Bar That Is Also A Club Sometimes. You flip on your hazard lights just like the ten other Uber/Lyfts/Cabs. Pax (aka passenger) is nowhere to be found. You call to find them.
“Hi this is your Uber driv..”
“Wheeereee arrr you?!!”
“I’m right in front of Zarby’s the Sometimes Club, Where you requested.”
“Ohhhh I’m actually at [Insert obscure location you have never heard of]. Get over Heeere”
The passenger hangs up and before you can Google “Hipster Bars” a bright light shines on you from behind. No its not God.
But he thinks he is…
To top it off, You hear that familiar cancel noise. You park and goto Darby’s for a strong drink and call a Lyft ten minutes later at 150%PT.
Well That Sucked…
Pickups are the hardest part of the request. They have the most variables that you cannot control. They also have the highest probability for a ticket, an accident, and consistently seem to be a pain point for both passengers and drivers alike. Everything is easier when the passenger is sitting next to you and you can explain your logic for their drop off point.
So here are some tips to pick up your pax without dying.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.
Use the time sitting at a traffic light, in traffic, or pullover to plan your ingress route. Never blindly follow your GPS. Review the route. If its a busy place where you will not be able to easily identify your pax, make sure to give them a call a minute out. You don’t have time? Make time.
Where Exactly is the Pin Placed?
When the countdown begins, make it a habit to now look at the pin drop and make it a point not to accept until it hits 10 seconds. I learned this from a 50 Year old Uber Black Driver in Santa Barbara. It imprints the location and tells you what direction to turn while theGPS loads. You may be desperate for the call, but checking where the pin is will allow you to figure out what side of the road to pick up from. It will also prevent you from driving six blocks in the wrong direction while your phone tries to load your navigation.
Here’s an example:
If the passenger lives in a large apartment building, often the GPS will route you to the closest street to the pin regardless of the actual lobby or pickup location. There is a famous building in San Francisco (425 1st St) where the GPS will route you over the bay bridge, tell you to turn around at treasure island, and then to jump the General Lee Prius off of the I80 into the building.
Your Lyft driver, Bo Duke is here!
That’s a good example of why you should never blindly follow GPS. Many drivers cancel this spot. It turns out though that the building is easily accessible with its own lobby and waiting area for drivers and full of wealthy pax going to big places during surge/primetime. These people always have trouble getting picked up. So if you can do it smoothly, they automatically know that you are a good driver.
Busy Pickup Locations
Often if you look at that location before you blindly follow the GPS, you will notice that the pickup is coming from a location with a large group of people and a great deal of commotion.
A concert, a baseball game, or that place with the bars at 2AM. You know there will be many other cars, passengers, and lots of drunk people jaywalking. This is when it is prudent to call the passenger. Tell them that since its busy you want to make things easier for both of you. What color T-shirt are they wearing? What is their height and hair color? If you know the main bars, you can use them as a reference point with most passengers.
On Safety and Legally Letting Them into the General Lee Prius
So let’s say you planned to come around a few blocks and then arrive exactly where they are standing. You called while you sat in traffic and dodged every drunken jaywalker like an oddly realistic game of frogger (where you are the car!). You know the Jared is about 5’7 and wearing a Bill Murray T-shirt with a party of 3 standing next to Darby’s the Sometimes Club But Mostly a Sports Bar.
But now they’re standing in the dreaded Red Zone/Bus Stop/Taxi Stand. However there is a legal spot about 50 feet up and the same cop that gave you a ticket earlier just so happens to be parked nearby watching you.
The key, is to drive by, wave to them, and point to where you are picking them up using your index and middle finger. They will walk or call you.
If they walk to you (most of the time they do) then explain when they get in that you have to pick up from this location for safety and to avoid tickets. Most often they are surprised that Lyft/Uber drivers get tickets for picking up right in front of the red curb. The key is to not sound like you are upset at them. Realistically we cannot expect every person to know the finer points of TNC laws and what the curb colors mean. Especially since they are used to most of you (yes YOU reader) breaking the law anyways.
If they call or didn’t see you (forcing you to call), explain that you are parked fifty feet up the road with your flashers on in the safest place to pick them up. If they offer a rebuttal, explain that because there are so many cops on the road at closing time, that you will get a ticket for picking them up unsafely or illegally.
99% of the time they don’t care and are just happy to finally be leaving the bar/game/concert.
“What if They Refuse to Walk 50 Feet?”
This is a judgement call. In my experience, I usually let the call timeout and cancel charge them. I collect 5 bucks and save myself from someone who will most likely rate me low because they are mad that they didn’t get lucky at the bar. This is also where saving your cancels for Saturday nights comes in handy.
The thing is, when it’s mayhem out there, we are really limited in legal pickup spaces. I found that pulling into service driveways helps but even there can still be limiting. When there are limited options, the key is to prioritize safety.
When They Try to Jump in Your Car While You Are in Traffic.
My favorite scenario is when they run through four lanes of traffic to jump into your car on the corner of a busy intersection or center divider. Bonus points if one has a red Solo Cup or 5th person.
This is an awkward situation. You don’t want to leave them in the middle of the road while they are literally trying to open your car doors. You also hate looking like an idiot loading people (illegally) at a green light blocking traffic as the other cars are judging you.
This is when you have to be assertive. Don’t unlock the doors! I generally yell at them through the window that “THIS IS NOT OKAY”. I move to the nearest location where they can be safely picked up. They’ve already found you and trust me, they WILL follow you.
Again, if you choose to stay with the call explain that you have to follow the laws and that moving violations will put your job in jeopardy. If they say “I don’t care about your job”, then I suggest dropping them off in the nearest “Safe and Well-lit Area”. Eat the cancellation on your acceptance rate and move on. You will feel good.
However, most of the time people are very receptive to this. It also establishes with them that you know your shit and that they are in good hands that they can trust.
Plan ahead. Audit your GPS route. Be assertive and professional with your passengers.
and for f$%&’s sake, stop letting them get into your car from the center divider…
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Bio: Christian is a full-time TNC driver who enjoys walks on the beach and offering candy to strangers from his Lyft car. He has been driving since June of 2014, collected 2600+ rides in San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Jose, Oakland, Orange County and San Francisco (but not LA).
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