One question we occasionally get at RSG is ‘what should I talk about as a driver?’ While there are many things you can talk about as a driver, should you talk about everything? Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur covers the three things you shouldn’t talk about while rideshare driving. Let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree!
The First Amendment guarantees all of us US drivers and citizens the freedom of speech. You and I can say just about anything we want while we are driving around in our cars, ferrying passengers from here to there. But does that mean we can and should talk about everything?
Remember, it just takes one vocal passenger to derail your career. My good buddy lost his right to drive for Lyft because a passenger posted a very strong complaint. Whether a complaint is vindictive, accurate, or not, it can get you deactivated.
Certain topics are more likely to stir up emotions, and points of contention, between you and your passengers. During my 18,000 rides as an Uber and Lyft driver, I have been subjected to quite a few unusual and uncomfortable experiences. While there are many I could share, allow me to tell you just one from each of three categories: Sex, Religion and Politics.
Just last week, I was driving a couple to dinner. She sat in the front, and he sat in the back. After a few minutes of conversation, I felt a finger stroking my hair near my ear. I was startled. She asked me “Is this OK?” and then proceeded to tell me how she loved the thickness of my hair, and the salt and pepper color.
The hair stroking lasted about 30 seconds. In this case, a line was crossed. But as drivers, what are our options? If I protest, who knows what kind of reaction that may have elicited? Since her boyfriend was in the back seat, and it seemed innocent enough, I allowed it and kept on driving. Still, it was a very uncomfortable ride with a weird sexual undertone.
If you are a driver, and you talk about anything sexual, you are asking for trouble. This is especially true now that we are in the “#MeToo” movement where women are feeling empowered and rightly so. I never initiate any topic of a sexual nature. When a woman or man brings up the subject of sex in my car, I go mute. I don’t have much to say other than “Sure” or “Right” or “I see.”
As they say, don’t touch that topic with a 10-foot pole. If you do engage, you are playing with fire and you can be deactivated, rightly or wrongly, immediately and permanently.
I had a tourist from Kentucky. He loved Trump. He was very dismissive of all us “left coast liberals” (he assumed I must be a Democrat) and he let me know how right he was and wrong we were.
It is an uncomfortable experience to have to listen to someone espouse their views when those views run counter to your own beliefs. Remember this when you are driving passengers around town. As drivers, we always want the passenger to have a good experience. A negative experience often leads to a poor rating and no tips, and can lead to deactivation.
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I have had passengers tell me that some drivers have felt emboldened to share their political views during a ride. Imagine you are a passenger who wants nothing more than a calm and peaceful ride to your destination. Instead, you get a verbal diatribe about Trump, immigration and deportation.
Why would you do this to your passenger? It is important to remember the big picture, which is to keep your job, earn a good wage and provide a service for your customer. Blathering on about politics doesn’t help you achieve your goals.
Two years ago, I had the longest 30-minute ride of my career. From the moment this guy got in my car, he talked about Jesus, baptism, and my need to join him at his church. I kid you not, I must have said “thank you but NO” at least twenty times. This guy was persistent.
The trick in a situation like this is to not get angry, argumentative or defensive. It felt so good to drop that guy off. Two years later and I still remember the unpleasantness of the ride.
This is exactly what your passengers feel when you bring up the topic of religion and/or share your beliefs. It is not your job to share your beliefs with your passengers. It is not in the job description.
When someone pays money for a ride, they want a ride. They don’t want a sermon. They go to church for that, not an Uber or Lyft ride.
Now, as stated above, you have the right to talk about anything you want, but to what end? Why risk getting deactivated? Why risk getting a complaint? Why risk getting a poor rating? Why risk not getting a tip? If making money is your main goal, and I believe for most of us that is the case, then talking about religion is inherently counter productive.
Editorial ProTip: If you’d rather not worry about the fragile sensibilities of the public, you can always deliver food with a company like Caviar to earn similar money without worrying about the food judging you based on your musical tastes, political affiliations, or sexual identity/interests!
What Can You Talk About?
There are so many great topics that you can talk about. Among my favorites are:
television programs I am watching (Billions, Killing Eve, Vida, The Americans), sports (Go Warriors!), the passengers’ work, your side hustle (people are usually interested in what else I do beside drive), travel (always uplifting), and family (everyone loves to talk about their children).
What Is Your Purpose As A Driver?
I believe if you focus on what is most important for you as a driver, the question of what to talk about gets very clear. What is most important to me is to keep on driving (don’t get deactivated), make good money (maximize tips), and use the flexibility of driving to take as many vacations as possible.
Talking about sex, politics or religion has no place in support of my purpose. No, in fact, they are exactly the opposite. They have no place in my car. If you find they have a place in your car, then you really need to ask yourself if your purpose is appropriate for Uber and Lyft driving. Do you have a concern for the care and welfare of the passenger? They pay for a ride, not to get hit on, or listen to a sermon (political or otherwise).
This can be a controversial subject for many drivers, so what do you think of Jay’s recommendation to not talk about these three topics? Do you agree or disagree?
-Jay @ RSG
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