When drivers first start out driving, there are plenty of misconceptions (and nerves!) that inform their first few rides. In this article, senior RSG contributor (and veteran driver) Jay Cradeur covers what passengers really want from their drivers.
When I started driving, I had very definite ideas about my passengers. I thought I knew it all even though I had never been a passenger in an Uber or Lyft car. I had been a passenger in taxis in cities like Chicago and New York, but that was a long time ago.
I believe most drivers feel this way when they get started. I thought to myself, “how hard can it be?” But after getting a few negative comments, and not too many tips, I began to unpack what it means to be a driver for a passenger.
In this article, I will share with you five misconceptions I had that I have had to change so I can maximize my rating and earnings as a rideshare driver.
1. My Passengers Want Me To Drive Fast
This makes sense. The passenger is hiring me to drive them from Point A to Point B. A fast drive to their destination is better than a slow ride. As it turns out, this is not always true. Unless a passenger tells me they are in a hurry, which is rare, then what is most important to the passenger is a peaceful and comfortable ride.
I admit to being a very aggressive driver. I do get my passenger to their destination very quickly. However, it seems to my passengers as if I am not trying hard at all. No hard stops. No quick accelerations. Take the turns, right and left, nice and slow and easy.
The trick is to be very efficient with your routes, all without your passenger noticing. Take it slow and easy while also getting the job done with efficiency. Then you will start hearing comments like: “Wow, we are here already. That was awesome!”
2. My Passengers Want Me To Be Entertaining
I learned a very valuable lesson early on in my career. You see, I thought I needed to be entertaining. I needed to tell good stories! I thought if I wasn’t providing an entertaining ride, I was not doing my job.
After getting some driver feedback and also experiencing several overly talkative drivers, I soon realized my job was to be sensitive to my passenger. Most passengers want a ride that provides a safe harbor from the day. I give them jazz music. I also give them silence (with a little Bill Evans jazz in the background) unless something else is requested or intimated.
Learning when to speak and when to be silent is a wonderful life skill. As drivers, we get to practice this each and every day with each and every passenger. What an opportunity!
3. My Passengers Care About What I Have To Say
Have you had the experience of talking to a passenger, and then you look back and see your passenger nodding but fully engaged in his or her phone? They don’t care. Once I learned that sharing my life with the passenger is not my job, my job as a rideshare driver got much easier.
My passengers don’t care what I have to say. Instead they care that I care about what they have to say. Listening is the job. In a way, we are the bartenders of the gig economy. We are the unknown stranger who can lend an ear. It is safer to share intimate details with a stranger who you will most likely never see again.
Some of the things passengers have shared with me have been gut wrenching. I have had passengers cry sharing a story in my car. As drivers, we actively listen. Our stories rarely matter. Our ears and our hearts do matter and can make a huge impact on our passengers.
4. My Passengers Know How I Get Paid
They don’t. Most passengers, especially Uber passengers, may even still think that tips are included in our standard pay. They also think we get paid a fair wage for waiting. While technically we do get paid something for waiting, it is not very much. 75% of 24 cents in San Francisco is only 18 cents per minute. I use to get very angry when I would have to wait for a passengers for four minutes, only to have them arrive without an apology or acknowledgement of the time, my time, they just wasted.
While some passengers are simply rude and inconsiderate, most don’t realize how much money we lose when we wait. There is no point in getting angry because it won’t change anything. In fact, getting angry or rude will only lead to negative comments and no tip.
I still struggle with this because I hate to wait and lose money in the process. Most passengers are good people, often busy people, and since they paid their money to order the car, they can use their allotted five minutes as they like. I may not like it, but those are the rules.
While you can mention to passengers that waiting doesn’t pay the bills, many passengers take it personally and may leave you a low rating for being a “whiner”. Luckily, I don’t have to wait too long too often, but keep this in mind when you’re tempted to make a comment to passengers about waiting (especially if there’s nothing they can/will do about it and you can’t cancel the ride).
Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have
5. Passengers Who Don’t Talk To Me Are Rude
Recently I told a passenger that when someone sits behind me, I don’t like it, and I assume the person behind me does not want to talk to me. What I did not say, but what I use to feel, is that those passengers are rude. If we are in this thing together, why would anyone sit directly behind the driver? It seems to me that those passengers are hiding and condescending.
Well, that is pure and simple BS. My friendly passenger told me that she often sits back there only because that is the door closest for entry. As I have stated earlier in the article, passengers want a safe harbor and a quiet drive experience. Sometimes the seat behind the driver feels the safest.
Many women passengers have also told me that drivers have hit on them in the car. Sitting directly behind the driver is a safe way for a woman to avoid eye contact and be left alone. I am a guy, so I don’t know what it is like to have constant unwanted sexual attention directed my way. I can imagine it really sucks.
So if any woman (or man) wants to sit behind me to have a pleasant ride, so be it. It’s not personal. It does not mean anyone is rude. It means nothing more than that is the spot in my car a passenger has chosen to sit.
These misconceptions caused me to lose revenue in the form of tips. These misconceptions also caused me unnecessary grief and mental aggravation. I hope that by sharing these, you can make your driving experience that much more pleasant.
Rideshare driving can be such an enjoyable way to make a living, if we let it. As the saying goes, all I need to do is get out of my own way. Did I miss any misconceptions? Let me know in the comments. Enjoy the ride. Be safe out there.
-Jay @ RSG