Harry here. This article is a re-post of one we did a couple months ago but in light of the recent Uber incident, it’s more relevant than ever. If there was one criticism of the way the driver handled the passenger, it’s that he didn’t do a good job defusing the situation. In this article, RSG contributor, Christian Perea, takes a look at how to deal with the drunk, drugged and disorderly.
It’s 1:00 AM on a Saturday. You get a request from the Bro-Magnon Monster Club in the busiest part of downtown.
“Is he going to be okay?”
“Yeah man, he’ll be fine.”
At this point, Bro-Magnon 1 slips into the back seat of your car as his friends shuffle in. Bro-Magnon 1 immediately rolls down the window and falls asleep while muttering “I’m fine.”
You complete the rest of the ride as the rest of Bro-Magnons Beta friends ask you where they can score some coke/molly/whatever Kanye West was on at the VMAs as they sing along to Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” on repeat.
You drive along and try to block it all out while keeping an eye on Bro-Magnon 1 through the rearview mirror. He is beginning to burp. Gurgle. Burple.
“I can make it if I drive slower. This will all be over soon”
You arrive at the destination. Everyone exits. Everyone except Bro-Magnon 1. He is unconscious and not responsive. Everyone tries to wake him up. He eventually awakens but is unable to move. He lurches forward from the backseat and pukes all over the back of your neck, down the rear of your seat, and into the little crevices of the door.
You have failed to control the situation.
Get Yourself On Point
Most of the time the late night crowd is just as banal as the daylight crowd. Perhaps a little drunker, but still the same “Do you like driving for X/Y” kind of conversations. I drive a lot at night because there is less traffic, and I like to listen to my music loudly as I traverse the streets with impunity. I trade constantly bad traffic for sometimes bad passengers.
Usually you will get one bad passenger during a late night run. This comes in many forms. The one thing in common with handling all of them is maintaining control and being assertive. Whenever I speak with Uber Black drivers this is the number one tip they bring up. There are big reasons they do these things that have nothing to do with showmanship.
Exit the vehicle when possible to greet your passengers with a firm handshake and introduce yourself. This helps to humanize you as something beyond “their Uber driver”. It also makes you appear to provide excellent service.
Most people aren’t even aware that we have legs so when they see you standing at the vehicle and notice that you introduce yourself, it catches them off-guard. By doing this you set the tone that you run a tight ship and are more likely to make them respect you and your property.
Doing this will also let you assess every passenger before they enter your vehicle. You can see if they are traveling with alcohol or if they will attempt to squeeze in a fifth person. Inevitably, somebody will try to do one of these things.
When this happens, it is VERY important that you do not chide or belittle them. Instead you want to explain that it is against the law, and that they will not be covered under insurance. I go further and say “by trying to do this you are placing me at a great deal of legal risk, there are a lot of cops out tonight.”
Most of the time, you can unite the person requesting the ride against all of these “regulations” and get them to rant about “how the man is keeping us down, man.”
Now I realize that a lot of the time we can’t park and exit the vehicle. If this is not possible, I generally do the hand shake and turn around to count the number of passengers and assess whether or not they have any cargo. If they do, I act accordingly.
Minimize Rating Risk: Now here is another important part. If they respond with ANY argument, attitude, or bullshit to your request, you screen-shot the ride and cancel it as a no-show. I tend to tell them “you are not welcome in my car, I am going to have to cancel this ride since you have attempted to put me into this risky position”.
If you have to leave the scene to cancel the ride safely then do so. Any person who is going to argue with you about following the law does not respect you and they will reflect that if you drive them. They will also reflect that in your rating. When you have arrived in a safe location you can choose to email the screenshot to support if you feel like that will do anything.
Get Emesis Bags: You can find them at almost any drug store (or buy them on Amazon). Many drivers keep them in the pouch that is generally behind the seats, plus one in the glove-box. I like to keep mine out of sight and deeper within the pouches and only have them taken out when I can read that someone is feeling sick.
Clean Your Equipment: One of the most common compliments I get is on how well I keep my car clean. I never go more than two days without vacuuming my carpet and cleaning my seats until they look new again. This has more importance than just looking nice. It sets the tone that you take care of your equipment and that they should too. You lead them by example. Usually someone has to be insanely drunk before they leave anything in my car. It also helps that I don’t pass out water or candy for them to leave behind.
The Car Doesn’t Work When You Aren’t Buckled In: “All right, kids. Seatbelts!” I have literally said that line more than 2000 times. I am sure of it. I say it half jokingly. The other half of the joke is making them realize “I shouldn’t have to be reminded to put my seatbelt on.” Every time the response begins with “Oh yeah…”
Unstable and On Drugs
Sometimes you will begin driving someone and realize a few minutes into the ride that they are unstable. This could be from a drug that they took, the fact that they are emotionally unstable, or that they had a little too much to drink.
Most of these passengers can just be simply placated by asking those questions that make them expand on whatever drunken babble they are speaking. I used to work in mental health, so often I just revert to my training in dealing with people in a crisis.
Most of it isn’t that specialized though. If you keep them talking, they often forget that they are crazy and skip the part where they cry and tell you about their ex. Here are some basic tactics:
Redirecting: When a passenger is beginning to exhibit unstable behavior, you can use redirection of the conversation or their focus in order to calm them down. Often this takes the form of telling a joke or asking them a question. You can also create a distraction by pointing out something on the road and asking them what they think about it.
Processing and Counseling: Sometimes people just want someone to talk about their problems. A form of a confession booth with none of the religiosity involved. I have found this happens with many of the people who drink and have had a bad night. Perhaps they are lonely. Perhaps they are just down on their luck or feeling sad. Whenever I get one of these people, I try to ask them leading questions about what (or why) they are sad about.
Reframing: Take whatever they are depressed or upset about and shed some silver lining on it. Tell them that if Becky/Bobby rejected them, it may have saved them a trip to the Herpes Doctor. In all realness though, you can shed light on some of their problems from a different angle that they would never have realized.
Just Listen to Them Ramble: Sometimes it’s fun to hear the rambling. Sometimes they just want to talk at something. What they don’t realize is that they aren’t so much asking for your counsel as much as they are verbally processing their events to themselves.
Ask them if you should get a cat: I swear, it works every time. You can use it on anybody one time until they figure out the ruse. Also works on parents, girlfriends, children, friends, people on dates, etc.
Do NOT: Escalate your passenger. The focus should be on making them calmer and more relaxed. Sometimes it may seem easy to say cheeky things to them. Especially if you are me. Thing is, in the case of an unstable passenger you aren’t dealing with a logical or sentient person. You are dealing with whatever chemical reaction their brain is having to whatever they are on.
If It Hits the Fan:
Call 911: If you are in an emergency. Stop reading my article.
In the event that you are unable to, or just suspect something is up, here are some other options. Many of these are a last resort though.
Taser/Pepper Spray: This is controversial. Some say that we can get deactivated from a platform by having pepper spray or a Taser. Even if this is true, I would rather be deactivated from UberX than permanently deactivated from life. I have seen many, many people with tasers and pepper spray. Get it and keep it out of reach of your passengers. You may also want to avoid pepper spray since any violence could take place within an enclosed environment (your car).
Voxer or Glympse: Voxer allows you to record audio to a group of friends in case something bad is happening so start a Voxer group!
Related Podcast: Using Teamwork (And Voxer!) To Increase Your Rideshare Earnings
Glympse is an application that will send a link to your contacts via text message that allows them to track your GPS location for as long as 48 hours. Have an emergency contact or friend and tell them that if they ever get a Glympse alert from you to send the Police.
Know Your Police Stations: It’s a longstanding and proud tradition of many cab drivers to kick out their unruly and unsafe passengers in front of the police station. Learn where they are located in your community. This also insulates you from any violent retribution from your passenger. If one is not nearby than you can try a well-lit and public place.
Lyft Critical Response: 855-865-9553 24/7/365 and instantaneous.
So if you are on point and on top of your game in working with people you can take advantage of the late night rush and take advantage of the earnings potential there. The vast majority of your passengers during the rush will be perfect passengers and you may even have some fun yourself. Following these guidelines will help you work with any drunk, drugged, or disorderly passengers. Just remember to stay on top of your game.
Drivers, what do you think about my suggestions for driving around during the late nights? Do you mind driving around the drunk, drugged and disorderly or would you rather drive around during the day when things are a bit calmer?
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-Christian @ RSG
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