Five Things They Don’t Warn You About (But Should) When You Sign Up To Be Rideshare Driver

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while rideshare driving? If you’re a new driver (or just curious about what’s happened to other drivers), we had senior RSG contributor John Ince share some of the 5 things/passengers rideshare companies should warn you about (but don’t!) before rideshare driving.

When you sign up to be a driver, the rideshare companies mostly conjure up positive images – hefty paychecks, social interaction and lots of great stories to tell your friends about.  But drivers quickly learn it’s not all fun and games. Sometimes there are some big surprises.

Here’s a cheat sheet of those things you really should expect on the job.  Don’t take this as sign that you shouldn’t give it a try.  Rather consider this as a reality check – so that if you do get out on the road, you do so with your eyes wide open.

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What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while rideshare driving? If you’re a new driver (or just curious about what’s happened to other drivers), we had senior RSG contributor John Ince share some of the 5 things/passengers rideshare companies should warn you about (but don’t!) before rideshare driving.

1. Remember that Barf Bag

The vast majority of Uber/Lyft passengers are courteous, respectful and sober. But if you drive on weekends, prepare yourself for an occasional passenger who has had way too much to drink. Learn to recognize the signs – unsteady gait when entering the car, hiccups, a long silences in conversation, a pale look.

If you suspect problems, open the window and ask the passenger if they’re okay. Offer to pull over beside the road and of course, be sure to tuck a barf bag into the pocket behind the front seats.  Unfortunately I had to learn all this the hard way.  Here’s what happened:

It’s New Year’s day, just after midnight I get ping while crossing into San Francisco.  I know it’s busy because it’s a 2.8 surge and I got the ping from 3 miles away, just halfway across the bridge. I take the Fremont Street exit and there are police everywhere it’s like a disaster zone.

Traffic is at a crawl. Pedestrians are everywhere. My pickup is at a nearby hotel. Typically it would only be about 3 minutes away, but it took me 5 changes of the traffic light just to get across Market Street. I called pax en route to tell him traffic is at a complete standstill.

After about 20 minutes I finally arrived at the hotel where a guy and his date get in the backseat. He’s none too pleased about the 20-minute wait and he needs a ride across the bridge back to Oakland, which with the surge will net me close to $100. But about three minutes into ride the guy’s date loses her dinner all over the back seat and her gown.

The guy is really annoyed now. He orders his date to get out of the car and they take off somewhere, while I’m left with barf all over the back seat. So much for my New Year’s Eve  “experience.”

The good news is that I got $150 cleaning fee but only after taking pictures and making my case to Lyft.  Note: beware, there have been a slew of recent media stories accusing drivers of scamming passenger by submitting false picture of barf in an attempt to get a cleaning fee.  Be forewarned – it you are one of those scofflaws, you’ll be de-activated if discovered.

Related: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Puke

2. Choose Your Bathroom Break Spots With Great Care

Drivers quickly learn there’s one overriding matter that you going to have to deal with – immediately –  where are you going to the bathroom?  Some drivers carry a pee bottle with them, but it’s a stop-gap at best.

Experienced drivers know which restaurants have open restrooms and parking.But sometimes you just get stuck and you’ve got to go with whatever is there.

Related: The Worst Thing About Driving in San Francisco

3. Beware: Serious Stoners Ahead

If you’re a weekend driver, drunks just come with the territory. In most cases I don’t mind drunks.  In fact I often enjoy the revelry. I tell myself I’m part of the party and do what I can to join in the conversation, which can get pretty animated – without compromising safety.

Stoners are a different ball game altogether.  Stoners are totally unpredictable (not that drunks aren’t either), and often they’re so far gone that just managing to get them home can be a real challenge.   Here’s what happened to me with one group of hard core stoners:

Saturday evening I get a ping for a pickup at a restaurant bar in San Rafael, California – known far and wide as Ground Zero for the Grateful Deadheads. Stoners from all over the world come to this place as if it’s a sacred shrine. The place is owned by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, and he has kept the Dead alive with live music 7 nights a week.

The parking lot during breaks between sets of music is a scene for serious stoners. The ping came about 11 PM. Three guys got in the car and they were mega stoned – which was a serious issue because this was no simple ride. There were going to be three separate drop-offs and they’d only entered the final one in the app.  

Stoner #1 requests the ride, but he was the first drop-off in Marin and after he exited the car, things quickly went downhill. I’ll use the term conversation loosely because what followed was completely incoherent. Somehow, I managed to pry out enough information to drop off the second guy without any major problems.

But the third was a total nightmare. It’s now well after midnight as I come through the Robin Williams Tunnel and all I see are red brake lights all the way for miles to the Golden Gate Bridge.  

Traffic is at a complete standstill. At this rate it’s going to be 45 minutes just to get to the bridge. But I know a back way, which I take. Unfortunately after 15 minutes of this supposed shortcut, I discovered that the on-ramp for the bridge is also blocked. My only option is to retrace my steps get back to the highway and wait in traffic. The entire scene took almost 2 hours and I didn’t get home until 2 a.m. in the morning. To top it all off? My rating took a big hit too!

4. Omigod! It’s a Millenial! (Or Worse – a Teen)

[Editor’s note: it’s against Uber & Lyft’s Terms of Service to shuttle around minors without an adult]

We all have out horror stories about millenials.  In my home turf, I tend to get more high school students than millenials.

You never know how old they’re going to be until you get there, and you don’t want to waste your time by refusing, but sometimes that’s really what you should do.  Here’s how I learned that lesson the hard way:

Against my better judgement, I pick up three high school students who needed a ride into Tiburon, which is one of Marin County’s most affluent enclaves. The sense of passenger entitlement is palpable even before they get in the car.  

Tonight it was entitlement to the max. A minute or so into the ride, one of the guys orders me to turn on the music. I have a 5 CD changer in the car and first put on some Beatles which he didn’t like. I tried two more types of music, none of which satisfied him and finally he said disdainfully, “Oh just just put on the radio.”  That was it.  Sarcastically, I asked, “Do I get a say in this matter since it is my car?” An awkward silence ensued lasting for the remainder of the ride.  

After they got out of the car, one started banging on the hood. Another banged on the side of the car, while the third opened up the back hatchback and then slammed it.  Then they dashed off into the house.

I waited for a few moments, but did not end the ride so I could call the guy’s mother, whose account this was on. I called their mom (whose account they were using – ILLEGALLY) I attempted to explain what happened, but each time I tried opened my mouth, she interrupted me.  

As things stood I knew that both she and I were going to get low ratings and I didn’t really want the hassle of having to navigate through the app to file a complaint, so as a peace offering I told her that if she cancelled the ride in the next minute, neither of us would be rating the other and the trip would be history. I gave her a minute or so to consider the offer – which she eventually did.  No harm done – this time.

Note: If you want to avoid driving entitled teens and millenials ENTIRELY, you can always signup for a delivery service like Caviar.

5. Smile: You’re on a Red Light Camera

If you drive in urban areas, you need to be aware that the downtown streets are booby trapped.  City officials, including both judges and police, view Uber and Lyft drivers as the enemy and will show you no love if you commit even the smallest infraction.

Instead they see us as potential sources of revenue for city coffers. I learned this the hard way. Here’s what happened:

It’s my second night driving for Lyft and it’s 1 a.m. I’m brain-dead by now, set to go home when the app pings.  “Okay, one last ride.”  I said to my great regret. I was driving when I received the ping, so I pulled off to the right at the first place I could find.

But the streets were dark and my split second decision proved to be flawed. I thought I was at the curbside, but I wasn’t. I was actually idling in the intersection, while I figured out navigation – about 30 seconds.  

As I pulled back onto the road, I saw a flash above me.  A red light camera has just snapped a picture of me. Although technically I didn’t run a red light, the camera detected motion when I started to pull out and assumed I was a scofflaw.  

2 weeks later I received a ticket in the mail and the fine was $495. I decided to contest it, which required three trips to the “Hall of Justice,” which is a misnomer if there ever was one.  

All my effort was for naught as the the judge simply rubber stamped the ticket.  Despite my carefully researched and rehearsed defense, he ruled against me.  Not only did I have to pay the $495, but my insurance almost doubled for the next two years costing me several grand more.

Watch: What Do Rideshare Drivers Need to Know About Insurance?

These are only some things that could happen to you when you rideshare drive, strange or uncomfortable things that new rideshare drivers might not know about.

What’s the worst (but funny) thing that’s ever happened to you while rideshare driving?

-John @ RSG