How To Deal With Anti-Maskers as a Gig Worker

When we polled drivers in June about whether or not they wanted the Uber and Lyft mask mandates to go away, the majority said “dump the masks.” But with the Delta variant on the rise, it certainly seems like the mask mandate for both drivers and passengers is here to stay. RSG guest contributor Kevin Meconis shares how you can handle passengers with anti-mask sentiments while keeping your sanity and safety.

Regardless of how we feel about them, masks are here to stay! (Maybe forever at this point). We all have our opinion about them and so do our riders, but regardless of the politics, the laws are clear for the public transportation sector: It’s mask on!

As a Lyft driver, I can appreciate that the platform does a lot of the heavy lifting for mask-related issues by reminding riders and drivers to mask up before each ride.

Yet, if you’ve given enough rides lately, you’ve no doubt run into someone who doesn’t want to wear one. We’ve seen the viral videos of anti-mask confrontations and they sure can get ugly.

What can you do if you run into a difficult customer? Here are some tips that may help you out.

6 Strategies for Handling Anti-Mask Sentiment

1. Be Sympathetic

A few phrases can be useful in getting to compliance without getting into a fight. Try something like, “I hate wearing these masks too, but can we get through this together for the next few minutes?

2. Blame Lyft, Uber, or The Feds

This one is very popular nowadays, and not just for drivers! Say something like, “I don’t make the rules, I’m just trying to do my job”, and be armed with the knowledge about the laws.

The federal mandate for drivers and riders to wear masks still applies and here in California Cal/OSHA has reinforced this mandate despite rumors to the contrary.

3. Appeal to Emotions

Tell the rider you’ve lost a few loved ones to COVID (hopefully you haven’t) or maybe you have a frail relative at home and you’re trying to be as safe as you can. Most people will be empathetic to this.

4. Sharing is Caring (Masks – Not Germs!)

Have a few extra masks with you. They’re pretty cheap and readily available now almost anywhere. I was able to get a pack of 20 KN95’s off Amazon for 10 bucks a month ago, but the Delta variant has caused a price spike again.

Many passengers I’ve dealt with simply lost or forgot their mask somewhere and rather than cancel the ride, it can help speed things along if you have an extra to offer.

You can include some language like, “Hey, I noticed you don’t have a mask, I have an extra one if you need one.”

5. Protect Yourself

After a long shift or when you’ve had a bad day, sometimes you just don’t feel like confronting people about the masks. It’s best to be prepared for these types of situations and there are a few things you can do to stay safe.

  1. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already. The vaccines work, they are safe, they are free, and you can get them pretty much anywhere.

If you’re vaccinated, it makes you much more confident that even if you are riding with a passenger who refuses to mask up, you won’t end up in the hospital (or worse) because of it.

When we surveyed drivers (recipients of The Rideshare Guy newsletter – sign up here!), 53% said they had already received the COVID vaccine anyway – that’s excellent! If you’re part of the 36% who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, consider doing so to protect yourself and/or those you care about.

2. Open the windows and use the fresh air setting instead of recirculating the air in your car. This will bring in fresh air and reduce the chance you’re inhaling air with the virus in it. Being in a confined space and sharing air is the main reason for the mask mandate in public transportation.

3. Lyft has additional resources on air safety in their Air Care Guide and also offers drivers a discount on an air purifier made by WYND. The goal is to reduce your risk and make your car a safe environment for your passengers too.

6) Cancel the Ride

If all else fails and you just don’t feel comfortable being in the car with someone who seems sick or is giving you a hard time, you can always cancel the ride.

I would recommend using a neutral excuse like, “I’m feeling really sick to my stomach and need to get home,” or checking your phone and saying you have a family emergency. Then proceed to dropping the rider off at a safe, public location. Or just be honest and tell the rider you’re not comfortable. Use your judgment to risk aggravating a potentially hostile passenger.

Should Drivers Be Required to Get Vaccines?

One way to make yourself a lot safer, as noted above, is to get the vaccine. While there are still breakthrough COVID cases, they are, for now, rare. Additionally, if you do get breakthrough COVID, you’re far less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus.

When we surveyed drivers, a narrow majority (51%) said they did not agree with (hypothetically) Uber and Lyft mandating the vaccines for drivers, although 11% said a mandate from Uber and Lyft would encourage them to get the vaccine.

With 53% of respondents sharing they already are vaccinated, signs are good that many drivers on the road are already protected with at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Of course, masks are required for both drivers and passengers, giving an extra layer of protection to those already vaccinated.

Driving is dangerous in many ways and COVID-19 only increases the risk to your health–especially now with the Delta variant being an estimated 100x more contagious.

Despite the politics around mask-wearing, there is substantial evidence that they do help reduce transmission of the virus. So, for now and the foreseeable future, mask-wearing is the law and the policy for most rideshare companies, like Lyft. It’s also a useful tool to protect our health, as uncomfortable as they are, ugh.

We hope you found this discussion useful and If you have any other tips or suggestions to help fellow drivers out with mask/health-related issues, please share them in the comments!

How do you handle anti-mask sentiment from passengers?

Kevin Meconis has driven part time for Lyft for four years, giving nearly 1,200 rides. When he’s not driving, he also works as an epidemiologist, consultant, inventor and a freelance writer. He enjoys cooking, traveling, and rock climbing in his spare time. 

-Kevin @ RSG