How to Handle Stinky Pax or Food

You’ll get varying answers if you ask drivers what the worst thing a passenger can do is. But if you point out a smelly passenger, they will all agree it is pretty bad to transport someone who smells less than stellar. On the other hand, transporting smelly (or smellyish) people can be part of the job. Can you afford to say no to many orders in your market? If not, what’s the best way to handle this kind of situation? Join as RSG contributor Tyler walks us through his experience and how he handles smelly passengers.

I picked a passenger up from the airport for a long ride, about an hour and a half.

I was pretty happy to get the ride, and the guy was super easy to talk to, so it made the drive go by quickly. At the end of the ride, he told me that he noticed some sort of mess on the door and that it had an odor. I was embarrassed and apologized; he luckily didn’t rate me poorly and said he just wanted to make sure I was aware because the next passenger wouldn’t likely be as nice.

Now, I have no idea how long that had been there, but I apparently became nose-blind to it because I didn’t even realize it was there.

As rideshare or delivery drivers, our vehicles will pick up some bad odors, so much so that when we use them for personal use, people may not want to ride with us, or the next passenger may rate us poorly, risking deactivation.

How can drivers make sure their cars remain fresh after a day of driving around passengers? It all comes down to how you prepare, how you handle the situation during the ride, and finally, after care.

Quick Summary:

  • Keep air fresheners and cleaning supplies on hand to keep your vehicle clean and smelling good as new.
  • Roll down the windows between passengers to do a quick refresh.
  • Find a regular routine to keep your vehicle clean on a daily basis.

How to Prepare Before You Drive

There are a lot of things you can do before you even start driving. I have found that getting an air vent Glade with a fresh scent that is supposed to last 30 days makes a huge difference. Just one caveat – I have had some issues with that in the past when someone got in my car that was allergic to the scent I picked that month, so I like that the air vent easily slips out and can be tossed in the trunk until the passenger is out of the car.

Another option is to get a miniature air purifier. My wife and I use ours all the time when doing food delivery and by the time we get home, you could never tell that we had all kinds of different foods in the car at various times.

You cannot be prepared for everything, but you should be prepared for as much as you can. Have supplies on hand in case something gets spilled, or a passenger gets sick. Simple things like throw-up bags, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, napkins, and towels, can all help in an emergency, so make sure you have those items ready and available.

What to Do While You’re Driving

Take note of what’s going on while you’re driving. If you have a passenger who gets in the car and the smell is so strong, you can lower your windows to try to air the car out.

I have had allergic reactions to some people’s perfumes and blew the AC so much that it kept the scent away from me and allowed me to continue with the drive.

Once the person gets out of the car, and before picking up the next one, I put all the windows down and air out the car while I’m driving to the next passenger. If the scent is really bad, you could even turn off new requests for a bit while you air it out.

For food delivery, you don’t have to worry about a passenger’s comfort, so driving with the windows down even when you have the food in your car is fine.

Having a good quality food bag can also help minimize the smell and keep the food hot or cold while delivering, making the customer happy, as well as not getting food smells to linger in the car long after the food is gone.

Also, having a garbage can available for your passengers will help keep messes at bay.

Pro-tip: Check your car after every passenger leaves. Not only will this help keep your car clean, it can also help if a passenger leaves something. If you check right after they leave, you won’t have as far to drive back and drop off the item.

Make Sure You Clean Up After 

Develop a routine, especially if you have passengers in your car, that you do after every shift. It may be the last thing you’re going to want to do after driving 8 to 12 hours, but it’s really a must.

For me, there is a car wash next to my house that I pay a monthly membership for that I go through at the end of my shift. I go through then park and vacuum the car out. I then take wipes and wipe everything down that the passengers could touch.

Not only does this give me a chance to see if things were done that I didn’t notice during the drive, but it also makes me feel better knowing my car has been cleaned and I don’t have to worry about anything the next day.

It also allows me to check supplies that I may need if I’m getting low on bottles of water for myself, if I need more emergency cleaning supplies, or if someone stole my car charger and I didn’t notice earlier in the day.

Avoid Smells in the Car

Don’t be like me with that passenger who pointed out I had a smelly car. Make sure your car never has anything wrong with it that can make your passengers, or you, uncomfortable.

Make sure you have taken the steps to have all you need before, during, and after you go driving.

Clean the car out after every shift, don’t wait till tomorrow because tomorrow may be too late, and the smell or stain may have set in.

Driver Takeaways

As a driver, it’s your responsibility to try to make each experience a reasonably pleasant one. Your passengers depend on you to keep your vehicle clean, presentable, and smelling fresh. Do what you can to mitigate smelly situations by keeping air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and other necessities on hand. When it’s out of your control, do what you can to air out and refresh your vehicle between passengers or after making a particularly stinky delivery.

What do you do to keep smells out of your vehicle? 

-Tyler @ RSG