Today I’m sharing a guest post from my friend Sam who blogs at Financial Samurai. Sam is an ex-banker turned Uber driver and personal finance blogger based in San Francisco. A few months ago, Sam signed up to be an Uber driver and he’s been writing about it ever since.
If you want to read more of Sam’s stuff, his blog, Financial Samurai focuses on helping people achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later. You can subscribe to his e-mail feed here for all his latest posts.
Is it just me, or does it feel like Uber has us drivers by the balls sometimes? They’ve got this asymmetric rating system where if we get rated a 4 or lower, we’re basically one step closer to getting banished. Yet, passengers have no idea that probation begins when our rating hits 4.6. In most passengers minds, a 4 out of 5 is a good rating!
On the flip side, I’ve seen passengers still be able to request rides with ratings of 4.4 or lower. Talk about a double standard. We’ve all experienced passengers who make us wait, rap on our cars, or stink to high heaven. If only we could get these guys off the system.
I’ve contacted Uber via e-mail about their opaque system before, and all they’ve said, in a nutshell, is for drivers to provide the best customer service possible to keep our rating up. Thanks for nothing, guys!
After giving several hundred rides since I signed up earlier this summer, I’ve realized that every single memorable conflict comes from either one of two things: 1) Picking up an UberPool passenger, or 2) Picking up a passenger rated below a 4.7. Therefore, it is an absolute no-no to pick up a poorly rated UberPool passenger!
BAD UBERPOOL EXPERIENCES
Here’s an experience I recently went through that is probably familiar to some of you.
One evening I picked up a woman at her pricey Pacific Heights apartment. As I began going a different way from her route in order to pick up the other UberPool passenger she said frustratingly, “What are you doing? My destination is the other way.”
Then I asked her, “Sorry, but I’m just going to pick up another UberPool passenger. You did request an UberPool didn’t you?”
She said she did, and kept quiet unhappily. I was annoyed that she was annoyed at me picking someone else up. If she didn’t want to share the car, then she should have requested UberX and paid up! It’s not that much more expensive.
When I got to the other passenger’s destination, the woman wasn’t there. I waited there for a couple minutes out of courtesy until my Pacific Heights passenger said, “You know, we are wasting time sitting here. You can call her you know?”
Yes, I know I can call, but calling people can also annoy the receiver. After another 30 seconds, I did call the missing passenger and it went straight to voice mail. All this time I’m thinking, great, my current passenger is unhappy and she’ll be giving me less than a 5-star rating.
My current passenger then said, “It’s been several minutes now. You should cancel.” Given I dislike people who are late, I acquiesced and cancelled.
As I was pulling away from the second passenger’s apartment, I saw her finally run out and waive me down. I stopped, and apologized that since I had cancelled, I could not take her. Then she got pissed and told me “This is terrible customer service.” Then I told her a simple solution is to just request another UberPool and we can get going.
She fumbled around and told me she couldn’t figure out how to do it. I wasn’t about to get out of the car, teach her how to use the app, and make my existing passenger even madder. I apologized, told her, I’m sure another car will arrive shortly, and drove away.
What I really wanted to tell the second passenger was, You idiot. First you come out five minutes late after already getting a four minute heads up after requesting a UberPool ride that you know was coming. Why are you so inconsiderate to me and your fellow passenger? Then you don’t know how to press the UberPool request button on your app that you just requested? Then you lie to me and tell me you’ve been standing there in the lobby waiting for minutes already when I was clearly right outside your lobby. Hope you never get another ride again!
But of course, I kept my cool, apologized and wished her the best of luck. Her rating was a 4.6.
THE ONLY WAY TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Uber drivers are at the mercy of Uber’s consistent price cuts, an asymmetric rating system, and a growing population of poor quality riders. So far, there’s nothing a driver has been able to do to fight back and even the playing field until now.
Every driver feels pressure to not only achieve as high a rating as possible, but also have as high an acceptance rate as possible. When I first started, I would accept everybody who pinged me, even those inconvenient requests that made no economic sense! I was naive, and afraid that if I let my acceptance rate drop, I would somehow get dinged by the system.
But after too many bad experiences with poor passengers, I began to get more picky. My acceptance rate declined from 92% three weeks ago, to 75% two weeks ago, to 47% just this past week. I purposefully stopped accepting pickups more than six minutes away (I live in densely populated San Francisco), declined all passengers with a 4.6 rating or below, and tended to also decline roughly 25% of UberPool requests as well.
So did anything bad happen to me? No! I got a couple texts messages from Uber saying they noticed my acceptance rate had declined, and to sign off when I’m not in a position to accept requests, but that’s it. My hourly rate went up to a $36 vs. $32 for “top drivers,” and my rating stayed fine at 4.87, the same level as other top drivers. See below.
We all know that Uber is never going to put a passenger on probation or ban them like they do drivers because passengers are the key source of revenue. It’s much easier to beat drivers with a stick because switching costs are much stickier for drivers. Many of us drive because we need the extra money to make ends meet. A passenger has many more alternatives to get a ride than a driver has alternatives to drive for income.
To make the driving experience better for us, the simple solution is to stop picking up any poorly rated UberPool passenger, no matter how tempting the unknown fare could be. Chances are high that you’ll pick up an entitled passenger who will cause you to wait, cause you and your passenger to wait, hurt your rating X2, ruin your driving experience, and damage your car in the process.
If enough drivers can consistently deploy the same rating system against passengers as passengers deploys against drivers, Uber will eventually create a more two-way rating system that helps everybody. Furthermore, as you can tell from my chart above, you might even earn more money on an hourly basis as well! When you’re a happier driver, you’re a better driver.
I’m still baffled Uber doesn’t make it mandatory for all their employees to drive for at least a month in order to understand what drivers go through on a day to day basis to make their product better. But that’s a post for another time!
For more Uber-related reading check out:
Financial Samurai – Helping You Slice Through Money’s Mysteries
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What do you guys think about Sam’s strategy and solution behind Uberpool riders and not picking anyone up that’s lower than a 4.7?