Uber Lessons Learned From Inebriated College Students

99% of Uber rides go off without a hitch but when that one tricky situation comes up, it’s important to be able to think on your feet and make the right decision.  Today, I’m sharing a guest post from reader Dave F who had one of those 1% rides and describes what it was like, what he could have done better and what he’ll do going forward.

If you’d like to guest post on RSG, please send me an e-mail with a topic or two in mind and we’ll take it from there.  I’m especially looking to start posting city-specific driving stories, strategies and tips if you’ve got any.

My name is Dave F and I’m a student at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. I started driving for Uber one or two nights a week to supplement my modest stipend as a graduate student, which has served as a great source of supplemental income. Athens is a huge college town and, as such, the most frequent ride requests are between student housing and the bars downtown. This fact makes encountering intoxicated riders an inevitability.

This is the story of one such ride, and the lessons I learned from it.

The Longest Five Minutes Of My Life

I got a pickup request from a hotel adjacent to downtown Athens. The address was wrong so I called the riders who were clearly intoxicated and, after some struggle, gave me the correct name of the hotel.

After waiting 5 minutes at the hotel they showed up… in all their inebriated glory. These were 4 undergraduate students from a rival university. Unbeknownst to me, the guys in back had brought “beverages” in the car. I did not ask what was in them as I did not want to know.

During the entire trip, which was just 5 minutes long, these riders were yelling at each other, excited to go to the bars and carouse about town. The passenger in the front repeatedly tried to get me to drink out of his container while I was driving.

Upon refusal, he made fun of me for being a downer and tried picking a fight saying he was from a rival school. They then attempted to pay me off the books and made fun of me for not wanting to make “real” money when I declined. Finally, they then insisted I give them my phone number so I could pick them up later… again, off the books.

Upon arrival at the bars, I gave them my phone number just so they would get out of the car. It was the longest 5 minute ride of my life.

I gave them a one star rating and made an official complaint to Uber. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.

Good Morning… Officer?

The next morning I was getting my tires rotated and aligned. While I was waiting, two police officers came into the waiting room and asked if I was the owner of the Toyota Corolla.

I said yes, and they asked me to, “come outside, we need to have a talk”. Great, now I’m sweating bullets… my mind racing trying to figure out what I’ve done.

It turns out there had been a report of a stolen iPhone and the “track my phone” app determined that it was in my car. I explained to the officers that I drove for Uber the previous night and that the phone must have been dropped in my car by a passenger.

Luckily, the police officers knew what Uber was and asked if I remembered picking up the same 4 riders that had harassed me the night before.

Of course it was these same guys… upon describing the trip the officers quickly changed their demeanor. They actually ended up being pretty cool.

After a few minutes of searching, one of the officers found the phone wedged between the front passenger seat and the door. Moments later a third officer walked up laughing, as he had just learned that the guy who lost his phone had just been released from jail for public intoxication that very morning.

The police then told me that I should be careful in the future. They said if someone left something illegal in the car that I could be held responsible.

In hindsight it seems obvious, but something I hadn’t considered until that very moment. Now not only do I perform a cursory look at the seats and floor every time a passenger gets out, but when I get home each night I take out a flashlight to do a thorough inspection of my vehicle.

Lessons Learned… And Other Thoughts

This ride taught me that it’s okay to refuse trips to overly intoxicated individuals. I also now feel that it’s okay to kick people out of the car (though I don’t know of a professional way to do this).

Most importantly, I learned that you should check your car carefully at the end of the night and periodically during the night if possible.

I also think I may start asking, as politely as possible, if any beverage containers have alcohol in them. This ride was tricky because no one explicitly said they had alcohol and the guys already reeked of booze when they got in.

I sincerely hope Uber removed this rider from the platform after my rider issue complaint. It would be a shame for any other driver, especially a female one, to have to deal with these shenanigans.

Apart from this experience I’ve only had amazing riders and love driving for Uber.


Dave F

Readers, how would you have handled this situation and do you have any advice for Dave going forward?