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Bad Advice to Uber Passengers

27 May, 2019

Journalists tell Uber passengers to ask the driver to say their name. The problem is this will leave you open for ride hijacking and it's more common than you think. As an Uber driver, it's happened to me.

One night I did a pick up at Barnes and Noble. I arrived and made two mistakes that cost me fifteen dollars. A college-age girl opened my door and I committed mistake number one by saying one word - "Sarah?". She said yes, then I accepted the ride on the app which then displayed the destination of a SUNY Poly Dorm. Mistake number two next, "Going to SUNY Dorms, right?" - she replied yes.

Twenty minutes later we arrive on campus and the app is directing me to Adirondack Residence Hall, but Sarah asked to be dropped off at Oriskany Residence Hall, so that's what I did thinking she had a change of plans or was visiting a friend.

On to the next ride, but a few minutes later Uber contacted me and tells me that my ride was hijacked. Turns out that Sarah was not Sarah. A whole bunch of SUNY college kids were at Barnes and Noble and were all leaving within a few minutes of each other. Fake Sarah just waiting outside for any Uber and she would say yes to any name I asked her. She got her free ride, the real Sarah got a refund and I was lost my $15 as well as time and fuel for that trip.

Uber tells drivers to ask the passenger for their name also what their designation is, which makes perfect sense.

The passenger can confirm they have the correct Uber by looking at our plate number, photo, make and color of car and by seeing up arrive exactly at the time they see on the real-time map.

The driver should confirm the correct passenger by asking her name and designation.

Most newspaper articles have been telling people to make the driver say the passenger's name. This removes our one method of authentication, it's bad advice and takes away our one method of passenger authentication.

Most likely, in the near future passengers will be provided a PIN number they will have to give the driver, who will type that in the driver app for verification.

10 Ways to be a Better Uber Rider

13 February, 2019

Ten Tips to Being a Better Ride Share Uber or Lyft Passenger

1.) Text your exact location: After you confirm your pick up request, it is extremely helpful if you provide us with exact details so we can find you quickly and safely. We are often sent to a location without information other than a street address. Providing details is a big help for locations with multiple pickup points like college campuses, shopping centers, big businesses and hospitals.

Uber makes it easy to text within the app. (We do not see each other’s cell phone number.) Lyft does not provide a texting feature – but you can call us. (Though we will not answer if it’s not safe to do so.)

For example, when arriving at the actual address of 1729 Burrstone Rd. we find that most businesses in that area do not have their address posted or easily visible. The GPS will get us pretty close, but it can be one of 4 driveways.

Provide the name of the business too. We may not know if 5701 Horatio St. is Don’s Ford, Bank of America or SUNY. Be specific: Bank of America has 8 entrances that are clearly marked. So send a text that simply says “Bank of America – Door B4.”

Other examples of helpful directions:
“Slocum Dixon – back door – urgent care,”
“Main door – St. Luke’s – in the circle”
“Utica College-North Hall.”

2.) Show us your exact location: In the app, move the map pin to your exact location. Make sure the pin is on the correct side of the street or building, and at a legal pick up point. This is particularly important on busy streets, college campuses and hospitals. The GPS may send us to the wrong side of the building if you don’t adjust the location pin first.

3.) Be ready: The app provides you with a live map of our location. When you see us a block away, head to the pickup location. We do not get paid for wait time until the 6th minute and even then it’s only 12 cents. Waiting 6 minutes for people 10 times a day causes us to lose one hour of work per day. We only get paid by the mile, not by the hour.

4.) Rate us fairly: Uber’s star rating system is terrible. Uber considers anything less than 5 stars is a failure and if we drop under an average of 4.6 stars we are at risk of loosing our authorization to drive for Uber. Things that are our of our control, like someone pulling out in front of us, or catching many red traffic lights, should not cause you to rate less than 5 stars. We can’t control everything.

5.) Tip us fairly: Tips are not included. Be aware that we have to pay out of pocket for gas, tires, maintenance, car washes, Ozium, insurance, satellite radio, Spotify, self-employment tax in addition to Uber getting its cut. Thus, we often make less than minimum wage from Uber. For your fee you are getting my clean car, your own vetted driver and an arrival time that is normally under 5 minutes. Like food service, tips are needed to bring our pay up to a reasonable earning. Uber use to include tips in the fair but that is no longer true.

I’ve taken people 90 minutes to an airport, lifted their baggage in and out of my trunk, stopped along the way for my passenger to get a coffee, changed my satellite radio to their liking, paid thruway tolls and traveled 90 minutes back to my city for no pay- all without a tip. A taxi or airport ride service would have cost you twice as much and tips. So please, tip…and tip fairly.

6.) Personal safety and age: Uber policy states we cannot transport your kids or any passengers under 18 unless an adult is with them. In addition, everyone must wear a seat belt and all children must be in a child safety seat that you must provide. For legal reason, we are unable to touch your child’s seat: you must install and remove it.

7.) No food, drink, smoking, alcohol or drugs: You cannot eat, drink or smoke in the car and do not expect a free bottle of water or candy. I don’t mind stopping and grabbing a coffee or water for long trips. Those rides are typically 60 minutes or longer
8.) If you are feeling sick: If you feel sick let your driver know ASAP! We carry puke bags and will be happy to give you one. If you throw up in our car Uber will charge your credit card a $150 cleaning fee, which is in your Terms of Use that you have agreed to. So if you feel sick – don’t take chances…it will cost you.

9.) Sit in back and not behind the driver: We would rather have passengers sit in the back seat opposite us. Drivers want to feel safe too. Most of us keep the front passenger seat settings as forward as possible giving you extra leg room in the rear. Also, it is less awkward if you don’t feel like talking or want to read and it’s less distracting for the driver if you are on your phone. I do have a few regular passengers that I allow to sit in the front because we have come to know each other and like to chat.

10.) Smile! You’re on camera: Our dash cams record both forward and backward. That means we are recording both what happens on the road in front of us as well as inside the car. The system keeps the video for a few weeks and then it is erased. No one looks at them unless a complaint or incident occurs. They are there to protect us both.