An Uber Driver’s System
I recently rode to DCA airport (called “Reagan” by Republicans and “National” by Democrats). My driver Edgar (not real name) has been driving for three years and developed a system that works for him in determining who he picks up and who doesn’t.
Bryan: Edgar, you have the best stocked back seat that I have ever seen.
Edgar: That’s for the tourists. Its tourist season and I love tourists. They are always friendly to me and if I tell them just one thing about DC, they think I’m a genius. A tourist once kissed me on my forehead at the end of a trip. Locals are never that happy to see me.
Bryan: You mainly drive during the day then when the tourists are out?
Edgar: I always prefer to drive during the day. I put on the news and get you to where you need to go. Passengers at night are a different crowd – more needy. They want to plug their phones in or have long conversations on them, want you to change the radio station, give you lower ratings, sometimes they are drunk – for me, daytime is better.
Bryan: Are there fewer difficult passengers during the day time?
Edgar: For certain – but I’m proactive in making sure that I don’t get difficult passengers. I’ve got a system. Drivers have a rating and so do passengers. First of all, I don’t pick up anyone with a low rating. Three stars? Forget about it. But you can also forget about someone with a perfect five-star rating as that’s probably someone who just signed up for Uber. 4.8 or 4.9 – that’s the sweet spot.
Bryan: I never thought about that before – someone with a perfect 5.0 probably is new to using Uber. I don’t have a 5.0 – maybe I made a driver angry once?
Edgar: I’m checking out the passengers as soon as I seen them. You know how Spider Man has Spider Sense? I’ve got Uber Sense. You can learn a lot about them before they even get in the car. You waved me at and ran across the street to jump in the car, so I knew you were going to be fine. But somebody who comes up and knocks on my window – that’s bad news and I won’t hesitate to cancel a ride.
Bryan: And how do you deal with Uber Pool passengers?
Edgar: I don’t! People who take Uber Pool have already showed their hand. They are cheap and are probably much less likely to give me a tip at the end of the ride. I used to do it but it was too much – this guy hitting on this girl, another person talking really loudly on the phone, I didn’t enjoy Uber Pool rides. When you have just one passenger, maybe the person just wants to be on their phones the whole time which is fine – but maybe you can have an enjoyable conversation with them as well.
Bryan: Uber Pool reminds me of a book that a French writer named Jean Paul Sartre wrote. Four people wake up in a room together and they are trying to figure out why. They learn that they are in hell and hell is other people – three other people who will drive you mad for eternity. I’ve had some enjoyable Uber Pool rides, but I’ve also had some like you describe – people talking really loud, passed out drunk, or unfriendly…
Edgar: If you do pick up a difficult passenger or passengers, then you could be spending a lot of time with them. That’s time you don’t get back. That’s why I have a system. Hey, do you use taxis at all anymore?
Bryan: What’s a taxi?
Edgar: I guess that answers it. We’re not trying to put taxi drivers out of a job and there are some places where they do very well. Take downtown DC for example. As an Uber Driver, people can’t just hail me on the streets and get in. They have to use the application. Tourists are more likely to use a taxi because maybe they aren’t using their phones as roaming can be expensive. If they are here for a week, that’s a lot of rides potentially. Then you see long lines of taxis in front of all the major hotels. It’s quicker for the people staying there to just jump into a taxi so that’s what they do. People may take Uber to the airport but take a taxi when they arrive because they have luggage and the line is closer than the Uber lot. Definitely don’t call Uber when you are on the plane. You need to go to the lot and then do it.
Bryan: Some DC governments have really pushed around taxi drivers – but they definitely don’t have a lot of sympathy because we remember how they used to cheat people. You go out of way to be nice to tourists but the taxi drivers went out of their way to cheat them. Then there’s racism issue – some of my black friends couldn’t get a taxi to stop for them. It’s less of an issue with Uber and Lyft. From a safety perspective though, it is more dangerous to drive a taxi. You’ve got to have money to drive a taxi but no one is going to mug an Uber Driver because everything is done online. I wonder why we don’t have the same kind of plastic barriers up for DC taxis that there is in New York City?
Edgar: Maybe I should put on of those up – just for the more difficult passengers. I’m joking. Kind of.
Bryan: OK, that’s me over there. Thanks for telling me about your system!