For the modern commuter, there’s really no greater kick in the nuts than taking a glance at your Uber rating to learn what your drivers really think of you, and finding that you rank somewhere between ‘piece of shit‘ and ‘disgusting garbage person‘ in their estimation.
Up until recently, I was smugly clinging on to a perfectly respectable 4.9 stars out of 5 – clearly not as high as I deserved, given that I’ve never once vommed in a car, gotten into a stoush with a driver or even added an extra stop for a late-night Macca’s run, but not too bloody shabby, either.
All that changed when I awoke after a few too many boozy nights out, wiped the sleep out of my bleary eyes and opened the app to find that somewhere between my preferred local watering hole and my house, my rating had plummeted to a lowly 4.79.
I racked by brain to try and think of what I’d said or done to cause such grave offense, and my mind began reeling with thoughts of my rating slipping even lower, causing all the good drivers to start shunning me like the social pariah I try so hard to pretend I’m not.
As of this week, Uber will be rolling out a new policy banning riders with low ratings, meaning that those with a habit of spewing their guts up or getting into arguments about politics will be forced to throw themselves on the mercy of cabs or walk.
Much like investigative journalist Drew Barrymore in the classic Never Been Kissed, I hatched a plan to go undercover to try and improve my Uber rating, and I even convinced Uber themselves to top my account up with a week’s worth of credit to help me put the plan in motion.
The average Aussie Uber rider has a rating of 4.5 or higher, but I wanted to try and get mine at least above a 4.8, maybe even to a 4.85 if I was really pushing it.
Before the experiment started, they sent me through some tips on how to be a better and more considerate Uber passenger. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Say g’day: Taking a minute to say hello to your driver can make a massive difference to your experience. There’s no need to get stuck in a deep and meaningful, but it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge the driver.
2. Don’t be a slammer: When you’re in a hurry or running late, it can be easy to forget the little things, like shutting the car door without blowing it off its hinges.
3. Keep your rubbish to yourself: Nothing get an Uber driver down like their car being littered with your coffee cup of your 3am kebab. You technically shouldn’t be eating in your Uber anyway, but if you must, take your rubbish with you.
4. Location is everything: You’d be shocked to know how many riders put the pin in the wrong location, leaving their driver waiting on a busy road in peak hour traffic.
5. Don’t be a back seat driver: You can edit your final destination before the trip ends, or even add up to two extra stops, but telling your Uber driver to speed up, change lanes at the last minute or stop in illegal stopping zones is asking for trouble.
“Yeah, that’s all piss easy,” I thought to myself as I skimmed their rider tips. “I’m a bloody delight in Ubers, I always say hello, I never slam the door, I never litter and ohhh shit, okay, I think I might see the problem here …”
In all honesty, I’ve never really paid any attention to the location of the pin on my map, as long as it’s hovering somewhere vaguely near my location, I always assume that yeah, the driver will obviously know to pick me up in front of my house, down the end of my friend’s driveway, or wherever I happen to be.
Once I realised that, I suddenly remembered all those times when I’ve ordered an Uber back from the bar and waved the driver over to the yellow line out front, with nary a care as to oncoming traffic, cuz it’s after dark and momma needs to get home as quickly as possible to continue getting her drink on.
“Oh shit,” I thought, “have I actually been a bad passenger all along?” Then more memories came flooding back, like the first time my Uber rating took a dip from a perfect 5, when I drunkenly ordered one from a friend’s apartment and my driver had to call me because the pin was on a whole different street.
Feeling suitably chastened, I put Uber’s tips into action to see if I could improve my dismal rating and maybe even become of the rumoured 9% of Aussie riders who are somehow cruising with a perfect five star Uber rating.
Here’s how it shook out:
On the first day, I hailed an Uber from my house, but unlike usual, I took note of where the pin fell on the map – several doors down and across the street, as it turned out. Not wanting to get off on the wrong foot with my driver, I adjusted it til it was sitting perfectly smack bang on my house. My driver was one of those bright and chatty “what do you do for work types?” and we had a chinwag like great old mates to my destination. So far, so good.
Another chatty driver for the morning run – this time I struck a semi-retired dad type, and oh boy, did he have a full compliment of dad jokes. I’m not sure how or why we arrived at this point, but somewhere around the middle of our twenty-minute trip, he explained the entire plot of an episode of Big Bang Theory to me. I smiled and laughed and well, let’s just say I really think I bloody earned my five stars that day.
This morning’s driver recently became a permanent resident and told me all about how difficult that process is – extremely difficult, as it turns out. There’s an old saying that you’re never meant to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table, and I guess that might extent to Ubers as well, but that went completely out the window on this trip and my driver and I ended up griping about the generally shit state of the federal government, a topic on which we thankfully agreed. Otherwise things would have been pretty awkward.
On my afternoon trip home, I struck a driver who seemed keen as a bean to get me to mash that five star rating – his Mitsubishi Outlander was stocked with mints and bottled water and he offered them all to me and even asked if I wanted to make any extra stops on the way home. It almost felt like being on a date, but as a chronic people-pleaser I really couldn’t fault this bloke’s eagerness to tend to my needs.
Today’s driver was the quiet type, and after jumping in his silver Honda and saying hello, I sat mostly in silence and looked at the hand-made sign in front of me asking passengers to please not slam the door. “Bloody hell, have I ever done that?” I thought to myself as I pondered whether or not to strike up a conversation. I opted not to say anything, and our only real chat was me asking him to take the tunnel. At the end of the trip, I was careful to shut the door gently.
After a week of playing by the rules, making sure my pin landed in the right spot, not slamming doors and not getting into any unwanted deep and meaningfuls (as well as learning more than I ever wanted to know about Big Bang Theory) I nervously checked my driver rating to see if it had gone up, and was delighted to find that after all that, I was a 4.83 out of 5.
My experiences that week didn’t even seem that out of the ordinary, but keeping the small courtesies in mind ended up paying off.