Navigating the social norms of the on-demand economy can quickly get more complicated than you initially imagine. Should you be prepared to engage in a full conversation with your Postmates driver? What are the rules for contacting your Airbnb host before or during your stay? How much should you interact with your Uber driver? And how does everybody else navigate these sticky situations without feeling awkward?
Those situations can get complicated, but fortunately, the limited time you spend in the back seat of an Uber means that it’s relatively straightforward to figure out how to be a good Uber passenger. Read on to learn about what you should and shouldn’t do as an Uber passenger, plus get an idea of what you should expect from your Uber driver.
What to do as an Uber passenger
Be on time
It’s always a good idea to avoid keeping your Uber driver waiting. You should only order an Uber when you’re actually ready to go, and always try to be waiting at the pick-up location when your driver arrives. (It’s also a good idea to stand somewhere that’s visible, and easy for your driver to pull over, since your driver doesn’t want to cause an accident or get a ticket.) Pay attention to the GPS that shows you where your driver is, and don’t ignore the notifications that tell you when the driver is arriving. Your driver isn’t getting paid to wait for you, so if you want to start things off on the right foot, try to get to the car on time.
Sit in the back seat
Should you sit in the front seat or go to the back seat? Dena Levitz reports for CityLab that with an Uber, it’s generally expected that the passenger will sit in the back. Levitz explains, “Lyft’s claim to fame used to be that passengers hopped into the front seat, fist-bumped their driver and rode off. The fist-bump has pretty much gone the way of the now-defunct fuzzy pink mustaches formerly on drivers’ dashboards. But the front seat placement is still the agreed-upon rule of thumb.” Uber, on the other hand, “is ‘cabbier’ in that the expectation is to get in the back seat.” Unless your driver is clearly a social person who won’t mind conversing with you all the way to your destination, it’s a good rule of thumb to sit in the back seat of an Uber.
Be prepared to handle doors and luggage yourself
While some drivers are quick to jump out of the car and open a door or stow your luggage for you, you should always assume that you’ll complete both tasks yourself. Since you’ll be sitting in the back seat most of the time, it’s easier to just handle the door yourself. And while a driver will often pop the trunk for you if you have a lot of belongings with you or are headed to the airport, you should plan on loading your suitcase into it yourself.
Treat your driver like a friend who’s giving you a ride
You don’t have to be deep in conversation with your driver all the way to your destination. (And often, a driver will try to gauge whether you want to have a conversation when deciding whether to be talkative or to stay quiet.) But regardless of whether you’re having a lively discussion in the front seat or sitting quietly in the back, you should treat your driver like a friend who’s giving you a ride. Don’t mess with the air conditioning or the stereo without asking. If you have to take a call or listen to a voicemail message, explain what you’re doing or apologize for the interruption. And if you’d prefer to sit in silence on your ride to the airport, just tell your driver that you have texts to respond to or work to do.
Give your driver a good rating
Ratings are important for drivers, since they ultimately determine whether a driver will be able to continue working with Uber. So if they deserve a five-star rating, you should give it to them. Things like traffic are beyond your driver’s control, so you shouldn’t penalize a driver who’s done everything right with a rating that’s unfairly low. If your driver gives their best effort to get you to your destination safely and quickly, then they probably deserve a five-star rating. Even a four-star rating signals to Uber that your driver didn’t do a good job, so you should give five stars unless there’s a compelling reason not to. (And if you’d like to check your own rating, you can do so by tapping Help, selecting Account and Payment, tapping Account Settings and Ratings, and then choosing “I’d like to know my rating.”)
Think about tipping your driver
While Uber’s policy is that you don’t need to tip your driver, you can, and might want to consider doing so. Stephanie Rosenbloom reports for the New York Times that while Uber doesn’t offer a tipping option in its app, drivers appreciate tips. Plenty of passengers are unsure of what to do, since the point of Uber is that it’s a seamless and hassle-free. And others dislike the social pressure to pay more for their rides. But if you’re comfortable tipping and keep small bills in your wallet, then it doesn’t hurt to tip your driver when you reach your destination.
What not to do as an Uber passenger
Don’t make a mess
Chances are good that your Uber driver is OK with you eating a small snack or drinking a bottle of water in the back of their car. But you should do your best to never make a mess in somebody else’s car. Don’t eat messy foods or a full meal in the back of the car, and don’t bring anything that could easily spill. Similarly, you shouldn’t put your feet up on the upholstery or throw trash on the floor. Don’t smoke in the back of the car. And if you’re catching an Uber home after a night out, do your best not to be the person who throws up in the back of an Uber.
Don’t withhold your destination
Some people think it’s a pain to have to enter their destination into the Uber app, and would rather just tell the driver where they’re going when they get picked up. But that’s an annoying move for your driver, who won’t know which direction you’re going until after you’re in the car. That means that the driver will have to get directions or figure out a route on the fly, which can be a major pain in congested areas or in less-than-ideal pickup locations. Always enter the address, not the name, of your destination into the app, and double-check that what you entered is correct.
Don’t try to convince your driver to do something illegal
We get it. Everybody tries to bend the rules every once in a while. But don’t try to convince your driver to do something that’s illegal or dangerous. Your driver probably doesn’t want to talk you out of bringing an open beer into the car with you. And a driver definitely doesn’t want you to try to squeeze five people into a vehicle where only four seat belts are available. There are options, like UberXL, that you should use if you have more passengers than can fit into a smaller vehicle. And while drivers know that picking up passengers outside of bars can be an unpredictable gig, don’t make the driver’s job harder than it needs to be.
Don’t get angry at your driver
Similarly, you shouldn’t get angry at your driver for any reason, but especially not for reasons beyond their control. Unexpected traffic is annoying, but not your driver’s fault (and may or may not have been any better on the route that you were secretly hoping they’d take). Your state’s laws on driving with open containers of alcohol are beyond your driver’s control, and if the driver doesn’t want more passengers than seat belts, they’re just looking out for everybody’s safety. Always be polite and keep things in perspective. Even if you’d be OK with letting something slide, it’s your driver’s call and comfort level that matters.
Don’t assume that it’s OK to bring an animal
If you’re an urban pet owner and don’t have a car of your own, you may find yourself requesting an Uber to transport both yourself and your furry companion. If so, you shouldn’t assume that all drivers are OK with four-legged passengers. Always call the driver immediately after they accept the ride and ask their permission. Some drivers are comfortable with pets riding along, while others will request that your pet is confined to a carrier, and still others would prefer not to accept animals at all. If the driver doesn’t want an animal on board, don’t try to convince them. Just request another Uber.