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10 Things That Make Your Uber Driver Sad

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I'm Lexus Jones. (Click here to read last week's intro.) I have a regular full-time job but on the weekends and a few weeknight I drive for Uber. Over the last couple of years I have driven over 2,000 trips for Uber. At first I drove on the UberX platform. Now I drive a luxury car on the Uber Plus platform. Whenever I think that I have seen it all, something new happens. I will be sharing those stories here. I will also answer questions and give advice on how to get the most out of your rides.

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Don't make your driver sad! (Photo by Hugo Felix via Shutterstock)
Uber drivers love you. Let's get that on the table. We love driving because the money can be decent, we are free to roll whenever we want, and the positive energy from our passengers is often life-affirming. You may not think that you are radiating vibes, but you are, and they are usually lovely.

However there are several things that can make Uber drivers very sad. Because LAist readers are enlightened, wonderful, and always seeking new ways to be better souls, I will share some issues that I have experienced and some I have heard from other drivers that piss us off and make for a not-so-great trip.

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1. Making your driver wait. One benefit for passengers about Uber is you can see how far away your driver is from you as we are heading to pick you up. The app even tells you before you order the ride how many minutes it will take for the car to get to you. Although LA prides itself about being fashionably late, don't pull that with your Uber. Be cool. Indeed if you wanna be super cool, be outside *gasp* waiting for your driver when we arrive. If the app says there is a driver 5 minutes away why would you be shocked when there is a car in your driveway in 5 minutes?

Perhaps you are unaware, but drivers make $0 as they wait to start the trip. So if you make us wait more than five minutes we can cancel the ride and you get charged $5. Advice: if you still haven't fully prepared for the night on the town when you are considering reaching for the Uber app, do everyone a favor and wait until you're photo-ready before you tap your phone for your ride. We'll be there in just a few minutes. Promise.

2. No drinking booze, no smoking, no doing drugs. Uber is not a limo. Uber is not your living room. Uber is someone else's car and they're giving you a ride for, on average, 10 minutes. Finish your beer before you use the app. Smoke your cigarette before you get in the car. And if you must do drugs, why would you think a moving vehicle is a good place to do them?

Your Uber driver is usually driving to make a few extra bucks on top of their regular job. They are not trying to find new ways to go to jail or pay crazy expensive fines because you just opened your Bud Light before you ran out of your frat house and didn't feel like chugging your precious swill.

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Ironically, one thing you probably love about riding in an Uber compared to a taxi is it doesn't smell like an ashtray. So please don't even think about lighting up a cigarette in the backseat. Be considerate to the driver and the next passenger who probably doesn't want to smell your smoke. And please don't ask us to make an exception because that will create an awkward "hell no" from us and turn those positive vibes into something sad.

3. Bad reviews for obeying the rules. Unlike cabs, Uber drivers get rated after every single ride. It's actually a great way to weed out the bad drivers and provide instant feedback to the company.

The only problem is the only acceptable rating, in most drivers' minds, is a perfect score: 5 stars. We feel that way because if a driver averages 4 stars they get booted from the system. Technically, if we get lower than a 4.6, we are on thin ice with the company. Therefore, drivers get very nervous when passengers ask if they can smoke or snort or drink in the car. The driver knows they will have to say no and we also know that that can result in a 1 or 2 star rating -- which will take dozens of 5-star rides to overcome.

At the same time, drivers are instructed by Uber not to solicit 5-star ratings from our passengers, so a good-hearted passenger may think they are giving a positive review when they dole out 4 stars on an average, typical ride. Unfortunately a 4-star rating is bad and a night of them is a nightmare.

Advice: if everything went well on the ride, give your driver 5 stars. If the car was dirty or the driver was clueless about how to get to your destination, etc., give them lower than 5 stars. But if the ride was fine, keep in mind that a 4 or lower is actually a negative review. Please don't punish us because you wanted to do something that you know in your heart you shouldn't be doing in an Uber, and for Pete's sake don't give a negative review because of things like price or traffic. The driver has no control over those things.

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4. Trying to jam more than four passengers in an UberX. You can get around town so much cheaper in an Uber than a cab because of the low-cost UberX. The 4-door cars are clean, sometimes there's water, phone chargers and/or treats. It's easy to pay. You even get a receipt emailed to you. UberXL gives you all of those features too but in a minivan. If you have four passengers UberX is perfect because there are four seat belts for everyone.We want to see you again. No one wants tragedy to strike because someone wasn't buckled up.

Advice: If you have 5 or 6 people in your party, order an UberXL and split the fare with everyone via the app or pay people back through Venmo. Or get two UberXs. You'll survive. But please don't try to pack more people in a car than it was designed to handle. It's for your safety, which you may not consider valuable, but we do.

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This is why you need to tell your driver where you're going (Photo by Thirteen of Clubs via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
5. You don't know where you're going. You've been drinking and you do the right thing: you order an Uber. While you wait, type in the app the destination where you want to go. It will take less than a minute. You know where you want to go. If you don't know the address just try to type in the name of the venue or intersection—it's probably in there.

But don't do this: don't say, "Oh I'll just tell you how to get there." Some drivers like me don't care if you backseat drive. But usually people who have been drinking are easily distracted. A phone rings or texting commences—or worse, you pass out. Suddenly the directions stop being slurred from the back seat and the trip takes much longer than it should. Just type into the app where you want to go before the ride starts. We'll get you there safe. Pinkie swear.

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6. Asking drivers about tips. You tip your cabbie, your limo driver, your Super Shuttle dude, your Lyft driver, even the guy who cracks open the bottle of beer at the bar. A while back Uber's message was "the tip is included." If you've noticed, they haven't said that in about a year.

As you may have noticed there still is no way to tip electronically on the app. You may not know, but Uber drivers are instructed not to solicit tips. We are even told to refuse tips once and only accept them if the passenger insists on their generosity. As pointed out earlier, because our rating is the difference-maker between keeping our job with Uber, we are put in a very uncomfortable position when a passenger asks us about tips because we don't want you to have a bad feeling when the ride is over when you are prompted to rate us.

Me, personally, I don't expect tips. I've driven over 2,000 rides with Uber and even though I'm an amazing driver with a clean car with water, mints, and chargers for several phones, I've received maybe 25 tips.

Advice: When you take a $5 Uber ride, keep in mind the driver's cut is about $2.60. You tip everyone else, if you have a buck or two that you can spare, do what you'd do with a cabbie or bartender. If that driver really went above and beyond, it's ok to be generous. Trust me when I tell you, you will make that driver's day. It's like seeing a unicorn.

7. Asking to go through a drive-thru after the bars close. This is a tricky one. You've been partying all night and In-n-Out or Taco Bell sounds soooooo good. You're in the Uber and you pass by one and even though the line is out to the street you MUST have some deep fried fare so you ask your driver to get in that line while you party in the back with your friends.

The dilemma for the driver is we get very little money "while the meter is running." Uber is not like a cab. The meter is "running" but realllly slowly. If the wait is 45 minutes the driver gets about $7.50 before Uber takes their cut. And the car has been idling for that long sucking gas. The driver only really gets paid if the wheels are rolling.

Advice: Here's what I do as a passenger if I am in that position and I don't want to bum out my driver. I give them a $5 bill up front (or more depending on how long the line is) and I insist that I buy them a snack. "Anything you want, just order it," I say. Then I don't eat it until I get home. Spilling food and drinks in an Uber can be horrible for a driver. And drunk people are known to spill.

8. While waiting to get picked up, calling the driver to ask "where are you?" The Uber app is great technology. But it's not perfect all of the time, especially in the hands of people who have been drinking—or those not paying 100% attention. Sometimes when a would-be passenger uses the app they don't realize that the pin isn't being dropped where they actually are. You might be at the Palladium, but the pin drops a half a block away in front of Roscoe's.

Since the driver assumes you are where you dropped the pin, they may be waiting in front of Roscoes holding up traffic. After a while the passenger might use the app to call the driver and most of the time the first question the passenger asks is "where are you?" That seems like a reasonable question, but it's actually irrelevant. The most important fact is where is the passenger. The ideal question should be "I am at the Palladium, which way should I walk to get to you?"

Advice: One way to avoid improper pin droppage is to type in the venue that you are at into the app instead of letting the pin automatically fall. And if you call say right away "I am at this address in front of this bar/restaurant."

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It's getting real in the Hollywood Bowl parking lot (Photo by Ryan Basilio via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
9. Asking to be picked up at the Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl is one of the greatest places to see a concert. Tragically, it's also one of the toughest spots in all of LA to pick someone up. Traffic is snarled after the concert lets out and the police close roads to "help out" on traffic, and there are dozens and dozens of would-be Uber passengers all waiting in the worst place possible: right by the marquee of the Bowl.

Advice: Do everyone, including yourself a favor and walk a little bit south down Highland to either one of the motels on the west side of the street and summon your Uber there. Or better yet, walk down to the gas station on Franklin and Highland and then use your app. Your driver will get to you quickly and you will speed out of that congested area much faster.

10. Dropping your pin on the corner of a busy street. We live in great times. Within minutes of clicking a button on your phone a clean car will appear and take you on your merry way. This gets gunked up when you drop your pin in the middle of an intersection or on a busy corner. How will a driver know where to pick you up. Also, do you really want to hear cars honking as you enter the car on the corner of a busy street?

Advice: To make things merrier, if you are at a corner and you want a ride, walk 200 feet or so to the middle of the block and look for a place that a car could logically pull over to pick you up safely. Intersection corners are the furthest things from safe. It also ticks off every other car on the road as you and your friends block traffic getting into the Prius.

Next week Lexus will answer your questions. So leave them in the comments below or e-mail us at tips@laist.com. Follow Lexus on Twitter at @uberlexus