Biggest Frustrations of Being a Rideshare Driver

A few days ago, we posted 5 Things Uber Drivers Wish Uber Riders Knew, totally from our own experience here in Australia. Coincidentally, John Ince, a senior contributor to our sister site in the U.S., created a post that covers some similar (and additional) issues from his own American experience.

We present a slightly amended version here.

If you’ve been driving rideshare long enough, you’re bound to have encountered a few frustrations as a driver. From the distracting, like technological glitches, to the mildly annoying, like some passenger music preferences, we all have a list of frustrations. Today, senior RSG contributor John Ince highlights his biggest frustrations as a driver. Agree with these, or have a list of your own? Let us know in the comments!


Technological Glitches

Coverage can be bad, and suddenly you lose the ability to navigate – sometimes when you’re really back in the jungle. This happens a lot to me driving in the rural areas of Marin County. I remember one time about 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I had just dropped off two passengers on a dirt road that twisted around a canyon. Right after the drop off, I lost connectivity.

It took me 25 minutes to get to the main drag. I kept telling myself that this wasn’t Uber's fault, but still it’s frustrating.

Long Rides with Little Prospect of Return Fares

Destination filters, in theory, can help here, especially with the number of available DF increasing from 2 to 6 recently on Uber. But remember, once you’ve put on DF, you’re filtering out other possible rides, so you’ve decreased your chances of getting a ride request.
It’s also frustrating when you’ve got DF on, and get a ride request that takes you several miles out of the way. Is it just me or does this happen to you too?

Rider Puts Down Wrong Location

This generally happens a few times a week for me. It can cause the trip to get off to a rocky start if you don’t handle it well. Do you blame the passenger right out of the gate? Not a good strategy if you want a good ride and good ratings.

Rider Demanding His/Her Kind of Music

It’s all in the asking. If a passenger asks nicely, I’ve got no problem with music. In fact, I like it. But sometimes they don’t ask – they demand.
A few weeks ago, I found myself near Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco just after the last concert ended. Surge was going crazy and the streets around Golden Gate Park were flooded with potential passengers. I got a ping a few minutes away and didn’t even notice what surge it was, because I knew it would be good. But the ride wasn’t.
Four guys spotted my car as I pulled up and got in – and you could tell immediately they were wasted. Something about the look in the eye in the passenger seat really creeped me out, especially the way he demanded music. I was still figuring out the best route to the Marina and navigating through a sea of pedestrians. To get him off my back I said, “Hold on, my number one responsibility is to get you there safely.”
I could feel his eyes boring down on me as he said, “So no music huh?” Eventually I steered out of the trouble and put on the music. We had a relatively good conversation.
It turns out we had a lot to talk about because – guess what – the creepy guy in the passenger seat worked for Uber. No worries – he assured me that Uber was full steam ahead and everything was great in the main office.

Pickups Where There Is No Legal Place to Stop and Passenger Has No Clue

I generally avoid downtown San Francisco, especially Market Street for this very reason. But sometimes you need rides for a bonus and want to keep your acceptance rate up.
So what are we supposed to do when the passenger is standing in a bus stop? In San Francisco, buses now have cameras for this very reason – to keep drivers like us out of their zones and lanes. If I have a passenger waiting in a bus zone, I’ll usually check all around me for police or buses. If I don’t see anyone, I may chance it. But if there’s any doubt I’ll just drive by and ask them to meet me in a legal area or if necessary cancel the ride. So far so good with this strategy.

Inflexible Passengers

Sometimes it’s only a minor inconvenience, but there’s something in the manner of the passenger that stiffens your spine, like when they’re treating you like their servant. Who wants to be treated like that?
Have you ever had a passenger who is not willing to walk a short distance to save you driving all the way around the block in traffic? This was the subject of that now infamous video of the Uber driver who lost it and screamed, “Get out of my car!” while the passenger’s cellphone recorded the entire incident. After all, she just want to go a short distance to the hospital entrance she wanted. But his app said they had arrived, so he felt justified ending the ride.
Who was right? Who cares? Yes, it’s frustrating to deal with lazy or inflexible passengers. But all jobs have their frustrations and this is something you simply have to accept. Just deal with it. The consequence of locking horns with a passenger over some small matter never turns out well. So be flexible – even when it hurts. The alternative could hurt a lot more.

Hearsay Deactivation – Uber/Lyft Automatically Taking the Side of the Passenger

Saturday night I’m on my way to dinner at a nearby university dining hall where the food is good and prices are cheap. Suddenly there’s a ping from one of the nearby dormitories. Rides in college towns are usually short ones, so I accept.
No such luck. Three college students all need a ride 20 miles into San Francisco where they’re meeting friends for dinner at Mel’s Drive In. It was an hour detour and I missed out on dinner that night, but next night I didn’t.
While I’m eating, I noticed the same student I gave a ride to the night before and she’s spotted me too. So the next time I got up, I stopped by their table and we exchanged pleasantries. I asked how dinner was at Mel’s and other small talk. The conversation lasted no more than a few minutes. The next day, I get an email from Lyft that my account has been de-activated – for engaging in “post ride contact” with a passenger. I explained what had happened to Lyft and my account was reactivated but what?
I can understand Lyft’s predicament. Had there been anything amiss here, and something serious happened between driver and passenger, Lyft would have been ripped in the media for failing to take action sooner. Nevertheless it’s frustrating that Lyft’s default position is to give credence to the passenger’s fears – and take immediate disciplinary action before they know all the facts.
Yes, Lyft re-activated me a day later, but that’s small consolation. The residue of frustration remained, and colored my feelings about Lyft and this gig, thereafter.

Passengers Who Say They’ll Be Right Out and Take Forever

Saturday night, demand high, pings coming through rapid fire, no waiting for rides, but no surge yet. I get a ping for a pickup about 12 minutes away. To get the bonus, I need to keep my acceptance rate high, so I tap to accept. When I get there, no sign of passengers so I call. The woman answers and says. “We’ll be out in a few seconds. Go ahead and start the ride.”
Okay, sounds good. I start the ride.
A few seconds turned into a few minutes which turned into a half hour. All the while I’m waiting, and waiting, making about one sixth of what I’d be making if we were moving. If I end the trip, I’ll probably get a low rating. Frustrating? Yes, but hey it could be worse.

Passengers Who Can’t Make Up Their Minds Where They’re Going

I get a ping in San Anselmo, a pocket of affluence in back Marin. A young well dressed couple gets in. I start the ride take note of the destination – the Battery Club, one of the most exclusive techie clubs in San Francisco. A few minutes into the ride, I hear them discussing a change of plans. “Let’s get a pizza before going into the city.”
“Okay,” I say and wait for the new address to pop up on my phone.
“Wait. “I hear, “Let’s go to Pizza Orgasma instead.”
“Okay.” I said
All in all they changed their mind four times. I suppose I shouldn’t get frustrated. I was getting paid the whole time and they were pleasant, but still, folks, make up your mind

Passengers Who Take Advantage of You and Show No Appreciation

It was a foggy San Francisco night, about 2 a.m. and I could barely see 50 feet ahead, when I got a ping for a pickup near San Francisco State. I was dead tired, but decided to take one more ride before calling it a night.
When I got to a small house in a residential neighborhood, a young woman got in the front seat, clearly distraught. She proceeded to spill her guts out. She works at a hedge fund and hates it. Her grandfather has just died and she wants to finish a commemorative album before the funeral tomorrow – but her printer has run out of ink. She wants me to drive her to Walgreen’s and wait while she gets a toner cartridge and then drive her back.
I really didn’t want to do all this, but I did. She was impossible the whole way. As my car crawled through the fog, she wanted me to go faster. When I stopped at a yellow light, she scolded me, “You just stopped at a yellow light.”
Through it all I kept my cool and listened to her story.
The next day I got a note from Lyft, that they’re received a complaint from said passenger. Back then Lyft actually included the comments of the passenger. She wrote in the note: “He was driving too slow and I did not feel safe in his car.”
I replied to Lyft with a clear explanation of the entire situation including the fog conditions. Nothing came of the incident, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I had gone out of my way to accommodate this woman and all I got was a negative review.
Just chalk it up to the frustrations of being a rideshare driver, and then move on.
All in all, if you’ve been driving rideshare for a while, you’ve probably experienced one or all of these frustrations as a driver. It comes with the territory, and good drivers will know how to let things go or develop a thick skin – which separates those of us who stick around from those who quit after a few months.
Readers, are there any driving frustrations I missed? Let me know in the comments!


Is it the difference between the U.S. and Australia, or have I just got it too good driving for Uber on the Sunshine Coast? Let me relate my personal experience to each one of John's issues:

Technological Glitches: Sure, I've had Uber navigation fail. Who hasn't? But it usually comes good pretty quickly and I can always fall back on the car's built-in GPS.

Long Rides: I love long rides. They pay well and there's less wear and tear on the car and better fuel economy. And I'm surprised at how often I pick up another fare on the way back.

Wrong Location: Never happened to me. And if it did, I would imagine a brief discussion would sort it out.

Music Demand: Never happened to me. The playlist from my iPhone is always on. It's a combination of old (Beatles, Abba, Elvis) through to contemporary (Pink, Florence). People love it. I mute it if they're on the phone.

Illegal Pickup: This happens a few times. I make a judgement call. If there's only one or two passengers and it's not dangerous, I'll briefly stop in the bus zone or whatever. It's Queensland, no one makes a fuss. If that's not possible, a quick phone call sorts it out.

Inflexible Passengers: Maybe I've just been lucky (plus I rarely drive at night) but virtually all my riders have been delightful. Sam's not so much, so this one could really be the Sunshine Coast effect.

Hearsay Deactivation: I can't relate to this at all. Must be an American thing. If I saw someone that I'd given a lift to in a social setting and stopped to chat, they'd just see it as being friendly.

Take Forever to Come Out: I've never had anyone take half an hour as John describes. 5 minutes, maybe. And I start the ride as soon as they confirm that I'm at the right pickup spot.

Can't Make Up Their Minds: Never happened. Sure, I've had people say "can we just stop at Dan's to pick up a 6 pack?" or "we need to pick up a friend on the way" but the app takes care of all that.

No Appreciation: Again, hasn't happened to me, but I've probably just been lucky. Or is this an American thing too?

We'd love to get your feedback on this. Are we talking cultural differences between Australia and the States here? Do you relate more to John's American experience or my Queensland one?


Phil Lancaster

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