Earlier this year I left my corporate job in Melbourne and started up my own business. It’s exciting, scary and stressful all at the same time and right now I don’t earn as much from it as I used to when I worked full time.
However, I still have the same number of bills each month – and more – which is why I decided to try out the time-flexible world of being an Uber driver.
Over the past eight months since I switched from being a regular Uber passenger to a driver, I’ve learnt some valuable things that might have surprised me before.
1. Yes, I’m driving in the opposite direction from you. No, I’m not insane.
This happens all the time: I’ve just dropped a passenger off and I’m driving off down the street. I may be on a highway with several lanes or even get into a right-turn lane to take me in another direction. Suddenly the app lights up and I accept a request.
But when the pin on the map finally shows itself I can see the passenger is back behind me, or to the left when I’m already turning right – and it’s going to take me a couple of minutes to get to a place where I can turn around, especially when the traffic is heavy.
I’ve had a few people cancel the trip while I’m in the middle of getting back to them – thinking that I’m heading in the wrong direction for some ridiculous reason – only to have them match with me again a minute later as I’m still the closest car to them.
2. Don’t feel rude sitting in the back – it even makes me more comfortable.
Apparently being a female Uber driver in Melbourne isn’t too common — I know this because every second passenger says to me, “You’re my first girl driver!”
It doesn’t really change anything from the passenger’s perspective, but from my own perspective I do try and get a vibe from everyone I’m picking up to make sure I’m comfortable and feel safe. I wish it didn’t have to be that way but I’m sure every girl reading this who has spent any time out in public understands what I’m saying.
As a passenger I used to feel rude sitting in the back for my own comfort levels. But let me tell you, as a driver I love it when passengers sit in the back. I immediately feel more relaxed and am of course happy to chat or just listen to the radio while they’re on their phone. So if that’s your preference too then don’t feel bad!
Watch: Meet 'Grandma Uber', the driver on a mission to get girls home safe at night. (Post continues after video.)
3. Want something? Ask away.
What I love about Uber – besides the cheaper fares and being able to see exactly how far away your car is – is the little extras that are just part and parcel of a standard trip.
Don’t be shy to grab a drink, a mint or a snack that are sitting there on offer. Ask to use the charger! Ask to turn on the heater or air con! Ask to change the radio station!
I love it when people take advantage of those things on offer because I feel like they’ve received good value for their trip and I’ve provided a great service.
Don't be afraid to ask for something... or to use a five-star rating. Image: iStock
4. Four stars is basically a fail (or feels like one anyway).
Sounds a bit harsh, I know. Admittedly, I used to be one of those people who never gave top marks because “no one is perfect”. But let me tell you from a driver’s perspective – Uber has very strict guidelines around ratings and not being able to drive once you reach below a certain rating and it’s closer to four than it is to two.
This is an awesome system because of the trust it builds up, but as a driver when I’ve done everything I possibly can – cheerfully chatted and answered questions, offered water, mints and a charger, taken you the quickest way possible and provided a sparkling clean odour-free car – it’s nice to get recognition with a five-star rating.
All that’s saying is, ‘Yes, this driver did everything required of them and is fit to be a driver for other people’. Now when I catch Ubers I always give a five-star rating if they’ve met all those basic criteria.
5. Drunks. They happen to the best of us.
As a 20-something Australian woman, I know all too well the horrible feeling of being so drunk you don’t have any other choice but to vomit, vomit and vomit again. However, I’ve personally never done that in someone else’s car. This happens. I get it. If I make the choice to drive on a Friday or Saturday night I expect it.
But if you insist on taking an Uber in this state, one thing you (or your more sober friends putting you in the car) can do is to make sure you bring big enough vomit bags with you and that you use them properly. You can’t know the terror of sitting in the front of your beautiful new car listening to someone retch in the backseat while driving 100km an hour down the freeway, praying that they’re getting it all in the bag and wondering what kind of mess you’re going to find on the other side until you’ve experienced it yourself.
6. The Uber maps app isn’t the best (in my own experience).
While you can elect to switch between Google Maps and the Uber app as a driver, I don’t personally do this as I find it often glitches and doesn’t catch up with my new passenger’s location quickly enough. So I have to stick to using the Uber app. I’ve found that it doesn’t intuitively take you the quickest route according to real-time traffic like Google Maps does so if you think you know a better route according to your own local knowledge then shout out and I’ll take you that way instead.
While I still regularly catch Ubers it’s been really eye-opening to see what it’s like on the other side. It isn’t a long term gig (especially with self-driving cars on their way…) but in the meantime if as many passengers as possible knew about everything I’ve listed above then it would certainly make the job easier.
Featured image: iStock