Uber Passengers Begin to Feel the Sting of Low Ratings

In a piece that will make rideshare drivers howl with laughter and satisfaction, the Sacramento Bee has an editorial about an Uber passenger who got very upset when they discovered that their passenger rating wasn’t a perfect 5.0!

“I just found out I am four-stars on Uber,” the rider posted on Facebook. “I just assumed I was five-stars. I never cancel. I always remove my tea cup. I never talk loudly on the phone. I always say please and thank you. My driver said I may be too cheerful when I get in the car. Sometimes they just like to drive quietly.”

The writer went on to lament the fact that passengers now have to worry about whether they’re too cheerful or not.

Ah, the tough life of a passenger!  Imagine having to worry about whether or not this or that will offend or bother your driver!

It sounds a lot like the many drivers I’ve heard say things like, ‘I don’t understand why they gave me 4 stars.  My car is clean, I’m clean, I was nice, I got them safely to their location – by the best route.’  Now, it looks like riders are starting to notice that they can get low ratings for no apparent reason – too.  And they’re none too happy about it!

This is, of course, exactly what drivers have stressed out about since this whole rideshare thing started.  Does my passenger want to talk or do they want to ride in silence?  Should I play music or no music?  And if they want music, what kind do they want?  Hip hop?  Easy Listening?  Pop? Country?

There are so many ways a driver can get onto a passenger’s bad side.  And they never know what’s going to do it.  What one passenger loves another will hate.  What one passenger rates you 5 stars for will get 3 stars from another passenger.  It puts drivers under tremendous pressure and it can be insanely infuriating at times.

For many drivers, ratings have felt like a one-way street.  But that’s starting to change.  Now passengers are starting to feel the heat too.

Ratings have always been crucially important to drivers – because for many – their livelihoods are on the line.  Their ability to make a living and feed their families is at stake.  While at the same time ratings have been something that passengers didn’t seem to care about at all.  A driver can lose his ability to make a living if his rating goes below 4.6.  But a passenger seemingly loses nothing.

I’ve actually picked up riders with 3.x ratings.  And yes, they were all terrible.  And they should have been kicked off the system a long time before their ratings went into the 3s.  But they suffered no consequences at all.  They were still allowed to request pickups and annoy, and in a few cases, scare drivers to death!

Because of the lack of consequences of low ratings for passengers, passengers simply didn’t think about their ratings.

And maybe most appallingly, up until the middle of last year Uber made riders think their ratings were of no consequence at all.  In fact, they didn’t even allow passengers to see their ratings – they were so unimportant.  You can see why passengers didn’t get too bothered about their ratings.  If there are no consequences for low ratings and you can’t even see them you’re not going to think about them.  Out of sight, out of mind… as they say.

But near the middle of last year Uber updated the passenger app to display the passenger rating to passengers on their home screen.  Originally passengers had no way to see their rating at all.  If they desperately wanted to know they either had to contact Uber (and you know how impossible that can be) or ask their driver.  It makes you wonder what Uber was thinking.

Why would passengers care about their ratings if they can’t even see them?  Drivers always felt the rating system was one-sided.  And Uber’s secretive impulse to keep passengers completely in the dark about their ratings was a big part of the reason.  Passengers were barely cognizant that they were being rated.  So it’s no wonder they put no importance on it.

But now that Uber has put the rating on the passenger’s home screen, more and more passengers are starting to notice – and care.  And just like drivers always have, they’re now starting to feel some pressure from the ratings.

Which is all good!  I’ve always said that it’s the pressure from the ratings that made Uber drivers better than cab drivers.  It keeps us on our toes and makes us strive to be better – no matter how much we hate it and complain about it.  Now hopefully, it will do the same for passengers.

Some Riders Have Discovered that Cash Tips Improve Their Ratings!

And signs are that it already is.  Some passengers are getting wise to the idea that if they leave a cash tip – it helps improve their ratings.  One rider said in an online forum, “I was shocked to find I was a 4.2.  Tipping pushed me to a 4.7.”  They then lamented that they were, “Paying for ratings.”

Actually, they’re paying to help their drivers make enough money so they can keep driving.  This passenger is still apparently under the illusion, perpetuated by Uber, that drivers are getting rich.

I have a feeling most drivers aren’t feeling too sorry for them yet!  But interestingly, a lot of passengers are beginning to talk online about how they’ve learned that if they leave a cash tip drivers will give them 5 stars.

Drivers:  Learn How to Get More Tips!

Another commenter wrote that he will never give a tip because in the beginning Uber said tipping wasn’t necessary.  What he failed to recognize though is that “in the beginning” Uber’s prices were about three to four times higher than they are today.  We’ve been through three or four massive rate cuts since then.  So today tips are in fact not a luxury, but a necessity, if passengers want to have decent drivers on the road who are continuing to serve them.

The bottom line is, if you get a good driver and you want to keep him on the road, leave him a good tip.  Otherwise, he won’t be able to survive in this job much longer and he’ll soon be gone. 

I think drivers would unanimously agree that it’s about time passengers feel the same pain that, they as passengers, have inflicted on drivers for the last few years.

Every new driver I’ve ever spoken to has expressed shock when their rating dipped below 5.0.  Even if it just went to 4.99, they were honestly surprised that someone thought they weren’t perfect.  Now it’s the passengers’ turn to feel that same sense of unwarranted rejection.  Maybe this will give them a little more empathy and make them more generous raters.

But will it?  It could have just the opposite effect.  After seeing how low their ratings are, they may just decide to punish their next driver, pre-emptively, before he can “punish” them.  Let’s hope they won’t have that reaction.

Retaliatory Ratings – Ratings Go Both Ways!

Uber drivers have long been known to give passengers low ratings if they suspect a passenger is going to give them a low rating.  It’s a way of warning fellow drivers that this passenger may not be good for your ratings – so avoid them.  The question is, will passengers now retaliate against drivers whom they suspect will give them a bad rating?  And now that they’re discovering their average rating is well below 5 stars, will they begin to pre-emptively retaliate against their future drivers?

It is well-known in the driver community that new drivers tend to give all their passengers 5-star ratings.  It’s not until they get a few four-star ratings themselves that they start thinking, ‘Why am I giving all the passengers 5 stars when they’re not all giving me 5 stars?’  After a while drivers become more cynical and more likely to downrate their passengers.

Things Drivers Should Know about the New Rating System

Since Uber implemented the new rating system mid-last year, they now prominently display passenger ratings to the passengers every time they open the app.  If you leave a passenger anything less than 5 stars it is possible that they may immediately see a drop in their rating – before they rate you and before they have a chance to leave a tip.  This could obviously affect how they rate you and whether or not they tip.

Let’s say a passenger has a rating of 4.76 before they take a trip with you.  Then after they get out of your car and walk into their house, they turn on the app and notice their rating is now 4.74.  They’ll know that’s because you gave them less than five stars.

It’s not a good system.  Uber needs to make it so passengers can’t see their new rating until after they have rated the driver or after the time to rate the driver has expired.  That’s how other companies like Airbnb do it.

Drivers:  Learn Why You Don’t Need to Obsess Over Your Ratings

To give passengers a glimpse into what the driver has rated them – before the passenger rates – is unfair to drivers.  It gives drivers an incentive to leave dishonest ratings that are more positive than reality warrants.  And it gives passengers the opportunity to retaliate with their own lower ratings of drivers.

Things Passengers Should Know About Your Ratings

A lot of passengers have the mistaken impression that since Uber introduced tipping that drivers give a low rating because if you don’t tip.  What you should know is – drivers don’t know if you’ve tipped or not when they rate you.

When a driver ends a trip – the only thing they can do is rate the passenger.  They cannot do anything else in their driver app until after they rate the passenger.  They can’t see whether or not you’ve tipped.  They can’t see what you’ve rated them.  And they can’t receive calls for new trips until they leave a rating for you.  They press “End Trip” and the next screen they get tells them to rate the passenger.  They can’t move on until they’ve done that.  Once they’ve rated you, they can then go back online and begin accepting new trips.

Drivers also know that Uber gives passengers several days to leave a rating and a tip so they know that you may well tip but they won’t know about it until long after they’ve left their rating for you.

Before Uber allowed tipping there were some drivers who would give every passenger 4 stars unless they gave a cash tip.  But now that Uber has allowed tipping, they won’t really know if you’re going to tip until maybe several days later.  But by then – it’s too late – they have already rated you.

If you are seriously worried about getting a low rating because the driver suspects you may not tip – the only sure-fire way to avoid that is to give them a cash tip when you get out of the car.  That way they’ll know for sure that you’re going to tip – before they rate you.  And that should lead to higher ratings.

Changing Your Ratings

A small consolation to drivers is that if they’ve had a rider who they rated 5-stars and then noticed that that rider gave them a low rating, they can actually contact Uber now and change their rating.  More and more drivers are using this technique.

Uber says as long as drivers don’t violate any of Uber’s guidelines and as long as their reason for the change isn’t discriminatory that they will change the rating upon a driver’s request.  And apparently, they’re okay with reasons as flimsy as saying you’re changing the rating because you’re feeling “petty”!

One driver in Dallas told Reddit that he gave a rider 5 stars only to find out later that she had given him 3 stars.  So, he contacted Uber and said he wanted to change his rating to 1 star.  They asked why and he said because he was feeling “petty”!  Here’s that exchange:

The bad news is – Uber has also given the ability to change ratings to riders as well.  And riders don’t even have to contact Uber.  They can simply do it through the app.

While Uber’s change to show riders their rating each time they open the app has given drivers a little more leverage, the advantage still seems to be on the rider’s side.


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