Sign up for the BETTER newsletter

You have been successfully added to our newsletter.

NBC News BETTER brings you wellness news and tips to make the most of your mind, your body and your life.

Is your Uber rating low? One of these bad behaviors may be to blame

A survey asked 500 Uber and Lyft drivers to pinpoint their top reasons for giving a rider a low rating. Try these tips to be a better passenger.
by Nicole Spector /
Image: Uber ride-hailing app in London
A social skills expert says the instant gratification of having a driver available, at one’s beck and call seems to create a sense of entitlement. Leon Neal / Getty Images file
Get the Better newsletter.

Thanks to smartphone technology and the evolution of the ride-sharing economy, it has never been so easy to get a lift. It's incredibly convenient and simple, but having had my fair share of rides in the back seat, I've racked up quite a few harmless but unfavorable tales. Sometimes the driver is exhaustively chatty, or, on the other extreme, seems so disengaged I wonder if he's even going the right way. Sometimes the car stinks or is in bad condition.

I could go on with my unpleasant anecdotes but after looking at a new survey from Driving-Tests.org, I'm finding that my vexations as a passenger pale in comparison to the rude (if not downright despicable) behaviors that drivers face from clients. The survey, which polled nearly 500 current or former ride-sharing drivers to pinpoint their top reasons for giving a rider a low star rating, found that people are doing some pretty awful stuff while en route to their destinations. Topping the list of worst passenger offenses are vomiting in the vehicle followed by smoking, not showing up, engaging in sexual activity, spilling food or drinks and exceeding available seating.

Vomiting and Smoking Are The Worst, But Seemingly Smaller Things Are Also Offensive

“It's expected to see that vomiting and smoking are the worst passenger behaviors according to drivers,” says Joey Morris, project manager working on behalf of Driving-Tests.org. “But when you see that no-show is the third worst behavior, it puts it more in perspective in how rude riders find that to be.”

This is an important takeaway and one that illuminates that not only does outlandishly uncivil actions (like vomiting) rightly irritate drivers to the point of giving passengers a low-star rating, so do the seemingly less obnoxious behaviors. In addition to being jilted by passengers, drivers also said they give low ratings when clients are “backseat drivers”, eat without asking first, slam the door and ask personal questions about their lives.

I thought I was the ideal passenger, but I’ve got some changing to do

As a passenger I’ve been guilty of some of these ostensibly lesser misdemeanors. I’ve slammed doors when in a hurry. I’ve scarfed down a granola bar without even thinking to ask if that’s alright with the driver. I’ve even been bossy about what routes to take, especially when I’m in my own neighborhood and think I know it all. No wonder my Lyft rating hovers just below 5 stars.

Reflecting on this, I’ve come to wonder is it about the Uber/Lyft environment (or even the on demand gig world at large) that enables us to behave unprofessionally, and how we may all become better passengers.

Instant gratification can lead to bossy entitlement

Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, an organization that teaches social skills and etiquette, suggests that to an extent we’ve become spoiled by this ultra-convenient technology where we literally have the world at our fingertips.

“The instant gratification of having a driver available, at one’s beck and call seems to create a sense of entitlement,” says Youst. “With that sense of entitlement, there are customers that show a lack of respect for their drivers, [and] the sentiment of ‘I'm paying for a service, I can act however I want’ might play a role in the lack of good manners.”

The app makes it kinds feel like a game

The app itself may play an unintentional role in that it tends to dehumanize the whole process. The driver is no more than a name, a microscopic pic, a car model and a license plate. And the car looks like something out of a video game when you watch it in the app, crawling closer to you down the cartoonish little streets.

“Perhaps rude passengers don't recognize [these apps] involve real life person-to-person interaction,” speculates Youst. “Perhaps they assume it is an app no different than an internet game. Regardless, the Uber driver's job is to help passengers reach their destination safely.”

And we have to respect that, even if it means doing what seems absurd: pausing and remembering each and every time we book a ride that this is real life, this is someone’s job, and we, as their clients have the obligation of etiquette.

Drivers can help set the mood for respect

Though the onus to be a respectful passenger is on the passenger, drivers can help instill an air of professionalism and courtesy.

“The easiest way to set a precedent is to model the way with proper behavior,” says Dr. Cooper Hakim. “Step out of the car to greet your passenger. Say hello with a smile. Ask how the passenger is doing and ask about the passenger’s travel preferences. Ask before turning on the radio. Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ language. Keep discussion professional and courteous. Exhibit patience yet still set necessary boundaries. For instance, you might post a ‘no smoking’ sign if you do not want smoking in the vehicle. If someone breaks the rules, clearly remind him or her of the rule in a polite yet serious manner. You might say, ‘Excuse me, mam, I apologize for any inconvenience, but there is no smoking in the vehicle. May I offer you a complimentary bottle of water?’”

Badly behaved passengers may still light up in the car, or puke or slam the door, or whatever else, but at least you’ll know your etiquette game was strong, and more likely than not this will pay off.

Quick, simple ways to be a better passenger

In addition to avoiding the bad behaviors identified on Driving-Tests’ survey, Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and principal consultant at the Cooper Strategic Group suggest that passengers should also be proactive in implementing good manners. Hakim shares the following tips:

  • Make eye contact with the driver, smile, thank him or her and confirm that the driver has the correct address.
  • Ask before eating or drinking in the car to ensure that this is permitted by the driver.
  • Remember that this is someone’s actual car. Respect his/her property as you would expect someone to respect your property.
  • Thank the driver when you arrive at your destination.

And of course, don’t forget to tip and leave five stars if you’re experience is satisfactory. You'll probably get five stars back in return.

MORE HOW TO GUIDES

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Get the Better newsletter.
MORE FROM better