As Uber and Lyft open for business in Buffalo Niagara on Thursday, newbie passengers will try ride-hailing services for the first time. It may not be a smooth ride right out of the gate. Passengers may show up late for rides, forget to tip or annoy the driver with loud phone calls. And what they don't know can hurt them.
Both Uber and Lyft allow drivers to rate passengers on a scale of one to five stars. Drivers rely on those ratings when deciding which fares to accept. Riders with a poor rating will likely find themselves passed over in favor of those with a better reputation.
So, how can you keep those five stars gleaming? Learn the rules of the road and be on your best behavior:
- Don't request a ride until you're absolutely ready to go. Time spent waiting for you is time they could have spent earning money with another passenger. Drivers only have to wait five minutes before leaving and, if you don't show, your rating will suffer. If you're having trouble finding the car or are running late for another reason, send a note via the app.
- Be visible. Let the driver know where you're standing and what you're wearing. Choose a spot that's easy for the driver to find and that's easy to get into and out of.
- Make sure you've got the right car. Drivers are trained to introduce themselves. You should, too. During busy times, it's easy to assume the first car to arrive is yours. If it's not, you're going to gum up the works.
- Know your destination and enter it into the app. If you want to give tailor-made directions, make sure you stay alert so the driver isn't missing turns.
- Choose your seat wisely. Ideally, you should sit in the passenger-side backseat. If you'd like to sit in the front, ask the driver if it's OK. But, if you're riding alone, do not sit directly behind the driver. Safety is always at the top of a driver's mind, and sitting where they can't see you is unnerving.
- One seat per person. Don't try to cram too many people into a car.
- Don't press buttons. If you'd like the temperature or radio station changed, just ask.
- Hold the phone. If you're going to make a call, first ask the driver if they mind. They won't, but it's polite to ask anyway.
- Match their energy level. If they're talkative, don't ice them out. If they don't seem interested in making conversation, don't force it.
- Don't get greedy. Drivers are urged to provide comforts such as bottled water and gum for passengers. Just remember, they pay for that stuff out of pocket.
- Keep it clean. Don't eat in the car, bring in drinks without lids, leave litter behind, put your feet on the seats or smoke. Knock mud or snow off of your shoes before you get in.
- Feeling queasy? Don't hide it. You'd be surprised how much of a driver's life is spent dealing with people throwing up, since many passengers hail rides when they've been drinking. Most drivers bring plastic bags or receptacles for that very purpose. If you feel it coming, let the driver know. They would much rather pull over than find a surprise in the backseat. Oh, and if this problem does come up, you'd better tip as if your life depends on it.
- Speaking of tipping, be generous. None of these hints are going to matter if you don't tip. Just like in restaurants, 15 to 20 percent is a good range. If you eat their complimentary snacks or use their phone charger, tip extra. Some people think the app automatically adds a tip. It doesn't. And bring cash! Lyft allows riders to tip via its app; Uber will roll out the feature later this summer.
- Rate high. If a driver falls below 4.7 stars, they can get booted by Uber, according to a report by Business Insider. Unless something egregious happens, give your driver five stars. If not, they can see what you've rated them and are likely to leave you a bad rating in return anyway.