What Your Uber and Lyft Drivers Really Say About You

June 16th 2015

For some, it's a side gig. For others, it's the main source to pay the bills.

Driving for popular ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft can be an easy way to make money. As Uber points out on its website, the platform "gives you the freedom to get behind the wheel when it makes sense for you." You make your own schedule, don't report to a boss, and have the opportunity to interact with a lot of interesting passengers in the process.

"Without a doubt, my biggest motivation in driving for Uber is the variety of people I meet," reads a recent Confessions of An Uber Driver Tumblr post. "I’m not making a ton of vacation money with this gig anymore, the Uber gold rush seems to be over. But I still have fun meeting people. Does this define me as an extrovert? Would I rather drive strangers around town for little pay than sit on the couch? Yep. I’m an extrovert."

Though convenient, ride-share driving comes with many downsides and risks: excessive sitting, which ATTN: has noted before is bad for your health, low-paying and deceiving rates at times, difficult customers, last minute cancelations, customers vomiting in vehicles, low ratings, assaults, and dangers on the road

When asked about the measures Lyft takes to ensure driver safety and protection from abusive customers, community spokesperson Danyelle Ludwig issued a statement to ATTN: on behalf of the company, "Lyft has a two-way rating system to help ensure the safety and comfort of the Lyft community. At the end of the ride, the passenger and driver are prompted to rate each other on a scale of 1-5 stars, 5 being the best. If either party rates the other as 3 stars or lower, they will never be matched with them again. Unlike other ridesharing platforms, Lyft also provides a Critical Response Line, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the instance of a personal safety incident."

ATTN: contacted Uber for this story but did not hear back. 

Uber and Lyft are also facing separate highly publicized lawsuits from drivers who feel they've been misclassified as independent contractors when they really should be considered employees and receive reimbursement for their gas, among other things.

In the fall 2014 interview above, Boston labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan explains the class action lawsuit against Uber is on behalf of drivers who are forced to "bear the expenses of being employees because they're misclassified as independent contractors."

When asked to clarify why it's unfair to make independent contractors pay for their own mileage, Liss-Riordan said, "It's a tactic that a lot of companies have used in a bunch of different industries that saves them massively on labor costs, to be able to shift the expenses of employment to the workers, and Uber is artificially competing by being able to not have to pay those expenses whereas legitimate companies that have employees will typically pay those expenses ... As independent contractors, they're not guaranteed to even make minimum wage."

Though Liss-Riordan acknowledges that many drivers like the flexibility of Uber, she says "that doesn't make the system legal just because they have the freedom to decide when they want to work."

Considering all the positive and negative variables that inform the driver experience, ATTN: asked some Lyft and Uber drivers to describe their thoughts about passengers, with whom they spend the most time on the job. Here's what they have to say about chauffeuring you around town.

"Most of my passengers are grateful for the service. I provide water, gum, and snacks. The public transportation isn't that great here [due to] the hours of operation. You get a few passengers that aren't friendly or drunk and belligerent. Overall I love my job, the rates are great ... it's a great way to interact with people." - Heather, 39, San Francisco and Fresno, Cali., Lyft driver of more than a year

"I am retired and only [drive Lyft] part-time, 15 hours per week, mostly Fridays & Saturday 5-7 p.m. and the busiest 11-3 a.m. time period! I have completed 160 Rides and achieved a 5-Star average rating from my passengers, which is the highest. I strive for that rating, it is not easy! With Lyft, the driver gets to rate the passengers as well. In my short experience all of my riders have been very interesting and pleasant, many have engaged in conversation with me, sharing life stories, loud music and FUN TIMES! I cannot think of one bad experience! I have enjoyed every moment with Lyft and only wish Uber would allow my 2004 Avalon to qualify, they have a 10-year-old model limit and should make exceptions based on the drivers, not just the cars! Many drivers drive for both Lyft and Uber, I hope to get that chance! Lyft riders make me feel young again!" - Mauricio, 70 (but feels like he's 50), Tucson, Ariz., Lyft driver of seven weeks

"I usually put my passengers into one of three categories, the kind, the snotty, and the exceptional. The Kind passengers have manners. They return a greeting, are generous with 'thank you's,' grateful for the candy I supply, and recognize that I am a human being. The Snotty are the exact opposite. The Exceptional are the passengers with whom I have soulful conversations. Conversations that you normally have with your best friend after a couple glasses of wine about life, love and the meaning of it all. They are the reason I continue to drive. They make up for the snotty." - Autumn, 36, San Francisco, Lyft driver since summer 2014

"I was definitely a little nervous about the whole thing, however everyone I picked up was really nice for the most part, and pretty encouraging... My second pick up was pretty cool because there were five people from Maine out in Denver for a conference, just finishing up having a good time and heading back to their hotel. They were really fun and very talkative, sharing with me what they were doing, and also asking me about myself and about driving for Lyft. My third ride was three co-workers who seemed to have just had a swanky dinner, and are high up in some company. They didn’t engage with me a whole lot, but it was interesting to hear them talk with each other and tell work stories. I did drive on the wrong side of the road for a few seconds thinking I was on a one-way (they politely let me know it was two-way) and didn’t seem to hold the mistake against me... My fifth (and later seventh) rider was probably the most interesting though. The guy works as a pot grower, and taught me some interesting things about the industry. He also shared all about a shooting that happened earlier in the week in his neighborhood (a couple of houses away), and then spent the rest of the ride sharing about his several DUIs and the consequences that he’s been dealing with for several years, and still today... I also had a couple of riders who requested rides, and ended up being no-shows. One canceled after I arrived, and the other, I waited for over 10 minutes for, and called twice and finally I had to cancel the ride. All in all I loved the experience! It was exciting to meet all kinds of people from different places. I’m pumped to make some extra cash, but I’m really doing this because it’s something fun and different to do a couple of nights a week." - Cory, 30, Denver resident on his first night as a Lyft driver

"I began driving for Uber in October 2013, and to get drivers on the road the rate was profitable. I was mainly working Newark Airport and my customers were business travelers who loved the service. And why not? Instant pickup instead of long taxi lines. But they never tipped. I had great conversation and was making good money but Uber told everyone the tip was included. Fast forward to today, three price cuts later and the entitled cheap Uber customer is still not tipping and now there is no profit left in the fare for the driver ... I have picked up prostitutes at hotels in Somerset and taken them to their outcall jobs, one even asked me to stay outside as 'security' while she went inside for a while. I have picked up drug dealers going to either get more stock or make a sale, in Newark I have even been picking up people and taking them to social services... Someone is using their own car (fuel, insurance, and maintenance) to take you on a five dollar ride that the driver gets $3.20 from. Never even a thought of a tip. Uber customers are just not Humanitarians. They are taking advantage of that desperate Uber driver every time they use the service. My biggest problem with Uber is the lies about earnings. This is what they really need to be exposed for. But the customers have such a sense of entitlement you just would not believe it." - Scott, 49, New Jersey Uber driver of more than a year

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