When I started driving UberX I had a perception that it was kind of important that I provide bottled water and mints for my riders. But is it actually important, and should you be doing it?
Prior to becoming an Uber driver I read some articles online and watched some You Tube videos which had been posted by experienced drivers offering advice to others. The general consensus seemed to be that providing free bottled water and mints for your riders would result in better ratings for you as a driver. In fact, I recall one video posted by a driver in the U.S. who liked to keep spare condoms in his car, just in case a passenger had gotten lucky at a club but hadn’t anticipated needing protection! You could be his hero, he’d call you bro, and then give you a high-five and the much-needed 5 stars you require. I guessed at the time – and learned since – that there is no need to put ‘spare condoms for your Uber’ on your shopping list.
Wanting to be a good driver I started placing bottles of water in each door and keeping a stash in the boot to re-stock the car during the day. People loved it and most would politely ask if they could take a bottle. Others would quietly slip one out of the door pocket as they got out of the car! There was a lady one day who complained that the base fare in Sydney was higher than her hometown of Brisbane. She decided to compensate herself by shoving 2 bottles of water into her handbag! Really lady? OK, whatever it takes to keep you happy! The bottled water was cheap and I can claim it as an expense so who cares?
The thing is, it really started to annoy me after a while. The final straw for me was in the lead-up to Christmas last year. I picked up 4 guys from a work Christmas party and took them on a short $8 fare to their next watering hole. They split the fare between all 4 of them and helped themselves to a bottle of water each. That’s $2 each for the fare plus a free bottle of water each. It started me thinking about why I should be giving stuff away. UberX is cheaper than a taxi. Does anyone expect free bottled water in a taxi? Hell no! Yet Uber drivers were being held to a higher standard. I decided to make a change.
Since that day I haven’t placed a single freebie in my car and 5 months later it has had absolutely no impact on my ratings. What I’ve realised is that UberX is an economy mode of transport. Think of it as a budget airline. It gets you from A to B for less, and because you pay less, you get less. Want a meal? Pay extra. Want a bottle of water? Pay extra. You want more legroom and extra inclusions, pay extra. Or in Uber terms, order an Uber Black or Uber Luxury.
UberX is a cheap yet comfortable and convenient way for riders to get around. As a driver you don’t need to endear riders by giving them free stuff. Pick them up on time, be polite, try to recognise the difference between those who would like a chat and those who appreciate silence. Keep your car clean and smelling fresh. These are the things which really matter and will keep your rating high. Should they ask for a bottle of water or a mint just say “I just ran out! The last rider got the last one”, they’ll understand.