Drivers Cheer Uber’s Move to Warn—and Potentially Ban—Badly Behaved Passengers
While the adage “the customer is always right” has been repeated constantly in business, an announcement by Uber Wednesday considers what to do if they aren’t. The ride-hailing company has said it will begin warning its worst-rated passengers that if they don’t improve, they’ll lose access to Uber’s family of apps, including rides, Uber Eats food delivery, and JUMP bicycles.
In addition, riders will start receiving tips on how to improve their rating, such as being polite, cleaning up their trash, and not asking their drivers to exceed the speed limit, according to a blog post detailing the changes. If a passenger can’t improve their bad rating, they’ll be deactivated from the entire Uber family of apps.
“While we aren’t releasing the minimum rating level, any rider at risk of deactivation will receive several notifications and opportunities to improve his or her rating,” an Uber spokesperson tells Fortune. Passengers will instead be judged by a minimum threshold in each city, which is related to the average customer rating in the area.
The announcement comes ahead of Uber’s first earnings report on Thursday, and as the company’s stock continues to take a beating on Wall Street. On Uber’s first day of trading, May 10, shares fell 7.6%, as the trade war tensions between the United States and China escalated. Shares opened at $40.08 on Thursday, almost 11% below Uber’s initial list price of $45.
The new level of accountability for passengers comes after widespread driver protests earlier this month, which were timed with Uber’s IPO. While Uber hasn’t addressed calls for them to take a smaller commission, the decision to blacklist bad passengers is a sign that Uber is intent on at least making some changes to ensure the lifeblood of its company—its drivers—feel as though their concerns have been heard.
“As a driver, we are always taking a risk of damage to our vehicles or ourselves,” says Ashley Gil, who drives for Uber in Phoenix, Arizona, as a way to earn extra cash. “Uber only covers so much, so removing low-rated passengers would help ease some of those worries for us.”
Uber advises drivers to explain to a rider if they feel unsafe, end the trip, and follow up with Uber. If it’s a serious matter, the ride-hailing company asks its drivers to immediately contact law enforcement. However, some drivers describe feeling uncomfortable with that approach. If a driver gets enough low ratings, they risk getting kicked off the app, and losing a source of income.
Claudia Paez, who drives for Uber in the Houston, Texas area and also delivers for Uber Eats, says she was recently in this situation when she picked up a passenger at 3 a.m., tried to engage her in a conversation that made her feel uncomfortable.
“All I could do is pray and try to drop him off safely,” she says.
Uber’s focus on safety marks another change in the company’s evolution from as recently as 2017, when Uber co-founder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on camera berating a driver, and slamming the car door.
After Kalanick apologized, Uber got to work on building better relationships with its drivers. A few months later, the company implemented in-app tipping, and highlighted its revamped rest areas, called greenlight hubs, in major cities.
Aaron Blanco, a driver in Phoenix, Arizona, says he’s pleased with the news, but he has some more ideas for what he’d like to see change in the passenger-driver experience.
“It would help to know where their destination is before picking them up, that way drivers can choose to turn down rides to undesirable destinations,” he says. “Also knowing identifying info, such as what they look like, so you can pick them up in a crowd, would be helpful.”
Riders concerned with their ratings can check their standing by opening the Uber app and clicking the icon in the upper-left corner. The star rating will appear under the passenger’s name. The change is expected to affect “only a very small number of riders who have been consistently rated poorly by drivers,” according to Uber.