Annoying passenger requests and how to deal with them


One of the most commonly asked questions on Pulse is, what happens when I have to wait between, during, or after a job? There is no correct answer and the situation varies greatly from circumstance to circumstance. This is not like filing your taxes – where there is more granularity. SherpaShare takes a look at the pros and cons that can arise from these situations. 

Familiarity breeds contempt

As people have become more and more familiar with using services like Uber and Lyft, usage of these services has become more and more diverse. Ten years ago, the thought of calling a town car to your home to pick you up could be a bit embarrassing. Perhaps it felt like being Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, didn’t it? A Town Car symbolized money, class and power. Scores of Lincolns would line up outside midtown offices in NYC waiting to take the financiers of the world back to their suburban estates in Greenwich.

For most of the population, ordering a car service used to be reserved for special occasions or during times when nothing else was logistically possible. After all, those who lived in cities took public transport and those who lived in the ‘burbs had a car they drove daily in any case. However as Uber drives on (no pun intended) to become the worlds biggest transportation provider this usage pattern was bound to change.. and it definitely has already.

Nowadays, ordering services on-demand – laundry, food, cars, toilet paper, and more – has become a daily routine for a fast-growing segment of the population. As this ordering becomes commonplace, passengers start to take service for granted. In fact, passenger requests have become stranger and stranger. Passengers don’t mind pushing the limits and seeing just how far an Uber or Lyft driver is willing to go.

The Drive-through request

Waiting doesn’t pay. This is is a topic John touched on briefly in our Walmart piece, and has been echoed hundreds of times on the Pulse app. With the changing rates, it just doesn’t make sense to wait around for certain passenger requests. John said,

“San Diego recently had their rates cut 54% while Detroit is now at 30 cents per mile. This is below minimum wage. In the San Francisco market, the price for traffic wait time is 22 cents per minute, for an hourly total of $13.20 (not even counting expenditures likes fuel, maintenance, wear and tear, etc). If the new minimum wage raises to $15, which may happen in the near future, then at every point when a driver has to stop in traffic or at a light, their earnings fall below minimum wage while waiting.

He went on to say,

“This last Saturday when a passenger asked me if we could go through the drive-thru, I just chuckled and immediately declined. I didn’t apologize; I just said no, we don’t get paid for waiting.”

When another driver posted about having a Wendy’s driver through request, the comments from others streamed in. One of the big takeaways: Just say no.

Uber and Lyft’s perspective on waiting

On how accommodating you should be for passengers, Uber says:

“We suggest that drivers wait for users for at least 10 minutes after arriving at the trip starting point. After the 10 minute free waiting period, a user can ask a driver to continue waiting. After the user have given you permission, you may hit “begin trip” and the user will start to get charged for the fare. Otherwise, hit cancel in the top left-hand corner to go back on duty. As long as it has been more than 10 minutes and is not the customer’s first cancellation, you will be paid the $5 cancellation fee.”

Lyft has this to say:

“As long as you’ve tapped to arrive, we will keep track of any time spent waiting, even if your car is parked. We love community members helping each other out and see running errands as a great part of the Lyft experience. Keep in mind, however, that the Lyft platform is not built for elongated trips. If a passenger is going to be gone for longer than you are comfortable with, end the ride and have them make another request when they are ready.”

But where exactly do they answer the question – What do I do when there is a fifteen minute wait at the drive through at White Castle and a drunk passenger insists we stop there? What happens when he gives me a one-star rating for not waiting despite it being his fault?

The companies’ FAQ pages don’t answer these questions, and this has lead to a lot of responsibility being put on the drivers shoulders – almost always unfairly so. It’s hard as an independent contractor to have no contract, one that leaves you at the whims and fancies of anonymous ratings reviews.

What does one do?

The answer as always is – educate and be educated! Our Pulse users, while divided on some points, all agreed on some common tips to follow if you feel a bit hard done by these odd requests

  • Educate the passenger. Make sure they know you don’t get paid to wait. Many a passenger is under the illusion that since you get paid something to wait and it isn’t costing you gas, you are making money for doing nothing. A basic economics lesson in ‘Opportunity Cost’, told in a charming way, is the way to go! Once they know how little you get paid to wait, chances of a tip go up.
  • Be aware of surges. It really never is worth it to wait at a drive through. You would almost always make more driving around, especially during surges!
  • Being courteous from the get go is key. It allows you to say no to a passenger request later on without absolutely ensuring a bad rating review.
  • Make them aware early on that you will have to stop the trip if they want you to wait around, and that if someone else pings you, you will have to go. If they want you to stay there and wait, you can always tell them that you would do so for some consideration as you would have to turn your Uber app off while waiting.
  • Make sure you write to Uber/Lyft immediately – especially if there is a particularly unhelpful/unreasonable passenger that you know will give you a bad rating. Get ahead of the game. Write Uber a note telling them what happened and that even after maintaining the highest level of brand loyalty, you feel you will be hard done by the passenger. It might not help, but it is almost always better than chasing the problem and trying to get your high ratings reinstated.
  • Make sure you do the same for anticipated fare discrepancies. A passenger might only have ‘wanted to pick up a friend along the way‘ but if it means you have to get on and off a freeway and wait for 5 minutes for the additional pick up, the passenger might complain to Uber about her fare estimate being incorrect and asking for  a refund. Once again, its always better to get ahead of the problem and ensure documentation in hand to show Uber/Lyft when the time comes.

Final Word

People, these days, are using Uber or Lyft as a primary resource and as such there is a level of entitlement that passengers develop.

Lets use the drive through example:

Five years ago few would have indulged in such behavior – most people would have  probably felt ashamed and offered to tip. Now with increased transparency on how rates work – for passengers only, drivers still don’t have a clue – passengers are more likely to indulge their whims and fancies using Uber. They know that Uber will do anything and everything to make sure their passenger experience is one that leaves little room for improvement. We often get driver users complaining about their ratings being dinged for no obvious reason. Passengers get upset about surge – ding the driver, they input the wrong address and have to pay extra – ding the driver, get told no Wendy’s – ding the driver. There is little recourse to a bad rating and the power truly seems to lie with the idiosyncracies of passengers. Many drivers fear being barred from driving and this leads to a misalignment of incentives between the rideshare companies and their contractors.

Someone has to look after and educate the drivers, but someone also needs to educate Uber/Lyft and other rideshare companies to the real life cost of their optimization metric derived strategies!

Let SherpaShare help you maximize your earnings, while also providing you with accurate and timely information to better educate you. Any stories about your passenger requests you would like to share? Email us!




7 thoughts on “Annoying passenger requests and how to deal with them”

  1. I never heard of the 10 min wait time with Uber. In fact the Uber office where I live gives “classes” and in that class they said 5 mins. Which I give passengers anyway. I don’t have any problem with one stop while they run into a convenience store and run out. That’s fine with me.

    Multiple stops… I explain to them firmly (but in a very nice way) Uber is not setup for waiting. Uber is an on-demand service and you never have to wait long to get one. Last weekend I picked up a guy, late night, that went to Walmart to “look for a shirt.” I knew he was going to ask me to wait when we got there. So just when we pulled in the parking lot I told him, “Hey, don’t forget your smartphone when you get out. You’ll need it to call another Uber when you’re finished shopping.” He said, “Oh, can’t you wait.” I said, No.

  2. I never mind waiting (with the clock running) for a pax who wants to run in and shop, because (a) I’m getting 18 cents a minute doing effectively nothing, and (b) the second half of the ride is guaranteed to go in my pocket. I’ll always take 100% of something sure versus a 50-50 shot at another fare that I have to drive around and/or wait for! If I were less scrupulous, I’d circle the block (or the parking lot) a bunch of times while they are inside the store.

    1. I have never heard of a 10 minute wait time either. Just 5 minutes. I don’t mind waiting a few minutes at a location to help a passenger out. These examples given here are excellent and worth a try.

  3. I tell them that’s what SELECT’s high per minute rates are for… then kinda depends if they’re a select order or not

    Lyft, OK on high milage late night runs, ridiculous on short hauls for satisfying guarantees or power driver quptas

    …basically, a-ok on $60 or $100 rides, but stfu $5 clients

  4. I would love to see a similar analysis — or even a more basic overview — of insurance for delivery and errand on-demand services like DoorDash and Postmates. Thanks!

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