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You Look Familiar

Living in Los Angeles, you are likely to meet a lot of actors and musicians, mostly unknown. As a ride share driver, this chance happening increases. I have met many actors both famous and not so much through projects friends in the industry who bring me in on projects. My backseat is no stranger to the struggling actor with only a couple I recognize as that actor you see all the time but don’t know their name. The story I am about to tell is based on an actual event but with names and commercial content changed.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I get a ride request from Brett. I roll up to a house that is clearly under construction with two high-end cars out front. The first person gets in the car after checking his vehicle and I ask if there is someone else coming as he sat behind me which is unusual when he was already on the passenger side initially. He replied that his friend Brett was on his way. Turns out John is Brett’s friend and a prankster. While we waited, John asked me to wait a couple of minutes after the ride starts and then ask Brett if he is the guy in the shaving cream commercials, “He will get a kick out of it.” I agreed.

Brett gets in the car and we start the ride. The fellas are talking about a young lady he is interested in moving from the friend column to the dating one. I chime in when warranted making sure to look into the mirror at Brett. During a lull in the conversation, I look in the mirror and say to Brett, “You look familiar. Have I seen you in a shaving cream commercial?” “Is it (product name)?”

Well, John was on point. Brett was so excited that I recognized him and declared the day would be awesome and that my recognizing him meant he had good karma for the rest of the day. He kept saying, “I can’t believe you recognize me from that commercial.” Turns out Brett is also a regular on a reality series that I don’t watch but that did not matter because he really loved that I remembered him from the shaving commercial.

While we drove on, with Brett clearly on a high from my recognition, John’s significant other calls and he recounts that “The Uber driver recognized Brett from his commercial.” Well at this point there is no going back. John now has to keep this story going and continued to milk it. I soon get them to their destination and as Brett walks away from the car thanking me, John taps on my window and thanks me for going along while handing me a tip. Now, I may have seen his commercial many times but I did not recognize him as I usually tune out when commercials come on but I hope that the gag was the highlight of his day and brought him luck with his date.

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Baby on the Way: A Lyfting Story

I am often asked if I have any crazy stories about previous passengers. Although I have a couple (to share later), there is one that is funny and heartwarming.

One day in summer 2016, I pick up a young lady from a mobile clinic in Canoga Park. As she approaches, I see she is clearly pregnant. Once in the car I asked her when she was due. What sh said next I did not expect. “They just told me in the clinic that I have already started dilating and that I should head to the hospital.” Now my first though was oh crap, hope she does not break her water in my car. I said okay, and started driving. I notice that we are not headed towards the hospital just off Reseda which is where she said she needed to go. She then told me that the address she put in was to her home as she needed to go and pick up her hospital bag. Since she seemed so calm and not worried, I took her home.

On the way to her apartment, she tells me that she was not ready as she had an appointment to get her hair done the next day and nails later that day because she wanted to “look good for the delivery pictures.” I had heard about this just a couple of days before how women were wanting to make sure they looked good for the immediate after birth pictures. I park the car and she slowly walks inside. I wait, and wait. After several minutes I start to wonder if she is in distress and I half expected to hear the blaring sirens of an ambulance come flying up. Since I did not know her unit number, I was not able to just walk in to the building to see if she was okay.

So here’s the kicker, just as I was about to contact her through the app, I see her emerge with the same calm demeanor she had when she first go in the car. So why did it take her sooooo long to come back out? This chica changed clothes, did her hair AND makeup. She was truly serious about that “I want to look good for the birth.” She apologized for taking so long and with that we were finally on our way.

I got her to the hospital without incident and I wished her luck as she walked in to deliver her son. Just glad she did not end up delivering child number three in my car.

Vehicle Etiquette

Got a pet? Call your driver as soon as you can to ask if it is okay to bring your pet in the car. I have hosted dogs, cats and even a Guinea pig. I don’t mind because I love animals, but not everyone feels this way. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of dogs and would freak out if someone hopped in her car without any warning. Other concerns include allergies which can send someone to the hospital. Rule of thumb, as soon as your driver is assigned, immediately call them to let them know you have a pet so they can decide if they will pick you up. If it is a problem, you can cancel the ride right away without paying the cancellation fee so long as you cancel within the time limit. If you are bringing your pet, be considerate of other passengers and don’t request shared rides as you never know who may have a problem with your pet being on the ride. The exception to this is service animals. Recent laws now require that service animals MUST be allowed in rideshare cars.

Most drivers don’t mind playing your music however keep in mind that rideshare vehicles are NOT PARTY BUSES. Please do not ask the driver to turn the music up to full blast. This is a safety and legal concern because we still need to be able to hear sirens coming. I think you would appreciate not colliding with a fire truck or ambulance or getting pulled over by the police on your way to your destination. Be mindful of your driver as their primary concern is making sure your journey is…… You know what I am going to say… a safe one.

“Would it be okay if…” If you know that your question is most likely going to met with a no because you know it is against the law or Rideshare policy, don’t ask. One of the things that people try to get away with is pouring five people into a car that only seats four. It states in the app how many can fit so don’t put your driver in the position to have to say no. If you have five people, order a larger car or request two separate cars. Please do not say, “It is only a few blocks” or “Its just around the corner,” that is most times not the case. We are only allowed to drive the number of passengers we have seat belts for. So don’t get mad at the driver because you are not the only one being inconvenienced in this situation.

Another unacceptable scenario is hopping in a car with an open container of alcohol. The simplest thing to do would be to finish the drinks and toss the cups. Any driver pulled over in a city or state with no open alcohol laws that allows open containers will be cited by the police as it is our job to make sure we are following the laws of the road. On a side note, anyone bringing a container that is closed but the seal has been broken, that container must be placed in the trunk (or boot depending on where you are from) until you reach your destination. Again, that is the law in many states so be sure you are following it and not putting you or your driver at risk.

Thousands of people smoke, I get that. When knowing you are going to request a ride, try to finish your smoking at least five minutes before getting into the car. Smoking right up to the moment and then getting right in as the remains of your cigarette burns on the ground is very unpleasant for the non-smoking drivers and other passengers. The smell lingers in the upholstery and leaves our cars smelly. There have been many nights when. The windows on my Fusion have been left cracked in order to air out the car. This is not a luxury all drivers have. For me, the smell is so strong that I. A not breathe and I have to roll down the windows. This is not always an option if it is raining outside or it is very cold out.

Passenger Safety

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What does it take to be picked up safely from the passenger side of the ride share equation? The goal of this article is to help passengers plan and request rides, as well as prepare for a safe pick up and drop off for both parties. Many times this can be tricky but if we all work together, these tips will go a long way to ensuring a much more pleasant and safe experience.

Planning is important, especially when you are located in a place where there is no parking or stopping or the driver has to double park on a narrow street while waiting. Make sure you are ready to go when you request your ride as many times, the driver arrives sooner than expected. If you are inside an office or apartment building, immediately start to make your way outside to meet your driver. This is especially important if it takes a long time to get to the street. If you are in the middle of a building, it is better to request the ride once you are outside or near the front entrance as your pin will drop where you are and can sometimes confuse the navigation.

Remain where you originally requested your ride. Many times, passengers want to “make it easier for the driver” by crossing the street or moving to a different location. As drivers, we are looking for the address your request was made from, you can be easily missed when you move to a different location. This is especially important at night when it is dark, making it hard to see you. If you decide to move to a different location, either change it in the app or call/text your driver and let them know.

When requesting your ride at a place that the driver cannot stop. Consider moving to a different location and then request the ride. For instance, during rush hour traffic, move to a side street and at least 150 feet from the corner. This will allow the driver to safely stop and pick you up without blocking traffic and reduce the potential for getting a ticket. Never wait on a corner. This is a safety hazard for both you and the driver. Always move 150 feet, or more, from the corner but NOT at a bus stop. In some cities, drivers can get a ticket for stopping at a bus stop.

Don’t step into the street until the car comes to a complete stop. Many times, passengers start stepping off the curb or wait in the street when they see their driver coming. This is NEVER safe. Always wait on the curb or sidewalk until the car comes to a complete stop and it is safe to approach. If there is no curb, wait as far back as possible. Waiting between cars can result in injury if an accident occurs impacting a vehicle where you are standing. You lose time to react if you are right at the point of impact versus far enough away to move and avoid injury.

At the end of your ride, keep these safety tips in mind:
Keep your seat belt on until the car comes to a complete stop.
Don’t open the door until the car has fully stopped moving. I have had some people who were in a hurry, unbuckle and start to open the door while the car is still in motion forcing me to stop suddenly.
When exiting the car from the drivers side, make sure to check for oncoming traffic, wait for them to pass and then open the door and exit the vehicle. There are countless times when I was sure I was going to lose my rear door because a passenger would just opened the door even as I am telling them a car is coming. Please be mindful of your surroundings at all times.

Never run across a multi-lane street. If you see your driver across the street, wait for them to make their way to you. If this will take too long due to heavy traffic, move to a safe crosswalk and follow all safety protocols to cross the street safely. Be sure to communicate your intentions with the driver. I think you get the picture. Additionally, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER enter or exit a car in the middle of a multi-lane street. Your driver should never ask you to do it and you should never offer. Always make sure the car is at the curb or in a safe place for entry.

After all is said and done, the overall theme of this article is SAFETY FIRST. Whether you like it or not, many of us will ensure the safety of all parties concerned including those outside the car. Keep this in mind when you are rating your driver, following company policy or local and state laws is not a reason to give a low rating.

Will Uber Survive?

January 2016, I lost my job. Knowing there was an option I could immediately jump into to pay the bills, I signed up for both Uber and Lyft. At that time, I had no preconceived ideas of each company. I started out driving on the Uber platform and added Lyft as soon as I was accepted. Within a week I found my self driving Lyft solely. The key factor in this decision was the pay and tipping. At the time I looked at Uber’s policy on tipping and It stated that tipping was not necessary. This further solidified my decision. In recent months I have noticed that the company has changed the wording to, as I see it, grudgingly accept that tipping is somewhat supported by the company. The question is, will they take a percentage of our tips, as they do with the cancellation fee or will we get the full tip?

I have recently found out that many Uber passengers always assumed that the tip was built into the fare. Because of the unclear messaging, I encountered a man who was going a short distance that gave me a $10 tip. He said that he recently discovered that tipping was okay and was over tipping his drivers to ease his conscience and make up for all the times he did not tip. Another passenger shared that they always thought the tip was built in as well and offered me a cash tip. Offering the tip option within the app will be beneficial for the times when a passenger is looking for change and since I usually only carry a couple of emergency dollars, I cannot accommodate.

How does this relate to Uber’s troubles? It seems the culture stems from the highest office in the company to the drivers. Let me explain. It has been widely reported that the negative corporate culture lends itself to not caring about the employees. As a driver, I am not an employee but I still need to contact the company when there is a problem. The first issue is finding a way to communicate. There are a LOT of steps to get to a form to issue a grievance or concern. When you finally did get it sent, many times there is no response or the response is less than resolving of the issue. A couple of weeks ago, Uber opened phone lines for drivers to connect with customer service. Although it is labeled as a pilot introduction, this could be a great way to deal with driver concerns. When it is that hard to communicate, you start to feel like the company does not want to talk to you.

So on to why there may be concern of the company surviving. Though there has been talk of a pending IPO, there has also been a lot of internal scandal and turmoil. Over the last couple of years, the company has been sued several times by drivers and passengers. Yes, most large corporations get sued but it seems the lawsuits are a constant distraction and major expense for Uber. According to Mercury News, “The company is fighting more than 70 federal lawsuits in courts across the country and has resolved at least another 60, according to a search of a national database of federal court cases. And that doesn’t include actions in state courts. Uber was sued 46 times in federal court this year alone. Airbnb, the next most valuable U.S. startup, racked up six lawsuits during that time. Lyft, Uber’s chief competitor, faced seven and Facebook had 27.” Talk about millions the company cannot afford to be hemorrhaging.

Investors have essentially forced the CEO out but he will remain on the board of directors who are charged with managing the company. As a board member, he is in a key decision making position which begs to answer, how does the company build confidence when the same people who allowed the issues to fester are still making business decisions?

With so many lawsuits pending and a failed automated, driverless car technology that looks like is heading to court for technology theft, concerns about passenger safety as more stories come out about drivers assaulting drunk passengers, saying this but is in crisis mode and struggling to dig its way out. Personally, I hope they hire a good crisis management team and get the company on track to a more positive image that fully supports both the passenger AND driver equally.

Safety First, Tips for Rideshare Drivers

Saturday evening in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard.  I am stopped at a light when I see three ladies run across three lanes of traffic and jump into a car driven by a Rideshare driver who was sitting in the center divider of the road.  My mouth just dropped open as I could not believe what I was seeing.

Another day. I was sitting in my car waiting for my daughter to get off work. I saw not one, but two Rideshare drivers pull up and drop off passengers.  Neither of them pulled to the curb even though there was plenty of space to do so.  One of them even sat there blocking traffic while they finished closing out the ride and doing something else on their phone.

My last story is about my second ride as a passenger. I had taken a Lyft from a doctor appointment with my daughter with me.  She sends me a text that the driver is holding his phone in his lap and was texting while the car was in motion.  Because I was sitting directly behind him, I could not see what was going on.vAdditionally, he was driving erratically and far too fast.

These are three examples where passenger safety was not at the forefront of the drivers. As drivers, one of our key roles is to ensure that every ride is a safe one from the moment we arrive at the pick up location until the rider is 100% clear of the vehicle. To help drivers ensure they are doing their best for each passenger, here are some tips to ensure safety and offer a greater chance for a good rating and potential tips.

  1. Never let a passenger enter or exit your car in the middle of the street.  Always pull up to the curd on their side of the street. If there are cars parked at the curd, pull as close as possible to avoid blocking traffic.  If a passenger attempts to get out before you are near the curb, let them know that for their safety, you need to properly pull up to where the passenger is.  If you are on a six lane street and the passenger is across the street, find a safe place to make a U-turn and go back to pick up.
  2. Mount your phone. It is safer to mount your phone so that you are not looking down while you are driving. When your phone is in your lap, your head bows down creating a distraction that can cause an accident.  Mounting your phone is kept it in your line if sight of the road. Keep in mind that many passengers are watching you and are aware of how safe they are in your vehicle and will rate you accordingly. Remember that you should be driving hands-free which means your phone is not in your hands while driving.  This Bose not apply only to talking on your phone.
  3. Don’t text while you have a passenger in the car. Passengers are paying attention to what you are doing. Unless it is a 911 message, it can wait for a response after your passenger leaves your car.  Your attention should be on your passenger and the road only.  Most smart phones allow you to see a brief of the incoming mssage, get a quick glance to see if it is urgent, if not, return the message after closing out the ride.
  4. Adjust your driving. One of the first thing my daughters said to me when I decided to drive for Lyft and Uber was that I cannot drive my passengers the same as when they are in the car.  I have adjusted my speed so that I am driving within the speed limit and no longer scream at bad drivers, at least not when I have a passenger. A cool head and following the law when transporting a passenger is important to ensuring they feel safe with you.

The greatest success in this industry is providing safe and pleasant rides.  By adhering to the rules set by your Rideshare company and local traffic laws, you will are the glue that holds it all together.

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No Minor Issue

no-under-18Advances in technology has created opportunities for people like me to sustain a reasonable living while in between jobs or as a new career.  It has also provided opportunities of freedom by providing ride share experiences from running errands to hanging out with friends without the worry of driving while intoxicated.  As a result, children under the age of 18 have been using Lyft and Uber to get where they want to go which leaves parents out of the equation, or so they thought.  The problem is that both Uber and Lyft have policies in place essentially banning anyone under 18 from riding unless there is an adult (someone 18 or older) riding with them.

Last weekend, I seemed to get a ride request from minors every other request in the West San Fernando Valley.  One of those calls was for a young girl who told me she was 13.  No, that is not a typo, she was 13 and out running the streets around midnight. Another was a couple 15 year olds in West Los Angeles one who was so mad, he slammed my door. As a mother, I don’t like saying no to children, but since my livelihood is at stake, I must follow the company policies.

So why do these rules exist?  I reached out to both Lyft and Uber and so far, I only got a response from Lyft.  Here is part of the response:

“You see at Lyft, safety is our top priority. If the passenger is underage and it a part of the policy to not travel with minors alone, you might be at risk of having your driver account deactivated.

“So we have these policies set in place to ensure the right thing is being done with all the drivers. Also even with the insurance, your vehicle has to be fit and approved for the Lyft community.

“If you do carry a minor alone, you might be at risk of having your account deactivated and we don’t want that for you.

“We put these policies in place to prevent bad experiences and to upLyft the company name.

“If these were not set the Community would be full of disorder and we want it to be very comfortable for the members.”

Many of the children are using parent’s accounts bypassing the age requirement.  As a Ride share driver, it is important to be diligent and start refusing rides to minors.  Also, report back to Lyft when you do encounter them so they can monitor the accounts and make sure we are not picking up children who are not accompanied by an adult.

Rider’s profile pictures may not always tell their age.  I got a request at a high school but the photo was of a grown man.  I assumed it was someone who worked at the school, turned out it was the father of a cheerleader.  I knew this before arriving because he called me to let me know. In this situation, let the person know the policy so they are prepared to make other arrangements if needed.

Another case was a profile picture where the rider looked about 17.  At the time the picture was taken, she was.  That was 10 years ago.  Based on the picture, I almost did not accept the ride.

Drivers, we are the eyes and ears on the street. Let’s represent the company in the best possible light and make sure we are following policy. Remember, the company will deactivate you if you are found to ignore the policy and continue to pick up minors.

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