In a nutshell, Uber is like the AirBnB for cars. If you’ve got your own car, insurance, and a clean driving record, this app lets you make money by sharing your ride with customers. And since Uber now operates in 400 cities, you can benefit from it whether you’re in Manila or Sydney.
Still, like AirBnB, competition is fierce among Uber drivers simply because there are a lot of them. One way to get more bookings (and thus more cash) is to collect as many five-star reviews as you can from passengers.
So, let’s say you were able to save up enough from your job in Australia to purchase a car in Manila and use it as a part-time Uber vehicle, what can you do to make it stand out from the rest?
1. Put safety first.
The worst thing you can do to jeopardize your Uber rating (not to mention your life and that of your passenger’s) is to drive recklessly. Even if you’ve driven around drunk and gotten away with it in the past, don’t do it while you are on the meter. Heck, do everyone a favor and don’t do it at all. Your passenger might not say anything while you’re driving (who wants to piss off a seemingly manic driver while they’ve got their hands on the wheel?), but you can be sure that they’ll mention it in their reviews and your Uber career will be over before it’s had a chance to begin.
If you purchased the car for a relative or a trusted driver to operate as an Uber in Manila, instruct them accordingly. Make sure they are licensed professional drivers familiar with road rules and defensive driving. Road-test them before you fly back to Australia for some added peace of mind too.
2. Apart from your passenger, don’t let anyone else ride in your car while you’re on the clock.
Having a friend or a relative ride shotgun as you pick up passengers is a big no-no. It might make you feel safer as a driver, but it will have the opposite effect on your passenger (especially since horror stories of cab passengers getting robbed in this way are a dime a dozen in the Philippines).
Lastly, if your customer mentions the additional passenger in his or her review, Uber can and will probably deactivate your account consequently. Better save your free lifts for your buddies or significant other after your shift then.
3. Stock your car with bottled water.
Lugging around drinking bottles can be quite bulky, so your passengers will certainly appreciate it if you’ve got some bottled water on offer in your vehicle. The weather in Manila can be especially hot during the summer and if you provide a chilled bottle of water to a passenger who was standing in the sun while waiting for you, you’ll certainly be increasing your chances at that five-star rating.
As a bonus, if you pick up most of your passengers during the wee hours of Saturdays or Sundays (i.e., when the bars begin to close and drunken partygoers scramble for a ride), water helps them sober up and prevents them from throwing up in your car. You wouldn’t want to spend a chunk of your Uber earnings on cleaning vomit off your car’s carpets, would you?
4. Have chargers for both iPhones and Android phones handy.
These things are a godsend for people on the go since they probably don’t have time to fully charge their mobile phones. Sure, you may have to invest a bit in durable chargers for each kind of smartphone (to be fair, there are only two major ones), but that’s nothing compared to the number of rave reviews you’ll probably get once they’re in play.
You can also print up signs indicating the availability of iPhone and Android phone chargers in your car and post them up on the back of the driver’s seat. Something that says, “Welcome to my car! iPhone and Android chargers are available for your use, so please feel free to ask me about them at any time” ought to suffice.
5. Keep your car clean and fresh-smelling.
Because a car is an enclosed space, smells like perfume, food brought in from outside, and well, body odor from the sheer number of passengers getting picked up throughout the day can quickly make the air musty. You can guard against this by keeping some paper towels, spray cleaner, and air fresheners in your glove compartment. Lower your windows to release the pent-up odors and then give your car a quick rubdown with your cleaning materials between passengers.
Of course, this goes for the driver too. Whoever ends up driving your Uber for you, remind them to always show up clean and appropriately dressed. Hair should always be freshly-combed and having a uniform of a crisply-ironed button-down shirt with pressed jeans also helps. You or your Uber driver can wear cologne for added freshness, but do keep it light so you don’t end up causing an allergic reaction or a headache among your more sensitive passengers.
6. Be familiar with bathroom locations.
The call of nature can strike just about anywhere and God help you if your passenger feels the urge to relieve themselves in the midst of an infamous EDSA traffic jam.
Start with the area in which you usually drive around. Are there gasoline stations or coffee shops nearby where your passenger can avail of a comfort room despite how early or how late it is in the day? And do these places allow for free parking too? Knowing the answers to those questions can, under certain conditions, make all the difference between a four-star rating and a five-star one.
7. Never cancel on a passenger.
No one wants to drive all the way to the airport to pick up someone whose destination is a mere fifteen minutes away; the profit (if any) simply won’t make up for the hassle. Still, resist the urge to cancel on occasional clients like these. If you don’t, you end up making Uber look bad and all it takes for them to deactivate your account is one or two passengers posting a complaint.
There might be extreme cases (e.g., flooding, strikes or rallies blocking the route to your passenger, etc.) where you may be forced to cancel on your passenger, and so long as you have very good reasons for doing so, it’s fine. Still, it’s advisable to aim for at least a 90% acceptance rate to stay afloat amidst fierce competition.
8. If you plan on having snacks and/or mints on your car, you may want to keep a mini trash bin in there too.
Some Uber drivers like to up the ante by having a stash of snacks or mints (which are often highly appreciated by those on the way to a job interview) in their cars. And really, that’s a great way to make your Uber stand out because who doesn’t like free food?
Better yet, have a mini garbage can in your car so that it stays clean even if your passenger decides to rip open that bag of chips or unwrap those fancy breath mints.
9. Make allowances for pets.
There’s no actual rule about not bringing a pet onboard an Uber, so you should prepare for such, just in case. If your usual route spans a few residential villages or if you operate mostly in the suburbs, this might happen more than you’d like, so you had best prepare.
For pets, you can stash some special towels (these also prevent pets from soiling your car seats) for them to sit on if their owners want to keep them close by. Alternatively, you can also use newspapers to line your car seats before setting a caged pet on them.
10. Always, always be polite.
Sometimes, you can forego all of the other things on this list (well, except for the safe driving bit) if you’ve got impeccable manners as a driver.
Always greet passengers with a smile and a “Good morning/afternoon/evening, ma’am/sir.” Whenever you can, open the car door for them and assist them with their packages or things. Asking if they have a preferred route to their destination is also highly appreciated by many passengers, so be sure to do so.
The bottomline is to put the passenger at ease once they get into your vehicle, and to keep things that way until you’ve safely delivered them to their destination.