Did you know that, from the minute you step into an Uber you are being watched and rated as a passenger? Let’s rephrase this: not you rating your driver – him rating you. This all seemed preposterous to me. Then I read a very clever article about this in the Financial Times, dated the weekend of July 7th and 8th of 2018. Full disclosure: I still take Yellow Cabs, no Ubers.
The piece is titled “The Shame of My Very Low Uber Rating.” The author is Rebecca Rose, the paper’s deputy books editor, who writes with great honesty and humor. What caught my eye immediately when I first spotted the article was a pull quote that stated, “My brother who works in a tech start-up said even his most degenerate colleague had a higher rating than me.”
It all started when a Uber driver casually asked Rebecca, “Have you ever vomited in one of our cars?” Startled by this, she quickly answered, “No, never.” Looking at her suspiciously in the rear-view mirror he added, “Have you ever argued with a driver after drinking?”
“Negative,” she replied, feeling anxious. Not giving up, he tried again with, “Well, then you must have cancelled a lot of Ubers. That’s the only answer.” “To what?” she asked. He told her that she had a rating of 4.2 out of 5 – which she thought sounded okay – so she asked, “Is that bad?”
He said he never picked up riders who were below a 4.5 -- this shocked her. She had not checked her rating because she did not believe she had a low one. Rebecca notes that she has never cancelled any rides and even adds “sir” when talking to her driver.
She then asked if it was possible to get a bad rating just because the drivers didn’t like her and Uber replied, “That’s an impossibility. You would never get a bad rating for that. And it’s nothing to do with how you rate us because we never see that. Nor how much you tip. But I like you, so I’m going to give you five stars.”
She told him she’d do the same for him and then asked him how many five-star ratings she would need to get up to 4.5. “Quite a few,” he replied as he drove off.
When she arrived at work she checked with her colleagues and found that none was below a 4.4. At dinner that week she brought up her low Uber rating with friends who quickly checked theirs – as if this scourge might be catching. “I’m a 4.75,” said one, as another called out “4.9” with relief.
Rebecca notes that there are more and more customer services that we are invited to rate – and which, in turn, rate us back as customers (Ebay, Amazon, to name a few). In China, a new social credit system is under way in which people’s routine behavior is rated and scored. A HIGH social credit score can lead to perks (lower energy bills), while a LOW one can mean “no” to certain dating sites.
UBER DEFENDS ITS STAR RATINGS
“It works well to identify trends and problems,” an Uber spokesperson says. Rebecca learns that if a driver or rider gives anything less than five, they’re asked to give a reason. In the case of serious rider offences – abuse or physical contact – steps are taken. “You will hear from us,” Uber tells her. “We have the ability to close your account.”
A happy ending: Rebecca reports that in her aim to claw herself back up to a 4.5 she has hailed more non-essential rides and is being extra polite. She’s a happy camper who is now up to 4.23 and rising. “I’m not out of the doghouse,” she relates, “but at least I’m on the road to respectability.”
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