has anyone else had this uncomfortable experience with an Uber driver recently?

I really like Uber, and I’ll take Uber over a taxi every single time I can. I really like being in a clean car, with a friendly driver who genuinely cares about my experience, because I’m rating them and that matters to them. Basically, they work a little harder to give me better service, and I pay about a 5% premium for that.

Earlier this week, though, I took Uber to and from the Stone Company Store in Pasadena, and both drivers gave me this aggressive sales pitch that made me very uncomfortable. They both wanted me to contact them directly when I needed an Uber car, so they could drive to wherever I was, wait for me to request an Uber car, and then they’d answer the request.

Both times, the pitch was a very hard sell, accompanied by boasts about their clients in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, and left me feeling like I’d rather not ride with either of these guys again. When I’ve hired a driver, I just want that driver to get me where I’m going safely and comfortably. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a high-pressure sales pitch when I’m basically a captive audience.

I’m putting this out there because I want to know if this is happening to anyone else in LA or any other cities? Is this some new kind of official Uber policy? Or did I just happen to get two seemingly random guys who were working off of almost the exact same script?

64 thoughts on “has anyone else had this uncomfortable experience with an Uber driver recently?”

  1. I’d absolutely reach out to Uber’s customer service, because if that IS official policy… I’m not sure I’m down with that. That’s extremely aggressive, and would make any normal person uncomfortable.

        1. Wil IS pretty weird.

          Still, we should always /treat/ people like they’re normal, unless they wish to be treated otherwise.

  2. not uber policy – in fact, uber would probably be less than thrilled to know that their drivers were doing this.

  3. I used Uber a ton when I was living in San Francisco. Not once was I ever pitched like that. I did ask a specific driver if I could ask for him in the future, and he said that was not Uber’s policy. Must be an LA thing OR they were trying to capitalize on who you are. Either way, not cool. You need to contact Uber-LA and let them know this.

  4. Never has happened to me, but I really sympathize with you there. For some reason I just picture some mob stuff going on there: “It’d be really unfortunate if you ever had an……’accident’….riding with anyone else…pick me for next time”. Yeesh. I agree with Ashley most definitely. Shoot uber an email about this.

  5. I think you should report them. They aren’t representing the company, they are trying to steal business to maybe start their own business or to get more rides because they aren’t satisfied with dispatch or the recognized you and are trying to use you as a connection and say, well I drive Wil Wheaton around town. Either way, it’s not something you should put up with especially if it’s off the books.

  6. Ew that sucks. I had a guy try to softly suggest that once here in SF but aside from that theyve always been great.

    Keep in mind Uber doesn’t own any if those cars. A local owner will have some number of cars with drivers and have them respond to Uber requests. Uber would have no vetted interest in which driver you returned home with.

  7. It’s part and parcel of the contractor economy, unfortunately. Rather than employees, a horde of independent contractors, each carving out territory.

  8. This sounds extremely familiar to experiences I had while working for one of the big 4 wireless carriers as a CSR. All of our metrics were based on customer satisfaction, volume of calls taken, whether the customer called back in to have the same (or another) issue resolved that we didn’t handle–or didn’t handle the way they wanted, etc.

    There were a few reps who, while I was working there, took it upon themselves to monitor peoples accounts after they’d spoken with them and the call was ended. If that person called back and decided to make a change with another rep, the rep who initially took the call would swoop in after the change was made, delete the change, and then re-add it so that it appeared on their metrics as an addition rather than the rep who actually added the feature.

    Sounds like Uber has strict metrics that they probably use to rate their employees and a few employees are taking it upon themselves to try and pad their metrics by having a constant flow of specific people who always call them specifically.

    To them it probably seems like they’re offering you (the rider) an amazing deal. Whenever you want a ride, just call them and they’ll be your personal valet. They probably figure they just need to get enough ‘fish on the hook’ so-to-speak that they have an outside the system way to keep their metrics strong. They probably figure anyone who doesn’t accept their offer just won’t call, but also won’t complain about being offered a service that they see as extremely valuable.

    The problem is that when that tactic gets around–and it obviously has already, based on your experience–then people start to complain about being harassed.

    Long story short, it’s more than likely NOT Uber’s policy to do this, but rather a group of rogue drivers who are looking to get ahead by cheating the company system. If that isn’t the case and it is policy, they’re going to turn people off to their service really quickly.

  9. I have used Uber a ton in San Francisco and have never been pitched like that. Maybe service is more competitive in LA?

    Actually, I’m fairly certain that what happened to you directly violates company policy.

  10. Has never happened to me in Seattle. I wonder though if you were using Uber or Uberx? I’ve taken both without issue, however, maybe Uberx drivers feel they can get away with that more? Idk.

  11. I actually have never used Uber and never will because several female friends have reported very sketchy if not outright assaultive drivers. Guys texting them after dropping them off (for several weeks in one case), one driver saying “I’m not taking you home now, am I?”…just really terrible things. I’d rather be on the train or in a cab where I know I can track the driver down through their company and get their license revoked, if it gets that far.

      1. Oh definitely. They all were, and to my understanding immediately removed from the service, but it still made me uncomfortable enough that I’d rather just spend the extra time on the train. Thankfully, I rarely travel places that public transit isn’t an option.

  12. I think your celebrity status is being targeted. I think they’re bucking for a personal driver position for you. I think a call to Uber’s customer service might be in order.

  13. I use uber all the time in NYC and the only problem I’ve ever had was an overly chatty driver on a 4 am drive to the airport when I just wanted to sleep. That seems like it would be severely against uber policy and something for their customer service to hear about. That’s not the point of uber.

  14. These drivers are more than likely trying to game the Uber system by drastically reducing their response time or by guaranteeing they get the fare.

    IIRC there’s some kind of response time metric for drivers. If they accept a fare, they have X minutes to get to the location before the system picks another driver or something. If a driver fails to get to a location before X minutes, they get dinged somehow. By asking you to call them so they can come first, then let you file the request through Uber, Uber is guaranteed to issue to fare to them AND it drastically reduces their response time.

    No stalking involved, methinks.

  15. I’ve used Uber recently in NYC, and Uber X in DC, and never encountered this. I agree with other who suggested reporting the drivers to Uber.

  16. I agree that Uber should be contacted. I have not seen that trick in Dallas yet, but it strikes me as similar to the games that cab drivers like to play. Here in Dallas, I have noticed a slight decline in the quality of Uber drivers. As popularity and demand for the service have increased, I think they have had to bring on more drivers (most likely former cab drivers). I reported several negative experiences here in Dallas and got the impression Uber really appreciated the feedback. They even gave me a $10 credit to my account (which I was not asking for). A 3-star or lower rating prompted Uber to reach out to me for more details on what went wrong.

  17. Yep, I’ve had it happen too. Uber was great when they first came to
    LA, but I’ve been really unimpressed and even annoyed with the drivers lately. They’ve asked me to pull up directions for them on my phone and tried to get me to go to them directly for rides.

  18. I agree with the person who says its sounds like they are trying to game Uber’s statistics. They may be doing that because other drivers are doing it too and they look worse in the stats if they don’t join in. I expect Uber wants to nip that in the bud. If they don’t, every single driver will be doing it soon.

  19. This happened to me once in Seattle, but it was not a high pressure situation like you experienced. We were picked up in an UberSUV even though we only requested a black car. We were assured we would only pay the black car rate. On the way to the airport, the driver gave me his cell# and said I could call him directly when we got back from our trip. Didn’t bother me at the time, but he wasn’t pushy about it either.

  20. That strikes me as the Uber equivalent of EBay buyers asking to make a deal outside your auction. I’d definitely report it to Uber.

  21. I haven’t had anything so high pressure, but the last Uber ride I had the guy kept asking what else I’d be doing in LA and, would I need any other rides while I was in town? Because he was totally available.

    That could be a huge problem for Uber if the experience starts being less pleasant.

  22. I recently traveled to San Francisco on business, asked the front desk of the hotel to call a taxi, and I instead got a “car service” that was 20% more expensive, and for my trouble I got a hard sales pitch to call him directly when I wanted a ride back to the airport. Yeah that didn’t happen. I don’t think it was an Uber thing, but it’s fairly common among drivers.

  23. Yes – I had the same experience in LAX. I use Uber because I DON’T want the same driver. So I listened to his pitch. Said yeah yeah yeah and immediately threw away the guy’s card.

  24. Complain straight to uber. Don’t let a few bad drivers ruin a great service. I bet Uber even thanks you and sends you some free $$ for your next ride.

  25. If you haven’t already done so, Wil, get on the phone or email to Uber AND COMPLAIN–LOUD AND LONG!! Also, if there’s some sort of licensing or oversight board for these guys, complain to them as well!! Finally, and especially if the other two steps I just mentioned don’t get you any satisfaction, complain publicly on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest! If all of that doesn’t work, then just stop using them–and be sure to let them know the reason why! If that doesn’t bring this customer abuse to a screeching halt, it will at least leave them without excuse–as if they weren’t already!!

  26. I used to run a cab for a while and I know exactly what is happening here. It’s sometimes called “recruiting” and was officially referred to as “stealing clients”. When the drivers I worked with did this, they would get a high value client in the car (huge tipper, local celeb, etc) and hand them a business card marked “VIP HOTLINE” with their own cell phone on it. They’d even answer the calls “VIP dispatcher for Cab Company, how can I help?”, then call it in as a ‘personal fare’. If you book a cab thru Uber, Uber gets a fairly good cut and hands the driver as little as they can get away with. This is fairly normal practice. BUT, if they recruit you, they get 100% and the tip. Other groups didn’t have the “VIP Line” angle and would hard sell the crap out of you to get you to call them. It doubles their income. Some of the drivers make enough doing this that they can afford a premium car and will then use the contacts to develop a high dollar client base, eventually leaving the company they’re working with to make (around) 200$ an hour. Success is rare, and if you get caught you can kiss the references goodbye…. but it happens. However, if you get a driver who’s really good and you like him, get his card. You’d be amazed at how much a good driver can do for you.

  27. Alright, someone clue me in. I’ve lived in the sticks my entire life, how is Uber different from a taxi service? Full disclosure, I’ve had experience with neither.

  28. I’m not familiar with Uber and their services. After looking at their website, I’m STILL not familiar with their company and services because you can’t get any information about the service until you sign up for the service. Nope.

  29. @wilw I used it several times while in SF at the end of last month and never got the hard sell.

    @LisaSemple – They’re usually very friendly. It’s the service though that sets it apart from regular cabs. You use an iPhone app to do all of the billing and requesting the car. The app notifies you when the car is coming, where it is and when it arrives. It also gives you a photo of the driver, their name and cell phone. When the ride is over, you just get out. The tip and the bill are automatically done to your credit card and you get an e-mail receipt.

  30. I’ve never used Uber in LA, but I did use it several times in San Diego and this was not part of the experience.

    I do hire cars frequently (I travel for business a lot) and often the driver will give me his card and ask me to ask for him the next time I need a ride, but it is usually a low pressure pitch and I’ve never had this happen with Uber.

  31. I have not had this happen with Uber specifically, but with other car services and cab drivers. Also maids. However, my trouble with Uber is that it never finds me and I have had several drivers not be able to find me, even when I’ve plugged in the address. AND I gave a few of them tips, which they took, before one of them told me that it was against policy to take tips.

    So now I don’t tip, but feel like some of them are expecting it.

  32. I’ve never had that problem with Uber drivers in S.F.

    I’d report it to Uber and give the drivers a review mentioning it.

  33. hmmm. I had no idea what Uber was until I just went to their webpage. We don’t have services like this in my area- the closest being in Boston, and that is about 2 hours from me. But I do travel on occasion so it’s good to know there are services like this around. So far I have learned that the driver in LA don’t follow Wheaton’s Law, but most other places do.

    Sounds like your drivers went on some diatribe about hiring them specifically, and not just a brief mention of, “oh hey, If you like my service here’s my card” which I’d almost anticipate, I think. The diatribe, I’m sure, isn’t their policy and if you haven’t already contact the company.

    I’m curious though, if you have contacted them what their response was. Keep us updated.

  34. So sorry to hear about this poor experience, Will! Please send us an email at t.uber.com/support and we’ll follow up with your drivers.

  35. Reminds me of the Futurama episodes where Bender stalks Calculon.

    Bender: Calculon, as your hot water heater… I would be remiss if I didn’t bring you scripts that could make you an international film star.

    Calculon: Of course.

  36. My only bad experience with Uber is their recent inability to give me kittens on demand (KITTTENS!). I’d definitely contact customer service. Aggressive freelancers like that can only drive customers away.

  37. I’ve never heard of Uber, but I went to their website. The fine print at the bottom says “Uber is not a transportation provider” – so what the heck is it?? The About Us page doesn’t say either. This is a terrible website, which irritates me enough to forget that I ever heard about them in the first place.

  38. i am a frequent user of uber in boston for business and personal trips over the past 12 months. i have only had the “sales pitch” happen to me in an uber black and an uber suv (but not in an uberx) and it’s happened less than a hand-full of times.

    it doesn’t really make me uncomfortable, i usually ask for their business card and that seems to be the end of it. they are just trying to make some extra money and i get it. in my experience, they aren’t super pushy (though yours may have been).

    i think you’re going to see this more frequently as the number of drivers increases in the next few months and they start competing for passengers. if you look at it from the point of view of the driver, most of these guys are driving on the side for some other job (uber is not their only source of income). if they can get more uber jobs, they can make more money.

    it’s probably nice for them too to be able to rely on a passenger they know from driving before as 1) not being crazy/drunk/rude, 2) around and in need of a ride, and 3) getting rewarded for good service (if this is the case). i think some of these guys must drive around and around waiting for a fare, but due to peak hours or other factors, don’t get any passengers. if they have someone call them, it eliminates the guesswork a bit and still allows the user to pay uber’s low-price fare.

    if you really don’t like it, i encourage you to use uber’s comment feature at the end of your trip to give them a head’s up. it doesn’t necessarily punish the driver–they can get seriously warned or even let go if their star rating drops below 4.5–but it lets uber know how you feel. my experience with their customer service has been top notch. they are responsive, understanding, and often grateful for the feedback.

    all that being said, my boss met an uber driver he really liked through the service. this guy runs his own transportation company on the side and does uber as a part-time gig. we discovered he is reliable, friendly, and also our neighbor! so we can catch him on short notice. we now almost exclusively use him and his company for business trips, developing a great working relationship. he’s even given me a few airport transfers “on the house” to thank me for continuing to use his business. i know this situation is probably rare, but it’s worth noting.

    hope this helps and don’t give up on uber!

  39. Never got that far. Texted Uber to pick me up at LAX, and they never responded…until I’d already had a friend from CC pick me up and take me home. I only got lame excuses. Never again.

    They are merely a computerized collective of not-very-well vetted indies. Another example of making the customer do the quality control.

  40. Hi Wil,

    I haven’t used uber myself and while checking it out online… (it just began being offered in Sacramento, Ca), I read this particular article. The people leveling the complaints are Yellow Cab (and clearly biased), but maybe they’re raising a valid point? I dunno, maybe someone more educated on the particulars of Uber and/or Cab service in general will be able to help me out here…


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