Uber and Lyft drivers reveal what they notice about passengers when they pick them up

We asked a dozen Uber and Lyft drivers the first things they notice about passengers.Note: Unless stated otherwise, drivers pictured are not the one being quoted.

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We asked a dozen Uber and Lyft drivers the first things they notice about passengers.Note: Unless stated otherwise, drivers pictured are not the one being quoted.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Uber and Lyft drivers meet lots of people.

After hundreds – if not thousands – of rides, drivers start to notice subtle differences between passengers. These small distinctions let drivers decide how they might approach a ride: Does the customer want to talk? Should the driver initiate a conversation?

Other times, especially late at night, knowing if someone looks visibly intoxicated can help a driver address how they might approach that particular ride. That is to say, should they be worried about the potential for a cleanup situation.

Read more: Uber and Lyft drivers reveal the things you should never do while taking a ride

Business Insider spoke with nine drivers about the first thing they notice when passengers enter their vehicles. Here’s what they had to say (last names have been omitted for privacy):


David, a driver in Sacramento, California:

“I drive an XL vehicle. If it’s a large group, I make sure there are at most 6 people. Many times passengers will try to get me to break the law by sitting on the floor or on each others laps. I also look for things that can either harm me or damage my car such as food, drinks, etc. If it’s late at night I’m looking to gauge how drunk the individual is to see if they may be a puker,” he said in an email.


Adrian, a driver in Dallas:

“Demeanor is critical to quickly determine whether you should engage the passenger with full-on conversation or just a curt, respectful ‘hello, we will arrive at your destination at [time],'” he said in an email.

“I mainly do this gig, other than for supplemental income, to interact with people. I work from home and have done so for my various employers for the last decade, so the human interaction is critical for me, especially with my PTSD from being in the Army,” he added.


Kevin, a driver in Huntington Beach, California:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“At the same time I confirm I have the right person, I focus on their friendliness,” he said in a phone interview. “It dictates how much I will be entertaining that person on the trip. The very friendly ones always have the best interactions. The quiet ones, I will wait to see if they engage or not. If not, I concentrate on getting them to their destination safely.”


Ellis, a driver in Dallas:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“First thing I notice is their smell. The smell tells me how my trip is going to go,” he said in an email. “The smell tells me about how their day has gone or how it’s going to be. Clean smells tell me they are headed out somewhere. Strong odors mean they been out and about. Body odors tell me a lot about the person.”


Tim, a driver in Chicago:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.
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Spencer Platt/Getty

“The first thing I notice, even before the passenger gets in the car is what they are wearing. Their clothing (appearance) is a big factor on how they may act. Are they coming or going to work. Have they been out drinking all night? Are they out on a special occasion etc?” he said in an email.

“Appearance can help me gauge if I should start a conversation with them. If a driver can make a positive connection with them, their ride experience will positive.”


Alexandria, a driver in San Diego:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.
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Spencer Platt/Getty

“I instantly judge them by their profile picture,” she said in a text message. “It can often tell me a lot about how that ride will go. Silent ride, too much perfume, pretentious, music preferences, to name a few. “


Demissie, a driver in Washington, DC:

“I love trying to guess where people are from,” she said in a text message. “With folks from southern states, for example, ladies go straight to the back seats and gentleman always go to the front (and in my van’s case, the middle.)”


Barb, a driver in Philadelphia:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.
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REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

“The first thing I would notice is if they smell like drugs, or smell bad in general, because that would tell me I’d have to pull over and do a sanitation before the next passenger,” he said in a text message.

A sanitation is when the driver must clean the car.


Mark, a driver in Eau Claire, Wisconsin:

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Note: the drivers pictured are not necessarily the ones quoted.

“The first thing I notice about people when they get in my car mostly is their appearance. Are they dressed in nice clothes or are they disheveled with torn clothing? At the same time, I notice their demeanor, do they have a bad attitude or are they friendly and chatty. One last thing I notice would be if they’ve been drinking alcohol,” he said in an email.

“It only takes about 5 seconds to assess these things as they get into the car, but it generally determines how the ride goes. It doesn’t really affect getting them from point A to point B, just the tone of the ride. I’ve found that many of the people who are poorly dressed and/or have a bad attitude are the people most likely to not want to talk to me at or are just critical of me, the route I take or my driving in general. Hence their appearance/attitude decides in that first 5 seconds how the conversation (if any) will flow during the ride. I love talking to people, but some people I decide not to have a conversation with based on that first impression because it usually just goes sideways anyway.”

Do you work for Uber or Lyft? Have a story to share? Get in touch with this reporter at grapier@businessinsider.com


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