THE BLOG
01/16/2014 11:10 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2014

Uber Car Etiquette

Uber Car Etiquette

Uber. How many times does this word enter your vocabulary? It rarely entered mine until the personal car service Uber was formed. Now available in many major U.S. cities and in twenty-two countries, Uber allows you to book and pay for a car online or with your smartphone, and offers vehicles ranging from town cars to the new UberX, economy-sized cars that are cheaper than taxis. It's one of several new ways to get around my city, including ride-share cars, and it also has a delivery service.

It's worth noting that drivers are not Uber employees, nor does Uber own cars. Instead, they are a "tech" platform that connects riders with transportation. Why didn't I think of this? Andrew Noyes of Uber Technologies sums up the company's mission: "Uber's goal is to connect people with the highest-quality transportation providers and ensure that people get a safe, stylish, and reliable ride.

As a San Franciscan, I walk a lot. The city is only seven square miles, but there are times when I need wheels as a mode of transportation. Quite simply, Uber has changed my life. I'm a girl who loves shortcuts, but behind the wheel, that equals danger! So this brilliant concept has been a lifesaver for me. I have already saved my husband tons of dough with my now fewer parking tickets, even with the fee per ride!

Using Uber is easy. You simply create an account on the Uber website by registering your credit card, then you download the app to your smartphone. To call a vehicle, sign in to the app and choose from five types of vehicles, depending on your city. You then mark your position on a map with a pin, tap the location on the "Set Pickup Location" button, and confirm your selection. You will be given an estimate of how long it will take for your car to arrive. You will then be given the phone number and name of the driver.

It's worth noting that Uber uses what is called "surge pricing" during periods of high demand, such as on New Year's Eve. Noyes says that this is done to help "get more cars on the road quickly when demand outstrips supply, helping to guarantee people can get a ride when and where they want. Users are notified of--and must acknowledge--the elevated pricing within the app before they can request a car. As soon as demand falls or supply increases sufficiently, prices return to normal."

You can see how convenient and simple it is to use this service. As a frequent Uber rider, I've come up with a few guidelines that will make the experience even smoother for both drivers and passengers.

Uber Rules for the Driver

• Be honest with your passengers. If they call you and you say you're two minutes away, be sure it's true, as you are probably being tracked on their smartphones.

• If you're driving to a busy area, ask the passenger to give you an exact location.

• Make sure you greet the passenger by name. I know more than one passenger who has climbed into the wrong Uber.

• Ask the passenger if he or she has a suggested route to the location. Uber is based on mileage, and your passenger may know a shortcut that is unknown to you.

• Don't be too chatty with your passengers. Keep your eyes and concentration on the road.

• When the ride has ended, tap your phone accordingly so the passenger is not charged.

• If your passengers have packages, get out and help them, both when they enter and leave the car.

• Don't ask to be given a good rating. Just do a good job of driving so you know you will be rewarded with a good rating.

Uber Rules for the Passenger

• After you order your car, call the driver to specify exactly where you are, and what you're wearing if the area is busy.

• Never text a driver your location. This is dangerous, as they will be driving when you contact them.

• Make sure you get in the right car. You will have been texted a photo of the driver, their name, and the make of the car, so this should be easy. Make sure when you get in you repeat the driver's name.

• You're in the metaphorical driver's seat, so if you feel the actual driver is going too fast, distracted by a phone call, or not going the route you like, speak up. If he or she doesn't listen, point this out when you rate them, as this will help Uber with their customer service.

• Avoid eating or smoking in the car.

• Be polite to your driver. Say thank you, and take any garbage with you when you leave.

• It's okay to talk on the telephone, but not so loudly that you could distract the driver.

• Be honest when rating your driver. In doing so, you are guaranteeing the comfort and well-being of other passengers.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (www.lisagrotts.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.