Part 1: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver – Tipping, Surge Pricing & More

I first met Harry Campbell back in August 2014, long before he was the ride-sharing guy. His first web presence was at, a financial website for young professionals. And as it turned out, Harry is also a miles and points guy, so we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Then a few years ago, he turned his time and attention to his new brand, Maybe you’ve heard of him or seen his blog/podcast/Youtube channel. He’s my go-to resource when I have ride-share questions, so I wanted to sit down with him and get his view as both an insider, because he still drives for both Uber and Lyft, and also as a mentor and resource for drivers.

I asked Harry some tough questions, because as a consumer, there’s a lot about the ride-sharing world I’d like to understand. I want, as I’m sure you do, to have the best possible ride-sharing experience, and understanding this from both a passenger as well as a driver perspective helps! Harry’s got a unique window into the sharing economy, so let’s see what he has to say.

Shelli: Is there an expectation amongst drivers that driving is a way to meet friends? There have been many stories about people who feel like drivers butt into conversations or try too hard to buddy up to passengers. Maybe for tips?? Even Ben over at OMAAT wrote about this being his number one Uber pet peeve.

Harry: I wouldn’t say rideshare driving is necessarily for making friends, but there is certainly a community of rideshare drivers out there who talk on Facebook or have their own local group meetups to “talk shop.” Being part of a community is something we actually encourage rideshare drivers to do, because it’s helpful to talk to people who know exactly what you’re going through.

Overall, what we recommend at is for a driver to read their passenger though. Are they texting on their cellphone, not making eye contact, or stressed about getting somewhere? That might be a driver’s cue to be a little more relaxed, maybe not ask a lot of questions. On the other hand, if the person asks for tips about where to eat (if they’re visiting that city) or places to go, we definitely encourage drivers to chat and help a passenger out. After all, ratings are a pretty big deal, and being helpful to passengers is good for drivers’ bottom line, particularly if they’re driving on Lyft and get a tip!

Finally, sometimes it really pays off for drivers to be aware of what their passengers are saying. We definitely recommend drivers get dash cams, but on top of that: be aware. There was just a story about a driver rescuing a teen from pimps all because he listened to what the pimps were saying in the car.

Shelli: The whole tipping and rating system is a mess, from a consumer’s standpoint at least. And there are plenty of stories about ratings affecting drivers negatively as well. The whole rating system is out of hand in lots of arenas like Yelp/Trip Advisor as well. Any comments about this would be helpful.

Also, why is UBER so against creating in-app tipping?

As long as surge pricing is beyond a driver’s control it seems to me that the tipping system will always be contentious. Does Uber care? It seems that Uber wants its share, but isn’t responsive to many of the actual experiences that riders and drivers are having.

Uber seeing its drivers as independent contractors enables them, Uber that is, to conveniently step away from a lot of the controversy.

Harry: Ratings is a topic we talk about fairly frequently, from how to improve driver ratings (or keep them high to start) to why they don’t really matter that much (to a certain degree!). We’ve even put together YouTube videos on ratings.

Unfortunately, much of the public is still confused on ratings.

They don’t realize drivers need to maintain a pretty high rating to remain a driver, and many people think a “fine” ride is worthy of a 3 or 4 star, but that can be really bad for drivers. More definitely needs to be done to educate the public about the difference between a 4 and a 5 rating but, at the same time, we also counsel drivers to be practical, do their best and be professional to get good ratings every time.

Uber differentiates itself from Lyft by not providing in-app tipping. Although this article is from 2015, it highlight Uber’s attitudes versus Lyft about tipping, and I’m not sure if we’ll ever see in-app tipping from Uber. It would be helpful if Uber were more upfront about how tips are not calculated in the price of their fare, so passengers might tip on their own, but I’m not holding my breath for that.

Shelli: I recently had a horrible Uber overcharge and when we surveyed our blog readers, what they complained about most was the charges that don’t match what we were told the charges would be, and then customer service being totally unresponsive. It seemed in the beginning Uber cared more about the rider experience and would credit back or offer some credit for a future ride. What’s up?

At the very least, they need to fix their ride ordered ahead of time system, would you agree?

Harry: One of the biggest complaints we get is Uber’s unresponsiveness, both to drivers and passengers. If you think it’s bad for passengers to get in touch with Uber, it’s even worse for drivers! In fact, one of our most popular posts to this day is about contacting Uber.

I’ve noticed if you are persistent, or you tweet at them on Twitter and reach out on Facebook, you might be able to get a faster response. It’s definitely not ideal, but that has always been a top complaint of Uber.

Shelli: You teach that driving for both Uber and Lyft is the way to go to maximize earnings. There have been complaints about people requesting Uber rides, for instance, but then a driver will see a Lyft ride with a better ROI and cancel one and go for the other. Will this continue to be the case? Or vice versa. Yes, they can get deactivated for this but still……….

You also teach drivers to find the SURGE ZONES and, of course, consumers are moving themselves out of these zones. Will it continue to be a cat and mouse game of driver vs. consumer?

Harry: While we do recommend people drive for both Uber and Lyft, we also recommend that, once a driver has accepted a ride (say, with Uber), they go and turn off their Lyft driver status.

It’s possible drivers leave both apps on and try to get a better paying ride, but it’s also taking a big risk since this will affect your cancellation rate – a metric that Uber and Lyft both keep track of to prevent this type of behavior.

We do teach drivers to find and strategize surge zones, though. Uber makes it pretty helpful by sending out weekly summaries and heat maps, but we also cover tips, like doing early airport morning runs or focusing on a busy downtown when workers are trying to get home (rush hour). These are natural surge zones that occur regularly, and of course, drivers can be prepared for event surges, like during the Super Bowl or other big sporting event.

Shelli: Excellent information, Harry!

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of my conversation with Harry. We’ll cover questions like, is Uber even a viable business to begin with, how much drivers really earn, and how to create a great ride-sharing experience!

Part 2: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver – How Much Money do Drivers Earn?

Part 3: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver – Driver Turnover, International Expansion & Profitability

4 thoughts on “Part 1: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver – Tipping, Surge Pricing & More

  1. Pingback: Part 2: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver - How Much Money do Drivers Earn?

  2. Pingback: Part 3: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver - Driver Turnover, International Expansion & Profitability

  3. Pingback: Part 4: Interview with a Professional Uber/Lyft Driver – Is Uber's Upfront Pricing Good or Bad for Drivers?

  4. Pingback: How Did Uber's Terrible Year of PR Affect Drivers?

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