Short version: Do unto Uber drivers as you would have Uber drivers do unto you
There’s something about being in the back of a stranger’s car that makes you want to let loose with your friends. So surely another comrade of the proletariat will let you get away with chillin’ on a beer in their back seat, especially if they’re on the hook for ratings? To be certain, though, we talked to a bunch of drivers to find out what you should, and really shouldn’t, do in the back of an Uber.
First off, what do the corporate stiffs have to say?
Uber’s “community guidelines” pretty much outlaw anything fun. From smoking to outright saying, as though Uber riders are horny 8th graders in the back of a bus, “You shouldn’t touch or flirt with other people in the car.” They even go so far as to say, “As a reminder, Uber has a no sex rule. That’s no sexual conduct with drivers or fellow riders, no matter what.” Now, maybe it’s the framing as a “reminder,” but the no-sex rule feels more like a suggestion, like when the cool bus driver totally let people make out so long as he could watch. But they presumably meant it to be taken a little more seriously.
Beyond sex, according to the corporate suits at Uber, you should “obey local law” when it comes to drugs, open-container laws, etc. So basically, if your state allows passengers to drink in the backseat, or recreationally smoke marijuana, you’re in the clear. However, that doesn’t mean the drivers will necessarily be cool with it.
As a side note, Uber also has a strict “Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy.” So if you want to run your Uber-for-Dogs or birds-with-human-dicks inventions by your driver, know that Uber can swipe those genius ideas and take all credit for them. Just something to keep in mind.
Corporate has its ass covered — big surprise! Surely the drivers are more chill?
Not really. I asked several drivers, and an overwhelming majority were vehemently against letting anyone smoke or drink in their cars. It’s understandable: Being in an Uber isn’t the same as being in a boat in international waters — you should still abide by the law, not just for your own sake, but for the driver’s as well. If they get pulled over while you’re drinking in the back of their car, especially in a state that doesn’t allow it, they’ll be issued the ticket and be banned from the app, effectively losing their job.
“I hate it when people try to pull out illegal substances in my car,” says Kristen Fleming, an Uber driver in Ohio. “About once a weekend someone tries to drink in my car, and people doing drugs has happened three times: Once preparing to shoot up, once to roll a blunt and another time to smoke something already rolled. Just wait a few minutes for when you get out! I don’t want to get a ticket or worse on their account.”
Neil, an Uber driver in Detroit, agrees. “Uber doesn’t care who brings in the open alcohol, but it’s ultimately up to the driver to refuse service based on state laws. Uber very much stresses that drivers are to follow their local and state laws and rules,” he says. Ultimately, if you have a beer open in an Uber and they get pulled over, they’re the ones who suffer the consequences. “If a driver gets convicted of an open-alcohol offense, it’ll go on their driving record and Uber will catch it on the next check, and then it’s deactivation time,” adds Neil. “Idiot Uber drivers who allow riders to break laws in their vehicles because they may get a tip of a dollar or two, or are afraid of a bad rating, deserve the punishment if they’re stupid enough to go along with it.”
“Passengers more than likely will offer a tip or try to peer pressure a driver. I don’t allow it, period,” adds Matt DeMartile, a driver San Francisco. “Yesterday, for example, I had two dudes try to get in my car with red Solo cups full of wine. I let them know straight up that they can’t do that. It wasn’t a problem, but I will note that they seemed uneducated about a decades-old state law about open containers inside a vehicle. The guy in the front seat was okay with it — the guy in the backseat at first seemed upset. He did say I was the first Uber driver to tell him that he couldn’t have an open container. I was surprised by that, considering how expensive these tickets are, not to mention the possible risk of deactivation.”
The takeaway, then, is to not take away someone’s source of income just because you can’t not suckle on a Bud Light for the 10-minute drive between parties — or, in Kristen’s case, you’re a Regular Guy Who Just Wants to Shoot Heroin on the Way Home.
What about cigarettes? Those aren’t illegal (yet, you communist).
Most drivers don’t allow cigarettes for the sake of not stinking up the car. “I have a pretty high tolerance, especially with things like bachelor parties,” says Kristen, “but I can’t deal with messes and smells. Those make future [passengers] upset.” A stinky car is a common cause for drivers receiving low ratings, and if a driver’s rating dips below 4.6, they get suspended from the app.
As for smoking weed, it’s basically all of the above — it stinks up the car, and is, you know, illegal (federally speaking at least).
So no drugs or drinking in the backseat, fine. What about a casual OTPHJ?
As noted above, Uber has a strict “no touching” rule, but most drivers we talked to are fine with you making out on the way home, so long as it doesn’t “make a mess” and appears consensual (sorta).
“I’m a human being too and understand passion, and when you’re under the influence, I know it can be hard to police yourself,” says Kristen. “I don’t like to see it, though, and I don’t have anywhere to escape. I remain professional and see that as trying to look the other way the best I can. However, I do see it as unprofessional and immature most of the time. If I put a sign up, passengers would be offended, though. Thus, I’m stuck in a difficult position. My breaking point is messes, but that doesn’t mean I’m truly comfortable up to that point.”
Again, as with open booze, it’s pretty much a guessing game left up to the driver. Drivers like Kristen might be disgruntled but otherwise ignore you — drivers like Neil, not so much. “I’d never use a stranger’s vehicle for my sexual escapades,” says Neil. “It’s all about having respect for other people’s properties and especially the property of strangers who are doing you a favor by giving you a ride. If I see that in my car, I’ll turn on the interior lights, remind them to smile for the camera because they’re being recorded, and to be sure to stay vertical in the seats. The moment I see anything else is the moment I pull over and to the curb they go. No exceptions: I don’t play that BS with any rider. Riders forget who’s doing who the favor — you requested a ride and not a hotel room on wheels. I don’t want to clean up anyone’s bodily fluids whatsoever.”
So just like eco-friendly camping and inviting strippers into your hotel room, it all comes down to the bodily fluids you leave behind.
Ultimately then, what kind of consequences am I looking at if I mess up?
If you’re a dick about it, your driver will likely pull over and end the ride. Even if you promise a big tip or try to sip/smoke/fuck discreetly — assuming you don’t get pulled over — you’ll likely be given a one-star rating. Being one-starred will both lower your overall rating, and ensure you won’t be matched with that driver again.
That’s fine, right? I got to smoke weed and enjoy a beej in his car, so who cares if I never get matched with him again?
Sure, you could take a scorched earth approach to Uber, but remember, consistently receiving a lower rating could make drivers avoid you in the future. Not only that, if you really fuck up and piss off a driver, you can be banned from the app entirely. You should also consider the fact that an increasing amount of drivers like Neil are employing dashcams to record your drunk shenanigans, so you won’t be able to put up much of an argument if things go awry.
I basically can’t do anything, then?
Sitting quietly would be the respectable thing to do in someone else’s car, yes. But it really depends on the driver, and how little you care about other people. “There seems to be a false sense of security and privacy in rideshare vehicles, almost like being in a friend’s dorm, so I never rate people low unless it’s a mess issue, drug issue or they touch me or my phone,” says Kristen. “I once had a guy, after being repeatedly turned down, try to grab my phone to call his so he’d have my real number. Unless I feel that my property or body is threatened, I try to let people enjoy themselves — even if it’s annoying for a short while. Sure, that means there are no consequences for socially inappropriate behavior, but nights out are expensive and we all need them every now and then.”
Legal or not, getting in the habit of passing out or lighting up in the backseat will drastically drop your rating. The lower your rating, the less you’ll be picked up, and the less you get picked up, the less you can fuck around in the back of Ubers. It’s a deadly cycle, and you don’t want to end up having to ride the bus, do you? Drinking a bagged 40 in the back of an Uber is kind of fun; drinking a bagged 40 in the back of the bus is, on the other hand, a sign of a serious downward social trajectory.