Ask Miriam | How Do You Rate a Uber Driver Who Plays Loud, Offensive Music?

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Dear Miriam,

How do you rate/tip your Uber driver when the music on his radio is loud and the lyrics are offensive, but the drive is otherwise fine?

Signed,

Backseat Control

Dear Backseat,

Did you ask him to turn down the music? If not, you tip and rate as you would for any drive that otherwise went as this one did. You are entitled to have preferences, but are not entitled to penalize a driver for preferences you did not make known.

When you get in an Uber, you’re getting in someone’s personal space. It’s a weird dynamic no matter how you look at it. I like to think of the backseat in an Uber as my personal bubble. I can talk to my kids, send texts or listen to my headphones without thinking too much about how the driver is experiencing me.

Similarly, the driver can do whatever in the front seat, as long as it’s safe, without my input. I occasionally make temperature requests, but usually I zone out and let the magical problematical gig economy do its thing. If you’re not already bringing headphones with you, that’s your easiest solution.

Once, I was in a car and the driver was listening to a podcast about murder. It was weird and unsettling and I was, seriously, on my way to a funeral. He acknowledged that it was maybe not something I wanted to hear, but I figured, he’s the one driving and I’m just sitting here, so if he likes it … shrug. I appreciated him asking but was honestly surprised that he considered my auditory needs.

Another time, I had a driver who was listening to Christian radio, which included both preaching and singing. I didn’t say anything, and though I didn’t love the experience, I did love using my phone to get an inexpensive ride to exactly where I needed to go which, that day, happened to be an extremely annoying errand and required the driver waiting for him. I got what I needed, and he listed to what he wanted.

And because I’m sharing stories, I once had a cab driver (this was — gasp — before Uber) tell me he couldn’t drive me because I was bringing a case of wine to an event and he was a Muslim who couldn’t transport alcohol. Every Uber ride when I worry that a driver might actually give me a lower rating, I remember that principled cab driver and that we all have to be willing participants for this model of transportation and interaction with strangers to succeed.

You can ask your driver to change the music. If he says no, that would be a reason to give a low rating or no tip. But, if you don’t ask, you can tune it out mentally or drown it out with headphones. You can post about it on Facebook or write about it to an advice column. You can laugh it off or ride it out or be grumpy about it.

But remember you’re in someone’s car benefiting from someone’s ride, and a low rating or missed tip probably hurts the driver disproportionately to how the music might have annoyed you.

Be well,

Miriam

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