LOGAN SQUARE — Ask Rubel Chowdhury if he's had any bad passengers after six months of driving for Uber and he'll probably tell you a particular story.
"He was drunk and didn't know his own address. We were driving around in circles, and he had to call someone, I think his wife, for directions," said Chowdhury, who noted that drivers only get paid for the distance between the start and destination, not for time of the trip or number of miles driven.
"I got paid $6.50 for that ride. I did not give him five stars."
Tanveer Ali tells the best way to find out how drivers rate you:
Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft give drivers and passengers alike the ability to rate each other on a five-star scale — five being the best, one being the worst — after each trip. The systems exist primarily to keep drivers and passengers safe, the companies say.
But they've also become a way through which drivers express the frustrations — or joy — that they get out of taking passengers from one spot to another.
At the very least, they give drivers a heads-up: This passenger could be trouble.
"The lowest-rated passenger I've ever had was a 2.8," said Wycliffe Tamale, a 27-year-old Kenwood resident. "He came to the car late and just started cussing people out. He was what he was."
The rating system, both with respect to drivers and passengers, adds a layer of safety that would give people who are otherwise strangers a sense of what to expect, Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said.
"The Lyft experience was designed for both passengers and drivers. We want it to be as much like driving with your friend in the car as possible," Wilson said.
Chris Taylor, general manager for Uber Chicago, said his company uses the ratings system much like Lyft does. Drivers can see the ratings of prospective passengers before picking them up and are never matched with passengers whom they have previously rated three or lower.
Chicago taxi drivers have said they'd like the chance to rate their fares.
"I would love the ability to rate my passengers," taxi driver Munir Sadruddin said. "We go through a lot of abuse, and we just have to take it."
After rating passengers, ride-sharing drivers often forward on separate comments to the company that a passenger might be vomit-prone, or even say "Hey, that was a really great passenger," Taylor said.
"I don't even look at the ratings when I pick someone up," said driver and actor James Evans, a 73-year-old Old Irving Park resident. "I trust that Uber, if somebody is abusive all of the time, would eliminate them out of the spectrum."
But Evans does rate his passengers — he's had about 3,000 of them since August 2013. He almost always gives his passengers high rating.
"I love the people I pick up," Evans said, adding that he's had a "couple who have been abusive."
For a brief period this summer, Uber riders were able to see their passenger ratings before the company patched its code.
Now drivers of both services know their own scores, but passengers aren't able to see theirs.
(Chowdhury said he saw that a DNAinfo Chicago reporter with a 5.0 rating requested a ride before accepting the fare.)
But ask ride-sharing drivers in Chicago and they'll say there's really only one foolproof way to keep a good passenger rating: Be considerate.
"Most of the time when I rate someone it's based on how long it takes to come to me," Tamale said. "I'm talking about being considerate. Some don't even say they are sorry I was late.
"Just be considerate," Tamale said.
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