Uber lets its drivers rate their passengers, and its passengers rate their drivers. These scores should be public.
Some Uber users have been understandably curious about whether their chauffeurs consider them charming or churlish; over the weekend a workaround that let people see their Uber passenger ratings popped up. Uber quickly shut it down. Instead of blocking access to passenger rates, Uber should have taken them a step farther, and made them searchable.
Driving people around for a living is hard. Passengers can be more than rude. They can yell at each other or the driver the entire ride, peppering their diatribes with racial slurs. They can try to smoke cigarettes out the window. They can have weird sex in the back seat, or (worst of all) projectile vomit a rancid mix of curry and whiskey all over that same backseat.
I briefly worked as a horse and carriage driver in Chicago after college. Even on those quaint, overpriced tourist clods around the Magnificent Mile, my passengers were sometimes shockingly rude, like caricatures of arseholes. No tips, smuggling and spilling beer all over the carriage, punching horses in the torso. (That last thing only happened once, but still.)
There's a reason why HBO had a show called Taxicab Confessions. People misbehave when strangers drive them around for money. Instituting public passenger ratings would help curb bad behaviour, which would be great for drivers. It would be fair to passengers, who should be able to find out what their drivers think of them. Yes, passengers would have to deal with knowing that they couldn't act like maniacs in a hired car with impunity. But people should have to deal with that.
Last year, Uber engineer Dom Anthony Narducci told Quora that Uber didn't make passenger reviews public for "security reasons."
"I know our users are all amazing and would never do such a thing but its not infeasible to see a customer harass a driver they have had previously for giving them a bad rating," he wrote. So -- the biggest downside to making passenger rating public, according to an Uber employee, is that Uber passengers might be mean to the drivers who gave them a bad ranking.
Nevermind that Uber doesn't appear to be worried that drivers will be mean to passengers who gave them a bad rating. Uber could ban passengers who lash out at their dissatisfied drivers.
Narducci hinted that Uber is looking for ways to integrate passenger ratings, which highlights that the company recognises their worth. But Uber is taking too long to implement what should be a simple decision.
It's also not unprecedented. Ebay, for instance, makes buyer and seller ratings public, to encourage overall good behaviour. There's no good reason why Uber users have to awkwardly ask their driver for their rating, or contact customer service. It should be easy to access.
Uber talks a big game about being better than the traditional cab experience. Driving a cab is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. If Uber wants to distinguish the experience even more, instituting public passenger ratings would hold Uber passengers up to a higher standard of conduct and help make the service stand apart as a higher-end experience, even as the company offers lower-priced options. It would make the driver/passenger rating system more equal by giving passengers the same access to their ranking. Plenty of passengers want to know how they rate, and would take pride in flaunting a high rating. It could be something to put in a resume, evidence that someone is not a menace.
Yes, the knowledge that your Uber driver is judging you makes the whole experience more stressful for passengers. But they're doing it anyway. You should know what they're saying... and they should be able to tell the world if you're the type of person who pukes out the window and insists on blasting "Mambo Number 5" the entire car ride.