Uber’s 5-star Review is Not What You Think
I’ve always found rating systems confusing. This makes sense because even in high schools and colleges, grade inflation has crept in and become a national issue. If schools can’t figure out how to grade (isn’t that what they’re here for anyway?), then how can the rest of us figure out how to rank and rate movies, books, hotels and restaurants?
I once had a conversation with my significant other about a movie. The conversation went like this:
Her: Ugh, the acting was atrocious, but it was really funny.
Me: Really? I thought they were great! They were the ones that made it funny.
Her: Well, it suffered from other issues too like dialogue and a boring beginning.
Me: I kind of loved the dialogue. I give it a solid B-.
Her: It’s a B+ for me.
Oh, the confusion! We both have completely different rating systems so what’s the point of even doling out a grade? We learned a lot more by discussing the merits anyway.
So, bear with me here. Imagine going to a restaurant, maybe one recommended to you by your significant other or best friend. The food is fantastic, the service efficient and the ambiance was pretty good, not the best, but pretty good. You go home and tell your family about it. Maybe you even post on Facebook or other social media sites.
You tell everyone that it’s a solid 4-star restaurant. No one thinks twice about your review. Hey, 4-stars is pretty good and if you look up restaurants in your area you’ll note that there are plenty of really good dining options at 3-stars so those 4-star options are saved for those special dates.
What if I told you that those restaurants would lose business or cease to exist because they “only” got 4 stars? That even if you loved the food, but wanted to point out that something could be better, you’d be punishing the restaurant by not giving a perfect score? That would be completely ridiculous and unfair, right? I mean that would mean no restaurant deserved to be in business, or that everyone would be forced to inflate the scores in order to keep their favorite restaurants up and running.
Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening at Uber. You see, the rating system has a huge problem.
Uber Drivers Rated Under 5-stars Can Lose their Uber Driver Privilege
Uber drivers are rated out of 5 stars much like other service industries, except anything under 5 stars is considered somehow deemed unacceptable (see screenshot). That’s right, for a driver there really is no difference between being a 4.0 (4.5 even) and a 1.0. In fact, anything below a 4.5 rating = “below average” and we lose our right to drive when our rating drops below 4.7 on a consistent basis. Yeah, if you’re counting at home that means you can score an “A” and still get canned from your gig. Talk about pressure!
There are so many problems stemming from this rating system. The first comes from riders who are unfamiliar with Uber’s policy. They may like a driver and even be completely satisfied with their experience but leave a ‘low’ mark because they don’t understand what the rating can do to a driver. It’s like when you fill out those comment cards at restaurants. I know I never fill out ‘perfect’ for every category. I always figure that would mean nothing could be improved. But how ridiculous and awful would I feel if I got a waiter fired simply because I marked “good” instead of “great”? That’s exactly what it is with Uber drivers. Below average ratings can lead to deactivation as an Uber driver.
Okay, no problem, you may think. We just need to educate the riders how this all works. Ignoring the impossibility of this solution, that won’t work either. We’d still have a flawed system on our hands. You see, if we give a 5.0 rating to any passing experience, then there’s no differentiation between a good driver and an outstanding one – they would both receive a 5.0 . It’s like if I were to take a math exam and compare my score to a Ph.D candidate. If we both took an elementary school test, we may both end up with 100%! I’m the same! I’m an expert! Except that would be a really inefficient way to rank us.
So what’s the solution? Well, they could have changed the rating system to a simple pass/fail if they wanted to convey only that a driver was acceptable (this wouldn’t be ideal, but really there doesn’t seem to be any difference between getting a 3.0 and 1.0 and 4.0 rating at this point so it might as well be the same thing). Some will argue that they could relax the cut-off point. But I understand the need to keep strict cutoff points in order to ensure the safety and service at Uber.
So Uber is in a precarious situation. We’ll eventually end up with a bunch of 5.0 drivers. Maybe the best way to show differentiation and appreciation is through tipping (oh boy, that’s a whole other issue). Tipping, after all, is showing gratitude for exceptional service and the fact that it isn’t a part of the Uber culture is mindboggling and harmful to drivers and riders alike.
Finally, this is also a friendly public service announcement to all riders. If you’re happy with a driver, leave 5 stars. It’s not a perfect system, but in the one that we have we must ensure that we aren’t unfairly punishing drivers. You don’t want a good driver to lose his or her job because of a poor rating and unfortunately Uber has created a system where anything less than perfect is considered poor.
So get educated. Help a driver out! And if you really want to reward him or her for a job well done, don’t be afraid to tip. It’ll help both driver and rider in the long run.