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Why I Frequently Lie to Uber Drivers

When I was a teenager, I was taking a flight out of the country when my parents weren’t home.  They arranged for a car to pick me up and take me to the airport.

When the car showed up, the man driving got out of the car quickly and exclaimed that he really had to use the bathroom.  I opened the door up, let him into the house, and into the bathroom.

When I told my brother this, he (rightfully) flipped out at me.  He explained that if someone learned they were picking up a teenage girl, chances were her parents were out of town.  Even though it wasn’t likely, he could have been scoping the house for valuables or planning worse.  And again, even though it wasn’t likely, the risk and consequences outweighed any sort of politeness.  He suggested next time I speedily get into the car and direct him to the nearest gas station.

Rewind to me now and sliiiightly older than a teenager.  I take a lot of early morning Uber rides to the airport.

I used to live in an apartment and once I moved into a house, the conversation lines changed dramatically.

“So, that’s a big house to live in alone.”
Oh, I don’t live alone, I live with my husband.
Oh!  He must be out of town then!  I didn’t see anyone else there!”
Oh no, he’s just sleeping.
“So, you must make a lot of money to live in an area like this.”
We have the smallest house on the block, we got lucky.
“So what does your husband do?”

Et cetera et cetera.

I know the drivers are being polite and are curious, but ever since I moved into the house, the conversation has gotten pretty invasive.  I usually get asked these questions–whether my husband is in town, what he does, and questions aimed at how much money I make.

Thinking back to my brother’s advice, these questions make me really nervous.  Yes, the chance of something happening is still really low, but at this point, a lot of drivers are learning where I live.  My husband travels a lot, so if I mentioned that, they would realize my house is completely empty.

So out of an abundance of caution, I always say my husband is home.  No matter what.  I always downplay the value of my house.  I always talk about my bartending, not my desk job.  Or say I’m running a blog and hoping it takes off.  Anything to suggest we are not worth robbing.

A bit paranoid?  Probably.  But the risk is not worth it.

Plus, is it just me, or are these questions pretty invasive?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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26 comments

  1. I always say that the thing I’m most worried about if someone were to break in our house is NOT that they would take our crappy stuff, but that they would be so ANGRY that they wasted their time breaking into a house only to find junk that they would just destroy things just to be petty 😀

  2. YOU ARE RIGHT. Uber is a serious privacy threat in any case, as the CEO made clear, they know where you live and your patterns. It is just a matter of time before an Uber driver is convicted in a home invasion, mark my words. My mother was attacked in her home by a taxi driver who had taken her home on an earlier occasion. I live in a secured building with a doorman, but this is a major part of the reason why: 1) I rarely take Uber, 2) My billing address is a PO Box; and 3) I generally do not engage in conversation with them at all. You are not obliged to.

    By the way, my mother always has men’s clothes in her car and visible in her home. You are not obliged to “be nice” to the Uber driver beyond common courtesy – this is a typical female response based on our socialization.

  3. You don’t sound overly paranoid at all. It’s good practice for anyone to not give out too many details. Even though I live in an apartment building & have friends watching my place, I’m reluctant to say how long I will be gone for.

  4. I think a line or was crossed., personally.

    • not “think” the questions crossed the line. They did. Way too personal. Not at all related to his service. “Why do you ask?” Is a good response. Then when the driver tries to explain “Trying to be friendly” or “just curious”, just say nothing or “Oh” and then say NOTHING. If the driver still persists, THEN you say: sorry but I find your questions too personal. “My husband and I are private people.”

  5. Perhaps the questions are invasive, but I think also people are naturally curious and like learning about others. I drive for Uber (and take Uber as a passenger) and frankly I wouldn’t do it unless I had the (quite frequent) passenger that I could banter with and learn from about them. My worst passenger is the type that somehow expects me to treat them like a black car limo driver while not understanding they are getting a cut-rate service that for now is an economic aberration (the rates are subsidized by VC money – >100% of the consumer surplus goes to the passenger.)

    I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about myself driving for Uber. Quite often I come across privileged ‘yuppies’ who while polite, exude a patronizing/condescending attitude towards me. They are often in their twenties & thirties, white collar, and yes, white.

    I realized that previously in my life (when I was a McKinsey mgmt consultant and hedge fund Analyst, and yes, I graduated from an Ivy League school so please don’t try to use the ‘bitter’ argument on me), I was the same way with taxi drivers – while polite, I had already ‘classified’ them in my mind and didn’t give them the same dignity I would give to a stranger I met at a business conference.

    Uber keeps logs. That is why despite hundreds of thousands of rides given to-date, there have been very few events the kinds of which you write about as being fearful of. Yes, perhaps as a single woman you should take more care, but I do see embedded in that approach a type of condescension that you should be self-aware of. You might actually get more out of these interactions if you mirrored your Uber drivers’ curiosity and started asking them about themselves. Everyone has a story.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      That’s an interesting point, and I think it’s a good strategy to turn the conversation towards them.

      It’s not only taxi/uber drivers in my case, but anyone who would ask me these sorts of things. It’s just I rarely get asked outside of these situations about whether or not people are home.

      It’d say it’s out of fear rather than condescension, but I’m definitely willing to look inwardly at that. It’s just even though the chances are minimum, the risk is high. Just like in college, I wouldn’t take rides alone with guys I barely know. I’m sure all of them were fine, but the risk factor way outweighed anything else.

    • Maybe it’s just me (and trust me, I talk to taxi drivers etc. at length), but I don’t think you should ever be forced to carry on extensive conversation with anyone (much less someone who has been hired to carry out a service). I don’t really understand what rate your are paying them has anything to do with the argument. For example, do you distinguish between city taxi cabs and Ubers? Why is it just limo drivers that can be limited to discrete exchanges of pleasantries. If after we’ve made a polite introduction, I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting a service (haircut, massage, ride to the airport) to continue in silence.

      Uber’s business model does not become a social driving simply because lay people sign up to drive, it’s still a taxi service.

    • I was a professional driver for a number of years. At NO point in time was it ok to be that personal with a customer. Mainly because those types of questions are very invasive and none of the drivers business. Making small talk with passengers is one thing, and with some people even expected. But asking how much your house is worth, how much money you make and is your husband home, those types of questions should raise red flags for ANYONE. Remember, it is far better to be safe than sorry. Use your instincts, you have them for a reason!

    • IT DOESN’T MATTER! We are just using a service we don’t care who gets paid how. You don’t need to know what color socks i’m wearing or if where I’m going is my job or my home. JUST DRIVE.

  6. Headline: “Uber driver tries to be friendly, break awkward silence; Woman flees in terror”

    I’m not one to worry that “Law & Order” or “CSI” reflects the real world. Gee, give the drivers a break. They really are just trying to make things less uncomfortable. Every driver I’ve ever had talked too much. It’s just the way it is. As for making up a fake husband who is “still asleep,” lots of ladies do that. Then, if the driver asks what he does for a living, tell the driver your husband is a cop!

    If you really want to feel safer, do what we do: hire a regular driver. I know my driver. She’s brought her daughter with her to pick me up at the airport. My mom knows her, and her husband too. I have no fear if she sees valuable things in the house, no worries if she shows up and I have to tell her I’m not ready yet. Yeah, she charges more than Uber.

    You get what you for. You want Uber prices, you get Uber drivers.

    Or, do like the 99% and just drive yourself to the airport. Whoa. Did I really just suggest that?!

  7. 1. Just say I am renting the house.
    2. Or I was just at my sister/brothers/parents place when the conversation starts.

    I think when this conversation is starting, people are already judging you (“you are rich …”) so I don’t feel guilty judging them back.

    Its the same way sometimes when you walk to a walmart cashier and say I need three $1000 money orders when people infront of you and behind you are getting their paychecks cashed.

  8. So what you’re saying is that you live in a big house and people are rarely home. I wouldn’t tell uber, my priest much less an entire blog about this. People are crazy. I’ll start paranoid.

  9. I never call Uber from my house. I walk to the nearby Goodwill shop and order from there.

  10. Why do you owe answers to personal questions by a complete stranger? Just smile and change the subject, or open your Kindle to start reading.

  11. Wile i think giving out detailed information on your personal live to an extent is ok just dont go over board. As i also think we are all human beings and all have feelings. Just think of being that driver who has to drive this log around never starting a nice conversation to make time pass by better through thier bad day or great day. Asking about the money was to much but as far about the family just say if your married or happly single use first nemes when talking about the kids. Its called be smart but be human still.

    • You could take the time spent waiting for either a taxi or an uber car and learn to spell and use proper sentence structure. If you are not a native English speaker, I apologize. However, my husband has been in this country less than three years and his English (including grammar) is perfect.

  12. or you could take advantage of the situation, wait in front of the house of a neighbor you dislike and tell the driver the house will be empty for a month

  13. This reminds me of the time my family and I landed in a Mexican City at midnight. The cab driver was in a chatty mood. He told us he used to live in the states but had to go back to Mexico or go to Leavenworth for murder. He told us how it was all in self defense. Yikes! Sometimes you become really conscious of the position you are in. I don’t think he meant any harm. Just rambling about his life. Nothing wrong about trusting your gut though!

  14. these are crazy stuffs! paranoid? yes of course. I ride Uber almost every day and it’s just great and more secured. if Uber is so dangerous as most have suggested, then why not call for taxi? but because it’s cheap,and for greed and pride u will still ride anyway.crazy talks.

  15. I do the same, with service people who work in my home, etc. I also don’t answer my door if I’m not expecting anyone.

  16. It keeps happening! I ride uber everyday and one of the drivers turned over my work badge around my neck to view the information on it! I told Uber about it and was ignored.

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