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6 Things You Need to Know About Uber

Annie Pho, Latonya Holloway, and Andrea Tatum all have one thing in common: A mysterious Uber bill.

The three users had seemingly normal experiences with the ride-hailing app the night before, but then awoke to large bills with strange claims. Pho’s one-mile ride was raised from $7.41 to a whopping $100 for a cleaning fee for “bodily fluids,” Holloway was charged $55 instead of $10 for missing her ride, and Tatum was charged a flat $200 because her driver claimed she had left a feminine product in the backseat.

In these instances, Uber was misinformed and rightfully refunded all three users after they contacted customer service. But if it was Pho who had gotten sick in the backseat, a $100 or $200 charge would be warranted—it’s in the Uber terms of agreement, which you probably have never thoroughly read.

RELATED: Confessions of an Uber Driver—We’re Not Stupid!

At this point, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know about Uber. Since its inception in 2009, the mobile app has brought its transportation network to over 300 cities, 60 countries, and six continents. Uber is so popular, it actually has the power to start influencing U.S. auto sales.

Why buy a car when there’s Uber?

Sure everyone knows about Uber, but not every user is familiar with the ins and outs of the app as it constantly upgrades and adds new features. Here are six rules and tactics that you should know before you order up a car on your phone.

Repair or Cleaning Fees Will Cost You

If you’ve been drinking all night and feel like you’re going to be sick, hopping into an Uber is a risky bet. Unlike the cabbies who will simply kick to the curb if you vomit out their window, Uber drivers will be poised and ready to charge you for any damage to their vehicle (after all, it is their car).

RELATED: Uber Driver Goes Extra Mile and Returns Passenger’s Lost Stuff

Uber lists in its User Terms that riders are responsible for the cost of any repair or damage caused to the vehicle that exceeds normal “wear and tear.” More specifically, fees can range from $50 to $200 for any cosmetic or physical damage, such as vomiting or pet accidents. Still, the exact amount “depends on the extent of the damage”.

Bottom line: Your driver’s car is not your toilet.

Tip Is Not Included

You may have had this slightly awkward conversation with one of your Uber drivers when asking if they receive tips from the total fare. If they said no, they were telling the truth.

Uber doesn’t build tips into its charge because it only takes 20 percent of the fare from each ride. Since drivers are left with 80 percent, there’s no extra step in their business model to add a tip to the fare, which makes for a more seamless app experience. Uber even goes as far as to discourage tips on its website (“Gratuities are voluntary”) and in its employee handbook, according to an anonymous Uber driver. “They tell you not to accept tips,” says the driver. “I’ve occasionally had riders who have insisted on giving me tips after I explain that we aren’t supposed to accept them, but it’s rare.”

Bottom line: If you want to tip your Uber driver, bring cash.

Your Rating Does Matter

While it’s fun to flaunt your high Uber rating around friends, that rating is more than just a bragging right. Uber operates by a dual 5-star rating system where the drivers and passengers have an opportunity to rate each other after each ride. Drivers can get fired or “deactivated” if their overall rating falls below a 4.6, and a 4.6 can also be a kiss of death for a passenger.

“If I see anything under a 4.5, I’m going to pass,” says the anonymous driver. For drivers who patrol highly dense areas and cities, another request is sure to pop up in minutes so there’s no need to risk having an uncomfortable ride. “It takes a lot for me to give a low rating,” says the driver, who lists someone vomiting or making a mess, someone being rude or racist, or someone smoking as behaviors that would warrant a low rating. “It’s about them not respecting your car as your car—it’s not a cab.”

Bottom line: Treat Uber drivers how you would want to be treated.

You Can Now Track Your Ride

Worrisome parents (and/or significant others) can now rejoice thanks to Uber’s new Share My ETA option, which tracks a passenger up to their final destination.

RELATED: Is Uber Safe?

Here’s how: When drivers pick up their passengers, the passenger can enter the destination and the contact information for the people they want to share it with. The selected recipients will receive a text message with a link where they can then track the trip. This new journey-tracking feature shows that Uber is poised to hop on the safety-app bandwagon that has been taking college campuses across the country by storm.

Bottom line: Uber is your new buddy system.

Driver Turns Delivery Guy, Messenger, and More

If you haven’t seen these new Uber features yet, make sure to update your app.

Take advantage of UberEats to have a locally curated and pre-prepared lunch menu sent right to your door (brunch and dinner availability varies, depending on your city). In NYC, UberRush will send a messenger to carryout basically any task. Whether hand-delivering documents, picking up dry cleaning, or sending a dozen roses across town, you can track your delivery and will be notified when it’s completed. There is also UberAssist, which is designed to help those with special needs or who need extra assistance by drivers who are trained by Open Doors Organization.

Bottom line: Uber can do almost anything.

Uber Might (Allegedly) Be a Bully

Uber isn’t the only transportation app out there, but it certainly rules the rideshare playground. But does it play by fair rules?

In recent headlines, the company has been exposed for poaching drivers from rival company Lyft, accused of firing drivers who speak out honestly on social media, and has been embroiled in a criminal trial of two top executives in France. In the U.S., Uber has been involved in at least 173 lawsuits since October 2012, reports Business Insider, which includes a class-action lawsuit over employment rights in California.

Bottom line: When you take on global expansion and the longstanding taxi industry, you might make an enemy in the sandbox.

—Jackie Strause

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This article was originally published by Yahoo! Travel under the headline Don’t Get Taken for a Ride: 6 Things You Need to Know About Uber. It is reprinted here with permission.

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