Perhaps the greatest feature of Uber (in addition to cheap rides) is the ability to give drivers a star rating.

The system is not just window dressing to give customers a chance to blow off steam – drivers genuinely care about their rating and Uber itself, flush with a billion dollars or so of venture capital, employs a crack team of people on the customer service end to reply to quite literally every complaint a customer puts forth.

RELATED: 10 Mandarin Phrases to Make Your Next Uber Ride Smoother

I've complained about rides in both English and Chinese, and each time I've received a response in the same language I've written to them in. So even if you're not fluent in Chinese, feel free to complain away – and be content in the fact that your complaint will not only be heard, but responded to as well. According to Uber, the drivers get the feedback too.

Extra bonus: if you're extra whiney (or sincere), they'll toss a few kuai of Uber credit your way. 

Of course with great power comes great responsibility.

We as customers have the awesome power to accelerate the Darwinian evolution of Uber as a service, and giving every driver a one star because you found his choice of dashboard air freshener to be both tacky and olfactorally offensive is unlikely to result in productive service evolution. On the flip side, an automatic five star rating for every driver also does nothing to drive behavioral change.

So how to rate a driver? Given you only have five stars to play with, it helps to have a rational, consistent system to offer feedback.

As a veteran of about 15 to 20 Uber rides a week for the past six months or so, I've developed my own standard of rating drivers. Yours of course may be quite different; but for those of you who live on the extremes (it's either a five-star ride or utter shite), here are my guidelines on how to change the way you rate your driver.

Consistency is key
First of all, I start every driver with a default five-star rating. The way I see it, anyone willing to deal with the hassle spending their day fighting road-raging Beijing traffic and AQI 500 roadside air just to be my personal chauffeur deserves five stars for just not killing themselves in despair to begin with.

Basically, if nothing heinous happens during my ride, the driver gets five stars. However, I am on the lookout for deductions – violate any of the principles below and there goes the five-star rating.

Driver has disabled or blocked seatbelts in the back (-3 stars)
I'm a stickler for safety and if my driver has covered the belts with some ridiculously tacky seatcover or stuffed the buckles underneath the seat bench and thus rendering them unusable, the driver deserves to be shamed into submission.

Failure to listen to passenger's directions (-2 stars)
I take the same route every day and after 100 or more trips I know exactly what the best way to get there is, and I am able to communicate it in fairly coherent Chinese. However, many a driver assumes that you as a laowai could not possibly know what they are talking about, so the driver mindlessly follows the mandated GPS route which inevitably sends you into the most congested roads in the city. This is an offence worthy of a two-star demotion.

Asking you where you are for pick-up using arcane geographic references (-2 stars)
There's nothing quite as frustrating for a semi-literate expat than using Uber – a miracle of modern technology that can pinpoint your exact location without you needing to be able to describe it in detailed Chinese – only to have your driver attempt to find you by rattling off the Chinese names of tiny streetside shops that fail to register with you as a foreigner. A typical conversation:

Me: I am at the East Gate of Compound A. Across the street is the main entrance to Compound B. It's right where the GPS signal says I am.
Driver: Oh you mean near the [obscure Chinese-only shopfront name]?
Me: I'm not sure. Actually I am at the East Gate of Compound A. Across the street is the main entrance to Compound B. It's right where the GPS signal says I am.
Driver: Is that near the [additional obscure Chinese-only shopfront name]?
Me: I have no idea where that is. Can't you just go where the GPS signal says I am?
Driver: North of intersection near the [third obscure Chinese-only shopfront name], right?
Me: Grrr ...

Look, driver, I appreciate you trying to be helpful but to be perfectly honest, half the time I have no idea where I am. Just find me please, it's not that hard.

Smoking / uncontrolled release of intestinal gas (-2 stars)
This one speaks for itself. Sorry, no exceptions. Smoke on your break and figure out what the hell is making you fart and don't eat it before your shift.

Pandering  (-1 star)
If the driver begs me for a five-star rating, I automatically deduct one star. Hell that's like a waitress begging for a 15 percent tip. Conduct unbecoming to genuine service.

Engaging in unsolicited banter (-1 star)
Sometimes I'm in the mood to banter with my driver (like when I am drunk, alone and my phone's battery has died), but other times I am not interested in answering the same five questions everyone I've ever met has asked me already.

What are your standards for rating? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Sampi, Business Insider


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