Phones & RideHail?

Is it rude to the driver if I make a phone call during an Uber trip? What’s the etiquette here?

This is a passenger in a vehicle holding a smartphone. She looks angry.
image source: Boogich/Getty. Mashable (2018)

Dear Ms. Smartphone: When I take a ride hail trip in an Uber or Lyft do I have to make small talk to the driver? And, do you think it’s OK to pull out my phone and make a call to someone? I was in a vehicle last night with a friend, and they said it was rude to then call to a friend we had in common. Mike, Mill Valley.

Dear Mike: In the early days of Uber and it was almost required that you sat up front and exchanged conversation with the driver. Ride hailing trips were unlike a taxi with the plexiglass divide, and more like riding in someone’s personal vehicle. Here in 2020 we are still riding in someone’s personal vehicle, but the business model has become far more, well, business like.

Still, we all better off if we try to approach the driver with a conversational ice-breaker. A really nice piece by Anthony Ponce, a journalist turned driver, observes that when it comes to getting around town we’re living in a Goldilocks Zone. Taxis are on the decline and driverless cars are still at least a few years away. He says that leaves us in a unique window in history where we travel with others in the most natural places for conversation: personal cars.

OUtside YOur Phone..people

Talking on your phone in the ride hail vehicles reminds me of irritating customers who talk in a grocery store as a poor clerk, probably part time and underpaid, rings up the order and packs the bags. The caller on the phone is oblivious to the person in front of them who is providing a service.

On a different note, there is some evidence that a passenger talking on a phone will distract a driver, as the driver cannot avoid cognitively ‘tuning in’ to the conversation. I won’t go there and say that you should never talk on your phone during the trip, but consider texting instead. 

Share the journey…silently

There is one instance that riders overlook, and an opportunity to stay in touch with a third party outside the vehicle. Use the ‘safety toolkit’ in the Uber (or Lyft) app to send a bread-crumb trail of your journey, so your trusted contact will know exactly where you are en-route and when you will arrive. 

Dear Smartphone and Readers…

How mobile phones have evolved from bulky devices with antennas to small smartphones.

“To Wish You a Happy New Decade…” First there were Car Phones. Big bulky boxes carried in the trunk of a car for making an occasional call from the side of the road. Mobile phones with antennas succeeded them and gave rise to Phablets and Blackberries. During the past decade, many of us replaced our Cellphones with Smartphones. And, predictions for the next ten years? Less keyboard, more voice. Lovingly Yours, Dear Ms. Device.

Last Minute Shoppers & Phone

There are more people on phones this now…and less people in stores.

The 31 days of december are color blocked with six themes: e.g. pretend to work days, actually shop (Dec 24), and after christmas, destroy you body with food and alcohol
Credit: Matt Shirley

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Is it me, or is there a trend to do holiday shopping and prep at the finish line, say the final week before Christmas or Chaunakah? I have barely sent out cards, barely gone to stores, and barely ordered online. But, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the holidays and searching for gift ideas. Regina, Richmond

Dear Regina : When you say that you have spent a lot of time thinking about the holidays and searching, I presume that effort has been online. That would indeed be consistent with two last-minute trends described on ThinkWithGoogle. Before shoppers head to stores, they plan the trips online, search out price, and study the store location and driving directions. These searches are increasingly mobile. (On CyberMonday about 1/3 of the online sales were made on phone.) ThinkWithGoogle says online browsing is inspirational, a source for gift ideas, and that apparently peaks just one week before Christmas.

But, to answer your question of whether we procrastinate more because of phones, there is a case. With next day and two day delivery guarantees, shoppers can hold-off for longer. Some may hope to score a better deal, and for others, it means accumulating more paychecks before buying, keeping all options open, and maybe setting aside time to be home when the packages arrive.

Sometimes, it’s just hard to know the factors: when I grew up my family had a tradition of shopping for new winter coats on Christmas Eve. I don’t think it was about procrastination as much as the fact that coats went on sale then and it was nice to have new ones for the holiday.

In current times, road traffic may have a lot to do with putting off shopping until the last week. It is stressful driving and difficult to find a parking space at the malls. So information gathering is faster, better, and more informed when it takes place online. At the point of purchase, shoppers pick a location that is closest, check the store inventory, and visit when the travel time is best.

The presence of phones really does change our habits and everyday routines, so we should expect that they will change how we think about a holiday and share it. Maybe a future Christmas will put less emphasis on running between stores and accumulating presents and place more weight on taking holiday images, sharing symbols of the season, or just staying home!