Notes from the Back of a Car

Notes from the Back of a Car

Do you find yourself initiating conversations with your doorman, simply because you’re curious about his life? Have you ever asked your barber about his childhood? What about that lady you keep running into on the elevator? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might be a researcher — and not even know it!

I’m a professional researcher, but I also consider myself a “casual” researcher. I have a constant desire to learn about people, whether it’s in the context of a formal research experiment or on my ride to work in the morning.

In fact, I’ve unintentionally engaged in what I’ve deemed “Reverse Taxi Cab Confessions” over the past six months.

I live at the intersection of lazy and cheap, and I have I found that a $4 Uber ride is the perfect solution to my sleeping-in problem. Even if I hit snooze 5 or 6 times, I can still get to work on time. That’s what I call a win-win!

During my daily drives, I have been chatting up my Uber drivers, learning how they landed at Uber, what they like, what they dislike, and why they stay with it. I took notes on my conversations and searched for common threads. My sample size is embarrassingly high — I’ve probably taken over 150 Uber rides in the past six months. Oh well, at least it’s for research purposes! Here’s what I’ve learned:

1)      Uber does not adhere to a color-blind hiring process. I’m talking about cars, not people. In certain neighborhoods, Uber cars can only be one color — black.

2)      They don’t have all the answers either. If you’ve used Uber, you know that their terms of service are constantly changing. Random taxes and charges appear and disappear with seemingly every ride. Think your driver knows what’s going on? Think again. They’re just as frustrated as us riders by the lack of transparency from above.

3)      Mind your manners. Keep in mind that while you’re ranking your Uber driver on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, they’re ranking you too!

So to all you naturally curious folks out there, my point is this: Keep your eyes and ears peeled, because there are research opportunities all around you!

Elizabeth’s interest in research began at age 14 when her household was selected as a Nielsen Family. She’s been fascinated by ratings and measurement ever since!