LYFT can be used without a smartphone

What rating should you give your Uber, Lyft or other driver?

The gig economy seems to stay here. While Uber is still struggling with regulators on occasion, most of the smartphone app-powered gig companies have come up for every service imaginable.

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Do you want to pick someone up to take away from a nice restaurant that normally doesn't deliver? How about you run to the store and get some batteries for your TV remote? Favor can do it. What about someone who comes in and clears your place while you are away? Look no further than cell phone. If you can think of a small job that someone could do for you, there is probably an app that can help you find someone. It's very convenient.

The gig economy has a few quirks, however. Let's dig a little deeper into how it works.

This is how the gig economy works

Almost all gig economy companies operate in much the same way. So let's just take Uber as an example.

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An Uber driver (at least an UberX driver) is a normal person who uses their own car; Pretty much anyone who meets the basic criteria can sign up. They have a smartphone app from Uber that they can use to find concerts.

Uber's customers also use an app. If you want to ride, open the app, enter your location and a ping will be sent to the drivers nearby.

The Uber driver sitting down the street receives the notification and wants the job. You tap accept, drive by, pick you up, take you to your destination, and bring you back. Your credit card will be charged and you will move on with your day. You and the driver can rate each other.

The Uber driver is paid by Uber (minus the cost of providing the platform).

And that's it. Whatever the person does for you, it all works out broadly the same. There's just one little catch: the ratings.

Ratings and the gig economy

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Ratings make up a large part of most jobs in the gig economy. You determine how the company decides which contractors are doing great and which ones may embarrass the platform (and which customers are a nightmare). They don't want headlines about dodgy people using their apps. Reviews are a good way to do this.

The problem is that the implementation of this system leaves a lot to be desired. Although Uber is moving to a like / dislike system, most other gig companies are still using a five-star rating. You'd think that a five star rating is for a great driver, a four star rating is for a driver who gets you there and is pretty good all round, two or one is only really fair if they're terrible. That would make sense, wouldn't it?

Well, that's not how it works. Contractors working for gig economy companies must meet a minimum star rating. It's different across platforms, but all of the examples I could find required contractors to keep their average rating at four. Lyft, for example, tells drivers that an average rating below 4.8 is cause for concern and cell phone requires an average of 4.2, or that contractors will be cut off.

The math is pretty simple. If a contractor needs to keep their average rating above 4.5 stars, they'll be demoted by any rating lower than a perfect 5. A 4 is not "good" but "I think this person should be kicked off the platform". This is insane and completely contradicts how most people think about star ratings.

What rating should you give your driver?

It all boils down to this: if you hire someone who works for a gig economy company and they do their job without any major problems, you should probably give them a 5-star rating. Anything else could lower the average and jeopardize their work.

If there's a minor problem with the job, you've got it done - maybe you're taking a strange route or your car isn't perfectly clean - you should let them know here and there. It may feel satisfying to give them a 2 star rating, but it won't help them improve. Most gig economy companies are really bad at providing feedback to their contractors. After sharing your issues with the person, it is up to you what to review. If you are feeling nice, you can still give them a 5 star rating or you just don't bother to leave them a review.

Finally, if there's a big problem like zLyft driver shows up drunk or your Favor Runner tries to sell you drugs. The rating system is not the one that is used. File a formal complaint with the service and have it removed from them.

The gig economy is not going anywhere, but it's still found its feet. Things like reviews that really matter are not understood by everyone. It's a bit ridiculous that 4 stars should be considered a bad rating, but apparently it is when it comes to the gig economy.