Uber drivers spill on worst passengers
Having driven an Uber in Sydney for three years, Rod has on several occasions been offered sex or drugs by his passengers - and at least one time, both at once.
He only drives for the ride-sharing service 10 to 15 hours a week as a way of making some pocket money, but that's enough to see the city's colourful side.
Rod, not his real name, invited news.com.au on a ride-around to hear his war stories, from unwitting drug runs to a fate worse than vomit-covered car carpet.
"Years back when Uber was still kind of new, I kept hearing stories about ridiculous amounts of money drivers were making on New Year's Eve," Rod explained.
"I was pretty sick of going out to parties, it had become pretty mundane, so I thought I'd get in on it and signed up to be a driver."
And so it was that Rod found himself hurtling through Sydney's M5 Tunnel in the early hours of January 1, 2016, when the young woman in his passenger seat became overwhelmed with excitement.
"This girl was like, 'Oh my God, it's the New Year! Do you wanna see my boobs?'"
With that, she gleefully flashed him. Rod kept his eyes on the road, so as to not become distracted or veer into the tunnel wall.
"But I thanked her anyway," he said.
Socially excited and flirty passengers aren't uncommon, especially when the pick-up is a watering hole of some sort, he said.
"The wildest story is when I picked up this girl from (a bar in the inner-east)," he said.
"She was cracking onto me through the course of the trip, talking about how her partner was away and she was so lonely. And then the clincher, she asked if I wanted to do a line of cocaine … off of a certain part of her body.
"I got to her destination and then I got a ping for a new job and it was, like, saved by the bell. It's obviously a pretty big no-no to sleep with a passenger."
Rod has heard of drivers getting a job only to arrive at a pick-up and find someone wanting them to drop a package somewhere.
He's delivered a set of keys to a loved one who's been locked out of their house, but never a suspicious item.
"The smart (drivers) drive off," he said.
"I haven't had the dodgy packages but I've had what were pretty clearly drug deals.
"You get a trip from the city out to some inner-western suburb, you wait while they jump out and knock on the door, do a quick shake and then get back in to return to the pub in the city.
"It's pretty obvious what's going on. Or they just blatantly tell you at the end. What do you do?"
When it comes to really inappropriate passenger behaviour, Rod said there was almost always one common denominator - alcohol.
"I had an girl who I picked up from the races who had had way too much to drink. Her friends threw her in the back and sent her home. We had to pull over twice and I held her hair while she vomited into a rubbish bin in the street.
"I was feeding her bottles of water," Rod said.
"It was quite embarrassing for her. She was absolutely chucking in broad daylight. Most people would've driven off but I felt a kind of duty of care for her.
"And to be honest, there was a massive surge - 3.3 (times the normal fare) from the racetrack to Warringah. I said to her, 'Your friends promised they'll help you pay for this trip and you should take them up on it.'"
His hyper vigilance and quick-thinking prevented the back seats of his luxury European sedan being covered in spew that day.
"Now I avoid anyone who seems really, really wasted," Rod said.
"I've seen a few people who were so wasted they couldn't stand, they could barely speak. I've thought, no thanks, I don't want that, so I've driven off."
But someone spewing in the back seat isn't the worst thing Rod has to deal with.
"Glitter is much, much worse than vomit," he laughed.
"It's the worst. You can't get rid of it - it takes months to get rid of it. Once I did a wedding trip, I drove a couple getting married to their wedding on an Uber trip. The bride was beautiful but she was covered in glitter.
"I didn't want to ruin her day so I didn't say anything or charge a cleaning fee, but it went everywhere."
It means there's one time of year that Rod particularly loathes - the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which he described as a "nightmare" for his upholstery.
"I picked up these guys last year and they were covered in glitter. The car was a mess, like a glitter bomb had gone off. It was unbelievable," he said.
Pradesh, another driver who spoke to news.com.au, works in the Queensland town of Toowoomba, where he's also a university student, and agreed that booze was to blame for most of his unpleasant encounters.
"One gentleman, he fell asleep drunk and had an accident," Pradesh said. "He wet himself."
The cost of cleaning the seat and deodorising the car was later charged back to the man, who didn't even seem to realise what he'd done.
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The Indian-born driver recently encountered a racist passenger, also drunk, who kept mocking his accent and asking if Pradesh had come to Australia by boat.
"It didn't bother me. He was just stupid and drunk … I haven't had that sort of thing many times, which is good," he said.
Ahmed, another Sydney driver, opened up to news.com.au about a more recent passenger pitfall - the explosion in the number of scammers on the platform.
"You accept and ride, then get a message from the passenger saying it's for a elderly mother or daughter who doesn't have the app or something, they ask for your mobile number," he explained.
The driver then receives a text message that appears to be from Uber, saying their account is compromised and urging them to log in and change their password.
"It's a fake site … the scammer gets your details," he said.
Ahmed has been targeted a handful of times but saw a warning about the con on a Facebook group for Uber drivers and knew what to look for.
Others haven't been so lucky, he said. He knows of several drivers who've had their passwords quickly changed after falling for the fake login page.
"The scammer withdraws all of their earnings," Ahmed said. "Some have lost hundreds of dollars."
Names have been changed at the request of the drivers