Uber’s 5-Star Inflation

The way Uber’s ratings system works, a driver can be put on a short leash or even kicked out if they receive two many 4-star ratings on the company’s 1-5 star system. This system encourages what you could call the “group project mentality”- the automatic hand out of five stars because who are you to hurt someone else’s prospects? In an article written by Forbes magazine, Jeff Bercovici describes an Uber experience during which the driver was continuously lost and at the end so terrified of a below 5-star review he wouldn’t let the writer out of the car until he had received it. As Bercovici notes, the system not only terrorizes drivers, but also misleads riders.

Peer-to-peer networks such as Uber and Airbnb depend on the issuing of ratings by individuals in those networks so as to confirm the reliability and quality of the transactions, as well as simply the safety. However, a major challenge to this system is the demand for individuals to pass judgment on one another- especially when that judgment may have dire consequences for the subject. As Bercovici puts it;

In theory, for a driver to waste your time/endanger your life/make you carsick/etc. and then lay on a guilt trip and ask that you lie on his behalf is adding insult to injury. It’s a justification for knocking off an additional star or two. But mostly we don’t do that, because we’re human beings. Withholding something that costs me nothing to give and has real value to someone else doesn’t feel like justice. It feels like spite.

Uber is able to boast that the majority of their drivers carry a near-perfect rating. However, if 5-stars is the automatic handout, the rating system is misleading and will eventually create a large crack in the efficiency-based angle of Uber’s mission. Hypothetically, if an individual continues to be paired with lost drivers boasting 5-stars, the trained taxi-drivers may once again have the upper hand in the market.


Read more here- “Uber’s Ratings Terrorize Drivers and Trick Riders. Why Not Fix Them?,” (Jeff Bercovici, Forbes)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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