Should You Charge An Uber Passenger For Returning A Lost Phone?

Should you charge an Uber passenger for returning a lost cell phone? After every ride, I usually do a quick sweep to make sure nobody left anything behind. I use the flashlight on my phone too look around, and sometimes passengers leave more valuable items, like a cell phone. How can you return it, should you return it, and if you do, should you charge?

Watch my video below to see my answer, then read the transcript if you’d like.

Try to avoid the lost item problem by being proactive

The proactive approach is to avoid this situation in the first place, because you don’t want to deal with it. Just do a quick sweep of your car. If you don’t check or you miss a cell phone on your sweep, your passenger from earlier might call and say, “Hey, I think I left my cell phone in your car!” Or they will report a lost item to Uber.

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The first thing you want to remember is that you’re under no obligation to return it. Smart phones are expensive, and you know how many passengers just get in and stare at their phone, so you know it’s important to them. Some drivers will actually just deliver it for free and hope for a tip or hope for the good karma. To be honest, if it’s quick and easy, if it’s a few minutes away and I’m not super busy, I’m happy to go out of my way for the good karma and hope for the best. Maybe I get a tip. Maybe I don’t. That would kind of still suck, but at the end of the day, sometimes the good karma is worth it for doing just a little bit out of the way.

My strategy for returning phones

Let’s say I’m already at home relaxing on the couch, drinking a beer, or I’m already doing something else. In that case I have a different strategy. I’ll tell them that I’m already doing something else or far away. I say, “Hey. I’ll be available at this time and place. You can come pick it up at your leisure.” Right? That’s one option that you can give them. I also give them the option, “I can deliver it to you for a fixed price.”

Now, my friend Sam actually wrote a blog post about this and his strategy, which is pretty similar. Basically, what you tell them is, “Hey. I’m at this location. Feel free to swing by and grab it, or alternatively, I can drop it off for you later or right now for $20, $40.” Whatever you think is fair payment for your time. You’re not trying to rip anyone off. You’re not trying to take advantage of someone because they left their phone in the car, but at the end of the day, I think I should be compensated for my time. I’m not going to go drive an hour or two hours to return someone’s phone because they left it in my car and not get any payment.

Ask for payment but offer a free option too

I think it’s very reasonable to expect a reasonable payment. If normally you make $20, $25 an hour and you’re still working, obviously you have to take time out of your day. The passenger should be charged accordingly. I think that’s very reasonable. I’m not holding the phone hostage, either, because I tell them, “Hey. You can come pick up the phone for free. I’ll be available at this time and place.” That’s not a big deal to me. But if they want me to go out of my way and do something for them it’s going to cost them a little money.

Like I said, if it’s close and easy, I’ll do it for the good karma and hope for the best. If it’s not, I think it’s pretty reasonable to charge them for it. You don’t want to hold their phone hostage and say, “I’ll only do it for this amount of money.” I think presenting them with options is a much smarter way to go about things.

Some of you might think this is a little harsh, but remember: You’re running a business. You returning the phone to a passenger makes Uber look great. Uber is going to be super happy about this, but you’re not going to really get anything out of it. You’re not going to get a higher rating. You may or may not get a tip. There’s really no way for you to get that passenger again. You’re building a lot of good will and doing a great thing, but I think you should be rewarded monetarily for it.

If you guys want to get real official, you can actually use an app, like QuickBooks Self-Employed, to invoice the passenger using only their email. One cool feature for drivers, too, is they can even set up payment processing through QuickBooks Self-Employed, so they can pay you an invoice if they don’t have cash. They can actually pay an invoice using their email through their debit or credit card. As someone who has been freelancing for many, many years, I can tell you, it’s a hassle to get paid sometimes. It’s always super important to make it as easy as possible for people to pay you. That’s one thing I like about the QBSE app. Once they pay the invoice, go ahead and return that phone, or once you get there, you can use that invoicing feature to charge them if they don’t have cash on hand.

Of course, this also works in a whole host of different situations for drivers, whether it’s damage, messes, or other things. If you’re interested in running a legitimate business, get an app like QBSE to categorize your income and expenses, and you’ll be able to handle all of these situations. Definitely curious to know what your feedback is. What would you do in this scenario if a passenger left a phone behind and they asked you to come deliver it for free? Do you set the tone and use this, or do you go out of your way to drop off a passenger’s phone for free?

I’d love to hear from you guys in the comments. If you liked this video, give it a thumbs up. If you don’t, leave a comment. Let me know why. I look forward to hearing from you. Subscribe to the channel. We’ve got lots more great content coming out soon. Take care.

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