Photo: Uber, Art by Jason Torchinsky

Few things are as awkward as getting into the wrong car with a random stranger at the wheel, and few things are as scary as some random person yanking on your car doors. But it’s happening all around the country, The Wall Street Journal reports. And it’s all thanks to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

I’ve definitely done it before; I’ve hailed an Uber, and within 30 seconds of seeing the inevitable silver Toyota Camry on my screen, I spot such a vehicle headed my way. “Wow, that was quick,” I think to myself as I step to the curb and wave the driver down. Except, I don’t get a wave back, and the car doesn’t halt. Instead, the person at the helm speeds past with a confused look on her face.

Advertisement

According to the WSJ, other Uber-ers have had much more awkward moments than my little waving incident: they’re actually loading up, and getting into the wrong cars, because—unlike taxis— Ubers are just normal cars, only sometimes distinguished from the masses by a sign or placard. It’s an easy mistake to make!

But it’s a big deal, because I don’t know about you, but if some random person opens up my car door and hops in, I’m probably going to need to change my trousers. And in other more Wild West-ish parts of the country where people like to pull out their firearms for minor transgressions, that trouser change may fall on the side of the person hopping into the wrong car.

The WSJ mentions a few examples of such strange ride-hailing experiences, like when two musicians in Toronto pulled over to get directions, only to have a pair of strangers load their luggage into the car’s trunk.

Advertisement

When one of the musicians turned around and asked the two freeloaders what they were up to, they said “with confidence” that they’d like to go to the airport. That’s when one of the musicians laughed, realizing that these guys had mistaken them for an Uber. But the two strangers weren’t quite as graceful about it, as the paper reports:

The would-be passengers were mortified. “They awkwardly began to extract their oversize bags from the trunk, exclaiming, ‘Sorry, We thought you were our Uber!’” [one of the musicians] said.

The business newspaper then gives the account of a comedian in Minneapolis, who hopped in his minivan after a show, and drove to the front of the venue to pick up a friend. That’s when the weirdness began:

But when he pulled up to Acme’s crowded entrance, a couple he didn’t know started yanking on the backdoor handles and knocking on the passenger-side window.

After shaking his head to send them away, the couple still didn’t back down, only leaving when the comedian pointed them to another minivan up the street

It seems that, especially in New York City, immigrant Uber drivers have it worse than most. The paper chronicles the account of religion professor Simran Singh, whose car was mistaken for an Uber by an elderly couple as he waited outside his building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for his wife and child:

“I said, ‘I’m not an Uber driver,’ and they were really confused,” the 32-year-old Mr. Singh recalled. “Then the woman said, ‘Well, we really need to go here, can you take us anyway? We’ll pay you.”

This happens to Singh all the time, the business newspaper reports. And it especially happens a lot to immigrants, according to Singh:

So many taxi drivers in New York are immigrants and a lot are Sikhs,” said Mr. Singh, who was born and raised in Texas. He said many of his South Asian and Sikh friends have had the same experience, which has become a running joke.

The newspaper goes on, saying:

“At least once a week or so I’ll see a post from a friend on Facebook or Twitter saying, ‘I’ve been confused for an Uber driver again!’” he said.

Yikes.

How do you prevent this? Say hi to your driver by name, check license plates, and maybe carry some cash in case you have to beg the stranger for the ride you need so badly. Might as well commit to it at that point, right?

Advertisement