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Secrets of an Uber driver with 4.97 stars

Janet Anderson, urgent care nurse by day and a part-time Uber driver, cleaned her Hundai Santa Fe at a car wash in Danvers.Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

DANVERS — What does it take to become a highly-rated Uber driver?

Hit the road with Janet Anderson (4.97 out of 5 stars), and you’ll find out. Anderson, 45, has been driving for Uber for three years, logging more than 1,700 trips working Friday and Saturday nights.

By day, she is a medical assistant at an urgent care center, but she joined the gig economy on a part-time basis after her son got bullied in a public elementary school. She decided to send him to private school and driving for Uber helps pay the tuition. She is one of nearly 234,000 drivers approved by the state to drive for a ride share company in Massachusetts.


Anderson works the North Shore’s roads in her black 2017 Santa Fe Hyundai SUV. She ferries college kids home after they’ve been out drinking at area bars, or wedding guests from venues such as Oceanview in Nahant and Danversport in Danvers. On a typical weekend, she handles about two dozen rides, generating about $200 to $250 in fares.

Anderson gets high marks for her friendliness and great conversation. Some recent customer reviews include these raves: "You are the nicest person I have met in a while” and, "Thanks for everything, best Uber driver out there.”

Janet Anderson and her Hyundai Santa Fe.Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

Customers also appreciate the amenities she provides, such as mints and a phone charger. Ultimately, Anderson says, her customers have a good experience because she treats them well. "If you respect them, they respect you,” she says.

Anderson may be nice, but she’s no pushover. Her ride comes with rules: no open containers, and no food of any kind. As a female driver working the late shift (Anderson starts at 10 p.m.), people might wonder if she feels safe working alone and picking up strangers at night.

"I was born and raised in Lynn. I’m street smart,” Anderson says. "I have a good right upper hook.”


Beyond that "good to know” tidbit, she shared some other secrets of being a highly-rated ― and formidable — Uber driver:

Keeping it clean: Every Friday Anderson heads to the Shell gas station here to fill up her car’s tank. Then she gives her Hyundai a good vacuum and goes through the car wash. She keeps a stash of cleaning supplies in the trunk: Windex, newspapers, paper towels, and Armor All Freshfx spray.

Why newspapers? If you want streak-free windows, spray with Windex and wipe with newspapers. And to keep her car always smelling fresh, she spritzes her car with Armor All spray before each shift (and after each pot-smelling customer.)

The Candy Lady: When Anderson first started to drive for Uber, customers nicknamed her "the Candy Lady.” That’s because it’s one of the first things she will do — offer you a piece of candy. She keeps two bins: One is stocked with miniature Hershey’s chocolate bars, and the other is a gluten-free and peanut-free mix (think Tootsie Rolls, lollipops, and Dots gumdrops).

Candy that Anderson keeps in her car for customers.Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

And for customers concerned about bad breath, Anderson has you covered. She keeps a stash of Tic Tacs and Extra spearmint gum in her center console.

Do customers take her up on an offer of a sweet?

"Are you kidding me? All the time” she says.

In case of emergency: Working the late night shift means she sees a lot of customers who may have had a drink too many. One time she picked up a passenger from a Danvers restaurant, and by the time she took him home he had passed out. Anderson had to call the police, who put him in an ambulance.


Anderson doesn’t take any chances with sick passengers. She carries vomit bags, and advises potentially queasy customers, "If you don’t feel good, I will open up my window.”

She carries bags in her car for customers who are feeling sick. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe

She also reminds passengers that Uber will assess a hefty cleaning charge — up to $150 if a customer throws up in the car. That’s because she will be shut down for the night.

So has anyone thrown up?

“No,” she says. "You warn them ahead of time about cleaning fees, and people do not get sick in your car.”

What annoys Anderson the most about being an Uber driver is the UberPool option. That’s when the company matches a rider with others who are heading in the same direction. The rides are cheaper than single-occupancy rides, but Anderson said that for drivers it can get confusing finding the second and third passengers because they don’t always have exact pickup locations. "It’s not fair to drivers or riders,” she said, explaining that sometimes it results in longer wait times for the driver and passengers.

Anderson does, however, have a favorite benefit that comes with being a ride-share driver: "Meeting people from all over the world. I see a lot of travelers from across the seas and love the accents.”


Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at