Didi Chuxing passengers are a forgetful bunch. The Chinese ride-hailing behemoth revealed last year that it helped an average of 5,000 riders each day retrieve lost items left behind in cars, ranging from the mundane (purses and smartphones) to the bizarre (crayfish and pancakes).

It’s understandable that frantic riders would want their belongings returned as soon as possible. But doing so would also take away precious work time from drivers. So starting this week, Didi is requiring riders to compensate their drivers for delivering their lost items.

Under the new rules, drivers can either return an item in person or by using a package delivery service, and passengers will have to bear the cost of transport or postage. However, riders shouldn’t be required to pay extra tips.

While the practice might be new in China, it’s actually standard for many ride-hailing services elsewhere. Both Uber and Lyft, for instance, charge passengers a US$15 driver reimbursement fee for every successful return of a lost item.

Passengers with lost items can contact Didi’s customer service. (Picture: Jason Lee/Reuters)

It’s one of a series of new rules Didi has launched over the past year after it was plunged into a crisis. Two of its carpool drivers were found to have raped and killed two female passengers. It drew widespread outrage and government scrutiny.

Since then, Didi has often tested new ideas through online polls and public consultation. In January, it asked users if they think passengers should be required to register with real names and national IDs. The proposed measure was meant to hold passengers accountable for their actions during Didi rides, just like how drivers are monitored.

Didi posted its draft policy on lost items on Weibo last month to solicit comments before putting it in place this week. And it looks like most users are supportive.

In an online poll run by Sina’s tech news blog on Friday, more than half of the 495,000 respondents agreed with the measure, compared with about 15% who opposed.

Some people said they were already happy to tip drivers for returning lost items before the policy came into place.

“One time my sister lost her phone. The driver had to make such a big detour to bring it to us. We wanted to give him money, but he wouldn’t take it. We felt sorry,” wrote one commenter.

“I lost my phone in a car two years ago,” another Weibo user recounted. “The Didi driver brought it back to me, and I gave a 100 yuan tip.”

As Didi tries to earn back the trust of its users, there’s no shortage of newcomers vying to challenge the market leader’s dominance.

Last month, the multi-purpose app Meituan Dianping launched a ride-hailing tool that aggregates services from multiple platforms, giving users a wider variety of choices. Meanwhile, Tencent-backed startup OnTime also began offering rides in southern China.