I have never been completely sold on Uber.
I like the slick app for requesting taxis and sedans, yes, but not the mystery price that shows up after the ride is over and the driver is gone. Also, surge pricing.
More than that, I hate being gouged.
On New Year’s Eve, for example, I was in a jam. It was about 1:30 am. After not being able to hail a yellow cab – a blood sport on NYE – I had gone down to the subway at Broadway and Lafayette to catch an M train back to Williamsburg. After what felt like ages (but was really more like 15-20 minutes) with no sign of a train, I gave up and went back into the cold of street level.
My feet were aching and I was tired. I opened the Uber app.
I knew it would be expensive and sure enough, surge pricing was in effect at a whopping 5X the normal rate. I clicked ‘OK’ and accepted that the minimum fare would be in the $50 range (I forget the exact dollar amount quoted). My ride would be a short one, I rationalized, and I just wanted to get out of the frigid air and into my bed.
Amazingly, there were lots of Uber drivers available. My wait time was quoted as 4 minutes. Demand was high, but so was supply. I was grateful to warm up in the car, if not for the loud EDM the driver played.
“Just get me home,” I thought.
Shortly after I disembarked at my apartment building, I got the Uber receipt:
To put this into proper perspective, my cab ride to the neighborhood hours earlier had been $13 with tip via yellow cab.
Is Uber within their rights in taking advantage of peak demand? Absolutely. But is a business that gouges customers sustainable? I think that no matter how many cute promotions Uber does, the answer is no. As a brand, Uber now makes me sick to my stomach. I sneer when someone suggests using Uber.
Making matters worse, I recently learned that Uber employees are engaging in a shady practice intended to squash competition (and not by offering a superior service). Via ValleyWag:
But Uber considers Gett a threat: over the past few weeks, Uber employees have been posing as pedestrians, creating Gett accounts for the sole purpose of scheduling and then canceling Gett rides. The result is clear: wasted time for Gett drivers, fewer available rides for Gett users, and general disarray for the whole service.
And it’s coming from the top brass at Uber NYC.
Screenshots provided to Valleywag show multiple instances of Uber staffers using dummy Gett accounts for the sole purpose of canceling rides as a diversion. This includes Uber’s New York General Manager, Josh Mohrer, who ordered and canceled at least twenty Gett rides from December 30th, 2013 to January 14th of this year. Uber’s Operations and Logistics Manager, Jeanine Mendez, faked three ride requests in two days—Uber’s Community Manager Kimiko Ninomaya faked seven in a single day. After these rides had been canceled, Uber texted the affected drivers in an attempt to recruit them—and after all the frustration they’d had with Gett, it’d seem like a sweet offer.
I just downloaded Gett.
Have I deleted the Uber app yet? No, but I have only very specific instances when I will consider it appropriate to use:
- When traveling on business in markets that don’t have an alternative or easy access to regular local taxis.
- Early morning trips to the airport when I can’t count on street hailing a yellow or green cab. In this instance, I’m going to try to break the Uber habit and go back to local car services.