Let me start by saying that these are all first world problems. Poor me, my phone couldn’t hail a car immediately when I wanted it, I get it. It’s not the end of the world- but Uber is a travel business in a competitive, customer forward landscape; and last night they failed. They failed on more levels than can be counted, from the drivers to the tweeters. Come along for the ride (or lack thereof) that transpired last night. Oh, and by the way- Coldplay was fantastic.

I Was Trying To Get Home From A Coldplay Concert…

My wife (Laura) and I went to Coldplay with some of our best friends. We coaxed them into going, persuading them that it would be worth it- and to make things easier, we decided to Uber. Getting an insider tip as to when Coldplay was going on, we managed to arrive after the arrival rush, a great Uber experience. Coming back, however, was a total moment of Uber gone bad- drivers gaming a system amid utter chaos. Uber failed.

We Followed All The Steps, Hailed A Car, Waited At The Designated Uber Lot…

Uber has made so much money- they have a private lot at MetLife Stadium, just for Uber pickups. The thought of this seems very civilized and orderly. Our driver (despite seeming to be far away) mentioned that he was five minutes away. As we all know, in concert traffic, five minutes can be a lot more. We get it. After 15 minutes, he ensured us that he was closer than ever, could almost see the lot. And then…

And Then Another 45 Mins Went By… And He Cancelled, With Us “Already On The Ride”…

This is where the anger and frustration starts. The driver kept calling to keep us on the line, baiting us to stay with him. After a while, we noticed that he already had us “on the ride”, meaning we were getting charged as if we were in the car! Uber has reps on the ground at the parking lot, and we brought this to their attention. Their advice- CANCEL the ride we’ve been waiting 45 mins for, order a new one. Of course, the surge pricing had now tripled and our $60 (ish) ride was now over $180, and the people have now filed out of the stadium. The wait is worse than the DMV. WTF. We decided to put faith in our driver, sticking with him and NOT cancelling.

But Drivers Were Cancelling Rides On People If They Didn’t Deem The Route Profitable Enough…

I can’t begin to explain how many times I heard identical phone conversations. “Hello, this is your Uber driver, where are you going?”. “I’m going to (insert fairly local destination in New Jersey). Uber driver “Please cancel the ride, it’s not far enough”. Now this is just maddening. You- (Uber driver) accept the fare, find out i’m not driving to Texas- and you cancel, in hopes of a more profitable fare? Drivers should not be allowed to game the system, only cherry picking the farthest, most surge priced fares. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  I feel strongly that many drivers were intentionally gaming the system, playing roulette until they found the perfect, ripe $300+ surge fare. Lots of people got scammed, and charged.

Back To The Saga… Our Driver Cancelled. Cars Were Waiting Aimlessly With No Passengers. Uber Reps Were USELESS..

The driver, after goading us on for 45 minutes canceled the ride, charging more than $50 to our group. We were understandably furious (but polite) yet the Uber rep offered us no apology- and suggested we ordered another car. What an ingenious solution… for your company. By now, the more than 50,000 guests at MetLife were in the parking lot in full force. It was going to be a long time before we would get a ride. The rep on the ground offered no support, solution, desire to help or any token of apology. Heck, a $5 ride credit would’ve been something. Instead he offered 3x surge pricing and another 45 minute wait. I tweeted @UberSupport and @UberFacts – and the only fact I learned is that they too were useless. That, or they were overwhelmed with a situation they had lost control of- which they created.

1.5 Hours Later We Left The Stadium, Paying Double The Original Surge Fare. So Many People Were In The Same Boat…

We did everything right- even the (entirely useless) rep who was getting paid to take up space in the parking lot, basically just acting as a mobile billboard by wearing an Uber t shirt, said we did. Still, despite getting out ahead of the crowd, it took more than 1.5 hours to leave MetLife Stadium. That’s almost the duration of the Coldplay show itself! We felt as if we were the last of the Mohicans. The important distinction is that we were not alone here. Countless people were tired, furious, (drunk), or just frustrated that they paid an extreme premium to Uber versus train, plane, carpool; followed Uber’s own instructions and were left stranded.  Cancelled upon and charged by drivers with no remorse or recourse. Were the drivers gaming the system, hoping to charge people, suspecting some would forget to complain? I may even go that far. Don’t get me wrong- I’m generally on the side of the drivers, but this was foul play.

Uber Only Just Broke The Silence, Tweeting Me A Link To Report A Generic Issue. Thanks…

a full 12 hours after the incident, I received a generic reply, leading to a generic webpage where I could look into cancelled rides. Wow, thanks. My questions at this point…

  1. Why pay at least 10 ground staff members to show up at 11PM wearing Uber t-shirts if they are fully incapable of providing assistance, other than “yeah, the app does that”.
  2. How can a company which relies on reputation, timeliness and dependability allow drivers to play roulette- accepting and cancelling fares until they find the perfect gem.
  3. How can a company with a 17 billion + valuation not have a 24/7 twitter team looking into issues, offering assurances, help, tokens of good will in extreme cases.
  4. How can New Jersey continue to be the worst place to see a concert? It continues to rank as my 50th favorite United State, despite it’s birthing of legendary rockers and excellent television.