When Uber came out, I became an unpaid evangelist.
I shared my promo code, I told people how easy it was and I downloaded it onto my parents phones to get them one step closer to the exciting new travel action. It was a genuine game changer, and at the time, the simple one “tap” solution to hailing a ride really was brilliant. On top of it all, there was the “feel good” element of a company putting people to work, when the world needed it most.
That buzz created booming business, and Uber valuations began to wow everyone from main street to Wall St. Not content with just dominating the USA, Uber pushed into markets throughout Asia and the world at large with a vigor not seen since the Roman Empire. This move made travel simple, in a really, really addictive way.
When I landed in Hong Kong, I fired up the app. When I landed in Rio, I fired up the app. New York, San Francisco, and Lexington – the same. Everywhere I went, I could all but guarantee that Uber was the simplest and most cost effective solution, with little protections like a drivers name and picture to keep everyone comfortable. Some of my most enjoyable conversations have been with Uber drivers.
But like all great things, it went too far. Drivers figured out how to game the system to extract larger fares, Uber turned in record profits without adequately considering the drivers which were driving the business and overextension forced the company to pull out of many markets where travelers became accustomed to being able to hail a ride using their favorite app.
But that’s not why this break up is happening. It’s happening because its harder to find an Uber rider who hasn’t been scammed than one who has. It’s happening because the way Uber treats customers, the customer is wrong until they’re right. Just like their handling of internal sexual misconduct issues. Add in an onslaught of competition with better fares even from standard cab companies and I don’t even need to fake tears for this break up.
Like the time I waited 2 hours for a ride that said it was 15 mins away, because four consecutive drivers cancelled so they could pick up an increasingly surge priced fare, in a place where there was no other viable option of transportation.
Or the maybe the time I was extorted for triple the fare in Indonesia, without potential for exit. Or the one this week, when my 1 hour ride turned into almost 2, because the Uber computer tried to extract extra mileage out of the fare to drive my journey price higher. I take that journey every few days and despite no traffic anywhere, it was over $80 instead of $60.
Guess whose fault that was? Mine, until of course I dropped some maps, data and other things which wasted my time and energy. You best believe I got my $10 back, but not a penny more.
In many cases, it’s also no longer the most economical option, which was kind of the point…
I am one of the world’s more frequent travelers and if things weren’t going wrong, it would be more surprising than if they were. The difference is: when things go wrong, you want them addressed the first time. Second time is ok too, maybe. Uber, has unfortunately built a corporate culture where they are always right, and the “don’t care” attitude wreaks from every response.
When a driver scams a ride the burden always tends to fall on the consumer. Uber never has a problem charging me a $10 cancellation, but makes me waste time and energy to get it back, even when (always when) its the driver playing the system.
Gestures of good will? Non existent, as are apologies.
The cheapest customer service comes in the form of artificial intelligence automatically parsing sentiment and text, and that almost never creates meaningful responses to elevated issues, no matter how much the computers try to convince you they do. It’s fine for a “I had a great ride”, when the computer can respond “we’re so glad, thanks for sharing”, but when I feel like I’ve been robbed on the side of the road in a third world country, it just doesn’t ***** cut it.
Uber has frustrated me enough times to warrant a breakup, but if we were on a deserted island we’d probably be stuck together. NEWS FLASH: We’re not. In the time since Uber revolutionized the one tap ride, even the laziest of cab companies have developed apps. Seeing what Uber has chosen to do with our collective money, I’ll be much happier putting my rides into the pockets of a few regional hands everywhere I go.
Buh-bye Uber, it’s you. I’m not even sad.