a hand holding a phone

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.

a street sign on a poleWhen 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.

a hand holding a phoneThis breakup is about the fact that on an increasingly regular basis, things go wrong and those issues aren’t addressed, or at least without major hassle and grief.

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…

Things happen.

a city street with many cars and buildingsI 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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I agree with a lot of what you said except one part:

    “Uber turned in record profits”

    Uber has always had massive losses. It lost $865 million on $3 billion in revenue last quarter. They have never been profitable and their massive valuations seem built on investors hoping driverless cars get here before they run out of cash.

  2. In NYC there is a smidgen of regulation, all cars and drivers are subject to Taxi and Limousine Commision (TLC) regulations and licensing. Even so, I gave up on UBER after they repeatedly allowed their drivers to cancel rides when surge happened after the ride was ordered. Several times the cancellation was late and UBER charged me the cancel fee.
    The fact that UBER has no human contact to take complaints backs up my take on your post, UBER either does not care or enjoys the extra revenue. UBER is fond of stating that drivers do not know when surge is declared but that is a rampant lie; there are driver apps to inform them.

  3. I use both Uber and Lyft. Definitely prefer Lyft especially when the price is cheaper, which nowadays in NYC is only 20% of the time. I have more issues with Uber no doubt. But they’ve been there for me in Mexico City, Cartagena, Shanghai and Tokyo without many issues despite the language barrier and shotty cell phone reception. I’m grateful they’re around, despite the numerous back and forth issues with customer service. More times than not, they’ve helped me rather than hurt me. I’ve threatened them over credit, threatened to only use Juno or Via, yelled at them over inadequate routes or pickups for Uber pool, but yet I’m still taking them due to necessity in some situations. For the most part, they do what they’re supposed to, at least for me.

  4. How can you be overcharged for a ride when the fare is pre-set prior to you approving the ride?

    BTW – lyft isnt any better… If anything there are less lyft drivers out there.

    1. In the UK you are given a range, which can vary quite a lot. The trip is in the 60-90. On 17 previous rides it varied between 60-63. On this ride it was at the top end, because we made a 40 mile detour.

      1. That is your driver’s fault and you should have said something. The map uber provides isn’t the set in stone gospel and when there is a mistake a little common sense goes a long way instead of blindly following a computer like a drone.

      2. OP,

        So then it’s not Ubers fault. Maybe there was an accident or irregular traffic data which caused the app to reroute you. 99% of the time it’s the driver missing the turn off on the highway and instead they just blame the app.

        Uber doesn’t create traffic data and neither does Lyft, they get the data based on the national databases.

        Most of your points are invalid because you don’t entirely understand how the app works and rarely the fault of the actual company. The odd time it will mess up but out of the 10,000 rides I have given that has happened less than the number of fingers I can count on one hand.

        FYI I am not a disgruntled Uber driver, I have a masters level education and drive Uber on the side, the fact is most people just don’t know how it works.

        1. I’ve had a passenger get aggravated at a route I was taking, which included a toll, rather than a quicker more direct tollless route, because that is the way the app took me.

          I don’t look at the full route or even the destination when I pick up the rider. I just take them where the app gps says to.

          Anyhow it turns out the standard more direct route had the road closed for repair work to the bridges. Which is why the GPS routed the other way (being quicker presumably than winding through side streets).

  5. It’s odd, but early on when “everyone” was singing Uber’s praises, I had recurring problems with them (which were usually terrible drivers that didn’t know the city well or drove unsafely). Now that “everyone” is complaining about them, however, I haven’t had a single problem (no scams, no surges, no wait time). Though I’ve never been a heavy user either then or now.

  6. They have their issues (like any company) but my guess is you won’t totally break up with them and will use them while you travel. They are still the easiest option in many, many cities.

  7. Uber eats is the worst.
    Prices are up to 30% higher than calling the restaurant directly.
    And there is a delivery charge as well.

    1. UberEats is awful for drivers.

      Not the least bit worth it for them. And of the 20 or so times I’ve done them (just to see if anything has improved), not a single person has tipped. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I delivered a pizza via UberEats.

      So I’ve waited 15 minutes in fast food drive throughs late at night just to drive $8 in McDonald’s food to someone’s door, driving 6 minutes to deliver, getting out of my car in the pouring rain, for $3.66 cents.

      I’ve had a guy from a very wealthy neighborhood put in a wrong delivery address 5 minutes from the restaurant, only to call me to tell me the actual delivery address (a Street, rather than an Avenue) which was 30 minutes away).

      I took it there anyway. I was paid via the Uber app only for the original destination $3.66 and the wealthy patron thanked me and apologized for the mix up with the address, and told me he’d tip me in the app (for his now cold food).

      Word to the wise rideshare driver. Anyone who goes out of their way to actually tell you they will tip you in the app, has no intention of tipping you.

  8. I don’t know what planet you guy’s living??
    I don’t know why people have too much expectation did everyone forgot about stinky taxis and their impolite drivers ? i am living in Toronto the price of uber sometimes is cheaper then our public transit professional drivers clean and fancy cars the same lyft i have a great experience from both Uber and lyft and there’s more cancellation by raiders then drivers and by the way don’t forget how people treat the uber drivers. Stop complaining and appreciate what they doing and offering us if you are not happy enjoy the raid in stinky taxi and pay 100% more than Uber..

    1. You shouldn’t be asking what ‘planet’ do these guys live on. It should be what cities do they take Uber rides. I grew up in Toronto. I’ll never get in a taxi. Long before Uber and Lyft I got fed up of Toronto taxis. Now I travel in numerous cities. I’m in Toronto maybe 30 days a year. The vast majority of my time is in other countries.

      Just Thursday I had a ride which said it was 1 minute away and the driver cancelled. Everyone I talked to agrees, they cancelled because they saw a better fair. At least 50% of the rides I take result in the driver following the GPS and taking longer to get places. This results in longer ride, getting to destination later and being charged more for a ride I take every day (ride from hotel to work or work to hotel).

      1. As a driver I almost always follow the GPS. I don’t know the city and surrounding suburbs like the back of my hand (which I couldn’t describe to save my life).

        Learning streets and routes now in the GPS era is like memorizing people’s phone numbers.

        There are places I’ve been to a dozen times, and if someone asked me for directions I’d be like… “Uh…. Well… first you turn on your GPS and second you enter in the address of your destination. ”

        By the way I rarely cancel a ride, and always for a reason other than trying to catch a surge. Drivers get dinged for cancelling rides and failing to take incoming ride calls. You get moved down the priority list for incoming ride requests.

        Also it’s been my experience that if you fail to take a ride request or worse cancel one, there is a delay (or cool down) before getting a new request. Presumably you get moved to the back of the list of nearby drivers for incoming requests.

  9. I got scanned in Paris during a Saturday riot. Walked north of the protest areas by about six blocks so we were well clear. The Uber driver insisted on driving right back into the protests claiming he knew which roads were open. Proceeded to hit about eight major roadblocks not to mention extreme slow traffic. Got the grand tour of central Paris over 45 minutes for what should have been a max 10 minute ride. At least Uber made it easy to claim back on that ride but of course no additional compensation.

  10. I was an “anti-Uber evangelist” from day 1. Their business practices have been, at the least, shady, and potentially fraudulent from the beginning. People were perfectly willing to let a company that broke laws, ran up fake charges on competition, and tried to put drivers in unending debt service because “they’re disruptors” and “it’s so convenient”. To seem surprised when a company that is built on publicly bad behavior turns that bad behavior on its customers is naivete.

    Uber was bad to everyone else as a business strategy. That they are bad to their customers is just a natural extension of that same strategy.

  11. This is hands-down the most self-righteous post I’ve ever read. Have you ever dealt with Lyft customer service? Have you ever dealt with any tech company’s customer service? You will absolutely download Uber due to the sheer magnitude the service provides and where it services. Keep this soap-box to your Facebook feed.

  12. I drove for Uber for about 18 months a couple years ago. If you think they’re disrespectful of the passengers, you would be appalled at how they treat drivers. They are pretty much universally arrogant and no one is spared from their toxic corporate culture. Generally speaking, however, I enjoyed the passengers. I drove because I was spending too much time immersed in cad/cam programs on the computer and used it as a way to interact with humans. I drove Friday and Saturday nights almost exclusively, so nearly all my riders had been partying and were upbeat and chatty. Eventually, though, that wasn’t enough to justify putting up with the company itself, so I stopped. At one point I received a notification that a customer reported being “uncomfortable” with my driving. I hadn’t driven in over 7 months, so it was highly unlikely that someone suddenly remembered that more than half a year ago they rode with someone that made them uncomfortable. I only use Lyft when I need a ride.

    1. Oh interesting.

      I recently got a notice from Uber that a passenger “felt uncomfortable with my driving speed”.

      I couldn’t imagine what they were referring to since I always drive at or only slightly above (5 mph or less) the posted speed limit and take it slower during bad weather.

      But now that you say you hadn’t driven in over 7 months, maybe this was from a long time ago. Though I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally gone far above the speed limits.

      Funny, just yesterday a passenger was complaining to me that his driver earlier that day would only drive at the speed limit. I looked at my speedometer and I was going the speed limit. I bumped my speed up by 5 mph.

      Anyway, I do have a 4.95 driver rating.

      The pay sucks (particularly when you factor in expenses and low tipping rate and a city that hardly ever surges), but I have no other options at this point.

  13. I Lough at the suggestion of this man that he was over charged by drivers. I am not sure if this guys knows how Uber system works, and he sounds one of the very cheap people who are never satisfied. Drive for Uber and see yourself wether Uber abuses drivers or riders. The people whose time and property are drivers. The drivers don’t get gas, any maintenance from Uber because Uber claims they are self employed, but yet any rider can say whatever he wants wether lie or truth and he can easily get deactivated. Basicaly driver’s future with Uber depends wbat riders say regardless. I won’t be surprised to hear tomorrow that the driver this cheap guy is talking about got fired. Because I was reading last week story that took place in Calgary when driver was insulted and threatened by rider’s relative who wanted the driver to help him ofload groceries. Driver complained about them, riders did not complain, but when they heard driver complained they also started to counter complain . How Uber reacted , they fired the driver instead of saying to these riders why are you complaning now if you did say anything about the driver after the ride. That why I left them after being eith them for few weeks because I did not like the slave treatment that Uber and the cheap riders likethis guy give drivers

  14. I am an American living in Merida Yucatan in Mexico as do many other expats. Uber was the first here but now fortunately we have a number of good options and Uber is always my last choice. My preference now is DiDi, the Chinese rideshare company. Good service, better cars, often offers discounts and no surge pricing.

  15. Hey guys, their new joint program ‘Uber Flash’ with Hong Kong taxi has been played around by the local taxi community, AND the company who used to be the partner did NOT show up at the launch event today in Hong Kong.

    So from time to time, we will never walk alone. Uber is taking the backfire.

  16. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding
    your RSS feed to my Google account.

  17. This whole show is worth discussing. Mostly you will understand better if you have driven on uber before. You will also understand if actually you are a driver having your own vehicle and a rider with small money and short distance, set to push you around my friend you will actually feel disrespected. Secondly drivers cannot manipulate the system gain unreasonable income. I have driven uber for 3yrs and have seen worse thing. I pity drivers

  18. I have found Lyft c/s very responsive.

    Uber (Pool) is such a crap shoot in NYC. Nightmare rides alternate with the great ones.

    But here’s the shocker : the Russians have perfected the app with Yandex! I took dozens of rides throughout the Russian Federation in 2018 and not one problem.

    Multi-lingual interface.

    Just one “feature” :

    Even though accommodating credit cards, the typical central Asian driver in the big Russian cities want to be paid in cash, albeit the pre agreed fare.

    London is the worst for Uber.

  19. I agree with you totally. I was scammed for $150 by an Uber driver in Miami last year and it took 3 weeks of back and forth for someone at Uber to do something about it, and I suspect that was only when I got a consumer- expert at a national newspaper to intervene.
    In London an increasingly annoying gambit by Uber drivers is to accept your ride request when they are still finishing off their last ride – it’s kind of understandable but “just 5 minutes” away becomes 15 minutes easily and it’s annoying. Now you can hail a traditional black cab by app, I do that.

    1. You’re blaming the wrong party. The Uber app “pings” a driver if their system indicates a ride is almost over and they are the closest to your location. A driver has no idea who is looking for a ride beyond the one notification they receive from Uber – they are not given multiple choices from which to make a selection. They can, of course, not accept that or any other ride, but if they get 2-3 requests in a row and don’t accept them, they will be put on a “time-out” by the system and not offered any other rides for a period of time. It’s as frustrating for the driver as it for you, because irritated passengers don’t tip or give good ratings. Because there is no way to rate the way the system works, only a place to rate the driver, when the rider vents using the only avenue available to them, the driver gets a low rating for something almost entirely out of their control.

  20. You have to know drivers work for both Uber and Lyft. There’s literally no difference except Lyft is cheaper because they pay drivers less.

    As an Uber/Lyft driver I find Lyft passengers the most difficult. Usually are scumbags who have been banned from Uber.

  21. I don’t think it’s fair to complain about an Uber fare in Indonesia since it’s been months since Uber exited the space and made way for Grab.

  22. I love reading this over-dramatic articles about Uber. If you don’t like Uber, go back to using taxi cabs, it won’t take long before realize how great you had it with the ride sharing apps. I’ve logged hundreds of rides and have never had a serious problem. Not saying they don’t happen, but any problems I have had, Uber customer service has fixed for me. It seems like in the UK that people are overly hostile to Uber. I remember in Glasgow all of my drivers having 2 and 3 star ratings. One of them even picked me up in an Audi and almost had tears in his eyes when I gave him a tip and said I’d give him 5 stars.

    as for this comment: “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.”

    Do you realize how uninformed this is? Blaming Uber for providing the ONLY service to the area. Had they not been there, then what?!

    1. Using UBER is like leaving original old dad for new one. And civilised society has ‘a name’ for this kind of act.

  23. Seven months ago I switched to Lyft also, but some high percentage of the lyft cars I get in have an Uber driver behind the wheel.

  24. Happened at LGA last week. three drivers took the job, then quickly canceled, with the quoted fare continuing to rise each time to equal black car service price. Last driver demanded the passenger walk from Terminal B Garage to meet him at Terminal C Parking Lot. F-that!

  25. Cam’t help but draw parallels with my views about the beyond abtsmal bete noir airline, especially given the comments in many cases using parallel reasoning to excuse Uber.
    The fact is customer experiences vary and both Uber and BA have exploited their scale to improve their profits and removed human costs replacing with automation and damn any quality of service issues; we’ve got enough customers.
    The differences are the cost of the services sold *note not delivered*, BA’s ludicrous profits and the absence of real / effective customer services.

  26. Glad to see others feel the need to boycott, I went from in love with Uber, daily use at times, all worked perfectly, to now (well 12+months ago) where through the points you laid out the service is aweful, an actual battle and I actually despise them. I’m surprised they are still in business , won’t be long. Viavan has been my main go to, no issues so far. I’m in London.

  27. I am an Uber driver, and it is now December 2019, it is so slow! This whole weekend has been slow and it’s very rare, also they messed with my instant pay. I’m not able to cash out because I myself updated my bank account information through their website, and that caused them to literally put a hold on my payments. Nowhere on their account, app or Customer Service🔵 I am an Uber driver, and it is now December 2019, it is so slow! This whole weekend is been slow and it’s very rare, also they messed with my instant pay. I’m not able to cash out because I myself updated my bank account information through their website, and that caused them to literally put a hold on my payments. Nowhere on their account, app or customer service do they tell you you need to call them first before changing anything on your account. Dealing with Uber Customer Service🔵 Dealing with Uber Customer Service🔵 on the Driver side is so frustrating because Uber has the worst customer service representatives, and their managers are even worse. You have to wait forever to talk to them and then once you get on the phone it’s like talking to a robot, they never help you! And the customers, I’ve had a lot of really cool customers, and I’ve had a lot of a whole customers. I’ve had people straight up lie and say that I’ve made them feel “uncomfortable” and driving too fast, it’s funny because in my family I’m known to drive the safest. Even my husband makes fun of me because I drive very very well. So yeah and average you make about $10 an hour on Uber, you make more when it’s surges, but I don’t know lately it’s been a really slow, at least here and Anaheim California. Anybody who complains about Uber and comparing them to taxis and the customers, I’ve had a lot of really cool customers, and I’ve had a lot of a whole customers. I’ve had people straight up lie and say that I’ve made them feel “uncomfortable“ and driving too fast, it’s funny because in my family I’m known to drive the safest. Even my husband makes fun of me because I drive very very well. So yeah and average you make about $10 an hour on Uber, you make more when it surges, but I don’t know lately it’s been a really slow, at least here and Anaheim California. Anybody who complains about Uber and comparing them to taxis, Uber in – lift are much safer options, because you can actually see your driver, report any problems, and share your rides. Also they are generally faster. This is a temporary thing anybody who is an Uber driver either just does it for fun, or like me they don’t like to work set schedules. You really don’t make much on Uber unless it’s surging. I can’t wait until I can stop working for Uber, seriously their customer service is horrible !!

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