Friday, February 20, 2015

Thumbs Up to Uber

I am not an early adopter, but I've been hearing from friends that Uber is great (another app that I like very much and was recently introduced to is Waze).

I gave Uber a try when our cruise ship (well, it was really a ferry gussied up as a cruise ship) docked in the Port of Miami from Bimini.  A fellow passenger and I took a cab from the port to the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami, about one mile away, to pick up rental cars.  The cab driver was surly, never looked at us, grunted at us when we said hi, and then he lied to us -- twice.  The first lie was that he had to take the long way around to the hotel, adding $6 to the $12 fare, because the streets were one-way (I was using Waze so could see that he was taking a long way to reach the destination).  The second lie was when I tried to pay with my credit card.  His cab had a credit card reader in the back, but when I asked if I could use my credit card, he said that the machine was not working.   We ended up paying the cab driver about $15 (thanks, Steve, since I had no cash). 

I had to go back to the Port of Miami and pick up my gear, then get a ride from there back to the same Intercontinental Hotel.   This time I used Uber.  The experience was surprisingly and refreshingly pleasant.  A woman pulled up in a Toyota Sienna; she seemed like a housewife type and was friendly and nice.  I could track her car (Uber gives the time away and the description of the vehicle, as well as the driver's name) as she approached me at my pickup spot, and she called me to confirm where I was and what I looked like.  I did not need to do anything other than use the Uber app to give my destination.  She showed me the right way to get to the hotel, so it took half the time to get there as the cab driver and the cost was $5.  Half the time and half the cost of the cab, and a pleasant experience versus the typical ill-mannered taxi event.   Icing on the cake: I did not have to pull out my wallet and pay cash.  I had already registered my credit card with Uber so I just had to rate the driver and leave. 

I've heard that Uber is ultra-competitive and has used some dirty business practices.  Here's a link that describes some of these dirty business practices:

However, my one experience with Uber has been great.  I expect to use them again.  I would do almost anything to avoid having to use a cab.  I don't want to make generalizations, but the cab business and many taxi drivers have crappy attitudes that I just don't need to put up with.

Here are a couple of examples:
1.  I learned this lesson a long time ago.  I was young, poor, and had gone to an Our World-Underwater meeting at a Hyatt in Chicago.  I had a couple of suitcases without wheels (those were the days before wheeled luggage was invented), and I needed a ride from the Hyatt to the subway, about four blocks away.  Not knowing what was going on, I went out a door of the hotel (accidentally at the back of the line of cabs) and kept asking for a ride from each cab in the line.  Each and every cab driver shook their head, yelled at me, and pointed ahead, at what looked like the next car.  Being utterly naive, I thought that the drivers all wanted me to go to the cabs in front of them.  (I also have a hearing disability, so often I can't understand what people are saying).

It turns out that the cab industry has a rule that it's developed, that I ran up against.  I am sure that it works for them, but it sure worked against me that day.  After dragging my bags up the line of cabs and being yelled at continuously up the line, I finally got into the cab at the front of the line.  The driver asked me where I wanted to go, and when I told him that I wanted to go just four blocks to the subway station, he exploded, screaming at me.  He screamed at me for the entire ride.  I actually had no clue what he was mad about.  It wasn't until a few years later that someone was talking about a similar situation, and I figured out what had happened.

What had happened, of course, is obvious now.  The cab drivers at that hotel had their own rule -- they formed a line and no hotel guest could get into any cab other than the one at the front.  The guy at the front may have been waiting there for an hour, only to get a crappy four-block fare from me rather than a nice fare to the airport.

I still feel sorry about the situation, but I would have been happy to get in the back of the cab line rather the front.  As it was, I still remember my confusion and the hassle of trying to get into cabs and then being bitched at over and over again, dragging my bags to another and yet another cab.

2.  This happened for years but seems to have been solved (thanks, Monterey Airport Commission): Whenever I arrived home at the Monterey airport, the taxi drivers there had parked right in the crosswalk where folks coming out of baggage claim had to exit.  I always had lots of bags, and in those early days, I dragged around three coolers (without wheels) most of the time.  If someone was picking me up, the taxis blocked access to the crosswalk and often took up the spots nearest to  the baggage claim exit, so I had to walk around them with my coolers after every trip.  I was exhausted after my trips, and this was really the last straw.  If I had the gall to say something to these cab drivers, they would immediately start screaming and yelling -- very hostile and mannerless people.

Uber, you have a good product.  I hope you do well and that you realize that customers like polite companies that play fair and have good manners, as opposed to the taxi drivers that you are competing with.

No comments: