Uber: An Über Rip-Off


Maybe you’ve heard of Uber, a darling of the tech community that is revolutionizing the car service industry. The well-funded start-up lets members book livery cabs on their smart phones, providing a visual on their car when they order it and a text message when the car is ready outside. All good, right? We were curious to try the service, so we downloaded the app to our iPhone on Saturday afternoon and whipped it out shortly after 11 pm on Saturday night when we were ready to leave a friend’s birthday dinner in Windsor Terrace to return home to Clinton Hill. We’d taken Myrtle car service on the way over and the price had been $13. So when we logged in to use Uber for the first time after dinner on Saturday and were greeted by a stern warning that the service had implemented “surge pricing” to the tune of 2.25 times regular rates because of the great imbalance between riders and drivers we decided we would suck it up and stomach what we figured would be a gouging to the tune of $35 to $40. If only! Within a couple of minutes of getting inside our front door, we received an email with the bad news: $77. Yes, $77. (To be fair, we had dropped another guest off at her home four blocks away, thereby adding a small amount of extra travel time and distance.) So even without the “surge pricing,” that means our ride home would have cost just over $34, roughly 2.5 times what a regular car service would have charged. And we thought technology was supposed to actually make traditional tasks less expensive! Oh, well. At least the reaming we received wasn’t nearly as bad as the what happened to the poor bloke who got charged $219 for a trip from the Upper East Side to Dumbo late last year. It turns out the company caught flack last October and ended up backpedaling when it doubled prices in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. So who would spend two and a half times the rate of a regular car service? Are most of the company’s regular users business accounts? We’re curious to hear what readers’ experiences have been, because once was one time too many for us.

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