Uber, I love you – but we have a problem

You know the drill. It’s Friday, 6pm. You’ve worked 40 hours to get to this point. You’re filled with excitement for the weekend, hopefully a couple of beers deep.

“Where to? I’m ubering it now”

The discussion moves to where the night will begin. Then, no sooner has someone said ‘Fitzroy’, before designated Uber-orderer (word of the year 2016 contender?) lets out a moan – we all know what this means.

“Mate, how bad is it?” “3.4" “&$*#!”

Somewhat optimistically – we’re an optimistic bunch anyways – designated Uber-orderer asks to be notified when rates drop. Another beer is cracked.

5 more minutes – another “#*%&!”. The reason?


My biggest issue with surge pricing is not actually the idea – I’m sure there’s a clear business case behind this and I’m sure it generates a few extra $$$, but to me, all I see is a missed opportunity.

These moments are where it counts for apps. It’s not all good, all the time, there are pain points in any customer journey. The issue here is, that there’s really nothing good from a user point of view about surge pricing.

I’m a huge Uber promoter. I don’t miss an opportunity to talk it up and recommend it to anyone I know, and I believe their constant innovation is evident — the service is good and getting better. Although, with the rapid growth it has encountered worldwide, surge pricing is increasing. It’s rare to open the app on a Friday or Saturday evening and not see it.

Yes, these are busy times, when it’s hard to get a taxi too — but let’s face it, the reason the services are so busy, is because this is really the times when people need to use them.

The solutions

So — what’s the solution?

As Uber grows, the driver base will increase and perhaps at some stage demand will match supply and the prices will even out.

My idea however, is not related to just getting rid of surge pricing — clearly it’s been around for a while, is not going anywhere, and it does generally work.

I believe the solution is to offer encouragement to a rider to take the surge charge. Sure, there’s going to be people who ditch the service as soon as they see there’s anything above the normal price, but what about an incentive for those fringe cases?

What does this incentive look like? No idea — that’s where some user testing and an analysis of users habits comes in. But lets throw up some wild ideas.


Uber is no stranger to offering discount codes — particularly for encouraging new signups. Perhaps after 10 trips, you earn a credit which can be used against surcharges? Maybe, it’s every time you take a ride with a surcharge, you get a slightly discounted next ride?


Another option is gamification to some extent, something which isn’t all that common, although Uber has the ability to use more. Our office got pretty excited when we all realised we could get our own Uber ratings — to see there was competition among the ranks is an understatement. Maybe there’s something in this, having a certain customer rating allows some kind of benefit.


There’s always the idea of making it even simpler — paid accounts. Paying a small membership fee weekly to avoid surcharges — I am sure this would bring up a lot of issues that need exploring, but on the surface it certainly makes sense.

I’d happily pay a small fee over a year to never pay surcharges. In fact, given that I refuse to pay for surge pricing, the total cost to me would likely be more expensive annually with a membership — yet I’d happily pay it to avoid the scenario described at the top of this article.

To conclude

Uber’s surge pricing isn’t going anywhere fast. But let’s face it, it’s a big deal and it’s costing Uber some money. Yes, it works, but it has a got a lot of room for improvement.

By sifting through some of the large amounts of data available to them, as well as talking to their users, they could turn this moment of pain into a moment of delight.