Why I’ve Fallen Out Of Love With Uber
In May 2011, Uber, a relatively unknown car service launched in NYC. It was the company’s first expansion outside of San Francisco. At that time, I was interning in NYC. I heard of Uber from a friend, and fell in love the minute I downloaded the app.
The convenience was unprecedented. No longer would I have to dread the 5pm cab shift change when taxis are nearly impossible to hail down in the City. I could just pull out my phone and hail a high-end black car to whisk me to my destination. At the time, the Uber fleet was exclusively black cars, making the experience even more pleasant.
I no longer had to worry about cash or tipping. There was no need to do mental math on the fly calculate tip. It was all handled through the app. Once I arrived at my final stop, I could get out without the hassle. Later I could check my receipt
The app also added a level of transparency to the ride. No longer did I have to worry if I was being taken for a ride. I was at ease knowing that I wouldn’t be taken in some round about route across the City. I could see my route on my phone, and later check my receipts to see the exact breakdown of my ride’s cost based on base fare, distance, and time.
On a more intangible level, there was a certain exclusivity that came with Uber in these early days. Few had the app. There was something satisfying about arriving to a dinner or meeting in a black car, knowing you weren’t paying black car prices. It was just Uber.
With that, I became an Uber evangelist. I encouraged anyone and everyone to download it.
In 2014, I moved to Paris. Uber was still relatively unknown there at the time, but there was a small fleet of Uber drivers around. For me, it was a life saver. My French wasn’t great, so communicating with taxi drivers was always a challenge. With Uber, I could plug in my destination and hail my ride without saying a word. The language barrier was no longer something to dread.
While in Paris, I continued to evangelize the service. I turned my Parisian friends on to the app one-by-one. How could they live without the convenience of Uber after all?
However, recently I have noticed my feelings towards Uber have shifted. I have since returned to NYC and find myself going Yellow more often than Ubering.
With Uber today, there are too many unknowns each time I use the service.
First, the wait time is completely variable. I can’t bet on taking an Uber to get somewhere on time, and then open the app to find that I can’t get an Uber-X for 7 minutes. In a city as fast-paced as New York, 7 minutes is an eternity. I am better off going on to the street and trying my luck for a cab, or heading to the subway.
Secondly, I never know what the pricing will be like when I hail an Uber. For my next ride, I could open the app and see a pre-ride price of $6 or $26. Further, there is no context around the price. Uber has eliminated surge pricing, so I don’t know if the pre-ride price of $13 is reasonable or not. Even after my ride, when I go to check my receipt there is no breakdown of the trip’s cost. Uber no longer calls out fare costs. This lack of transparency discourages me from using the app.
Finally, the exclusivity and level of service that I came to enjoy with Uber in the early days are gone. The ride quality is inconsistent. Sometimes when I call an Uber X, I get a professional driver who picks me up in a pristine Escalade. Other times, I get a car that is 100 years old with holes in the seat. Indeed, at the end of the day, a ride is a ride. However, the lack of consistency is frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong, I still use Uber. I used it just last night, but my once unwavering devotion has ceased. I have come to an equilibrium between New York’s iconic yellow taxis and Uber. There is room and need for both.
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