So I’ve Tried Uber. Here Are My Thoughts

A while ago, Steve welcomed Uber to KW. I’ve been trying Uber out, and I have to say that for the most part, the experience has been pretty awesome. I should be clear. When I could manage to get an Uber ride, the experience was awesome.

Aside, grammar people…is it a Uber or an Uber? I don’t know. I’m going with an for now. Someone can slap me if I’m wrong.

In my comments under that post, I said I didn’t want to take my first Uber drive alone because I was a big ol’ chicken. I know that probably sounds ridiculous since I don’t think twice about taking a cab, and we’ve already gone through the risks of that in the other post, but I have an extra concern, the guide dog. I had read countless stories of Uber drivers refusing guide dogs, and I thought I’d seen some Uber drivers whining on some forum somewhere that they didn’t want to take animals in their personal cars. My response was “So you’re cool with picking up drunks who could potentially harf in the back of your car, but oh no for the love of Pete, don’t make you take a well-trained service animal? Also, newsflash, when you have the Uber app on, that’s not your personal car.”

But my chicken streak didn’t last too long. Last weekend, when they were offering free rides, I decided to give them a shot. It took me a few tries to get one, apparently there weren’t enough cars on the road to accommodate all the people wanting free rides. But eventually I got one. I would have gotten one sooner, but the first one I got canceled almost instantly, and there were no cars available for a long long time. I don’t know what was up with that, someone thought it was a cabby screwing with the service, but until I know for sure, I’ll assume it was a dude learning how to use the app and making a mistake, especially since it only happened once. I ended up walking to my first intended Uber destination.

One thing I noticed right away that was awesome was I could see the guy’s name, type of car and license plate number. When we call a cab, we aren’t even told so much as the cab number, so if heaven forbid, something happened to us, we’d have nothing to give the cab company except the approximate time we were picked up. Also, you could see how long until the car got there. Just when do you get that info when calling a cab?

The car pulled up, and the guy asked if I was Carin. He was super nice, and didn’t even mention the dog. I have to add that lately, cab companies have been complaining if I don’t identify that I have a service dog when I call. I stopped doing that when a dispatcher wrote “guard dog” instead of “guide dog.” You can imagine how long I waited for a cab that day.

I had to chuckle to myself when the driver offered me a bottle of water. I had read about this practice, and I thought it was neat that, on my first ride, I saw it done.

The poor guy, I think I asked him about a zillion questions about how this whole thing would work. What if we were a group of 6 and wanted to use Uber…how would we call enough cars? What if we were at a weird side entrance? How would we communicate with the driver? Has he been super busy? What kind of folks are trying this out? But he answered my zillion questions and didn’t seem to mind. I was relieved to hear that it was right in their manual that pets were optional but service dogs had to be accepted.

I got to my destination without incident. It was funny. I texted Steve at each step along the way. I think I was the only one worried, but oh well. After I rated the guy, I got my receipt and was pretty happy. If I had paid for that ride, it would have been in the ballpark of what a traditional cab fare would have been, if not a smidge cheaper.

I was sad that I only managed to get one of my four free rides out of them because it was so hard to get a car, but it was almost thrilling when I got it. I felt like I managed to be the right caller in a radio contest. God, I need to get out more.

This weekend, I managed to take three more rides, and each time, it was easy to get a car. That’s a relief because if a convenient service is low on cars, it kind of becomes inconvenient. I’d say each of my rides were fascinating in their own way. Driver no. 1 was all excited about letting people connect Spotify to his radio and play their own music. Driver no. 2 was cranky because I was only going a short distance, and either by accident or by design, tried to overcharge me. I contacted Uber and asked some questions about the big fare, and they fixed it. Driver no. 3 was super nice, but he kept asking me questions like “Do you find Uber more convenient than a regular cab?” The conspiratorial side of me wondered if this was a regular cabby trying out Uber to see what we were saying about cabs or something. I’m sure it wasn’t, it just sort of crossed my mind.

So now that I have probably bored you to death chronicling all my trips, I thought I’d mention a few observations.

First, I’m glad I read that Uber driver confessions article because, although he said a lot of things that sounded like things cabbies encounter, the bit about how strict they are about ratings being high, and the bit about not being able to add a tip were important things to know for this Uber newb. On a related note, I found myself wanting to ask for as little help as possible since I knew I couldn’t tip the guy. This is probably just a hangup on my part, as the guys were always willing to give me a hand if necessary.

Second, holy crap is the Uber app a battery hoover. Do not leave it on any longer than absolutely necessary…unless people have suggestions on how to cut down on its ability to inhale battery juice.

So, I’d say I like Uber. The app works a lot slicker than Waterloo Taxi’s app, over all, the experience has been good and the price has been reasonable. I really like the fact that the driver has GPS, so they can’t really pretend they have no idea where you’re going and try to rip you off. This happened to us when we visited Ottawa once. This cabby , looking at our suitcases and the fact that he picked us up at the Greyhound, pretended that he had no idea what street we were talking about, to the point of butchering the street name in the most cartoonish way possible, and proceeding to take the scenic route. Dude, did you start driving yesterday? Unluckily for him, his GPS started chipping, and I immediately said “you have a GPS, use it.” What should have been a $15 ride ended up costing us $22. If that had been an Uber ride, a. I would have known he was on GPS, b. I could have estimated the fare, c. I could have asked for a review and probably gotten things adjusted if it was discovered that cheating was afoot, and d. the charges are on your credit card, so it’s easier to get the excess charges refunded. The cabbies always talk about how taxis are safer because they’re more accountable, but it feels like Uber has made their drivers more accountable than any cab I’ve ever taken.

I also like the convenience of just whipping the app open in any city that has it and using it. There’s no need to ask for cab numbers or anything. That makes things definitely easier.

I think there’s a place for regular cabs and Uber, at least I sure hope so. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

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