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Holidays Uber Alles

Holidays Uber Alles

Is it just me, or has Uber started to just let anybody drive for them with a car that works?

Today we did two trips on Uber, one in a Toyota Camry that was dinged (that’s an automotive term) on every corner, front and back, dings in the car doors, and paint scrapes down the sides. The interior had seen better days, but then so have we, so perfectly acceptable. The other trip was in some sort of low rent car, like a Charade or a Yaris or a Ford Focus or somesuch that had definitely passed its best years. You know what I am talking about – all the interior doors scuffed, and generally not in peak condition. On top of that – you could tell that the driver had been smoking – probably in the car.

I know its the holidays – and probably every available Uber driver is out and about trying to make themselves a bit of holiday cheer. But is that an excuse for crappy vehicles?

They may be the sign-up criteria – but they don’t seem to police continuing compliance with their ‘minimum requirements

On both our trips the drivers were perfectly mannered, helpful, and competent. One car provided water, and in the other, we were offered mints.

I always have some guilt about using Uber, since I know there are excellent taxi drivers out there who have much greater overheads and are having their income affected by the intrusion of Uber. I also know that Uber pays its drivers very badly. The ‘share’ economy does not extend to sharing its profits with its workers. It just helps the rich get richer. Uber is going to have to adjust its business model, and to ‘help’ them do that we might have to look to their competitors.

Some drivers have reported that, if they account for wear and tear on their car, they can break even or lose money on some rides.

So, why do I use Uber?

Well, it used to be because:

  • They are cheaper – although that’s not true once their ‘surge’ charging gets higher than above 1.5 times the normal rate
  • They are more polite and helpful than many taxi drivers – I think that’s still true
  • They have better, cleaner, nicer cars than most taxis. That used to be true – remember when they were all brand new cars? – but not so much now.
  • Convenience. Have phone will travel, quicker than calling a cab – but now there are alternatives

So, what to do?

Well, these drivers were all perfectly decent people trying to make a buck. I’m not going to shit on their income source by giving them a bad rating or reporting them to Uber. What I might do, is try some different services – some different apps. Uber might be the segment leader, but it is not the only option. I’m going to start by downloading one or all of the following:

  • ihail – ‘ ihail is a brand new smartphone app that will connect you to every taxi in your area and offers fixed priced fares so you never pay surge prices again.’
  • gocatch – ‘a better deal for all Australians’ – you can earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points too
  • ingogo – ‘In an Australian 1st, ingogo offers fixed fares’ – you can earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points too

We will report back in a month or two about our experience with the apps and the drivers here in Sydney, Australia.

Love to hear your thoughts too

(featured image from the Uber media site – happy young people!)

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