My Experience with Uber and why it rocks!

I know this post isn’t directly related to Jeeping, or even veganism for that matter (I did have a vegan driver once).  But it is an issue that has been in the Portland-area circles, as the city decides how to “handle” ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The first time I used Uber was during a business trip to San Diego.  I took a cab ride from the airport to the hotel, for a whopping $37 (it was like 4 miles).  What is even worse, was the driver’s attitude about accepting my corporate AMEX card (“you don’t have any cash?” he pestered).  As he was grumbling about swiping my card, he didn’t even help me with my bags from the trunk.  As he sped away, I just about swore off taxis.

On the other end of the spectrum, on my return trip to the same airport from the same hotel, the cost was just over $11.  And the courteous driver offered me complimentary water, set the music to whatever I wanted, and was incredibly polite and conversational.

My ride from the hotel to the airport in San Diego.
My ride from the hotel to the airport in San Diego.

This is the very reason I feel Portland City Council is threatened by Uber – their service blows the traditional city-managed taxi services out of the water, and at a fraction of the cost.

But, furthermore I think there is a hesitation to let the common person earn money in an open marketplace with their own property.  Portland City Council defends their ban on Uber (until the recently passed 120 day trial period) with the typical excuses around safety and disability access.  They know, very well that Uber is a disruptor in the market, and that the relatively unchanged century old taxi model just won’t adapt.

For those that have not yet used Uber (I have never used Lyft) it is a fantastic service.  Essentially, if your vehicle and personal background meet certain criteria, you can become a driver.

The mobile app allows riders to pinpoint their location for pickup, and accepts their destination.  The driver can message or call you as he/she approaches to make sure you meet up.  Once in the vehicle, the driver receives your destination, and you set off.

The app is linked with your credit card, so no cash ever exchanges hands.  Gratuities are automatic.  This means you reach your destination and literally just walk away.  It bills you automatically.

The real genius of the system in my opinion is that driver rate riders on a scale of 1-5 stars.  Act like a jerk?  Puke in a car?  Not show up?  These things will downrank you and future drivers can elect to not pick you up.  At the same time, riders can rank drivers.  If a driver’s rank falls below a certain point, Uber will place them on a probationary period, and eventually will terminate their account.

Each and every driver I have had was a very positive experience.  Just today in San Francisco, I chatted about religion and politics with a driver that used to work for the World Bank.  Before, while looking to refinance my house, one of my drivers was a part time mortgage broker, and he gave me some great advice.

All my rides show up in a great interface.
All my rides show up in a great interface.

As a rider, all expenses are saved which means no more lost receipts. It also means a very fast pickup and great service.  As a corporate rider, I know this is a better value for my employer.

I absolutely love Uber and think it is an incredibly powerful way for the marketplace to get a shakeup.  It is just too bad that traditional companies that refuse to adapt must rely on city governments to limit competition in the name of “safety” and “access.”

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