Many people are passionate about their love for Uber. I am not one of them. I don’t have too much use for them, and I don’t generally feel comfortable in Uber cars. If you love Uber, that is fine. This is just my experience.
First, I have little use for Uber. I live in New York City. I take mass transit – which is to say subways and buses – most everywhere. Each month, I pay the MTA $116.50 for 30-days unlimited rides. On many occasions that I’ve treated myself to an Uber in Manhattan I’m sorry I did because it either takes too long for the car to arrive or the drive itself takes longer than just taking mass transit. Having said that, I find some of Uber’s marketing campaigns interesting and innovative.
Second, about the only time I use Uber in New York is to go to an airport, and even then, I usually only use it when going to JFK early in the morning. If the flight is later in the day to either JFK or LGA (or, even EWR) it is easier, faster and cheaper to take mass transit. And, if I am going from home to LGA, I will either take a bus or just hail a taxi. For me, Uber is a hassle.
Third, I do use Uber when I’m traveling, and the results have been mixed. In Pittsburgh last year, the driver couldn’t find the Hyatt Regency at the Pittsburgh Airport. I waited nearly half an hour for him. Two days later, on my ride back to the airport, the nice driver decided to take me on the scenic tour supposedly to avoid traffic. About the only location I remember being very happy with Uber rides and drivers was in Capetown, South Africa.
Fourth, I also have to say that some of the drivers give me the creeps. I just don’t feel terribly comfortable. Sometimes, I don’t feel safe. When it comes down to it – not to sound paranoid, but an Uber driver is a stranger. Most are good people, but not all are.
Last week, once again, I decided to give Uber a try. Won’t Run and I had our last night in Amsterdam. We stayed two nights at Hyatt’s amazing Andaz Prinsengracht hotel (review soon). We were going to the Hyatt Place Amsterdam Airport the last evening, so, rather than take a tram back to Centraal Station and then take the train back to Schipol Airport and then get the hotel shuttle to the Hyatt Place, we decided we would go directly to the hotel by Uber. We’d heard the ride was quick and the price would be under 30 Euros. Perfect, right?
The driver arrived and I had a sixth sense of discomfort, but not enough to not get in the car. I told Won’t Run to sit in the front with the driver. Sometimes when I’m traveling and I don’t have cellular service, I Google Map the trip in advance so I can follow along. I didn’t do this for this trip, and I’m sorry I didn’t. The driver kept driving. On ramps, onto new roads, or perhaps the same highways over and over. We tried to ask where we were or if there was a problem but he mainly ignored us and started playing with the GPS – turning it on and off. I was very uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I was safe. It wasn’t evident to me what he had in mind, but I think we were taken on a wild goose chase and it was intentional.
We were relieved when he finally pulled into the driveway at the Hyatt Place.
Won’t Run said the driver was muttering sorry when he was getting our suitcases out of the trunk, but Won’t Run wasn’t sure if the driver meant he was sorry the ride took so long or if he was sorry he didn’t murder us or if he was sorry about something else.
Although there was no traffic, the 20 kilometer ride took nearly an hour and the charge was nearly 50 Euro. Clearly, the time, the distance and the charge were all excessive.
When I was safely in the hotel (and had wifi), I tweeted:
I will say this: Uber Support is great. I was promptly contacted by Uber Support. We were asked to explain the circumstances of our complaint. Within a day, they adjusted the price to 28 Euro.
Was I actually in harm’s way during this ride? Maybe yes. Maybe no. I’m glad I’ll never find out and I’m glad I was not alone.
Here are some tips I’ve thought of to keep in mind when riding with Uber or any other ride service. Please add more:
- if the driver arrives and you don’t feel comfortable, you can change your mind and not get in the vehicle.
- sit in the front seat. You have a little more control than if you are in the back.
- if you have a smartphone, you can follow along the ride with a GPS app, such as Google Maps or MapQuest.
- if you are traveling internationally and don’t have cellular service, download the map and directions before you get in the vehicle.
- You can give information pertaining to the Uber ride to a friend and then they can call and check on you. If you have the Find My Friends app on your smartphone, your friends can see your location.
- If you have a phone, you can make a call or pretend to be making a phone call. If you have cellular service turned off, and need to really make a call, you can always turn it on.
I’m not saying I’ll never take Uber again. I most likely will. I just will remind myself that I am getting into a vehicle with a stranger, so precautions or at least a reality check may be wise.