Do you remember slide rulers, phone books, and card catalogs? Will our kids be asking us the same question about yellow cabs?
This is an interesting question that is being posed because Uber (a mobile-app-based transportation company that allows consumers to submit a trip request to crowd-sourced taxi drivers) has encroached in a once monopolized yellow cab dominated business.
Cab unions across the country (and world) are fighting to stomp out the right for people to have access to the less expensive Uber option when they need a taxi.
People against Uber argue that these Uber drivers do not comply with local taxi type laws. Some worry about car accidents and liability issues and others worry about background checks that might not be stringent enough.
Here is the bottom line. Uber has now opened the market for people with decent cars to earn extra cash by driving people to their destinations. It is brilliant for capitalistic people who appreciate supply/demand side economics. Uber now allows common people the luxury of having someone drive you places without breaking the bank. I can’t help but think that Uber will indirectly cause the incidents of drunk drivers to decrease.
Case in point, Friday night Dave and I had a date and we knew that we would have one or two glasses of wine. I had previously downloaded the uber app to my phone (you enter your name, address, and give a credit card number). I entered my home address and the name of the restaurant where we wanted to go (a few miles from our house). The uber app estimated the fare would be between 7 and 10 dollars. You do not tip with Uber, so we knew we would not pay more than 10 dollars for the fare.
We hit the book button and were immediately told that a driver (in a nice White Infinity SUV) was approximately 6 minutes from our house. The driver promptly arrived in a very nice, clean car and started driving us to our destination. I asked him a few questions and he told us he was a mechanical engineer who had been laid off a couple weeks ago from his job because of the low oil prices. He had a few job prospects in the works but wanted to make a few extra dollars while he was out of work. He lived in Katy and was driving towards downtown Houston when our Cypress request turned up. We were on his way and it was an easy fare.
He dropped us off and I later found out the fare was $7.87.
An interesting bit he shared with us is that many self employed cab drivers have started using Uber because the traditional cab dispatch system is slow and outdated. We are in the era of instant gratification and when we want a cab (or Uber), we want it right now and we want it to be easy.
Recently a writer for GQ magazine decided to sign up to drive for Uber and write a story about the experience. He applied to be an Uber driver, filled out the paperwork, and passed the background check. He had to submit a picture of his car and details because Uber doesn’t want people driving “old hoopties” driving for them. Approved drivers are given an IPhone with an Uber App and must give 20% of their cut to Uber.
Riders rate drivers from 1 to 5 and Uber drivers need to maintain an average 4.7 to remain employed through Uber. The iPhones drivers are given contain a “heat map’ that shows where the company’s most active customers are located (hence my driver going to downtown on a Friday night).
Uber differs from traditional cabs in that it uses surge pricing (pricing based on supply and demand). When there is a high demand, prices surge (often by 6 or 7 times the normal price). Our friends were leaving a Houston Rodeo concert and wanted to Uber a ride home. They saw that the fairs were 6 or 7 times the normal price. They decided to walk to a nearby restaurant and have a drink. After about 30 minutes, they checked the Uber app and prices were back to normal.
Uber offers different levels of cars that range from normal (Hondas, Toyotas- uberx) to higher end cars (uber Select and Black Car).
Overall, I would highly recommend using Uber. Paying $15.00 or $20.00 or $30.00 round trip for a driver is worth every penny knowing that we will be safe and not breaking any laws. I love that there are always Uber drivers around when you need a ride, and someone can pick you up quickly.
I feel bad for traditional taxi drivers who had to spend lots of money buying the rights/permits to drive people around (in New York City, it can be hundreds of thousands of dollars). However, I feel that Uber is providing a service that now allows the “common man” the luxury of being driven around. Years ago when I was single and meeting a group of friends for a night on the town in downtown Houston, I called for a cab. The cab driver picked me up around 5 pm and started driving towards downtown. We were halfway there and the traffic was horrible (as usual) when he realized this cab ride was going to infringe on plans with his family. He pulled over at a gas station and said to me, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to take you downtown, so I am dropping you off here”. I was mortified! I was a young, 24 year old female being basically dropped off on the side of the road. I was livid!
Now that Uber is around, things like this would not happen. Drivers know that they would be fired from Uber for doing something like this.
Here is an Uber Tip: Google Uber Promo Codes to receive $20 or $40 off of your first ride.
My question for you, do you have an Uber tip or experience you want to share?