How was your New Year’s Eve? Everybody make it home safe and sound? Did Uber have your back? No? What happened?
Oh, you got boned by price surges and got into an Uber not knowing what the fare was going to be because their fare estimator was a little buggy?
No, you’re not the only one; and no, there isn’t a support group for similarly disgruntled Uber users either.
Because so few of us have cars, and because hailing a cab is obnoxious, annoying, and too hit-or-miss, and since the MTA is as unreliable as they come, Uber has quickly become the go-to for New Yorkers getting around the city.
Of course, as essential as its services are, we also know the pains of Uber surges-- incidental or otherwise --all too well, most notably after Hurricane Sandy.
You'll remember that in 2014 the New York Attorney General came to an agreement with Uber that would limit how much the cost could increase during national emergencies and natural disasters.
While surging still occurs during holidays and peak travel time, there's nothing quite as terrible as what happened to the unlucky riders looking for safe Uber passage on New Year's Eve.
Horror stories are slowly trickling out from riders who had to pay fares almost ten times the normal rate because the Uber app's fare estimator wasn't working properly for many, and from Edmonton to Miami Beach, more than a few riders were a little… distraught.
Take the stories of Riley Tegtmyer, Brian Stelter, and Cam Bussiere. Their price surge clocked in at 9.9x the normal fare. They may have been in the car for as little as five minutes, yet they paid anywhere from $83 to $205.
Then there was “Tony Jr.” who took a two-mile ride and paid $97. Of course, Twitter users were quick to point out that two miles was definitely walkable, and that he should have considered that before he got in the car. After all, the fare estimator was-- oh, wait. Not working.
Oh, and it gets worse, especially for Canada Native Matt Lindsay who took an hour long ride with multiple stops and ended up getting charged $1,114.71 in Edmonton. Just a little more than ridiculous, right?
ankurk2001 How uber surge screwed me on NYE #uberfucked #ubersurge #uber
Uber has since released a statement claiming that 60% of New Year’s Eve rides were not affected by surge pricing, but that’s not a good percentage. Essentially, that’s saying 40% of all users looking for safe, reliable transportation on New Year’s Eve were totally f*cked. Yay!
Illegal? Should be, right?
It’s true that we are most certainly a generation of consumers and buyers willing to pay a little extra for the sheer convenience of the product or service, but we’re not so sure New Year’s Eve should fall under that same line of thought.
New Year’s Eve is a night of drinking and celebrating, and unless you don’t drink at all or somehow got finagled into being the D.D., you really shouldn’t be on the road at all. It’s dangerous out there.
People, if you didn’t know already, are really good at getting drunk and driving. The drinking part? Yeah, they’re really good. The driving? ...Eh, not so much.
Morally speaking, how can a company justify undeniable price gouging on a night when reliable sobriety is in such short supply? Maybe it’s as simple as Uber says: demand is off the charts, so surge prices are imposed to get more Ubers on the road.
Sure, it’s a free market of ridesharing, and there isn’t, nor should there be, any significant regulation. Remember Mayor de Blasio’s war on Uber where he wanted to limit the amount of drivers on the road at any given time to relieve congestion? Not such a great idea.
That kind of regulation simply can’t work with emerging enterprises like Uber, but on the other hand, we should certainly continue monitoring Uber’s dubious sketchiness in not seizing opportunities like New Year’s Eve to act with any modicum of social responsibility.
That in itself is a tricky area, and while we shouldn’t put the onus on Uber to discount or give consumers a break, we should definitely be wary of any situation perceived as taking advantage of them, especially if it’s shrugged off as a “glitch” in the app.
Check out 11 Struggles of a New Year's Day Hangover.[via New York Post] [Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]