I was one of Uber’s first fans. After three decades in Philadelphia, screaming at cab drivers, being driven around in circles scrunched into that tiny space in the filthy backseat, I was overjoyed when I could sit in a nice car with space for my feet and a driver who would take me where I wanted to go. After decades of calling and calling and calling and no cab ever showing up and almost missing flights, jogging down a snow-covered street in my TSA sandals waving at cabs, I was excited to use a simple app to summon a ride. To my joy, Uber soon appeared in Toronto and Amsterdam, two places where I spent a lot of time; it was like a new beginning, making life (especially professional life) easier and therefore less stressful and ultimately more productive. It was particularly useful when I had ecclesiastical garb on and in my hands and needed not to have to drive or park to the church where I was headed.
In the beginning Uber was always just terrific. There were occasional glitches, like airport pickups, but eventually they seemed to have gotten that part worked out too. The first drivers were all terrific and enthusiastic.
But now it seems Uber has got too big for its britches.
SUVs substitute for actual cars everywhere. Never mind the pathetic waste of energy and the enormous carbon emmissions used to drive one rider around in one of those tanks, they’re also difficult to get into and out of. I always summon a car, and I almost always now get an SUV. I insist on sitting in the front, where I can just slide in and out; I refuse to climb into that awful claustrophobic buslike interior. Uber, you’re not doing anybody a favor pretending an SUV is the same as a car.
There are more, and more unpleasant, drivers now too. In Philadelphia, when you summon Uber at the airport, the app tells you where to stand (Zone 6) and you input the terminal where you’ve arrived. The driver has your exact coordinates and you’ve been told exactly where you’ll get picked up. So, about the time you put your glasses away and swing your bag over your shoulder and start walking to the pickup spot the *#$%& driver calls you. IF you don’t answer they cancel you. If you do manage to answer—stop, put down your bags, fish out your glasses, fish out your phone and answer—they ask if you wanted Uber? And where are you, are you at the airport? It makes me crazy. If they’re so stupid they can’t see you at the exact location you entered, plus the blue dot that shows exactly where you’re standing, they shouldn’t be driving people around in vehicles. Does Uber really not instruct them that the app has already instructed us? One in ten of them says their Uber app doesn’t show where the customer is, but the other nine drive right to the spot. Hmmm …..
As I often say to these drivers, if I wanted to use the phone I’d call a taxi.
What’s with the stink? Everyone of those damn SUVs stinks. They think it’s “air freshener” but I’m often lucky if I don’t vomit from it. I’m allergic to those sort of smells and it makes my throat and sinus passages seize up. Sometimes I have to go back home and shower and change clothes and hunt down my asthma medicine and then try going out again. Sometimes I have to do the laundry every time I get out of an Uber. Uber, the stink stinks! Knock it off!
I was recently in Calgary for a conference. I was looking forward to going into the city each evening to try restaurants. But, when I arrived at the airport the Uber app said “no cars available.” I tried again once out of the building (in St. Louis, to get Uber you have to exit baggage claim and stand in the garage), but still “no cars available.” When I got to my hotel I opened the app again just to see whether I could use it to get to my conference. This time I got the political pop-up telling me that thanks to the mayor of Calgary, Uber had stopped serving the city. Thanks Uber for stranding me!
And thanks Calgary for making my trip so miserable. I did have to take taxis a few times to my conference. It was just like the old days, call and wait, wait wait, then call again and wait some more. Crawl into a tiny space in the back. And fish around for the right change to pay. I decided to stay in my hotel. No bucks for Calgary if I can’t use Uber to get around. And in all the other places, Milwaukee included, where it’s increasingly difficult to Uber, I’m planning to just stay home.
Last night we went to the symphony. It’s several miles from where we live to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts downtown, and I don’t like to drive down there when I know we’ll be starting the evening eating and drinking. So we take Uber. Last night we used UberX to get to the restaurant and then another UberX to get to the Marcus Center. After the concert, when my head is full of music, I usually call Uber Black Car to get us home–we can sit and mull over the music and look at the lake in the moonlight. But not last night. Last night the first driver to pick up my request had an SUV (of course), and was parked in front of the Center according to the app, but instead of picking us up he texted to ask whether I wanted an Uber and for how many and where was I going. Now, as I said before, if I wanted to mess around with that I could call a cab. The whole point of Uber is that the app takes care of all that. I cancelled him. My husband went to the bathroom at that point so I just sat for awhile. Several minutes later I tried again. Same guy, same thing; I cancelled him again. Every time I tried to request a car he picked it up; I cancelled him. He started phoning me; I denied the call. I cancelled him again. There were other cars onsite, I could see that on the app, but he wouldn’t let any of them take the pickup. So, I switched to UberX. The driver was on an adjacent side street, drove right to where we were standing and picked us up with no inquiries, and we had an okay drive home. At this point three hours of Tchaikovsky was hopelessly shoved out of my consciousness.
Another problem with Uber Milwaukee is that none of the drivers of black cars (aka SUVs) is working with the rules. Most of them hand you a card and say not to use the app, just call them. Then after you’re in the car you mess around trying to get their Uber app to find yours. But there are several problems with this scenario. One is that you can’t use your app. Does anybody remember the app was the whole point? Another is that if the guy answers his phone (remember, I don’t want to make phone calls?), he says he’ll be there in 10 minutes. Ninety minutes later he calls to say he’s delayed. More than once I had international guests cooling their heels waiting to be taken to dinner and restaurants ticked off that we were two hours late for a reservation. If I’d used the app I’d have been there (stinky, but there).
A municipality that wants people to go out needs functioning transportation. Apart from New York subways and Amsterdam trams that means fully functional Uber is necessary. Uber Milwaukee needs to get with the program.
And Uber you’re too big for your britches. Try thinking twice about the service you offer before your formerly enthusiastic customers quit on you.