Friday, June 10, 2016

I Love Uber But I Guess They Don't Love Me

One of the first things I did when I got a smart phone a couple of months ago was set up the Uber app. For the most part, I have no reason to use it in my own home area, but I was planning to head for Orlando for the 2016 Libertarian National Convention, and thought I might have occasion to use it. I did -- Megabus drops off pretty much all the way across town from the convention center -- and it was a great experience.

A Facebook friend told me to expect the Uber fare from bus stop to convention center to run at least $70, even though the "fare estimator" function said $17-$23, and that seemed reasonable (he was running people from the airport to the convention center for $35 -- per car trip, not per rider, to cover gas, wear, tear, etc.). When I stepped off the bus I talked to the waiting shuttles/cabs, all of whom quoted me a fare of $50. What the heck, I decided. I had an $18 off coupon for my first trip, so even if it DID cost $70 it wouldn't be any more than a cab. Opened the app, let it detect where I was, told it where I wanted to go, and ...

... bam. Driver on the way, ETA X minutes. It turned out to be something like X+3 minutes because traffic was heavy and the driver spent at least two of those minutes awaiting a break in traffic to turn into the parking lot. No biggie.

Decent, clean car (a Kia). I'll call the driver "Georgia" because that's what the app said her name was and it was what she answered to. Nice, personable, friendly, had only been driving for Uber for a week. I think the trip took two or three minutes longer than estimated, but once again there was a LOT of traffic, so not an issue. And the fare? I paid $3 and change out of pocket after my $18 coupon, which means the fare was right in the middle of the app estimate.

So I'm sold on Uber. Except ...

Uber does serve Gainesville. And with Tamara traveling next week it occurred to me that if I needed to run into town that would be a good way to do it. So I just opened the app, and the app located me ...

"No UberX (their normal, non-elite service) available."

I started playing with the pickup location. If I'm willing to walk 2.3 miles, I can get a ride from Uber. But apparently I can't just pay extra and get picked up at my door. And walking for 45-55 minutes to get to a location where I could hail a ride would sort of defeat my purpose. I have a neighbor who's happy to run me to the store or whatever and I just pop for a little gas money or, if we're out long, take her to lunch (both options together probably coming to less than a two-way Uber trip). The whole idea of checking Uber came down to "I'd rather not bother her, especially on short notice."

I could understand not being able to book a ride from 50 miles outside the metro area in question. But we're talking about a four-minute drive past what seems like an arbitrary stopping point (not the city limit or a major shopping center or anything like that; a seemingly random street corner well out of town, just not QUITE as far out of town as I live, and I live about 30 seconds off the main road in the area).

What's up with that, Uber? Heck, Domino's delivers to my doorstep, and drives from within your coverage area to do so.

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