29 May 2015

In the Interest of Fairness, I Must Praise Uber

Rather unsurprisingly, the thing that they did right was dissing New York Times columnist, and perpetual middle school doyenne Maureen Dowd.

It seems that our lady of shallow cattiness was in Hollywood, and called for an Uber ride, and she saw the cars fleeing her on the app:

Even in the land of movie stars, you could feel like a movie star when your Uber chauffeur rolled up. Standing in front of the Sunset Tower Hotel, I tapped my Uber app and saw five little cars swarming around my location. But, suddenly, they scattered in the opposite direction. I stood in the driveway, perplexed. Finally, a car pulled up, and the driver waved me in.

“Do you know why no one wanted to pick you up?” he asked. “Because you have a low rating.”

(Uber drivers see your rating once they accept the request and then can cancel.)

I was shocked. Blinded by the wondrous handiness of Uber, I had missed the fact that while I got to rate them, they got to rate me back.

Revealing that I had only 4.2 stars, my driver continued to school me. “You don’t always come out right away,” he said, sternly, adding that I would have to work hard to be more appealing if I wanted to get drivers to pick me up.
To the degree that we can tell, the firms fares are opaque and confusing, Uber does not charge by the hour, it charges on the basis of distance + some sort of weird "special sauce".

The drivers are paid on the basis of what is charged, so by leaving drivers to cool their heels while she does her nails, or finishes packing, or whatever, she is requiring the drivers to wait unpaid for her.

Given that with a glance at the app, you can see where the nearest drivers are, it would be a simple thing to wait until just before she was ready to leave, or to post for a driver at some point in the near future so that you can be assured that she is ready to ride when they arrive.

Ms. Dowd comes to a completely different conclusion:
Except then I learned that sitting in an Uber car was pretty much like sitting in my office: How much have you developed your audience? How much have you been shared? How much have you engaged your reader? Are you trending?

I was trending on Uber, all right, and not in a good way. I had avoided Lyft not only because of that pink mustache but because I had heard that you were encouraged to sit up front with drivers and give them fist-bumps. It seemed more like The Flintstones’ car than Cinderella’s pumpkin coach.

But, now, instead of quietly sitting in the back seat of my Uber and checking my phone or reading the paper, I had to start working to charm.

“Your husband likes oysters?” I enthused to one woman driving me in San Francisco.

“What are the kids up to this summer?” I chirped to another.

It was starting to have the vibe of friending, liking and sharing on Facebook, and that always gives me acid flashbacks to the ’80s when I was forced to go to my brother’s house and watch slides of his wedding. Finally, my nephew explained that I didn’t need to grovel or gush. I simply needed to say, as I got out of the car, “Five for five.” If I promised to give them five stars — even in the Wild West of Uber X, where the drivers often seem so unfamiliar with the local terrain it’s as though they’ve arrived from Mars — they would give me five stars.
So her solution is to go and subject the drivers that she is paying to be her hostage to the wondrous personality that is Maureen Dowd.

You are treating Uber drivers like sh%$, and no amount of small talk will fix that.

Just don't leave the driver waiting.

Also, tips, particularly in cash, where Uber won't take a cut, can't hurt.


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