Have The Urge To Surge? Think Twice Before You Uber Ali Segel

How great is Uber? There is something that makes me feel cool about hopping out of some sleek black car and walking into a party, like I’m some important VIP or upcoming celeb that just couldn’t be bothered to drive herself. Uber combines the luxury and convenience of having your own private Town Car with the affordability of a cab, all at the touch of your fingertips.  Right? Wrong.

All across the United States, tipsy twentysomethings and busy businessmen are the victims of Uber’s “surge pricing.” Essentially, this means Uber’s ability to charge whatever they want during the holiday season. And yes—you’ve agreed to it.

It happened to Lauren Gural—who was charged FIVE times the normal fare on a ride home this holiday season. CBS news explains, “Gural says when she got home, she learned her 17-mile, 23-minute ride from Echo Park to Mar Vista cost approximately five times more than she expected. ‘I saw it said $161,’ she said. ‘I was dumbfounded.’”

There is yet another story of a woman in Los Angeles who was charged $357 for a 14 mile ride. I don’t know about you, but that would make a pretty hefty dent in my paycheck. Ramen noodles for every meal, anyone?

Why does surge pricing even exist? The Uber website justifies it, saying: “Surge pricing helps maximize the number of Uber cars on the system during times of extreme demand, maximizing the chance that there will be a car available when you need one.” Higher fares give drivers incentive to work, which means more drivers and cars on the road. Makes sense.

Uber goes on to compare holiday surge pricing to the airlines that increase their prices over Christmas, or that hot exclusive club that charges extra for bottle service on New Years Eve. Simmer down Uber. We get it.

Here’s the thing—I didn’t even know surge pricing existed. I didn’t even know I agreed to it.  In fact, I’m guilty of rarely checking my Uber receipts and just assuming they didn’t do me dirty.  Let’s be honest, does anyone ever actually read the fine print? For all I know, I might have signed away my firstborn child to iTunes several years ago.

How did Uber react to the customers who complained about having been “overcharged” during this holiday season? The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, posted a customer complaint email regarding surge pricing on his personal Facebook page, along with this caption: “Surge Pricing email that just came in and my response. Get some popcorn and scroll down…”.  To steal a line from Jennifer Aniston, that was way uncool, Trav, and you seem to have a sensitivity chip missing. Making fun of your customers is one way to deal with the situation, I guess….

It can be hard to recover from a bad rep—believe me, I know (thanks weird high school rumor about things I allegedly did at prom)—so hopefully Uber can clear the bad taste left in people’s mouths left from this whole surge debacle.

drinkanddrive

Whether or not you agree with surge pricing in any capacity, there’s one thing we can all agree upon: it is never okay to drink and drive. I speak from experience (I had a friend who passed away after being hit by a drunk driver) and it is absolutely never worth it. You could hurt yourself, you could hurt someone else, you could get a DUI—there is no reason to put yourself or others in harms way when there are tons of options out there for you. I’ve listed some below.

  1. Switch off picking a designated driver amongst your friends. Make it fun! I’m the Designated Debbie in my group of gal pals, and I force each person I pick up to burn me a personalized mixed CD. Now I have a rad music collection. Voila!
  2. Take a good ol’ fashion cab. Yellow is the new black!
  3. Home for the holidays? Ask your mom or dad for a ride!
  4. Call a Lyft—you can download the app on your iPhone—and take a mustache ride to your given destination.
  5. And, you can always take an Uber too—just make sure you’re clear about the surge pricing deals with your driver first.

Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone.  : )

Video from CBS news, Main Image from Valley Wag, Secondary Image from Shutterstock

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  1. If you do drive somewhere, and do find yourself drinking more than you should have, you can also try AAA’s “Tipsy Tow” (or “Tow To Go”) program. It’s offered as a free service on major holidays and special event days (i.e. New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl Sunday, etc.), whether you are a member of AAA or not, to get both you and your vehicle home safely if you’ve had too much to drink. It’s offered through arrangements with local providers, so you need to check with your local AAA office/website to get all the info, like if it’s available in your area, what dates it’s available (for example, some areas are available only on New Year’s Eve/Day, while others have it available every day from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day), any restrictions there might be (like number of people who can be transported, how many miles they will tow for free, etc.), and what phone number to store in your phone so you can have it ready if you need it.

  2. Hi Hello Giggle.s. I am using Uber a lot here in Sweden. And when I say a lot I mean 2-3 times a week. Surge pricing also occurs here now and then. Usually late weekend nights and busy evenings when there’s a lot of things going on in town. And usually when surge pricing occur it’s a 1.5 – 1.75 multiplier added to the cost.

    Don’t you guys and gals in the states have to each time it occurs ‘accept’ surge pricing before you send a call for a car? If so I might imply that the customers have been a bit lazy if they haven’t seen the big announcement on the screen.