In June my girlfriend and I went to Chicago for a relaxing weekend. While the main goal was to relax and get away from the stress of school, I was excited about finally getting to try Uber, a new car service. Since no city in Oklahoma is large enough to warrant Uber, this was the first time I’ve been to a city with Uber since hearing about it several months ago. This is my review of the four experiences I had with Uber.
In case you haven’t heard of it, Uber is an on demand car service. There is an Uber app for iPhone and Android phones and it also works on old phones through text messages. Whenever you’re ready to go, you simply open up the app and it pinpoints your location. You can see all of the Uber cars in the city driving around and it gives you an estimate of how long it would take a car to get to you. It’s usually 4-5 minutes. You can drag a pointer to the exact location you want to get picked up at and request the car.
The app shows you a picture of the driver as well as his name, rating, and license plate number. This makes it easy to verify the driver when you get there. After you get to your destination, the driver stops the meter that runs on his phone and you get out of the car. The app tells you how much the trip cost and gives you a chance to rate your driver and input any comments. You don’t have to worry about exchanging cash or tips since all billing is done trough the credit card you give Uber when you sign up and tips are included in the price. Afterward, Uber will email you information about your ride including a map of the route taken, time spent stopped, and average speed.
I signed myself and my girlfriend up for an Uber account. I signed up using a blogger’s referral and received $10 credit to my account, he received a $10 credit after I made my first ride. I then referred my girlfriend so that we would each get a $10 credit. I then went through the GILT city website a purchased a $25 Uber credit for new users for free due to a promotion Uber was having. This meant that we each had $35 in free credit and I would have an extra $10 after we made our first ride on her account. Amazon Local and Groupon also do promotions like these from time to time so it is worth waiting to sign up if you aren’t going to be using it immediately.
We ended up using Uber four times during the weekend. We had a $22, $15, $16, and $34 rides, which were almost free because of the credits. Each of the drivers for these rides were extremely nice and courteous. I don’t usually like to talk to the driver since I’m a little shy but my girlfriend would ask them lots of questions about where they were from and what they liked to do in the city. All seemed very happy to answer. All of the drivers we had were foreign: 1 Albanian, 1 French, and 2 Middle Eastern. All but the French driver had almost perfect english and had no problems understanding us. When asked about their job and Uber all seemed to like Uber and be happy to be a part of it. At least a couple of them worked for private car services during the day but would pick up a couple extra hours on the weekend or evenings working for Uber. I believe the Uber model means that each driver owns his own car and Uber takes a cut of the money since they handle the billing and distribution. Uber also helps with getting drivers insurance and car financing.
The one problem we did have was with the $34 ride. We were going from Hancock Center to the Hyatt Regency at the corner of Michigan Ave. and Wacker Dr. It was a little of a mile and since there was no real traffic, the cost should have been below the $15 minimum. However, the driver took a wrong turn and ended up on the lower level of Wacker instead of the top level. No problem he said, he’d just turn around. Except that he proceeded to drive around for 20 minutes going all over the city. What should have been a mile was over 5 miles of driving.
When we arrived the driver apologized, but made no move to reduce the cost. I told him that I had no problem with a little joy ride but that since it was his fault I didn’t want to pay full price for it. Since we had the free credit, I told him that I would be happy if he would reduce the price to $20. I thought this was actually pretty nice since if a driver did this in a taxi, I would be temped to give him a five and walk off. He said he would adjust it and we left. He didn’t adjust it. I rated him a 1/5 stars since that is the lowest you can rate somebody and mentioned that he agreed to adjust the price in the comment section. A couple days later I got an email from Uber support that apologized for my driver and lowered the price to the $15 minimum. It was nice to see that they do take the ratings and comments seriously. This is a necessity since they already have your credit card info before you get into the car.
Uber has four different levels of service: Uber Taxi, UberX, Uber Black Car, and Uber SUV. The Taxi service basically just calls a taxi for you. The black car service and SUV are exactly what they sound like. Black car service cost about 70-100% more than a taxi would. SUV is a little more since it’s a larger vehical. UberX is a new service they are just rolling out that that uses hybrids and standard cars to reduce the price to about 50% more than a taxi. We had very nice cars each time: a Chrysler 300, two Lincoln Town Cars, and a Chevy Suburban. All in good shape. Like a taxi, Uber charges based on miles driven and time spent. They also have set rates for trips to and from the airports, but a typical airport car service is usually about 30-60% cheaper.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of using Uber. As a college kid, Uber made black car service affordable for me and it’s something I’ll look forward to next time I’m in an Uber city.