Back in 2009, a pretty amazing concept was founded by entrepreneurs Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick; an app that allows customers to request a driver through their smartphones. We know it as Uber, and since its birth back in 2009, it has become a billion dollar company, operating in hundreds of cities in dozens of countries.
Whether you have used the app or not (I have and it is a vastly superior product to the competition), you have heard the name and probably already have some strong opinions. Many people are against it. There are some reasons for which Uber has earned a less than pristine reputation. Reports of customers paying hundreds of dollars for rides at "peak hours", accusations of hiring "anyone" have led to some calling the app "criminal" and "dangerous" and government officials across the world have claimed that the lack of licensing is akin to something they call "the wild west". Taxi drivers are also up in arms as their livelihood is being threatened by a shiny new product.
Recently in Toronto, Canada, city councilor Jim Karygiannis confronted an Uber driver and harassed him while he was working. Karygiannis is known to have close ties with multiple cab companies in Toronto, and is just one example among many of politicians trying to use their power to interrupt economics and the progress of the species. Here are fourteen reasons everyone should use Uber.
One of the main reasons for Uber receiving some negative press is that the entire operation is run on GPS. The cars have it and every ride is tracked from start to finish. While some have argued that this is a privacy concern, it does make for a safer ride. The company knows where each car is at all times. Furthermore, they know when a passenger has been picked up and dropped off. While traditional cab drivers may use GPS technology to plan routes, the technology is used at their discretion and offers no additional safety to the occupant(s) of the vehicle. In some cities, cabs are GPS’d by their companies, but given that the Uber app uses GPS tech centrally, every car’s location is known, regardless of city or country.
This goes hand in hand with a couple of other points that will be made here, but part of Uber being a superior experience and company is that they simplify the transaction in a few ways. Fare sharing is possible in a regular cab, but only if your party is paying cash and all have the right bills. With Uber, all one must do is choose “split fare”, add the others and each credit card will be charged the same amount. No more hard feelings over who paid the most for the ride and of course, no longer will a group have to fumble with cash to properly split a ride. Simplicity and convenience are the names of the game and Uber has them nailed.
This depends on one's city but it is a great place to start. Often when Uber starts expanding into a new city, they will offer people opportunities for free rides. Whether this is just a period of time in which rides are free altogether, or they offer existing customers a promo code for friends to enter to get free first rides, it's undoubtedly a win-win for the company, as well as for the consumer.
When is the last time a cabby offered you a free ride?
Let me start off by saying that plenty of quality individuals drive conventional taxis. With that said, there are many unpleasant cabbies and some downright awful ones. Making a complaint is often difficult (impossible or pointless in some cities) and rarely leads to any change. Uber drivers who are polite, clean and professional, get positive ratings, and creeps or those who are unprofessional do not last. Rating a driver is easy, and if a driver is good, his or her reputation will remain high. If a driver nearly kills people, smells atrocious and/or is offensive to be around, a rating will reflect that.
When you order a cab, it depends on the city, but chances are a mid-size sedan will show up. If you are physically disabled and fortunate enough to live in an accommodating city, a minivan with a wheelchair lift may be available. Beyond that however, enjoy your Prius or Fusion. Oh, you wanted a BMW? Better luck next time, that'll be fifty dollars please.
UberX is the basic choice. It's cheap, and gets you where you need to go. UberBLACK has only high end sedans for those who want additional comfort. UberSUV is for those who want more than four people in their vehicle and UberLUX is for maximum comfort, offering beautiful luxury vehicles. These all come with a price, but even UberLUX is a far better price than a limo.
One of the most popular reasons why frightened, government dependent citizens cite to spread hatred of Uber is that it is an unlicensed company, and therefore is dangerous. Make no mistake, unlicensed businesses are dangerous, to government employees who profit from unnecessary licensing regulations.
The only reason that any municipal bureaucracy wants to control Uber or any other ride-sharing app, is to further line their pockets with your hard-earned cash. It may feel nice to kid yourself, but no government worker anywhere, cares about your safety. Cab licensing is about control and profit, not public safety. If any group needs to be cut out of this business, it is your local legislator. Uber has licensing restrictions for drivers in all of its areas of operation, and many involve police checks. In short, you're safer with an Uber driver than you are with a politician.
Ever sit in the back of a dirty taxi with terrible music blaring at full volume with some smelly driver griping about his lot in life, only to hear "no tip?!" when you chose to not pay extra for the bad experience? I have. This isn't to say that there aren't great people driving cabs, but the point stands nonetheless.
Payment for Uber rides is taken from a customer's credit card without initiating any pressure to tip. As previously discussed, the behavior and demeanor of the driver determines whether the driver will continue to have a place with the company.
When you receive a receipt for a taxi trip, there will be a few prices, and depending on the city/company, maybe a driver name. When it comes to Uber, they allow you to track your route so that whether drunk, or just new to a city, you can determine whether you have been "taken for a ride".
This is not an option with a taxi company. Again, while plenty of great cab drivers exist, some get proverbial dollar signs in their eyes when they sense a customer is not from the area.
The quality of the actual vehicles used by cab companies varies from city to city, but Uber requires certain specifications for vehicle types and ages for each of its formats. Customers who want a basic ride will get a four door car that was made more recently than 2000 (not difficult to find/obtain). Other Uber options such as SUV or LUX, have more restrictions and offer great vehicles.
Many cab companies have age restrictions on vehicles, but in some cases and in some areas, it is a complete crap shoot. With Uber, it is straight across the board, what you request is what you get.
You order the car from your smartphone, and then it shows up. You enter, exchange pleasantries with the driver, he does his thing, you check Twitter, and before you know it, you wish each other well and part ways. No need to put the phone away, no fumbling with credit or debit cards late at night (possibly while intoxicated), the money gets taken out of a credit card account with no more steps than "order car" and "ride in car". Simplicity is the spice of life. Others may say variety is, but for my purposes here, it's simplicity.
When you call a cab, someone may tell you "such and such cab is on the way", but they will often advise that it may be between five and twenty minutes. This translates to ten minutes to an hour and a half. This obviously depends on the city, but cabs are often late if they even show at all. Uber allows you to pinpoint exactly where that vehicle is, so that you can plan trips with more accuracy. We've all been there, waiting an extra twenty minutes for a cab and being late for that dinner party or an important meeting. If you want to avoid such setbacks, Uber is a great way to reliably plan transportation.
See that picture up there? That is a picture of one of many European taxi unions stopping during midday traffic in July 2014, to protest Uber. The joke was on them, in London, Uber experienced 850% more ridership during that time.
Why do cabs cost so much? Unions, lobbyists and government licensing are the big three answers. These three things are, in essence, middlemen. Middlemen cost quite a bit but seldom actually contribute to the product with which they are involved. Uber has lobbyists of sorts, but they are merely satisfied customers. Drivers aren't unionized, and as of right now, most governments have been unable to sink their fangs into Uber and similar services. It is a competitive, efficient service that is giving older formats a run for their money. This leads perfectly into point two.
There it is. Anyone worth talking to will tell you that the only bottom line worth discussing is money. It makes the world go 'round, it puts food on the table and it keeps the kids calling home after they have moved out.
In the vast majority of cases, using Uber is between 25% and 50% cheaper than hiring a normal cab. That can add up to a few drinks at the bar, getting one's date a dessert and of course, being able to take Uber to get home, rather than public transportation. Cutting out unions and governments is brilliant and truly offers a higher quality service for less, to customers that want such a service.
With legislators and lobbyists trying to shut them down, Uber offers a fantastic product that is living on as an underdog that has all but won. I have offered up eleven other reasons to use the app, but number one is most important: the costs are far less.
That's a big statement about an unlicensed taxi company, right? Damn right it is, and if I do say so myself, it's spot on! Points one, two and three are all similar, and work in conjunction to make this point.
Cabs are expensive in North America. Uber offers a superior product that maximizes technology and costs less. This is evolution at work! Taxis have become an expensive, unpleasant dinosaur and Uber is the ice age/meteor coming to blow them away, and with every city Uber enters, it gains momentum. Critics can say "oh, the non-union drivers make less" but nobody is threatening them to "DRIVE!" Others can say, "but without massive government bureaucracy and regulation, don't we live in the wild west?" Anyone saying anything even close to this needs to give their head a shake and get a grip, fast. Time to join the 21st century and stop wasting your money. The superior product costs less. This is human progress and economic savvy at work, time to get on board, join the team and come in for the big win.