Lileks: Call me an Uber. OK, you're an Uber
- Article by: JAMES LILEKS
- Star Tribune
- April 19, 2014 - 3:33 PM
Should Uber, the car-hire service that’s popular with consumers but unpopular with competitors, be allowed to enter the local market? Well, obviously not, you might say. But here’s my experience from an LA trip.
Uber: Ordered up a ride by tapping on my phone, checked its progress by looking at the little dot moving on the screen, which gives you the estimated time of arrival.
There’s an app for local cab companies, but the first sentence in the Terms and Conditions: “There is no guarantee that a booking made from this application will be processed by the system or allocated to a taxi.” I’m serious. Would you make a reservation for an airline whose website says “We’re not saying we actually have any planes?”
So you call the cab company. Wait on hold. Bored dispatcher tells you the cab is on its way, but you could say the same thing about Halley’s comet. Once a cab drove by, missed the house; I run into the street waving my arms. This is like ordering a hamburger at a restaurant and chasing down the waiter because you see him running up the block in the wrong direction.
When it pulls up, the trunk appears to have been swabbed with motor oil, the seats have the busted springs of a cathouse mattress, and the interior temperature is like an Antarctic port-a-potty.
Uber cab: For a second you think the driver drove it off a showroom floor.
Cab: When you arrive, you get out a credit card, and for some reason this seems to be a problem. Drivers often react as if you’d said “Say, couldn’t we barter? I have a bag of ferrets. They’re well-trained, very valuable.” The driver gets out a hand-operated card-imprint maker so old it says DINERS CLUB on the side.
Uber: Arrive, get out, and that’s it. All the payment and tip was handled by the app. You’re done! Receipt automatically e-mailed. You have the illusion this was somehow free.
Cabdrivers are usually polite, and you can’t blame them if they ended up with a crummy cab in poor condition. But if you insist we can’t have new transportation options because it hurts the pre-existing model, then shut down food trucks that compete with restaurants. Before they start driving you to the airport as well.
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