By now you’ve either heard of Uber and Ubered yourself or are still wondering how it all works. I’d taken an Uber to the airport once but was with someone who was quite familiar with how it all worked. My husband and I recently Ubered (have they added that to the dictionary yet?) to the Houston Rodeo Cook-off and I wanted to share some things I learned the hard way from our recent Uber experience to hopefully save you from an uber expensive trip.
What is Uber?
Uber is a transportation service much like calling a cab but instead of getting into a yellow taxi with a cabbie you use the Uber App to arrange a pick-up from an Uber driver that drives their own car. The App, which you can download from your smartphone’s App store, is actually pretty neat.
How it Works
- Open the App
- Set your pick-up location
- Uber notifies a driver near you and you see a picture of the driver who will be picking you up, their name and what type of car they are driving
- The App shows you on the map where the driver is and the expected pick-up time
- You can choose to set-up payment through the App via Paypal or enter a credit card. All payment is done through the App.
Things to Know Before You Uber
- There Is No Tip Option- The App does not give you the option to tip so bring cash if you want to tip. According to them no tip is necessary.
- Beware of Surge Pricing- During times of high demand Uber increases prices. If possible move away from the surge area.
- Calls From Your Driver Come From the Same Number – If you’ve cancelled and are getting a call from the same number it’s probably a different driver.
- Cancellation Fee- You may cancel your request with no charge for up to 5 minutes after your driver accepts your trip.
- There Are Different Levels (uberX, uberSELECT, uberBLACK)- Levels are based on car type & size and also increase in price based on level.
Getting to the Houston Rodeo Cook-off was a breeze. I downloaded the App. Set our pick-up location and was given the info for the driver that would be picking us up. He was there within 15 minutes and we enjoyed watching him get closer and closer on the App’s map. Our driver had bottled water for us and was very friendly. Once we got to our destination we hopped out and were on our way. This is where we learned our first lesson. The Uber App does not allow you to add a tip which we would have liked to do. Our 56 minute, 32 mile trip cost us $38.62.
Getting home from the Cook-off is where we learned a few more (expensive) lessons. We left around 10:30 and when I set our pick-up location I got a notice that “surge pricing” was in effect and we would be charged 3.1 times the normal rate. I cancelled that one b/c hubby thought we should wait till we were closer to the “Uber Pick-up” area. Yeah, they had a specific area just for Uber. Ten minutes later I arranged for another pick-up and got a notification that the “surge pricing” was now 5.0 times the normal rate. WTH? We cancelled that one. Then the guy called us. I told him we cancelled. We set up another ride and now the “surge pricing” was up to 5.9 times the normal fare. I got a call from the same number and thought it was the previous driver so I didn’t answer. Then the number kept calling us. Come to find out Uber uses the same number for outgoing calls to protect drivers. My husband got on the phone with the driver and then it became a mission to find him. To get into the “Uber” pick-up area it was going to take him 40 minutes. We began to walk down the street and eventually found him and jumped in (this is frowned upon due to safety risks, we got in by the curb but saw people getting into their Uber in the middle of the street, not a wise idea). In the meantime I had accidentally cancelled the ride. So while we were in the car he told me to schedule/cancel a pick-up until I got him. You can cancel pick-ups within 5 minutes with no penalty. I did end up getting charged for one of the cancelled trips but was immediately able to get a refund through the App. The highest “surge pricing” I saw was 7.3. Our ride was charged 6.2 times the normal rate. So our 43 minute, 29 mile ride home cost a whopping $199.18! YIKES!
We chose Uber to avoid waiting in the cab line or the hassle of the shuttle. The ride there was definitely worth it but coming home not so much. Some friends offered some Uber advice that would have saved us a lot of money. They suggested we should have taken the shuttle to get away from the surge zone. In hindsight that would have been a better idea.