Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Uber Surge-Fair? The Need for Additional Transportation Options

I'm waiting at the San Diego Airport ready to hail Uber. I like Uber and have used them a lot over the years to get around a big city without finding parking. I have tried Lyft from time to time but typically stick with Uber out of habit. However, a recent incident made me think about using Lyft a little more often as something to check before I press the order button on Uber. Surge pricing looks bad for business and can be a turn off for customers.

I wasn't sure if there was Lyft at the airport or otherwise I would have checked my options. In this case, Uber said the driver is 4 minutes away and what the price would be to get to Mission Valley $22. I clicked the button and it spun for about 50 seconds and gave me 15 minutes wait time and a surcharge raising the price to $31. I clicked wait for next drive and each time I pressed the button it got more expensive. 

I'm not sure I agree with that system because it has happened to me a couple of times. I click the button thinking the driver is close and once I do the time changes to something much longer and often at a higher price. One time I had 3 different drivers cancel after making me wait for each one. Once I clicked cancel because the driver was taking too long by sitting in the same spot for about 10 minutes (not sure what they were doing) and I was charged $5. 

The surge charge is a little like going into a grocery store and because they are low on apples they changed the price from fifty cents on the display and once I wait in line and get to the cashier they tell me it will now be $3 each (supply and demand). Sure I can choose not to buy the apple but I really need that apple to make an apple pie. If this happened very often I would likely seek options because I want to trust the places I shop.

There are differences between Uber and the grocery store. I can go to any grocery store in the city but I don't have a lot of options for hailing a ride. When you become top dog in the environment you also have to think about your overall responsibility to ensure you are following common standards of ethical business. Changing the price and allowing drivers the opportunity to cancel because they can make more money on another ride just doesn't sit right when cabs have gone out of business and there are not a lot of options.

It almost looks like bait and switch.

I guess in a world where there are lots of different options that is fine and I will just vote with my fingers. However, in a world where there are few options you are a captive audience and thus forced to pay the exploitive price. I think in this case, the only thing we can do is vote with the one option available Lyft. For the next month I will seek to click Lyft first to change my habits so that I can ensure that there is some consequence to what appears to be exploitive behavior. 

I still love Uber but I realized that without competition we are at the mercy of a single company that seeks to maximize its profits. If all the buses, cabs and competition were put out of business would we still be protecting the consumer while serving the public? Competition and variability are important for improved ethical performance and price. Act selfish...people walk!

I asked for the surge money back. I will let you know if they give it back. 

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