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Diatribe: Too Drunk To Notice Uber’s Surge Pricing.

11/03/2014

Uber Surge PricingMany years ago, a I had an acquaintance who was a bit of a binge drinker.  He was small in stature and what some might call “high strung” inasmuch as he was easily excitable.  Personally, I was always of the mindset that one could occasionally go “out for drinks” with friends and suffer little damage to relationships, employment status or automobiles.  This young man didn’t go “out for drinks” … he went “out drinking”… and he did it with one goal in mind.  He wanted to get slobbery fall-down drunk.  The more he drank, the smaller his circle of friends would become.  Nobody ever volunteered to be his designated driver and the concept of smart phones, let alone finding a ride using an app like Uber, wasn’t even a dream.

Last Friday, Halloween, Gabrielle Wathen went “out drinking” with her friends to celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday.  At the end of the night, the Baltimore resident ended up a drunken mess and decided to use Uber to driver her home, a ride that would take about twenty-two minutes.

Ms. Wathen was apparently unaware of Uber’s dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing, used on busy nights.  It multiplies fares by as much as nine times the normal rate as a way to meet demand and attract a greater supply of drivers.  Uber doesn’t hide the pricing and users are alerted via the app.  Many inexperienced users inadvertently request a more expensive premium car because they don’t see the options or understand the difference.  There’s even an option that allows users to see an estimated fare before they request a ride.  But one must be sober enough to use it and comprehend it.

Ms. Wathen, who works as a waitress and freelance writer, woke to discover on Saturday morning that her account had been charged $362 for her ride home the night before.

Denver resident, Elliott Asbury, also used Uber to get home from a Halloween party on Friday night.  His eighteen mile ride home cost $539.

“I was expecting $44, $50, $60, $100 on the outside.  We got there and he pressed the thing on his phone and it said $539.  (The driver) was shocked, he was embarrassed actually.” – Elliott Asbury.

Uber stands by its dynamic pricing model as a way to balance supply and demand, but the company is said to offer a 25% discount to first-time riders who are caught off guard by the multiplied faires.

“Uber ensures a safe, reliable ride, wherever and whenever, and dynamic pricing allows us to remain the reliable choice, even on the busiest nights of the year. Our in-app features ensure dynamic pricing is repeatedly communicated and approved before any trip is confirmed.” – Uber.

It’s almost comical to think of that guy, all those years ago, getting a lift home from a stranger and learning the next morning that he had paid hundreds of dollars for the ride.  Sadly, I fear he might have risked driving under the influence to save the cost of Uber fare which, by following his peculiar brand of logic, was more costly than a speeding ticket.

I think you’d have to be pretty drunk to not notice these prices.

Do you use Uber?  Are you aware of their “dynamic pricing” model?

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4 Comments
  1. Yikes. Best ad for regular cabbies who are fighting with them.

    Like

  2. I don’t Uber, but, um, yeah, i think $500 to keep a drunk off the road is a fine price; you wanna get so drunk you can’t drive, and can’t apparently read, well then you pay the price.
    At least no one died.

    Like

  3. Raybob permalink

    Are you outraged at drunkenness? At free market alternatives and their right to run their business as they see fit? Bad choices, especially combining two of them, brings consequences.

    Like

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