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Friday, January 8, 2016

MY EXPERIENCE WITH UBER

In May of last year I was staying at a hotel close to the San Francisco Airport.  I had planned on lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.  However, by the time I was able to start my journey to the restaurant, I knew that I would be late if I caught BART.  So the other two options were a taxi or UBER.  I estimated the round trip cost to be:
  • BART  $18
  • UBER  $70
  • Taxi    $140
I caught BART anyway, for I did not have access to Uber on my iPhone and the taxi fare was too high just for lunch.  I was only half an hour late.

More recently, on my GAWA Chicago stop, the hotel I stayed at gave away a card to sign up for Uber and get $20 off the first ride.  Very simple:
  • Go to uber.com/app to download that application.
  • Enter the promo code, which was ELHARRISON.
  • Request your ride.
Sorry, but life is not all that necessarily easy.  My downloading capabilities are abominable, so I delayed doing anything until at the end of last year , when I spent the night at the Waikiki Sheraton to bring my stays up to 25 so that I could maintain my Platinum status.  Again, they were giving away these sign-up cards.  I noticed all of them had the same promo code, which was different from ELHARRISON, which came from Element in Harrison.

A daughter of a friend at 15 Craigside, Jen, helped me sign-up for Uber.  However, not to scare you, but it took me several days to get it correct.   With her help, everything went mostly fine at the beginning.  So the next day, for practice, I tried to hail an Uber.  Whoops, connection failed, indicated my iPhone.  The message said, contact uber.com.

So I did, and, after a few added tribulations I learned I had to send a photo of myself, which Jen thought was odd.  So my first fear was that I had somehow been scammed, because you needed to transmit all kinds of info, like your VISA card and cell phone numbers.  They then needed a photo of my VISA card, with only the last four numbers showing.  As they already had the full number, plus three digit code, I guess this was to verify that this was really me.


I waited to the next day and tried to get an Uber vehicle again.  Whoops, I now needed a verification code.  By this time I was up to my fourth person in Uber, so I e-mailed him, and he quickly responded, indicating that the code was texted to my phone.  I wrote back, I don't do texting, please e-mail the code.  Then, the next day, magically, all was fine.  He didn't bother to e-mail the code but himself just inserted it into the system.  

So a few things about Uber:
  • Which cities use Uber?  67 countries and virtually every major city in the USA.
  • Costs vary by city, but:
    • Average for short ride (5 miles/10 minutes)  $10.45
    •                     medium  (10 miles/20 minutes) $18.40
    •                     long        (20 miles/40 minute)  $34.50
    • Honolulu    short ride $13.15
    •                    medium   $23.15
    •                    long         $43.15
  • But those are averages, for the actual cost depends on traffic, demand, etc.
Thus, I was finally ready for my first use.   The Bus would have cost me $1.  But I wanted a taxi fare to compare, so I caught one  from 15 Craigside to the Outrigger Canoe Club (7 miles / 20 minutes--which should have been the medium fare) to celebrate Bruce's retirement.  He, to the right, has been a long-time colleague of mine at the University of Hawaii and was Associate Dean of Engineering.    Taxi cost:  $38 with tip, but the traffic was bad and it took almost 40 minutes.

Map from 15 Craigside Pl, Honolulu, HI 96817 to Outrigger Canoe Club, 2909 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96815

To get back to 15 Craigside, I clicked on the Uber icon (U) on my iPhone.  For reasons that still befuddle me, when decision-time came, I chose Uber Select.  Not smart.  A large BMW showed up within minutes.  There are several cost levels:
  • UberX:  cheapest
  • UberXL:  larger vehicle, like a van
  • UberPool: not available in Hawaii
  • Uber Select:  expensive car
  • UberBlack:  executive, most expensive
  • Uber Taxi:  don't use this as it merely hails a cab for you and you pay the taxi fare plus tip plus $1 to Uber, or something like that, as explained to me by my first Uber driver, Peter
My Uber bill turned out to be $36.06 without tip, and it is murky if you should give an extra tip or not.   The company says the tip is in the fare, but drivers carefully beg to disagree.  I should indicate that my bill was only $16.06, for their computer automatically subtracted $20, this being my first ride.  No money is exchanged, as my VISA card got automatically billed, without my signature, and confirmed by e-mail.  Anyway, Peter said that UberX would have been as much as $15 cheaper.  The problem in Honolulu, apparently, is that the Uber X drivers are not happy with the company, many have quit, and there might not be too many of these cars floating around today.  For all I know, maybe the Uber Select was the only one available.  This will all sort out soon, I would think.

Peter had a 4.8 rating, and I gave him a 5.  He said he would rate me a 5.


Uber users and drivers are asked to rate each other out of five stars after the journey is completed.  When you’re booking a ride with Uber, you can then accept or decline a driver based on their displayed rating, and likewise, drivers can also decline to take you.
  • Treat the driver with care
  • Respect the car
  • Don’t leave an Uber driver waiting
  • Confirm your name with driver
  • You can sit in the front seat, but most most passengers go to the back.
If you get rated too low, Uber drivers will stop picking you up!!!

There is clearly a lot of animosity going around...taxi drivers deprecating Uber, like, for example, my taxi guy saying Uber accidents do not cover serious accidents, which was refuted by my Uber driver...and taxi companies getting their lobbyists to control Uber.  For example, you can't get Uber at the Honolulu Airport.  You can, of course, catch Uber to get to any airport.

Some final info on Uber:
  • Uber is the most valuable startup in the world.  Uber just raised a new round of financing which values it at $51 billion. That makes Uber worth more than FedEx (FDX) and General Motors (GM) -- as well as Wall Street darling Netflix (NFLX), the top stock in the S&P 500 this year.Aug 3, 2015
  • No announcement yet, but if you want to participate in Uber's initial stock offering, click here.
Anyway, here is the best part.  Tommy sent me the following e-mail message:

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST UBER RIDE!

Hey Patrick,

Tommy here, your Honolulu Community Manager. If you ever have any questions or troubles as you Uber around Honolulu, feel free to reach me through our support request form.
We'd love for you to help us spread the word about Uber! Below is your custom Uber invite code. Each friend that signs up with your code will receive $15 off their first Uber ride. For each person you refer that takes a ride, we'll add $15 in Uber credit to your account. It's the ultimate Uber win-win, and there's no limit to how much credit you can earn.
GIVE UBER, GET UBER
SHARETWEETEMAIL
YOUR PROMO CODE

patrickt3171ue

Ride on,
Tommy
Uber Honolulu Community Manager

So, if you're internet deficient like me, what does the above mean?  Go to your computer, type in uber.com/app to your address bar at the very top and click on RETURN.  Eventually you will need the promo code, which should be patrickt3171ue.  Good luck.


Thus, if I give up my car, Uber has become an option, especially if I can gain access to their X car.  This is a learning process, like everything else in life.  Stay tuned for my further adventures with Uber, or, maybe, too, Lyft.  Pretty sneaky, but Lyft popped in an offer for me to get their app when I was reading an Uber posting, and provided their promo code to get started, with a free offer.


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