We used a lot of Uber when we were travelling, and it was amazingly good. When you’re jetlagged in a foreign city, don’t speak the language, and can barely count the currency, the absolute last thing you want to be doing is wrangling with aggro taxi drivers.1 Being able to press a button on an app and have all the destination, route, and money stuff all just happen? Fucking magic.

So the technology is great. Shame about the company, though. And the burn-out in drivers must be immense; I don’t think we had a single driver who’d been driving more than two months (IIRC the longest was six weeks). And, yeah okay, Uber was very new in a lot of the places we were catching it, but… still.

By the end of the trip, we ended up with our own Rules For Catching Uber. They were:

  1. treat the car like it’s your best friend’s mother’s (i.e. don’t mess it up)
  2. the route you’re being driven on is the goddamn route, walk if you don’t like it
  3. if you get to where you’re going, the driver gets five stars (four stars and below is considered a “bad rating” for an Uber driver, which can threaten their jobs)
  4. if you take the water or the candy, pay for it (Uber suggests drivers offer these to passengers, but of course the drivers are paying for them out-of-pocket, on top of petrol and car maintenance and so on).

All in all, we had mostly good experiences with Uber, one or two… odd ones,2 and only really one where we thought the driver was being a douche about the route. Every instance was easier–and usually cheaper–than summoning a conventional taxi.

Uber’s business model is basically taking taxis and putting an app on top of it, that handles all the pain-in-the-ass logistical stuff. There’s no reason, in theory, cab companies couldn’t’ve developed the same thing, but they didn’t. Uber got there first.

Uber treats its drivers like shit and the CEO is a douchebag, all of this is true.

But damn if it isn’t convenient.

  1. London. London was the worst for this. What do you mean you don’t take credit cards or drive into the city? Why are you waiting at the goddamn international airport if that’s the case FFS? []
  2. Like the driver in Boston who didn’t like driving, which… uh, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work? []