An über-headache of a problem

By | 2015/10/05

I’ll be the first to say I don’t like Uber. I think the “share” economy they’re building is harmful and people get sucked into the (somewhat illusory) dream of making money without for a moment considering whether or not they can make enough money – and this is something we’re seeing routinely talked about. (Just one example here – and another here.)

For a long time I held off getting an Uber account. Ages ago I installed the app on my phone, but I didn’t sign up and it just sat there being ignored as I used public transport, hailed taxis, used official taxi apps, used apps like GoCatch, and even when it was a short distance or I had plenty of time to spare, walked.

I did my best to support taxis.

Taxis, on the other hand, did their best to ignore me and annoy me.

Taxi

I’ve had taxi drivers tell me no-one uses them any more … after spending 45 minutes waiting for a taxi – any taxi, to accept my booking. I’ve had taxi drivers tell me that everyone whinges that they’re too expensive after I had to offer a $20 bribe^H^H^H^H^H”tip” to get picked up for an urgent appointment that I spent an hour and a half trying to to pre-book a taxi for. I’ve tried to get a booking accepted for an hour or more before giving up and requesting something across city (accepted instantly) only to have to “facepalm” and admit I got the suburb names mixed up once I got in the taxi. I’ve stepped into taxis I’ve hailed down and copped shitty attitudes because I want to go 3 suburbs rather than across city.

Sure, I’ve had some good taxi drivers, and I’ve had some great taxi drivers behaving remarkably given their treatment by a callous public.

But increasingly my attitude towards taxi drivers is souring, and a couple of weeks ago I finally gave up and used Uber. I had a meeting 3 suburbs away and an hour out from the meeting I tried to book a taxi using the official app. After waiting 10 minutes for someone to accept the job, I cancelled and tried GoCatch. GoCatch kept me up date as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 drivers looked at and didn’t accept the job, then suggested I offer a “tip”. I cancelled that and went back to the official taxi app and tried to start another booking, now feeling that slight pressure behind the eye that comes from watching the time it takes to get to a meeting slip away. Five minutes in with the app still searching for someone to take the job, I pulled my other phone out and finally gave in and signed up for Uber. It took me less than 3 minutes to sign up, provide my credit card details and have a car on the way. Five minutes later when the car arrived I remembered to cancel the booking request which still no taxi driver had accepted.

I’m sure someone will insist this must have been peak hour. And it was 9am when the entire process started – but increasingly it’s not mattered whether it’s been 9am or 9pm, it’s still the same raw deal every time I need a taxi.

The taxi industry wants support in fighting Uber, and maybe they need that support, too. But first they have to prove they deserve it – and that is their real headache.