With the latest round of rate cuts on fares, Uber, the “ridesharing service” is drawing the ire of both the drivers and riders. When Uber entered the Midlands market in 2014 it was hailed as the latest in technological advances and threatened the very way of life for the taxi industry. The early adopters and millennials gushed about the service, quality of vehicles and drivers.

In the last month, drivers and riders have grown increasingly frustrated with Uber, to the point where some are now actively avoiding using it. Here’s why…

 

Surge Pricing – Surge pricing has always been annoying but lately it’s gotten out of control. It’s always felt like it happens when you absolutely most need a cab, either late at night wanting to go home, running late for a meeting, or going to a popular event. But now it’s regularly happening in the middle of the day, and I’m not talking 1.25x surge pricing. I have seen 4-5x surge pricing during the middle of the day. In Columbia that could mean a nearly $70 ride from downtown to the airport. That’s insane.

The drivers who have no control over Uber’s unilateral, “take or leave it contract” have figured out how to game the system, and some will not drive until there is surge pricing, almost guaranteeing that there will be surge pricing. You can’t blame them, it’s the only way they can fight back against Uber control. Others have simply quit driving altogether.

 

The Driver Quailty – Uber seems to treat their drivers with contempt. Outwardly it seems that Uber takes the view that there will always be other drivers to take place of the other drivers who’ve lost interest.  The problem is that the good drivers are leaving in droves right now, being replaced by a bunch of directionally challenged drivers who come into town from far away and have absolutely no idea where they are going. Do you really want a driver who is using GPS to find their way around and who takes you into traffic, or who needs you to ‘share’ the address of your destination from your phone, or who is so paranoid about their rating as a new driver, that they talk nervously about their lives, their troubles and kids. No thanks!

 

Slow responses and glitches – The Uber app has been slow to respond at times lately. The uniqueness of Uber originally was the fast response times to get a ride and that a driver was coming just for you.  Have you tried getting an Uber in Five Points or the Vista lately?  The guarantees that Uber have been put in place to pacify the drivers come with restrictions and are not always “guaranteed”.  One of the downsides to these so called guarantees is that it pulls drivers into downtown in order to get the number of rides per hour needed to qualify.  That has made it virtually impossible to get rides in the suburbs for lack of available drivers.  Need to get home from Irmo?  Good luck!

 

Competition! – After riders receive a $70 ride back to the dorms or to the airport, some are determined not to use Uber again, at least while surge pricing is going on. If they are lucky enough to hail a Cab on the street they can be relieved in the knowledge that they won’t be gouged on the cost and there is no surge pricing ever. If the cab companies would get their act together and improve on their technology, it would be a great time to regain market share.

 

I have talked to a lot of the drivers, and I know many other people have too. Uber needs to understand that right now the drivers are talking about Uber to their customers and it is not in the “glowing” terms of just a few months ago. Now the customers are getting a different view of the company from the drivers and this is a 180 degree reversal. The drivers are terrified to say things publicly, so they kick Uber right where it hurts instead, by talking direct to the customers.

Uber needs to come down from its Ivory Tower, stop trying to crush the competition in some insane, misguided ‘we must own every part of the market’ way and go back to basics. Is Uber so confident in their mountains of data about the effects of rate cuts to realize that right now they are losing the key balancing act of keeping both drivers and passengers happy.

Neither is happy right now… and that’s not going to end well. Some would say the honeymoon is over.