When Your One Mile (scary) Uber Ride Takes 1 Hour, 15 Minutes

A friend texted me about a frightening (and long) Uber ride he took.  He was attempting to get from DC to his place in Virginia–a place actually walking distance from the border with DC.

Surge pricing was out, and he used the app to snag an Uber to get home.

He watched on the GPS app as the car drove past the road he was on.  Even though the car started out 3 minutes away, it took 13 minutes of the car driving back and forth near his location for the vehicle to find him.

When the Uber finally arrived, the driver could not figure out how to access the destination in the Uber app.  My friend showed the driver.

The driver began driving in the wrong direction, and at first my friend thought the driver was taking a different route.  Eventually he noticed he was headed towards the other side of DC, headed to Maryland.

He expressed concern over the direction she was going.  The driver claimed the GPS was taking them this way and gets on the interstate towards Maryland.

He looks over at the GPS and points out it is telling them to go in the other direction.

The driver stops on the interstate.

He sees signs for College Park, Maryland ahead.

The driver gets off the highway and back onto it the other direction.

At this point, he does not want to get out of the Uber because it would be a very expensive ride back to his house, when he was looking at a fare in the teens.

The driver suddenly exits into DC and cuts through Dupont, then turns down a street–ON THE SIDEWALK.  Yes, all four wheels.

At this point my friend demanded to get out and eat the rest of the cost home.  At this point, he was a mile away from where he started.

Here’s where taking Uber vs. a cab is good.

Uber refunded the trip.  Uber gave my friend vouchers as an apology, plus to cover the cost of his cab.  They also called him to hear the whole story.

But even though Uber fixed things (and he’s still a huge fan of Uber), it makes me wonder a few things.

First, does surge pricing bring out the worst in Uber?  Since drivers are at a premium at that point, I assume most of the more experienced drivers were scooped up.

Secondly, do Uber drivers have less of an understanding of the makeup of DC than taxi cab drivers?  The Uber drivers are so reliant on the GPS and taxi drivers must memorize the area.  Does this happen in all cities too with Uber vs. taxi?

Should he have cancelled the ride before pickup, when he saw the driver could not find his location?

At what point should he have left the vehicle?

What would you have done in this situation?


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. “Here’s where taking Uber vs. a cab is good.”

    This wouldn’t happen in a cab. People who drive for a living turn turn around on sidewalks.

  2. This brings up a question of what quality control mechanisms Uber uses in general with its drivers, and what do they specifically do when they receive a customer complaint or complaints about a driver.

    They nearly always refund the fare to what it should be, but send the customer a template form letter response. The email says the operations department will follow up with the driver, but I’m not sure if that happens or what it really means. I know there is a Boarding Area blogger who is an Uber driver so may be they can advise if there is a complaint if anyone really folllows up or not.

    I also know some people where if they get a driver with a 4.6 rating or below, they cancel the trip and rebook; hoping to get a driver with a higher rating.

    Yesterday I requested a ride and got a driver with a 2.0 rating, which is the lowest I have ever seen. Typical low ratings are around 4.7, 4.6, etc. Its rare in BOS and DCA to see a rating lower than 4.6. I cancelled the 2.0 ride and rebooked getting a driver with a higher rating.

    So, in conclusion, the question to really dig in to is what happened if anything to your friends driver or drivers like that?

  3. There are good uber drivers and bad ones, but at least with Uber you have a recourse through either contacting them directly or a CC charge back. Once, my GFs Uber driver was supposed to take her from DC to our place in VA and accidentally took her on a long tour of Roosevelt Island. Her $30 fare ended up being closer to $60. Uber offered us a $15 credit, I just ended up charging it back. Funny thing was that uber tried to re-charge the same trip about a year later but AMEX immediately canceled the transaction. Thought that was funny.

  4. My experience of DC taxi drivers has been almost uniformly bad, especially when it comes to getting to/from IAD. A pox on both their houses

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