Wednesday, October 5, 2022

An Open Letter to Uber

Dear Uber,

As you obviously know, I used your service twice this weekend. I have a few issues I’d like to let you know about.

On my Friday morning ride, Dustin picked me up in a Tesla. I thought that was pretty cool. I wondered about the economics behind that, and during our conversation he shed some light on it. Turns out Dustin is renting the Tesla from you guys.

That led to a lot more economic questions, but I kept them to myself because I was pretty sure I already knew the answers. Dustin was a nice guy, a good driver, and his (your) Tesla was nice and comfy. I thanked him for the ride, wished him the best of luck, and gave him five stars..

But then I looked at my bill when you emailed it to me. Along with the Uber Booking Fee of $5.97, the Airport Surcharge of $3.00, and the City Surcharge of $0.50, which were all totally worth it and appreciated, by the way, you hit me with a $0.55 Temporary Fuel Surcharge.

Umm, what?

You know damn well Dustin is driving a Tesla. You wouldn’t be able to pretend you didn’t even if he was the one who owned the thing, because a central part of your service is telling me the make and model of the car to look for. But it’s even worse in this case, because it’s your Tesla. C’mon, fellas! That’s just cheap, and I might actually try to do something about it other than this letter if it weren’t only fifty-five cents, which is exactly why you’ll keep getting away with it, which makes me even crazier.

You are basically looters. Do better.

Now, let’s discuss my Sunday ride. My main man Thanh picked me up in a black Toyota Highlander, that I am assuming he owned. Thanh spoke basically no English at all, so our ride to the airport was quiet, and his Google maps was throwing some crazy-looking words up on the screen, none of which made any sense to me, but apparently Thanh could read it, because we got there.

Thanh’s Highlander was impeccable, but his driving style was obviously imported from his country of origin. He was not a dangerous driver, he just wasn’t a smooth driver. In any way. At all.

I believe he considered gas and brake pedals to function as on/off switches, and his goal with any lane change was to get into the new lane as fast as possible. I think he would have jumped the lane lines if he could have. His goal on any curve was to wait until the last possible second and then do all the steering at once at the end, presumably for efficiency?

The car itself was very comfortable when we were parked. Just not so much whenever we were moving. I would have loved to give him some constructive feedback on his driving, but our communication barrier was simply too tall.

Now, up until Sunday, I really hadn’t paid too much attention to you star rating system. I always just gave the driver, like Dustin for example, five stars. Thanh got me thinking about the rating system for the first time as we jerked to a stop at the airport. As he unloaded my bag from the back, he spoke his first of two memorized English sentences. I am assuming it was something to the effect of “thanks for riding with me,” or “have a good flight,” but he hadn’t memorized it quite right, so I didn’t understand.

English sentence two of two was clear as a bell, however. “You give me five stars.” I don’t know if it was a question, a command, a demand, or a polite request, because Thanh didn’t have English inflection down yet. It just ended flat, but he said it twice, just to make sure I heard him. I just smiled and thanked him for the ride.

Now, like I said, he wasn’t a dangerous driver, just a bad one. As I sat in the airport, I fired up your Uber app and attempted to give him helpful feedback. You have no section for notes, so stars were the only thing available to me. Here’s where I’d like to see some improvement on your end.

Thanh’s driving did not deserve five stars, and I really wanted to give him three, but I was feeling charitable because my neck made it through the ride without hurting so I decided to go with four. I clicked on the fourth star and was immediately presented with a list of secondary choices as to why or how my driver attempted to murder and/or humiliate me.

I had a Dangerous Driving option, a Driver was Rude option, Offensive Language, Offensive Odor, Reckless Endangerment of Children and the Elderly, Threats on my Life or the Lives of my Family and Pets, Offensive Clothing, Excessive or Disturbingly Audible Chewing, Jazz Music, Hit Someone in a Crosswalk and Kept Going, Robbed Me at Knifepoint/Gunpoint, and Participated in a Drive-By Shooting Enroute, just to name a few.

I might be remembering some of those wrong.

The thing was, none of them were anywhere close to what I wanted to convey and there was no way for me to just let the dude know he needs to drive smoother. I certainly didn’t want him to lose his job, so I reluctantly clicked on the fifth star. Amazingly, with the five-star rating, there are no secondary feedback choices.

Basically, you have taken our tried and true, perfectly good five-star system and somehow turned it into a binary driver rating. My driver was either absolutely amazing, or a homicidal maniac.

Please fix that, and for the love of Pete, stop charging people for gas in electric cars.

With three actual stars for Thanh and one star for your star rating system,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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