Traveling toolkit – Uber
When you live in the heartland of America, it takes a while for trends, and lots of other things, to get to us. It seems like the newest thing starts on the coasts and takes its time working its way to the middle of the country.
Uber was no different.
I read a lot of travel blogs, and had heard about Uber over and over again. The concept sounded great, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it since our town wasn’t big enough to have it. Or once it did get here, I didn’t see my need for it in town. So when I headed of to Washington DC with a friend, I had the idea of using Uber in my back pocket. I don’t know if I’ve ever rented a car when staying in the heart of DC, so this time we planned to get around on the metro and Uber. I downloaded the app and set up my account before we left for DC. Looking back, I can’t remember who I got my referral from, but it got me a $25 credit to start.
When we hit the airport, I learned that uber wasn’t so easy. Airport regulations require that you enter the address of your destination before you call up Uber. Some airports don’t allow Uber to pick up at airports at all, the app won’t set a pick up at the airport. I was nervous, so we grabbed a taxi. Which worked well for comparing my trips later. At Reagan airport on a Tuesday, the taxi line was nonexistent, we were handed a paper about taxi fares (that no one ever reads) and climbed in. When we arrived at the Hotel Topaz, the meter said $18.58. But underneath that on the meter it had a $3.00 fee listed. When my friend asked how much the total was, he replied $23.00.
Did he round up with a new mathematics method I’m not aware of?
As a frequent traveler, I often find myself getting out of a taxi and wondering whether or not I got screwed. That’s weird considering I’m still in the United States, don’t ya think? Sometimes ignorance is not bliss, it just makes you feel stupid.
I was determined to jump into this Uber thing on this trip. Luckily, my friend’s daughter is living and working in DC (without owning a car), so I had someone to ask all of my stupid Uber questions to before we gave it a try. It definitely helped to see the Uber screen on her phone to see how she did it. It was nice to see her account with her most recent trips listed. Washington DC has lots of different Uber types, so it was nice to have her go through those with me. She even said she used UberXL to bring a headboard home from a furniture store. If she could Uber XL with furniture, surely I could handle UberX with just little old me..
Her best piece of advice was to set your pickup location to be an actual brick and mortar business as opposed to a random address or street corner. Before we started doing that, we had a few pickups that weren’t very smooth. We’d be looking for the make and model of the car that appears on your screen, to no avail. Oh, we eventually found each other, but we had to text or call the driver to find them, or for them to find us. The ability to contact your driver is a nice feature. UberX drivers just use a GPS or their phone to get you where you want to go.
One night we left some things at the restaurant where we had dinner, and our driver happily turned around once we remembered. I liked that I could call him by name and ask him to turn around. The next night we got a driver that was a little too new, got a little turned around, and I had to guide us back to the hotel with my phone’s GPS. When I rated the driver (as you must in order to use Uber again), I commented on the circuitous route as the reason for my less than 4 star rating. Within 2 hours I had an email from Uber stating that they had analyzed the route, agreed with my comment and credited my credit card an amount they thought was fair. Wow! Talk about customer service. It’s nice to know they are actually paying attention.
Our last day in town, we checked our bags at the Hotel Topaz, and went off to the National Portrait Gallery. When we were ready to leave, we used Uber and got a great driver that agreed to take us back to the Hotel Topaz to get our bags, and then she dropped us off at Reagan Airport. The total for that ride was $23. It was the same as the taxi from the airport without the extra stop in the opposite direction! I also love that I know that my rides will be charged directly to my credit card and no cash transactions are needed. No more fumbling at a busy street corner in traffic. For tracking business expenses, that’s much better than the taxi driver handing you a blank receipt for you to fill out. And when I looked at the bill on my phone later, I actually understood it.
It’s kind funny that without cash changing hands at the end of my rides, I felt like I comprehend the charges better. There were a few times when we pulled up the app, that there was a pop up warning us that it was a busy travel time and that the rate would be higher to travel. I think it was rush hour and it said we would be charged 1.25 times the regular rate. In those instances, I felt in more informed about my decision to Uber or walk the distance. However, a lot of our Uber travel was free because of the referral credit that I had. The next weekend when I was in DC again, I referred Hubby and we had some more referral credit to use together. Gotta love that!