Putting Uber to the Test: My First Experience

I first heard about Uber when it touched down on Lebanese soil back in early July. I wasn't actually familiar with the app before then, which I soon learned has become all the rage in the USA and Europe. A ride-sharing service based in San Francisco, the concept is simple and beautiful:

  1. Uber automatically geolocates you and dispatches the nearest available driver to your location when you request a pickup
  2. You can monitor in real-time the driver’s approach, or you can allow the app to text you when the car arrives. Details of the car and driver appear on the app, so you know exactly who’s coming to shuttle you to your destination
  3. Scared of a surprise fare? Uber immediately gives you a quote range based on pickup and drop-off locations, and the best part is that you don’t have to dish out greenbacks when the ride is completed. Your credit card is linked to your profile and is conveniently billed after your arrival. Need a receipt? Check your email inbox
  4. After your trip, you can rate your driver and leave feedback on the app
  5. One other feature—perhaps a faux pas by Lebanese hospitality standards—is splitting the fare between friends who are riding with you. If you’ve all got Uber, each of your credit cards will be charged equally




Two Uber types are currently available in Lebanon. BLACK was introduced at the outset and consists of a private driver on demand who picks you up in a high-end sedan within mere minutes of your summon. uberX was launched last week and is a low-cost Uber option thanks to the mid-range cars it employs (think Nissan Tiida or Toyota Elantra). Prices stack up like this:



uberX
UberBLACK
Base fare
$2.00
$2.50
Per minute
$0.20
$0.20
Per kilometer
$0.50
$0.80
Minimum fare
$5.00
$7.00


It was high time I tried out Uber, so Tuesday night, just after coming out of a movie at Beirut Souks at 10 pm, I opened the app on my iPad, requested a BLACK ride, and watched onscreen as a black car icon made its way to my exact pin location. The wait time was five minutes, after which a silver BMW 5 series pulled up to the curb and a young uniformed chauffeur named Ali jumped out to open the rear passenger door and seat me. The car was wonderfully air-conditioned, without a trace of cigarette smoke, putrid air fresheners, or alcohol to soil the aura. A bottle of water stood in the cup holder of the armrest, and Ali quietly and professionally steered me to my house in Mansourieh.

Being the social butterfly that I am, I made small talk with Ali, inquiring as to how long he’d been with Uber (2 weeks, and he’d already earned a rating of 4.7/5); how many hours per day he put in with Uber (10 hours); the nature of his trips (most emanate from Beirut and terminate in the suburbs, but some are long-distance rides to as far as Tripoli and the Bekaa region); and whether he enjoyed his job (admittedly very much).

Ali was happy to let me guide him on any path I deemed best, which I appreciated because cab drivers are uncharacteristically stubborn about the routes they exact, thinking themselves kings of the road. I loved that the car did not stink, that the seat-belts were intact and easy to fasten, that the driver didn't exude a shady demeanor, that he drove safely and cautiously without putting my life at risk, and that at the end of the ride, the tab was settled via the app software, and no tip was expected nor encouraged.

UberBLACK is the antithesis to all the banes that you generally experience in private cabs, particularly in Lebanon. I can’t tell you how many times I've gotten into a taxi that either wasn't equipped with safety belts or was being manned by a foul-mouthed, whiskey-reeking, neurotic driver who had no inhibitions gunning it through red traffic lights.

Price-wise, the trip from Beirut to Mansourieh was valued at $17.28, which in LBP comes out to nearly 26,000 LL. That’s precisely double what Team Taxi of Mansourieh charges for the same trip, but honestly I’d be happy to shell out twice the fare on the few occasions that I require a cab if it means security, punctuality, cleanliness, reliability, and professionalism. After all, premium service comes at a price, and I found Uber’s to be fair.






I poked around online for news about Uber, and it seems that in Germany, a Frankfurt court overturned a nationwide ban against the company’s car-sharing service, lifting one of the most severe legal restrictions that Uber has faced anywhere since it was founded in 2009. Local taxis had complained that Uber was engaging in unfair competition, as it didn't have to provide the necessary licenses and insurance for its drivers and thus could operate at a minimal cost. While the judges were sympathetic to Taxi Deutschland, the group had waited too long to file the case (in excess of the two months from Uber’s launch day), and thus the court had no choice but to repeal the ban.

In all frankness, I believe that Uber will force traditional taxi companies to rethink their strategies and wield creativity in the manner in which they furnish their services. Change has long been overdue, and I’m pleased that innovators like Uber—which has expanded to more than 100 cities in 45 countries and is valued at upwards of $15 billion—are challenging our rusty road transportation culture.

I encourage you to download Uber from the Apple Store or Google Play. You'll need a credit card to complete your profile. And for $10 of credit valid toward any ride, be sure to enter promotion code ‘daniellei8.’ 

Comments

  1. I tried it too this week.
    I love the punctuality and the fact that you can track the driver as he approaches. I used the UberX and it costed almost similar to the taxi service I use.
    I usually pay 18 to 20 thousand liras from hamra to dbayeh. With UberX the cost was 14$
    The car is similar to the one that pick me up (from the other taxi service) but it took less time and the driver was nice, calm in driving and I felt safe.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Uber has revolutionized ground transportation, with lower rates, convenient mobile phone technology and much faster pick-up times than taxi cabs.

    ReplyDelete

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