20 minute Uber ride cost $1,114.71 on New Year's Eve

Doesn’t anybody ask for estimates any more?


I’m no fan of a lot of Uber’s business practices, but the app warns you about surge pricing and you have to click through the warning. It also has a fare estimator. Going beyond normal, the driver told him about surge pricing. And this year Uber EMAILED users a warning them about surge pricing for NY Eve.

If his normal far was $25-35 the 8.9 times surge should have been around $300 and adding more riders doesn’t make a real price difference. Which means he was paying the surge price while ALSO upgrading to an Uber XL or Uber black car.

You should understand products you purchase, especially when you connect the seller directly to your credit card. Uber was nice enough to cut his fare in half. Is “drunk people stupidly throw cash around” really a story?


I have to disagree, this is one area where it looks like the laws of economics worked just fine. I might feel differently if it was his life-saving medication or food for his starving child, but even when I was twenty I understood partying on New Years is not vital to my survival.


Waaaah, they told me the price was super high, but I thought it would only be a little higher because I’m innumerate and whiny.

No sympathy.


Also, doesn’t the fare take ride-time into consideration?

I would expect that his “normal” trip of 20 minutes isn’t the same on NYE, unless he lives in some un-trafficed area that Uber doesn’t service.

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The ride wasn’t 20 minutes, it was an hour long ride. He received the email informing him of the charge 20 minutes after.

But I have trouble having any sympathy; just another holiday, another drunk passenger who ignores the warning of surge pricing.


This. The Uber app warned him of the surge pricing. The driver told him that surge pricing was 8.9 times the normal rate, which means the ride, at normal rates, would have cost $125. I imagine he would have been complaining about THAT rate, too, if he’s expecting that his ride would have been in the $20-38 range (based on his previous rides that he’s taken). This trip doesn’t seem to be equivalent to his previous trips, even remotely.

Basically, this story = “drunk people are bad at math”.


But Uber is also being disingenuous. If the information the driver has is that the surge pricing is 9x, and a normal trip is under $20, then the max price should be no more than $180. Which, on New Year’s Eve, with lots of people and splitting up the fare many ways, is not awful considering the surge price “warnings” that are given.

To be informed that the trip is 9x normal, and to accept, and then later to see that it’s actually 60x normal price is unfair and awful. That’s gouging and misrepresentation, especially with the info the driver gave them.

There should either be a max cap during a surge, or let the driver negotiate the final price within a margin. A $1200, 20 minute cab ride is shitty no matter where you are.


Except, this dude is basing his “normal” trip cost on what sounds like a quick single leg trip. The trip he ACTUALLY took was a several-stop, hour long (according to TBIT, I’m not sure where that info came from) trip. $125 regular price for an hour long cab ride sounds about right to me. Uber doesn’t lie about what their surge pricing ratio is - this dude simply underestimated what the regular cost of his trip would have been - presumably because the Uber app doesn’t let you put multiple leg trips into their app. It only estimates the cost from the pickup location to the destination that you put in.


or don’t ride uber during surge… I don’t.


Here in Washington DC, the pre-Uber alternative to getting around on New Years Eve was to stand outside in the cold for 15 minutes to two hours attempting to hail cabs, who would pull up with their windows slightly cracked, ask you where you were going, and speed off if it wasn’t a destination they felt would be good for them to pick up a return fare. Or, before unlocking their doors, demand a flat rate cash payment before letting you in, always many times the “metered” fare. All totally illegal, but the regulator was in the pocket of the cab companies.

Or, perhaps, you were at a party in a location where cabs didn’t drive by, in which case your alternative was to wait on hold trying to get a cab dispatched to pick you up, a process that would invariably take several hours of frustration and standing around in the dark anxiously peering into the distance hoping that each approaching headlight was your cab.

Uber’s surge pricing model works, because it actually applies economics to the problem of getting people transported at peak periods. My father in law usually drives occasionally for Uber but was on the road from 8PM to 5AM for Uber on NYE because surge pricing made it worth his time.

If Uber’s app is actually miscalculating fares, then that’s a problem. I don’t think that’s what happened here, and he offers no evidence that it did. What I expect happened is that he tried to hail an UberX or Cab, none were available, so he hailed an Uber Black or XL, which are much more expensive. That’s his fault, not the fault of some greedy company. If I get wasted and order a bunch of rounds of Macallan 20 without realizing how expensive it is (despite the price being printed on the menu) because I’m too drunk, is it somehow the bar’s fault that I did this?

(I have no relationship with Uber beyond being immensely grateful to them for finally breaking the cab monopoly in DC)


Having waited an hour with multiple calls to the cab company (being told a cab was “on the way” each time) only to install the Uber app and have them pick me up in 10 minutes after I gave up, I agree. :slight_smile:


What ever became of the Uber rules about not transporting drunks?

Let’s revist the math:

$38.50 for a “normal” 20-minute, 20-mile ride*
x3 time for ride on NYE
x8.9 surge

* he claims $20 in one place, but notes “a surge rate of two times the regular amount, which he said tallied $77”, so that’s $38.50 when divided by the surge.


I heard about it from a Global TV news story this morning. An hour long ride and two who-knows-how-long stops on New Years Eve and I was not surprised. And I doubt Uber told him it was one price and charged another.

The only thing I can think of happening, and I don’t Uber so I cannot comment, is that the surge got higher as he went further. Does the service take that into account? Do you get locked into the surge pricing you clicked Accept for?

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I’m pretty sure you’re locked in once you accept the ride. But yeah - $125 regular price for a 1 hour cab ride sounds perfectly normal to me.

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Uber needs a meter. Make it part of the app. I know, there are 3rd party apps that provide “Uber meters”, but it should be tied directly in, by Uber, with Uber taking responsibility for its accuracy. It would just be simple customer service. The way they do it now is basically booby-trapping.
This reminds me of discussions about how “customers” of medical services should compare prices, shop around, etc. There are many situations where that is simply not realistic (e.g., emergencies, panic, stress, unconsciousness…). And when you’re getting into a taxi, same thing. Everybody is talking, you’re drunk, the kids are squalling, you’re sweaty lugging bags, and so on. Asking people to do arithmetic on continually-changing pricing is a lot.
Which is why I avoid Uber. When they provide a meter, I’ll reconsider.


I couldn’t agree more. In many European countries, that’s the final barrier to legally classifying them as a taxi company, fully subject to the same regulation as the rest of the industry.

They could even be kicked out of London: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/16/uber-wins-high-court-case-taxi-app-tfl


Ahah, you are correct. The snip says the trip was 20 minutes, and the article starts out saying it was 20 minutes, and then goes on to say he got dropped off first and then people continued on, racking up the charges on his uber account…

Why does everything have to be so misleading? The article, Mark’s snip, Uber, the guy. All this mischaracterization and misinformation makes it hard to have a level-headed commentary.


I’m glad that’s how it worked for you.

My neighbor got the same run around when she tried to get a ride from Uber. She arranged it two hours before her appointment and the app kept telling her that the driver was on his/her way. I noticed that after 40 minutes, she was still outside waiting and kind of panicking, since she had 20 minutes to get to the doctor’s office. I ended up giving her a ride and she got there with a minute or two to spare.

She said that the app usually sends an email with a name and a photo ID (kudos for this) when the driver picks up the job. I suspect that there weren’t any drivers available and the app put her on indefinite hold, which is really shitty.

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