Monday, December 7, 2015

Why I Will Never Use Über Again: A Cautionary Tale

I am 70 years old. I have been using computers since I was probably in my 30's, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Because I appeared to be "with" it by taking a class in "Basic Computer Language" the company I worked for made me their internal computer expert. We won't into that but suffice to say for about 40 years I have had some kind of a working knowledge of computers or at least technology.

My first foray with Über was last week when I had to be at the courthouse in Pasadena, probably a 6 or so mile drive. Since I have already discovered using buses in Los Angeles and environs is a sometime thing, I was scared of arriving too late. After all my lawyer told me, "Be on time!" So, I turned to Über for a day before dry run. What a mistake that was!

The problem begins with your entry of HOME on the Über iOS software that runs on my iPhone 6. I could enter my address all I wanted but it would show me addresses I had no idea where they were. The receptionist here at the home was familiar with it and tried to help. She didn't get any better results than I did even after closing, deleting and doing a hard restart on my phone. What was really frustrating was that it kept showing the driver, who was going to pick me up, a street address that I didn't even know where it was! Finally he called and I had to ask where he was and give him directions to the home. I mean how hard can it be? Commonwealth crosses Garfield, a major north south street in the San Gabriel Valley two blocks south from Main St. An hour into this he finally arrived. Can you imagine arriving late for a court date?

I gave him the address of where I wanted to go explaining this was a dry run for tomorrow morning. I had to be in court and couldn't take a chance with buses. One of my connecting buses has a very bad habit of just not even coming! We chatted and once underway there were no problems. His phone was calling out directions and while I wouldn't have gone that way myself we got there in about 15 minutes as opposed to an hour on the bus, assuming the bus came. Once we got to the courthouse I said fine, lets go back. The fare was around $15, far more expensive than the bus. What I didn't know was that I was being charged for EVERY mile he drove hunting for me. So the hour he was hunting me down at the wrong address, I was being charged.

I complained at their followup email saying I was very unhappy. It wasn't the driver it was Über's buggy software. They gave me a $10 credit back. Evidently I found out they could follow the drivers path and they agreed with me, the starting and ending points were wrong. Well, now I was a happy camper. I would use them for my trip to the airport.

However, happy or not I still didn't want to risk being late to court so asked the home if they could drive me there. They agreed. Our driver, however, didn't come to work until 8:00, would that be enough time? Since it is nearly a straight shot I said yes.

After getting back to the home and not eating my lunch, a friend said why don't you leave now. I am free and can pick you up in San Bernardino earlier. By now I had the key to my truck but not having driven in 10 months, then finding a way over to get it, I didn't feel up to it, especially a 90 minute or more drive to Palm Springs. So, you guessed it, I texted Über. I needed to get to the CalState Metrolink Station, probably by car a 15 minute ride. There was a train leaving at 1:00 pm so I would make it in time when I texted them at 12:30. I was packed and ready to go.

Again he had trouble finding the address. On their real time map he was minutes away on Garfield. Where he went next is anyone's guess. About 10 minutes later, and yes, I was outside looking for him, he drove down the street going east. When he saw me he started a u-turn and was nearly hit by oncoming traffic. The adventure began.

Using Über's software we listened to the instructions they gave. I tried to tell him how the bus did it but before I knew it we were flying down the freeway heading west. We flew by the Metrolink Station. I finally made him pull off the freeway before we entered downtown Los Angeles. "Where are you going?" I asked (probably yelled). He was following the robot's instructions. Maybe theres a CalState Metrolink Station on Mars, I don't know, but by now it was 1:00 pm. Suddenly I see Union Station on my left in downtown LA. Stop I yelled. Let me out. He tried to pull another u-turn again getting us nearly broadsided. I ran into the station but discovered that the train had left and the next one was about an hour away.

As if missing the train wasn't bad enough, it turned out my fare was $16 for what should have been at most $5 (its 25¢ on the bus), my fare leaving from Union Station was doubled now to over $13 and I had to wait about an hour for the next train. Tell me, is this any better than riding the bus? It took an hour to get to the LA Convention Center on the bus Thanksgiving Day. It cost me, as a senior about 50¢. Today I tried to leave before my usual bus service begins. I did get to San Bernardino about 90 minutes earlier but I had to ask, was it worth all the aggregation? I think not.

The bad thing about Über is you must make arrangements at that very minute. You can't say, can I have you pick me up tomorrow at such and such time? Or make sure I can get to the airport on the 22nd. No. It has to be done now, when you want to leave with a different driver every time with varying abilities. It seems strange. They have your phone number and have to call you anyway. Why not book in advance and have them check on the pre-arranged date? I surely would opt to do that. My complaint with Super Shuttle or Prime Time is that they try to cram as many people in their buses as possible going around and around the arrival concourse hoping for one more body. Then once underway give you literally a cooks tour of your area. I have had them drive by my exit where they could have dropped me off and been back on the freeway in a flash. After a long flight you can count on another 2-3 hour ride home. I know its Los Angeles but even then there are limits.

There have been more followup emails. I wrote and said that after two awful experiences in two days, back to back, that I would never use them again. They apologized and said they would apply a credit on my next ride. I wrote back and said, just give me a credit on my card as there will never be another ride with them. Now I keep getting emails asking if the problem has been resolved. No, I say, it hasn't. Where's is my money? Or as Jerry MacGuire said, "Show me the money!"

What AM I going to do? Another friend said I should take the bus to the South Pasadena Gold Line Station, ride down to Union Station and walk up to the Fly-Away bus that is pretty cheap; $8 last time I rode it. However, I will be dragging a suitcase and a computer bag and dragging that on the first bus, then the Gold Line car and finally through Union Station all the way to the bus terminal seems daunting. I am 70, not 30. I guess I could drive my truck out and park it at some long term parking lot and after I compare the costs, that is probably what I will do.

Oh, I might add that in talking to another friend his experience was similar to mine. If that is true, he was in Chicago, how on earth has this company grown? Why would anyone use it if their software is so buggy and literally unreliable? I get rid of buggy software sticking with those that actually work. Über has a lot to learn.

Thank you for reading my blog. I discuss a variety of topics because I believe anything that humans touch is a conscious design that works or in this case doesn't! Please check some of my earlier blogs.

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