Why I’m Cheering For Uber

I landed at Heathrow at 10PM and needed a ride to the airport Sheraton on Bath road. My phone was acting up so I wasn’t able to use the Uber app that worked earlier that day in Qatar, and in the preceding days in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Los Angeles, and London. So I did what any road-weary traveler would do – I hailed a taxi. As the driver picked up my roll-aboard he looked at me and framed his demand as a question, “You’re paying cash right?”

What? Of course I am – I’ve been held captive by cabbie’s all over the world – and though I have tremendous respect for the most professional among them, the London Cabbies, I know better than to negotiate a credit card payment near midnight in the middle of nowhere (T4 is very quiet that late).

That four-mile drive lasted twenty minutes and cost my employer more than $30.

There are 400 airlines operating scheduled service around the globe, I don’t know how many hotel brands, or travel agencies exist, but ground transportation companies are part of a very fragmented industry. Until now.

I used four airlines to fly from Dallas, to Fiji, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and back to Dallas via London. The Western shore of Nadi, Fiji was the only place I couldn’t find Uber.

I’m not surprised by the polarized reaction discussions about Uber generate among travel managers. It’s hard to grasp how many problems Uber solved for globe-trotters and urban dwellers alike unless you’ve lived through it.

1. I can see where my car on the map in the Uber app before I request one.

2. I know the driver’s name and have his license plate before he arrives.

3. I can watch my journey in real-time on my phone while we travel to my destination – an address that I frequently plug-in before Uber arrives – which eliminates the three-minute discussion about where I’m headed and how to get there after the meter starts.

4. I get out of the car when I arrive at my destination. There’s no transaction or payment to the driver… no more lost cellphones or wallets because they’re safely tucked away before the driver pulled up to the curb. No more searches in his trunk to find those ancient multi-page slider-style receipts and listen to griping about how I needed to pay cash while he acts like it’s been months since anyone gave him a credit card.

5.  No more brake-stompers, tail-gators, loud-music listening, cellphone talking, A**hole drivers who act like they’re doing you a favor. You know what I mean if you’ve ever taken a cab between La Guardia and Midtown. Because I get to rate the driver after every trip. And if enough of his customers think he lacks the manners or skills to get us to our destination safely his ratings will plunge and Uber will cut him loose. How many taxi companies use customer ratings to do that?

Guess what? Uber driver’s rate their passengers too – and I care about my score – because if I ever need a ride out of a rough part of town at three in the morning I know someone will already know I’m a decent human-being and pick me up while the drunks and suckers have to hail a cab.

I know – Uber doesn’t blah, blah, blah, insurance, blah, blah, blah… well, I’ve jumped out of airplanes from 1,000′ without a camera and it wasn’t to enjoy the freefall, and I’ve flown airplanes upside down. I spent a few years as a first-responder too – I don’t care about insurance – that’s a check to give survivors. I care about safety. Have you seen the car Bob Simon was riding in when he died?  Here it is – the driver survived. I haven’t seen the full accident report, but early indications are that Bob was in the back and wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If you really want your travelers to be safe tell them to buckle-up and only accept rides from Uber drivers with a 4.7+ rating.

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Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

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Vehicles Are Deadly

Vehicles are Deadly. The distinction between Cover and Concealment is an important starting point. Concealment occludes visibility to a target, while cover provides material to protect the target from projectiles. Bushes, curtains and plastic garbage bags could provide concealment, but only eighteen inches of dirt, sand or rock will stop a .50 BMG or fragmentation from a 155MM High Explosive shell. Most homeowners underestimate how soft the drywall and studs are in contemporary homes. In fact, a standard 9mm full metal jacket (FMJ) round fired from a 4” Glock19 can pass through four walls before stopping in the fifth. Some rifles can do the same thing to cinderblock. These results do two things: first, prove that walls do not offer cover; and second, demonstrate that many gun owners are unrealistic about where their rounds will end up once discharged.

The Box-O-Truth Web site is a terrific resource to learn how ammunition really behaves after it leaves the barrel. The Author and host, Don, known to readers as “Old_Painless”, is a retired Police Officer and gun enthusiast. He spends a lot of time to create realistic situation to test ammunition against targets with real-world applications. You can find his work here: http://www.theboxotruth.com/. You should spend some time on his site.

Vehicles are Deadly. They offer the illusion of safety (since so many people think they provide cover – but they don’t), but vehicles are deadly for another reason. They concentrate fire. Let’s use a car with four occupants as an example. Each occupant merges to become one target in the vehicle. One or more shooters will engage a car before firing at a single dismounted target. Vehicle occupants are subject to accidental hits – if the driver is targeted, but rounds hit another occupant, the shot is still a “Hit” but it was accidental. If four suspects ambush a vehicle, all four weapons act to destroy it.

Dismounted targets are discrete and not usually pursued with the same concentrated fire. When an occupant dismounts they will simultaneously draw fire away from the vehicle, and offer a much smaller target. As they move farther away from each other they become separate targets and much less susceptible to accidental “Hits.” Distance is a good defense since people able to double their distance from a shooter will reduce their surface area by 75%.

Vehicles are not a substitute for adequate cover. They offer concealment only, and vehicles tend to draw heavy weapons. If disciplined aggressors have small arms and one heavy weapon – they will put heavy fire on a vehicle before engaging soft-targets. The proliferation of .50 Cal BMG rifles reinforces everything described here. To learn more check out Don’s review titled the “Buick ‘O Truth” a car that gave him a chance to examine damage from small arms fire and penetration by high-powered rifles. The results will encourage you to hide somewhere else, as any bullet can penetrate the car and even the engine offers little protection.

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Trip Planning For India

Planning your next adventure? Consider these suggestions and best practices before you leave home, and let me know if you have other ideas I should add to this list.

  1. Negotiate all itineraries, fees and prices upfront.
  2. Demand no add-on’s while touring (you should have control over every place your guide will take you and your time-line; this includes planned restaurant stops).
  3. Always have a copy of every confirmation number, hotel address and phone number. You will need it at some point. Paper beats digital in most places, especially India.
  4. Insist that your tour company provide a bio and photo of your driver and every guide before you arrive. You will have a much better experience if you use mature, experienced local guides. Veteran guides are more likely to have a good relationship with the Army or Police guarding historical sites and may be able to get you access to areas and features that are off-limits to the general public or help you navigate through heavy crowds quickly via staff entrances or other secured areas.
  5. Always carry 2X more local currency than you think you will need.
  6. Always make change from big bills into useable denominations at your hotel – never change large bills at street vendors or other locations.
  7. Insist that your driver keep doors locked, and leaves separation from the cars ahead of you in traffic and at stops.
  8. Sit behind and opposite your driver. You must be able to make eye-contact with him while riding together. And always wear a seatbelt.
  9. Keep medicine (aspirin, visine, chapstick)/glasses/socks/earplugs/sunscreen/insect repellent/sunglasses/iphone charger/spare headphones/extra pens in your personal bag.
  10. Never take physical keys from a hotel off property – leave them with the hotel staff when you leave. Consider leaving a note for yourself that includes where you’re going, who you will meet and when you plan to return.
  11. Assume insects are harmful – don’t let them bite you. Use insecticide and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  12. Always ask hotel/restaurant staff to provide mosquito coils if you’re dining outside.
  13. Do not use deodorant and if you must, use a fragrant-free version. This will reduce your attractiveness to many insects.
  14. Stay dry.
  15. Cover open cuts.
  16. Do not drink anything that was not opened in front of you or boiled. Wipe or rinse bottle tops before opening.
  17. Arrange your room to make a clear path to your door in case of darkness/power loss.
  18. Stay hydrated/rested and avoid heavy alcohol consumption.
  19. Be polite, but firm.
  20. Do not accept drinks from strangers.
  21. Do not wear jewelry, fancy watches, etc.
  22. Never have both hands full.
  23. Be aware of your surroundings.
  24. Women should not travel alone.
  25. Women should never use public transportation.
  26. Always keep two extra water bottles with you for emergencies – buy more when you get down to the last two.
  27. If you’re approached by a stranger, expect them to have a partner. It’s not usually the person who approaches you first who is your greatest threat.
  28. Do not spread out your belongings in your hotel or vehicle. Keep your belongings organized and packed as much as possible in case you need to make a fast exit. Additionally – when you keep your room neat and organized, you’re making it easier on the hotel staff to make up your room. They’ll reciprocate – it’s especially helpful when you forget an item and leave it in your room – they’re much more likely to “find” it.
  29. Don’t fall in love with anything you own – be prepared to leave it behind.
  30. Keep immodium accessible (you’ll know when you need it, and when you do speed will make a difference).
  31. Share the same safe combination with your group – someone else may need you to collect your valuables for you.
  32. Carry several “chip clips” in your luggage to keep stubborn drapes closed in your hotel room, or to hang wet laundry.
  33. Never keep all your cash, ID’s, and Credit Cards in the same pocket. Use multiple pockets and spread things around.
  34. Never store your full data cards with your camera, put them somewhere else (but never in checked luggage).
  35. Pack using 1 gallon Ziploc bags. They’re great for all kinds of things, and water-proof.
  36. Carry a number 2 kit: Toilet paper (1 roll); wet wipes (1 pack); baby powder (1 10oz container) – keep it in a single 1 gallon Ziploc bag.
  37. Stow your overhead luggage across the aisle from your seat, where you can see it.
  38. Never set anything down at airports, taxi stands, train stations that isn’t between your legs.
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