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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Uber is the greatest thing since the iPhone


Uber is awesome – it’s changed my life. Enroll using this link to receive a free $30 credit. https://www.uber.com/invite/9k7pk

The technology revolution has a firm hold on travel. Los Angeles hosted GBTA2014 and showed off a lot of positive changes.  Like most American cities that grew up after World War II it was designed for cars and public transportation is well behind contemporary European and Asian cities. When I moved out of LA in 2008 you couldn’t find much downtown on the weekends, but expansion around Staples Center and LA Live have turned the concrete landscape into a city-dwellers dream. There are people everywhere now, all the time, and people need transportation

Visitors should still opt for a rental car if they’re planning to visit more than one or two areas within the metro area, but technology’s enormous reach has finally arrived in Southern California. Uber.

Cabs in LA are expensive, and slow traffic and long distances have conspired to make taxi’s uneconomic. By July, 2014 Uber had become a market-maker in Los Angeles; waits for a car were never more than 7 minutes. After two days and five or six rides, I was a raging fan. A week later, and I was ready to swear lifetime allegiance.

Uber introduces riders to their driver and their car before it arrives. Every time the “Sam in a Prius” pulled up, I felt like I was greeting a friend. I began to notice an “Uber Waive” – a practice where Uber-users flashed their mobile phones at the unmarked car as if to say, “Hey – I’m the guy who called you through the app.”

Every car that picked me up was clean. Every driver was courteous. Every fare was cheaper than I was expecting – so much so that I want Uber to add a way for me to offer the driver a tip. At one point I was so impressed that I asked a driver to travel around the block before “ending my trip” so he could collect a tip. He refused. Only later did I realize that the receipt I received via email a minute or two after stepping out of the car contained a map of our journey together – to reassure riders that they were delivered by the shortest route.

Many times the driver who accepted my request would call to confirm the pickup location and ask about my destination. Once, when I needed ride from downtown to Redondo Beeach, a 30 mile trip, the driver said that he had an appointment he didn’t want to break, and would I allow him to turn the trip down? Yes – and the next driver who accepted my trip was delighted to take me to the South Bay. How many times have you ridden in a cab and the driver was visibly irritated by something? It just doesn’t happen with Uber.

Uber provides an incredible experience – all of it positive. By the end of the week as I stood on the curb outside my hotel and watched people hail cabs – I just couldn’t stop thinking they’re “suckers” from another era. Uber changed my life.

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