I visited Providence, Rhode Island last week for a Harry Potter Alliance leadership conference called the Granger Leadership Academy. It was an amazing experience, but I’ll make another post for that later. Meanwhile, I had to work out how to get around when I had a free day and I decided to go check out Brown University, RISD museum and the Duck and Bunny.
All of these places are in walking distance of each other but turned out to be close to 20 minutes from the Crowne Plaza hotel conference centre in Warwick, RI and I ended up deciding to take an Uber ride there. The experience was really positive and actually resolved a lot of my qualms about the company that I’ve been harbouring.
Getting around, especially when you’re out of town, can be tough. Buses are time consuming and typically taking 3-4 times longer to get any where. A typical taxi is also really expensive (estimates at $38 – $50+ dollars for the 15-20 minute ride and I would have been paying that twice in order to return, so yikes!). I ruled out renting a car because of insurance, parking and not having a GPS in a strange city.
The helpful people at the front desk of the Crowne Plaza suggested Uber. They looked at the estimate and it was going to cost me $12-17 one way. This is close to 1/3 of what I’d be paying for a taxi, and I could still get there faster than a bus would. Like, yesssss!
I would like to fully acknowledge that I understand and respect the controversy about companies like Uber. I can respect that traditional taxi companies don’t like it because it is threatening their livelihoods. It’s not the average taxi driver’s fault that the average person feels like their companies rates are unaffordable. It’s a systematic problem that is being challenged. I also understand that many people are concerned about safety and insurance reasons. Of course, the companies apparently get police record checks for their drivers, which satisfies me (it might not be considered good enough for everyone though, and that’s ok if that’s how you feel). And yeah, I’m totally ok with cities, states, or provinces requiring certain driver’s licenses or insurance policies. The way people talk, they want to get rid of Uber, but I wouldn’t want to see companies like this go. I would much rather they have a chance to work through policy changes that people are worried about that would allow them to stick around.
How Uber works
You download an app and enter all your information. You have to include credit card information because they charge it automatically versus you having to pay the driver, but it’s encrypted so I think it’s as safe as anything that you pay online (and seriously, don’t we all buy stuff online these days? It’s usually fine as long as it’s a legit company).
From there, you can drop a pin, which is usually sitting where you’re phones GPS currently thinks you are, and you can call a driver. The Uber apps map will show how long it’ll take a car to get to you, who the driver is and what kind of car they drive, and you can track the car.
Like I said, they automatically charge you so you don’t have to worry about that when you’re at your destination.
The anxiety in my brain was trying to convince me that the driver’s were probably kidnappers, but I highly doubt any of them are. One reason is the criminal record checks (although I realize that that means the person just hasn’t been caught). Another is that I think only a small number of people are actually creeps like that.
Both of the driver’s I had were super nice and friendly guys. The second guy was even a big Harry Potter fan and we talked about Harry Potter and how both of our families super like Harry Potter.
All in all, I’m very happy with my experience with Uber. I was comfortable with the drivers, I liked the payment system, and I was so happy that I could get to a farther distance without having to pay a ridiculously high fee or have to spend minimum triple the car driving time sitting on a smelly motion-sickness inducing city bus (and yes, I’ve tried sitting in the front of the buses and I still feel all icky later). I’m in no way saying that Uber is a perfect company and I hope that they will work through any issues that people have brought up. And I do feel bad for the regular taxi driver. But at the end of the day, I need to do what is best for my bank account and what I am most comfortable with; I think that a lot of people agree with me, which is why Uber is so popular.
When I travel again in the future and need to get somewhere I can’t just walk to, I will consider Uber or another company like Lyft again. I hope that the rest of you who have your doubts about Uber will also consider giving them a chance when needed. Hopefully you’ll be just as happy with the company as I am.