Or the tale of the quintessential symbiotic relationship.
Do you remember when ridesharing was shiny and new? I can remember very clearly the day I heard someone describing this new way of getting around. It went something like this, “They picked me up in this black SUV, there was a water bottle waiting for me and get this, there is zero money exchanged — not even tips!” I was sold. I had been burnt so many times by cab drivers and their visible (and audible) annoyance that I wasn’t carrying cash and once was even asked to disembark mid-ride due to my lack of cash. The stories are endless.
I thought finally, someone who had experienced the same frustrations actually decided to do something about it. As far as I was concerned it was pure glittery magic.
The thing that made ridesharing so special to me was actually quite small. It was the clear effort they made to make customer service and attention to detail integral to their brands. You knew what to expect, an effortless, smooth ride from a friendly driver who seemed happy to be giving you a ride — simple and easy. It set them apart from Yellow Cab and Orange Cab and ushered in a seemingly new era of “affordable luxury”. Now at the touch a button, you had your very own personal driver there to uncomplicate your life, offer a friendly chat. I know your parents or some authoritative figure imparted this timeless wisdom at some point but it bears repeating, attention to detail goes a very long way in this world of competitive global everything. It’s a small act that builds big, loyal dependable communities.
Fast-forward a short ten years and is it just me or is the magic beginning to fade?
Uber, currently valued at 120 BILLION dollars, a giant
in its own right seems to be biting the hand that feeds it. and I think they can’t afford to do that.
It feels like lately, I am reading story after story of the quality of rides declining , I’ve read stories about women being kept on elongated rides so that drivers can flirt with them, I’ve read about people of color having their rides canceled due to the way their name is spelled — and apart from discrimination examples (which to be clear are troubling ) I myself have experienced the creeping realization that ridesharing is not much different at all than cab drivers.
And here’s the thing about taxi cab drivers, they may not be easy or effortless but at the end of the day, they have two friends that you can rely on (on a federal and state by state basis) in lieu of those things and their names are regulation and policy. There was/is safety in that.
And if that’s not enough— As the months and years pass by I find myself increasingly aware of stranger danger as I willingly strap into a dun.. dun.. dun..stranger’s car. Because that’s what they are. a stranger who decided to make extra cash on a Tuesday. It’s true we’re all strangers but — I wouldn’t ask Gary the barista for a lift to the airport.
Full disclosure: I started this blog post in 2016 and finished it in 2019, I made minimal edits.
**This blog post is not an endorsement for or against Uber or Lyft, these are my own observations as an avid user.