You’re an Uber Baby: Why Folks Should Quit Their Crying About Surge Pricing

Readers, something has really got me “all fired up” today.  As I was listening to the morning news, I heard coverage of the customer outrage being directed at Uber due to their practice of surge pricing.  Boy oh boy did this make me angry!  Before I get into my editorial on this news item, let me get you up to speed if you’re not in the know.

Uber uses a method to set ride fees using surge pricing.  Essentially, it all boils down to supply and demand.  When rides are more in demand (ie. New Year’s Eve between 12:15 and 2:30), prices soar.  Pretty easy to understand.  But just incase some folks couldn’t quite comprehend, Uber sent out several communications to its users prior to NYE.  One included the diagram below:


Now, with all of the warnings AND  confirmation screen at time of order, people still took to the internet in droves to cry the next day:


This is just one of a million examples.


I’m all about consumer advocacy and customer service; I’ll be the first to back someone when a business has truly “done someone wrong”, but that definitely is not what went down on NYE.  I simply cannot stand when a consumer goes online and bullies a business when the mistake/poor judgement/lack of responsibility falls squarely on the customer’s shoulders.  The damage to a business’s reputation can be catastrophic, especially for  small businesses.  Now that is not what will happen here.  I actually think Uber will benefit from this in the end and they aren’t exactly a small business.  But it still pisses me off nonetheless.  Here’s why:

1.  You aren’t ENTITLED to a black car service.

Uber is a higher end car service.  It’s not a public outreach program.  It’s not even a cab.  It’s a luxury.You’re paying for upgraded service and convenience.   If you can afford it and choose to do so, great.  If not, find another alternative.  In case you haven’t figured it out, you aren’t owed the privilege of everything when and at the price you want it.

2.  Surge pricing is nothing new.


Supply and demand people.  You want the convenience of flying at peak times, you’re going to pay more.

I just bought $300 dollars worth of Christmas lights yesterday for less than a $100.  Yeah, no one really has a need for Christmas lights in January.  Supply is low.  Now I wait a whole year to enjoy them.  Guess what, I also bought lights just after Thanksgiving when the mark up was 3x what it is now.

A show at the local pub to see someone’s Dad ackwardly strum Jimmy Buffet covers is a hell of a lot cheaper than seeing U2.

Drink prices and bar/club covers are sky high on NYE.  You know why owners do this?  Because they can.  Because volume and demand dictate it.

Bottom line, prices are set by what people are willing to pay and how many people are demanding a commodity.

I guess they’re not teaching economics in school any more.

3.  Other options exist.

I mentioned this already, but let’s explore it further:

Cab- But I don’t want to wait in line with the other thousands trying to hail a cab at the same time.

Safe Ride- But that’s still a cab right?  Yeah, I’m not waiting on a cab even if it’s free.  Didn’t we already cover this?

Public transportation- Yeah, like I would be caught dead riding with all of the commoners. The horror!

Designated driver- Wait, what’s that?  You mean someone would have to be like, responsible or something?  Boo, no fun!

Drive yourself and don’t drink-  Huh?  Aren’t I entitled to pay through the nose for drinks and get completely hammered.  I can’t face the New Year sober!

Can’t conceive of not drinking?  Stay home. I think they show a ball drop on TV.  Yeah, it’s kind of a yearly thing.  You should check into it.

4.  You’re an adult!  So how about taking responsibility for your actions?

At least in terms of age you’re supposed to be a grown up.  You decided to spend the money to have Uber  take you home.  You clicked the confirmation of price.  Now in the harsh sobriety of late afternoon, you feel like an ass for spending $300 to get home.  Come close, I’m going to tell you a secret,


So if you decide to get so completely shit housed that you think, “Damn, I’m a straight baller and I’m rolling home in style tonight.  Bye schmucks waiting in the cab queue!”, then be prepared to feel like a straight idiot the next day.  And maybe don’t announce how stupid you are to the world by broadcasting your regrets all over Twitter.

There you have it.  I’m team Uber.  A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency or handout on Uber’s part.  Grow up, quit crying, and learn how to manage yourself and your life without relying on others to figure it out for you or roll out the red carpet.  You’re not nearly as worthy as you think.  Your wallet on the other hand…..

– Melissa


Listening to:Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – Live from KCRW

Reading:  “Sitting Up with the Dead” by Pamela Petro

My NYE:  Given the insane cost of tickets to do anything and the massive crowds of folks (like the ones bitching about Uber) that would be out, Matt and I opted to stay close to home and enjoy some reasonably priced beers next to a free fire.  We had a blast and I’m 100% confident the playlist was much better than anything we would have heard out and about in the city.


4 thoughts on “You’re an Uber Baby: Why Folks Should Quit Their Crying About Surge Pricing

  1. You lost me at “peak hours on your cell phone”. 1995 called, they want their facts back.

    Hope you enjoyed your exciting NYE crochet time with hubby by the fire.

    • Point taken on the phone piece. Edit made.

      While I don’t know how to knit (might be a good skill to have), I did enjoy my NYE. Friends and drinks by a fire and a safe economical way home. My point is that if you’re going out on the biggest party night of the year, shouldn’t you expect to pay more when demand is more? Maybe not according to some.

      Happy New Year!

  2. Uber doesn’t just have high prices. They have CHANGING prices, and it seems like their whole policy is designed to trick drunk people.

    Uber wrote their algorithm. It isn’t magic and it certainly can’t be blamed on “supply and demand.” The algorithm looks designed to extort, and goes after people when they are drunkest.

    Also: Uber uses public roads, double parks even worse than cabs, and somehow claims they don’t need to be regulated like cabs. Cabs aren’t allowed to “surge” their prices to meet “supply and demand.” And for good reason.

    If most of your customers hate you, chances are it is because your behavior is bad, not because your customers are idiots or babies.

    Pro tip: If you complain on twitter loud enough they will give you a refund (because they know they are in the wrong).

    • Many businesses have changing prices based on their own algorithms and peak times. The peak times tend to (but don’t always) coincide with when people are out late and drinking and thus want rides home. People voluntarily use the service, are warned of the price changes, and therefore are responsible, drunk or not. There are other options as I mentioned, many in some areas.

      You’re right though, if enough people feel so negatively about the practice to the point it effects their ongoing business, they’ll have to change it or suffer the consequences. Time will tell.

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