Uber, the new, high-tech, luxury black car limo service, makes it easy and somewhat affordable to travel like a celebrity.
Have you ever tried to hail a taxi in NYC on a freezing Saturday night?
Have you ever encountered a long taxi line outside Grand Central Station when you’re already late for an appointment? Some days, there just aren’t enough taxis to go around. But if you own a mobile phone, have a major credit card, and like to splurge on small luxuries now and then, you may want to sign up for Uber — the newish, on-demand black car service that allows you to travel like a celebrity.
I tried the service on a whim. A friend had told me about Uber a few months ago and she raved about it. She warned me it was a little pricey, perhaps 1½-2 times cost of a traditional taxi fare but said the luxury was well worth it, when you needed it. Soon after, I downloaded the Uber app on my iPhone and enrolled my credit card information—-just waiting for that proverbial rainy day.
When a Google Offer popped up in my inbox offering $40 worth of Uber service for $19, I broke down and purchased the offer on a whim. (I’m a Maxxinista who can’t resist a bargain). Now I had $40 credit burning a hole in my Uber account.
This past week, my husband and I were having dinner at a restaurant near Madison Park in Manhattan and we planned to visit a friend on the West Side afterward. The President was in town the same evening so I worried about getting a taxi. After we paid the dinner bill, I opened the Uber app on my iPhone. A map popped up with a message asking me to confirm or reset my pickup location, which was already there via GPS. (You can also access Uber by a text message.)
Then I received a message saying an Uber driver, named Selvon, had been dispatched and was three minutes away. As we walked to the restaurant door, I was able to watch the route our driver took on my iPhone map and knew he had just rounded the corner to meet us. He showed up in a shiny, immaculately clean, black Suburban SUV with tinted windows and comfy leather seats. He asked us where we wanted to go and was prepared to take us anywhere. When we told him the address, he entered it into his GPS.
He could have just as easily been a brand ambassador for his employer because he was so enthusiastic about his work and as charming as could be. Working for Uber the last five months, he’s driven celebrities, sports stars, fashion models, you name it—-and me. One reason why he may have appeared so happy is that his wages are higher than regular taxi drivers, and he can choose which calls he wants to pursue when they show up on his screen. Unlike taxis, Uber vehicles can’t be hailed from the curb; they have to be ordered by phone.
Selvon drove carefully, unrushed, without any of the erratic weaving endemic to NYC taxi cabs. When we arrived at our destination, he entered “Trip Completed” on his touch screen. With that information, my account was automatically charged $26 for the trip (which included his tip) and he thanked us. (Fares are based on some formula based on time and miles driven. The service also offers flat fares to area airports.) No money ever passed hands. My receipt popped up instantaneously on my iPhone as well as an opportunity to rate my driver. I gave him five stars out of five.
I looked up at the screen on our driver’s dashboard and was a bit taken aback when I realized he had also rated me. “What basis do you have for rating passengers?” I asked, a bit sheepishly.
“Personality,” he said. “You folks were good company.” And he gave us a 5-star rating as well. He confided that he never picks up passengers with a rating less than three.
Sure made my day. I can’t wait for the next chance I have to use the remaining $14 credit on my account. If I’m lucky, Uber may even send a stretch limo.
First launched in June 2010 in San Francisco, Uber now operates in New York City, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, DC, and Paris and has funding to expand across North America, Europe and Asia. Check out their website to find out more about Uber or sign up. You can find out promotional offers by following Uber on on Twitter