I have my own criticisms of Uber and how it’s run but one of them is certainly not how it uses surge pricing during busy hours. Here’s why: When you request a ride through Uber, the app is completely up front about how much extra you’ll be charged if you choose to ride during busy hours.
The reason Uber uses surge pricing is a simple case of supply and demand: Uber wants its drivers to have more incentive to work during busy times to meet high demand. This means that when there’s more demand for rides than there are rides available, Uber will jack up prices to ensure that only the people who are really in dire need of a ride will pay and that there will be enough drivers on the road to accommodate those people.
I bring this up because Complex has been documenting some outraged reactions from Uber users who felt the company was ripping them off with its surge pricing on New Year’s Eve. One user was particularly outraged because they ended up paying $163 for a 19-minute ride. Others fumed that they would be charged as much as 10 times the normal rate for getting a ride on New Year’s Eve.
I would find these complaints valid if Uber were a monopoly… but it isn’t. Not even close.
If you find that Uber’s New Year’s Eve rates are too pricey, then don’t pay them. Instead, try finding a cab or using Lyft or even taking public transportation as far as it will get you. There are plenty of options for getting home on New Year’s Eve and Uber is only one.
And in fact, as this report in The San Francisco Examiner makes clear, many people did use other options. It seems that many Uber drivers are complaining bitterly about the fact that they got almost no customers on New Year’s Eve because so many people were rightly terrified of surge prices. It’s a safe bet that in the future, Uber may lower its rates to increase demand and keep customers away from taxis.
And here’s the other thing: Uber this week flat-out warned people to expect higher rates on New Year’s Eve. Nobody wants to work on New Year’s Eve unless they stand to make a ton of money from it. To get any drivers out on the road late at night on December 31st, Uber had to give them the opportunity to make an absolute windfall. This means that unless you had a lot of disposable income to blow, you shouldn’t have even thought about using Uber on Wednesday night.
So really, people, do some basic research on how Uber works before you get into a moral outrage about it. You are not being forced to give Uber your money and plenty of other options are at your disposal.