When Uber was launched in Trivandrum half a year ago, I was one of the first to embrace this low cost solution for transportation which seemed at the time to be a boon to the common man, to escape the clutches of fleecing autorickshaw and taxi drivers. Recently however I was taken aback by the response from Uber customer support to a situation where I was at the receiving end when a taxi driver cancelled on me, at 3 a.m. after having booked a taxi 10 minutes ago.
It is at 3 a.m that the Palakkad Town bound Amritha Express reaches Ernakulam North railway station. Amritha express is two trains joined as one, including both Amritha Express and the Rajya Rani express. Hence, the train is very long, and the Rajya Rani coaches almost stretch out of the station when the rear end of Amritha express parks at the station entrance. If you were unlucky enough to be on Rajya rani coaches, you need to walk half a kilometre to the station’s prepaid autorickshaw counter. By that time, there would be a very long queue, and often, you may need to wait for the autorickshaws on trips to return. Anticipating this, on 20th April, 2:50pm, I booked an Uber cab while the train was pulling into Ernakulam North railway station. For the booking, I used the app to search for Ernakulam North railway station as the starting location. A driver named Vineeth accepted the trip, and confirmed that he would arrive in 10 minutes, and requested that I wait for him. Having waited for 15 minutes, I checked the app and found that the driver had cancelled the trip on his own, without even informing me. By that time, there was as expected an extremely long queue at the autorickshaw counter, and no autorickshaws available. When I rechecked Uber, I found that it was now showing surge pricing. I decided therefore to wait for an auto.
Having reached my destination, I shot off a complaint to Uber regarding the driver who never turned up. Imagine my extreme chagrin when I received a reply from Uber customer support, alleging misuse of the system by me, and threatening to terminate my Uber account if such malpractise was noticed in future. The mail I received follows:
I’m reaching out because we received feedback from one of your recent trips that the request location and pick up location were very far apart from each other. Upon further investigation, it looks as though the request location was within a surged pricing zone and the dropped pin was not.
Dynamic pricing allows us to quickly get more drivers on the road to serve you during busy times. Our intent is to make sure we’re the most reliable ride out there so you aren’t left stranded. You always have the choice of whether to request a ride or not, and we provide full transparency about dynamic pricing in your app before, during, and after you request a ride. Manipulating this system is misuse of the application and is frustrating for our driver-partners. Should we hear of future similar complaints, we may have to suspend your use of the app.
We appreciate you riding with us so far and would like to see you continue to use Uber.
Safety and accountability is built into the Uber experience, before, during and after a ride. Read more.
In fact, his insinuations were false. While booking my ride, I had booked my searching the location via the Uber app, and then booking the ride. Apparently that location, and the actual GPS based PIN (PIN in Uber, is the GPS coordinate of the pickup location) of the railway station was different. The glitch could have crept in because searching by location name utilizes Google Maps’ preset GPS coordinates for a location, and searching via auto-discovered GPS location searches exact location. These could match two entirely different loations seperated by some distance. Because I’m technically inclined and bothered to look into it, I discovered this.
Imagine the effect of wanton allegations levelled against a prospective customer? Do you actually want customers to give your service a miss? I most vehemently place on record my anger at Mr Sherance’s allegations without looking whether there was a technical fault at your end. In fact last week, I found that Uber had overcharged me for a ride I took, and on investigation Uber confirmed that there was a technical glitch causing it. I am well within my rights to file a consumer case for that instance. Software systems are not perfect. Rectify your fault before alleging blame on someone else!
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Joel G Mathew, known in tech circles by the pseudonym Droidzone, is an opensource and programming enthusiast.
His favorite pastime is grappling with GNU compilers, discovering newer Linux secrets, writing scripts, hacking roms, and programs (nothing illegal), reading, blogging. and testing out the latest gadgets.
When away from the tech world, Dr Joel G. Mathew is a practising ENT Surgeon, busy with surgeries and clinical practise.