If last week could have titled it would have been called “Week 39: Taxis in Toronto,” with Hailo launching their platform and Uber responding to the launch with their own ‘free’ program to steal attention away from Hailo. It certainly dominated my Twitter feed and made for some interesting conversations with friends. The conversation naturally shifted to which platform we were most interested in in the majority of the conversations I’ve had… and while I wanted to try both before I made a decision on which I preferred, a negative experience with Uber has already converted me to Hailo.
Let’s cover the basics for those unfamiliar with the taxi battle… Uber is a taxi hailing service that allows you to get a cab for about 30-40% more than you would pay for a standard cab. Last week, anticipating the Hailo launch, Uber Toronto dug deep into their financial war chest to offer ‘free’ rides ($20 limit). Free is an adored word in the social media world, so I shared the news via Twitter. I was looking forward to trying out Uber for myself (after a bad first experience – where the driver accused us all of being wrong and not using the app properly) and then comparing it to the experience with Hailo.
Here’s the simple run down on Hailo – They are a licensed company with the city. They charge the same prices you would pay in any cab but give you the convenience of the app – which tells you when the cab will be there, who the driver is, and other relevant information. At the end, you’re able to rate the driver – which is then passed on to other riders should they ever get that driver! It’s a similar service to Uber, but much less expensive.Image from Betakit, who cover Hailo in great detail! Highly recommended reading.
BOTH apps are simple. But Hailo wins overall due to being priced right, licensed and has all the features you could want in hailing a cab. Oh and they operate all over Toronto, not just in the core… well… I guess I should get into that story now huh?
So, last Tuesday I had to run an errand downtown and then had to go do my weekly live podcast at Shoeless Joes. As mentioned, Uber had their free rides.. so I used Uber’s app (which I had previously set up, including a credit card) to hail a cab. Fails. I try again. Fails. I tweet Uber asking what’s up… short answer – Unless you live DOWNTOWN TORONTO, you’re fucked. Cabs don’t operate anywhere outside of the core normally (which quite frankly is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Your more expensive cab rides are going to be the ones from outside of the core no?) I take the TTC downtown. King and Yonge. Do my errand and then decide to hail a cab, first I add a new prepaid credit card to my account just to be on the safe side. Then hail the free cab annnnndddddd fails – this time banning my account in the process. Oh joy.
So now I’m running late for my show and have to hail my own – non-free cab. BITTER. So then it gets even better…. Later that evening Uber email me to let me know that they’ve decided I’m likely to commit fraud. “Uber Fraud Squad” flagged my account because I added the prepaid credit card to my account. Oh really? Yes, if I want to use their service I need a ‘true credit card’. Oh right, because while I can use my prepaid credit card FOR ANYTHING ELSE I’VE EVER WANTED TO BUY including flights, other cabs and subscriptions to services… for a cab ride, sorry that’s fraud.
No. You know what. Uber is right! I WAS going to defraud them out of that FREE TAXI RIDE. Such a scam artist I am. You know who my next target is? The government! I’m going to set up a Tax Free Savings Account and not pay taxes on the money in there! MUAHAHAHA. Evil genius I am. Maybe I’ll start stealing mints from restaurants after I eat there.
So from there I start to explore Uber a little more. I’m a curious person and like to know things… and what do I find all over the web? Well, lots of stories of cities calling them a rogue business and threats to deem them illegal/block them from operating. Boston, Cambridge, New York and others…. Then there’s the issue that Uber isn’t a licensed taxi company in Toronto (and may be going to court with the city over it) – which, from my understanding means if your driver gets into an accident, you’re SOL in terms of holding anyone accountable – the drivers basic insurance is all you’ve got to stand on. But I could be wrong on that – legal people, let me know so I can be sure.
And finally, there’s the scammers convincing people they are Uber and getting you to sign up with their referral codes. Don’t believe me? Google “UberTorontoDeal” or try “UberFreeRideTO“, or about 50 other “Uber” related signup codes. Or hell, go for broke and game the system to get $200(blog) by again pretending to be Uber. Granted that’s (hopefully) not Uber doing it, but they certainly are doing nothing to stop it.
If we’re all allowed to pretend to be Uber in our signup codes how about a “Uberest Promo Ever: Hot 18 Year Old Russian Daughters Will Blow You if you use this Code “UberBJpromo” on Signup and $10 credit on your first ride!” promotion to run? Because if you give me the ‘OK’ I will do this! I have the image all ready to go. Surely it will get you signups and me a bunch of $10 referral fees.
I understand the ridiculousness of this… but the point is real. And it extends beyond Uber. All these promo code businesses need to be proactive about what they allow for signup codes – and it should be monitored by the businesses that allow it! Otherwise, it’s going to be abused.
Got off on a rant as usual…. but the points are all valid. When your business is based on the user experience Uber, not providing service coverage, banning my account and then calling me a fraud… all for a dumb FREE cab ride is not only ridiculous, but it has ruined your chances of ever getting my money in the future. If you ruin the experience when its free, why the hell would I ever pay for it? I’d be a total moron if I did.
Hailo, I’ve signed up for the service and anticipating my first ride on Tuesday!
But for readers in Toronto… who are you leaning towards?