In the Battle Between Hailo and Uber, I’ve Picked My Side

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?

  • BigDaddyKreativ

    Wait… “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.” 30-40% more? Is this supposed to convince me to take Uber when Hailo is on par with the normal Toronto rates? I’m with you.I wouldn’t touch Uber.

  • zachbussey

    BigDaddyKreativ Well the Uber cars are black and have tinted windows. And the driver opens the door for you.  So for some, surely that’s the appeal… me I’d rather pay standard rates. I’m not living in the dumb car, I’m getting to somewhere I want to be heh.

  • greggtilston

    Used Hailo a few times in London last week (tried it knowing they were coming to Tdot) and really enjoyed the experience; quick and friendly. Now my data plan not so much but that’s more our outrageous roaming data plans! Unlike your experience my first driver took the time to explain how the service and the app worked. To be honest, I haven’t tried Uber yet so I have no frame of reference. What I can say is I travel a lot and spend a lot of time in cabs and there is no way I can justify 30-40% more for someone to open my door.

  • zachbussey

    greggtilston Yeah, roaming data… that’s a scary one and the topic for another post haha.But, I guess Uber isn’t going for the standard person as their client but rather the “I Want to Feel Important” people who do want their door opened and their cab to be all black everything. Ubers”TAXI” service drops all those and directly competes with Hailo. Rid of all those bells and whistles that make it more expensive – but with limits on pickups to the downtown core and only to Eglinton… So even at the same price, Hailo wins out because they’ll pick you up anywhere in the city. Not just this elitist downtown only thing Uber has going on

  • LucasSamuels

    zachbussey BigDaddyKreativ Just a quick note guys, at Uber we offer 3 different vehicle types at different price points. TAXI = standard cabs, and the price is the typical metered fare of a cab, plus an automated 20% gratuity Black Car & SUV are the premium vehicle options and you can find the prices for them over at uber.com/toronto- Lucas, Uber Toronto Community Manager

  • LucasSamuels

    zachbussey BigDaddyKreativ Just a quick note guys, at Uber we offer 3 different vehicle types at different price points. TAXI = standard cabs, and the price is the typical metered fare of a cab, plus an automated 20% gratuity Black Car & SUV are the premium vehicle options and you can find the prices for them over at uber.com/toronto- Lucas, Uber Toronto Community Manager

  • alexshipillo

    Great post Zach. I’m based in Vancouver, so we don’t have Halio yet and the only option for Uber is black-cars. So far all of my experiences with Uber have been fantastic, and the service has really been top-notch. I’ve wondered if the level of service could be maintained if they were using regular cabbies as opposed to the premium black cars, but it sounds like that hasn’t been the case for you so far in Toronto. Lastly, the UberTorontoDeal guy is a clearly spamming a ton of blog posts about Uber to try to earn referral credits, while I actually bought some Google Ads – slight distinction, I know, but an important one. You BJ promo will work because Uber allows you to customize the referral link…as long as you have an audience to share it with you should get some more credits. :)

  • zachbussey

    LucasSamuels BigDaddyKreativ The core business is the Black Car, the Taxi is the new one. Black car is 30-40% more. Taxi has this downtown core only thing making it useless to me and about 1.7M other people in Toronto. So, Yes I would need to get “Black” if I wanted a reliable pickup. Which is why the 30-40% more is a necessary comparison for a standard cab ride.

  • BigDaddyKreativ

    LucasSamuels zachbussey BigDaddyKreativ wow… thanks for the response Lucas. It is great to see your brand monitoring posts like these. It would also be great to see you turn Zach’s negative experience into a positive one.

  • zachbussey

    alexshipillo Ha, thanks Alex and sorry to lump you in with that whole crowd of folks spamming… but it’s a very weird thing these referral codes and the ability to make it your own and use it to your advantage. It’s the responsibility of the company to set guidelines, but maybe I should do the BJ promo and see what kind of response I get haha.

  • LucasSamuels

    BigDaddyKreativ Would absolutely love to, offered to as well. Unfortunately at this point in time, in order to keep fraud at bay, we can’t accept pre-paid credit cards on the Uber system. By no means is this a personal battle against those who legitimately use pre-paid credit cards, but there was some issues with pre-paid cards in the past,. A company wide policy of no pre-paid credit cards or gift cards was recently instated to prevent fraud issues.

  • zachbussey

    BigDaddyKreativ LucasSamuels It wouldn’t be worth his time at this point. I’m soured by the whole thing and turned off by the company.

  • zachbussey

    LucasSamuels BigDaddyKreativ Well… let’s be honest in what you “offered” Lucas… you said “Hey add a ‘true credit card then we can talk.” That’s not an offer. That’s a this-for-that.

  • zachbussey

    So here is the question Uber… Why is it that everywhere else I’ve ever used a prepaid credit card I’ve had no problem… but with you guys, you lump that into the category of fraud? As you say, it’s company wide… but the question remains… why can every single other place take a prepaid credit card except for you?

  • LucasSamuels

    zachbussey That’s fair Zach. At this point in time, that’s  the only way I’ll be able to try and make things right. I can’t go above the system currently in place and I feel absolutely terrible when anybody has a negative experience with Uber. If I had the ability to turn your negative experience into a positive one by getting you on Uber with a pre-paid credit card, I absolutely would. Unfortunately the security system goes well above me. I’m sure you understand.

  • zachbussey

     LucasSamuels So the question that needs to be answered, and maybe it’s above your pay grade… is why? Few other places have issues with a prepaid. Uber is the first anyone has heard of. Again this is all ignoring the FREE part of it.

  • LucasSamuels zachbussey My compliments to Lucas for holding his own in this “hail-storm”! <~ see what I did there?Not being a regular taxi rider puts me at a bit of disadvantage here. But taking a look at this whole experience from a more macro POV, from Zach’s ordering experience to this very exchange, I can’t help but to see “Case Study” stamped all over it. And not just the social media angle — with a Toronto twist to it.Let’s face it folks — Toronto is a VERY tight community, even if most of us haven’t even met IRL. Piss off one somewhat uber-networked person, and word spreads pretty quickly among the masses. The same can be said about great service. Unfortunately, it’s the bad ones that tend to get the most attention.I get Zach’s ire. We’ve all been there. Shitty service is…well…shitty. The question I keep asking myself is this: How far should a company go to turn those frowns upside down? At what point in this clusterflock does a brave community manager like Lucas dump all of these issues into his Uber-supplied shit-can and empty them onto the C-suite’s boardroom table, followed by a “He’s all yours, chief”?Okay that was two questions. Love,SamP.S. Looking forward to your Hailo write-up Zach! And I would LOVE to know what’s going through the Hailo heads of Justins Kozuch and Raymond right now.

  • zachbussey

    samtitle Appreciate the comment and think it all makes sense. The reality of the situation is much bigger than me though – many people have been frustrated by the service. All you need to do is look at @uber_tor’s Twitter feed to see the many occasions where people have been let down. Truth be told, the number of Uber related private discussions I’ve had is outstanding. So it’s no surprise to me that people will speak up. That said, it takes a match to set the fire. At what point does a community manager turn it over to the C-Suite? Never. Community managers are hired to handle situations like this in their community. At what point do they stop replying? After 3-5 messages. In this case 3 so far, but doubt there will be many more. Community managers are the most predictable group of social media users in the world, (besides maybe Bieber/One Direction fans) because their actions are always the same. Always.

  • LucasSamuels

    zachbussey samtitle Hey Zach, the way our private email thread ended, I felt that the situation had been resolved. If you want to continue the 1:1 conversation, I’m happy to do that. You’ve got my personal email.In regards to our Uber Toronto Twitter account, we did our best to message that Free Uber TAXI week was only for our TAXI option and not our Black car/SUV option, but mistakes were made. As Community Manager, I did my absolute best to ensure that issues were resolved as quickly as possible. 

  • zachbussey

    LucasSamuels samtitle The question remains about why Uber is seemingly the only company I or many people are aware of that doesn’t take a prepaid credit card? Every competitor in the industry has no problem with prepaid – I know, I’ve asked them all – and again, that’s me talking to competitors outside of Toronto/Canada.The rest is just general sentiment towards Uber, again that’s bigger than me.

  • zachbussey Hi Zach! The answer is a pretty simple one…we don’t know how much your fare will end up costing until the end of the trip. What if that prepaid card holds less value than the fare? At the end of the day, we’re committed to this policy, as are numerous hotels, gas stations, and rental services (who, like us, are unsure of final charges until services have already been rendered). In any case, thanks for taking the time to check us out!All best,Luke Salinas – Uber Fraud Manager

  • zachbussey Hi Zach! The answer is a pretty simple one…we don’t know how much your fare will end up costing until the end of the trip. What if that prepaid card holds less value than the fare?At the end of the day, we’re committed to this policy, as are numerous hotels, gas stations, and rental services (who, like us, are unsure of final charges until services have already been rendered). In any case, thanks for taking the time to check us out!- Luke Salinas, Uber Fraud Manager

  • zachbussey

    LukeSalinas The funds on a prepaid card are just that… prepaid. How do you know on a credit card that that person hasn’t already maxed it out? It’s a nice answer in theory, but in practice still doesn’t hold up. Anyway, its your policy. Live and die by it I guess. 

  • lisa_TTRO

    I also tried Uber last week for the first time because of their free promotion, after being contacted by Hailo for a free ride too and from their announcement event. The licensing thing does seem like a strange issue to me that they need to clear up, but other than that, I think both services are comparable. The difference with Uber is there are options for something nicer than a taxi should you want to pay more. I did have an issue with the free ride though, as I (along with countless other newbs) didn’t realize the app defaults to the more expensive black car every time you open it, so I ended up ordering a black car without realizing it (which wasn’t part of the free deal, of course) and when it arrived I told him I was waiting for a taxi, and he said not to worry, that I would be charged the taxi rate. When my bill arrived in my email, I saw I was charged (I wasn’t the first time I took it when I actually got a taxi) and Uber quickly refunded me when I complained, making it right. They have a strong social media monitoring team, so even though I was disappointed and think they really need to stop the app from defaulting and instead force you to actively choose which of the three cars you want, they fixed it right away. 

  • LucasSamuels

    lisa_TTRO Hey Lisa, I was really happy we could fix your issue quickly last week. We did our best to repeatedly message to our Black car drivers that the trips they were doing were not going to be free. Some however misunderstood. That said, we did refund anyone who had an issue (such as yourself), practically in real time. We’ve also made a note to our ENG team about the default car type selection issue. 

  • zachbussey

    lisa_TTRO Glad to hear your experience was positive after all. That’s definitely crucial.To summarize my whole thing, I don’t have any issue with anyone using Uber haha. People have freedom of choice. For me, I’ll pass. And while between the two I’ll take Hailo, that’s so far only because I have no negative experience with themWho knows… maybe I have a worse experience with Hailo! In which case, you can expect me to rant equally hard hahaha. :P

  • Wedding_crasher

    zachbussey LucasSamuels Hey Guys, just thought I’d let you know that through my own experience hotels and rental car companies do not take pre-paid credit cards. Their reasoning is the same as Uber’s policy. Having said that. Why not just offer a free ride in down town Toronto (value up to $20) via voucher thus removing the credit card policy from the scenario AND possibly revisit the apology for possibly calling him a “fraudster”. Just a thought.

  • LucasSamuels

    Wedding_crasher zachbussey LucasSamuels this is a great idea in theory, but in order to use Uber you need to set up an account. Part of this process is putting down a credit card (there is never a cash transaction in an Uber car, tip & tax are included in the cost of your ride). So, we couldn’t change the whole sign up process just for 5 days in 1 Uber city (currently we operate in 18 cities). An apology is certainly due, and I am sorry that Zach had issues, and I do apologize. At no point did I believe he was committing an offense, the system just doesn’t allow pre-paid/gift cards so it closed his account automatically. I am sorry about this! 

  • Flavastreet

    Not sure what you don’t understand about the prepaid card issue Zach. It’s pretty clear to me, no guarantee of funds.. Period. Credit cards are insured and any declined charges are the responsibility of the card holder, which can be reported and affect credit rating. Prepaid cards are not logical unless the charge is paid in advance.

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