I love Uber, that’s no secret. I have a long standing inebriated relationship with the coolest car company in the world. They are one of the few companies that keep me saying “I like the hitch in your giddy up” time after time. Just kidding – I would never say “I like the hitch in your giddy up” because I have a full set of teeth. However, I’m not kidding about my love for Uber. Unfortunately, there are people out there trying to bring Uber down and this is a story about them.
It was just last Sunday night that I arrived to Reagan National from Birmingham Paris at around 9:00 PM. I waited for my bags rare paintings to emerge from the carousel of impatience and disappointment and mashed the “set pickup location” on the Uber app as soon as I had eyes on them. I headed to the door.
Outside I reaffirmed my good decision to use Uber when I noticed that the cab lines were impossibly long. I don’t know why the cab longs suck so terribly, but it may be because people being asked “DC or Virginia?” stare at the guy like it’s the hardest question they’ve ever been asked. It proves there’s an intelligence gap between cab users and Uber users. If you’re in a bar trivia league – grab the guy who showed up in a black car.
Kwame, my Uber driver, rang me as I made it to the island of anxious anticipation where people with loving friends and family are retrieved. I told Kwame that I was at door eight and what I looked like all the way down to the distinct burnt orange Longhorn hat I was wearing. Kwame told me he’d have his emergency flashers going and to wave him down just in case. Everything seemed perfect as I watched his little car make its way cartoonishly past Terminal A on the Uber app.
Soon I saw a black Town Car with its emergency flashers on approaching and I was confident I would be home in time to be turned down for sex by an exhausted, underappreciated Janis Kanus (her description of herself, not mine – exhausted people don’t watch Project Runway until midnight while chatting with their sister on the phone... in my opinion). Then everything went to hell.
At about door four Kwame ducked into the lane near the curb and appeared to pick up someone. Seconds later my little Uber screen went from white to purple meaning the meter, so to speak, was running and I was paying for it. I was pissed and called Kwame to ask him how my ride was. Kwame was confused and I explained to him in the calm collected voice of a Marine Drill Sergeant who just caught Private Pyle leaving an upper decker in the latrine that my ride was not going well because I was not the asshole thief sitting in his back seat. Kwame hung up on me and probably had a good laugh with the two shitheads enjoying my Uber scholarship. Well, I canceled the trip before he got out of the airport and was charged $25 for canceling. I do not know if things were so cheery after Kwame and his new friends came to the realization that Uncle Brad was no longer picking up the tab on their little joyride.
I dialed up another car and Blaize in a Chevy Suburban rumbled up a short time later. Now, Blaize was awesome and his Suburban was too. Town Cars are pimp for pulling up to your dilapidated mud hut in Clarendon, but a Suburban is better. Ask a four year-old boy and he’ll pick the truck over the car every time – and we know four year-olds have impeccable taste in luxury transportation.
I didn’t have time to chit chat with Blaize because I had to get an email off to Alex over at Uber (@Uber_DC in the twitosphere) and my hands were shaking with so much anger I could barely type. At this point I had even lost the desire to be turned down for sex by Janis Kanus – shit was real. I was nice and didn’t blame Alex – it wasn’t his fault. It was an FYI with the hopes he’d get me my money back and have Kwame sent to a never ending toddler princess tea party in room lined with tile.
The good news is that I got my money back with an apology from Uber. They are awesome like that. Kwame, from what I understand, was not sent to a princess party. No solution in life is perfect, I guess.
Here’s the scam as it was played on me and likely a ton of other people who are way too drunk to know what’s going on.
Every time you get in an Uber car there’s a little process. He stops, you open the door and he says “Brad?” It’s crazy, but they ask everyone if they’re name is Brad. I love it. Just kidding. They identify you so that they know they have the right person. The only problem with that – they’re opening themselves up to be tricked.
The only thing an Uber driver knows is that you’re a little blue pin waiting for them on a map and your name. Last year during the clusterfuck they call “after a Nats game” I saw a way to be a dick and steal someone’s Uber. All up and down the street were people waiting for cars. I had three little chickadees I picked up at the game and was attempting to send them on to my single homies waiting at Cap Lounge. Black cars kept pulling up and I’d open the door and they’d say “Fred?” I’d say “Nope” and close the door. What was keeping me from just saying “yep” and getting in and being on my way? I’m an asshole, but I’m not a criminal.
Unfortunately there are a lot of assholes who are also criminals in DC and I think Uber Hijacking happens way more often than is known. I chatted with my other Uber friends and they each had “a-ha” moments from drunken nights where their car never showed up and the screen turned purple and they eventually canceled thinking the driver bugged out. The multiple emails and texts from Uber can all run together and some of the upper income folks don’t really notice $25 or $30 extra bucks missing after a night of heavy drinking.
One friend told me exactly how the airport scam works – the hijackers stand down by door 1 and just wave down Uber cars as they come by and jump in agreeing that they are whoever the driver implies they are. Once they are on the way into DC, the car with the asshole thieves will be out of the airport with nowhere to pull over (no man’s land on the parkway if you can picture it). If the ride is canceled and the driver sees there is a problem, he has to drive them all the way to Roslyn or DC to let them out. It’s a free ride to a cheaper ride in the city and it’s criminally brilliant. It’s also a dick move. Pelase stop doing it or you'll ruin Uber for everyone else.
Ride on people, ride on.