Uber All Great!

Innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurship: doing something new, different and unique; seeing a need in the marketplace: and developing a better solution. In short, creating more value for the consumer.

Of course, when companies attempt to deliver a superior solution this can be disruptive to the marketplace. There are established forces, vested interests, which benefit from the old system—these are the foes of change and improvement.

I suspect that when automobiles first began to displace horse carriages, there was probably an association of horse carriage owners who had the turf and wanted to protect it. Maybe only horse carriages could pick up guests at hotels.

In our day, often technology is at the heart of innovation, being able to deliver a much better solution to the customer by virtue of technology. A simple example is buying a book via Amazon—no traditional retailer can compete. It’s not fair. Have you ever tried asking a bookstore clerk for a recommendation? What’s the point? Meanwhile on Amazon, you can read the book reviews and see other recommendations.

Uber is such a great example of an innovative, forward-thinking company that I need to share a recent experience which puts all of the above in such a glaring light.

I was in Orlando last week. I arrived at the Orlando International Airport at around 7:30 a.m. on Wed, Feb 15th. I went to the taxi stand. There is a fellow at a stand who provides a ticket and points out an available taxi. Is he being helpful? Well, the airport gets a pound of flesh from the taxi companies for that superfluous and redundant services. I didn’t need him to point me to a taxi about 10 feet away.

I then took a taxi from the airport to the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate, about a 25-minute drive. There was virtually no traffic on the road. The fare was $74.60. My policy is to give a modest tip for cabbies. In this case, I was paying handsomely for the ride, and there’s not a lot of room for good service, other than getting me from Point A to B in one piece. So I tipped $5.75. The total cost for the ride was $80.35.

When it came time for me to head back to the airport on the morning of Sat, Feb 18th, I was preprogrammed to assume I would get a taxi. But someone mentioned the day before that they were calling Uber. Why didn’t I think of that? Well, there’s a good reason. I’m from Vancouver and Uber has not been allowed to operate in BC. They have been blacklisted and apparently letting them into BC will be the downfall of Western Civilization. Of course, the people spewing that mantra are all the people looking out for their own best interests and not those of consumers.

So, Friday night I get on my Uber app. It’s all quite simple—so disarmingly simple, that I thought this wouldn’t work.  In act, in a matter of seconds, I scheduled a driver for the next morning at 6 a.m. I got an estimate of the fare. The amount was so much lower that what I paid to get to the hotel, I thought something must be wrong. I thought I must have punched in an Omni hotel that was much closer to the airport.

Saturday morning I get the text that my driver is 10 minutes away. I can track him coming on the Uber map. When he showed up at the hotel, he couldn’t get past the gate at the hotel entrance. No big deal. I texted him (since I had that number on my app) and I knew what car he was driving (Ford Fusion). I quickly found him and his flashing lights.

I hoped in and away we went to the airport. His name was Emadaldeen, or “Ed”, an Iranian immigrant. He is a truck driver and he does Uber on the side. One good feature is that you can rate the driver. He did a great job—he deserved five stars. If you get a lousy taxi driver (of which we have all had many), there is no recourse.

We get to the airport. The fare? A total of $26.33! Yes, one-third as much!  At the end of the ride, you just say thanks and get out. There is no tipping and no exchange of cash. And you get your receipt via email. A lot of taxi drivers scribble out a receipt on a little stub of paper, just like they did 100 years ago.

Sometimes, taxi industry paints Uber as shady characters in an unregulated industry. I’ve had many awful taxi drivers and you have no recourse. With Uber, there is proof of the ride, you know the car and the driver, and they are rated.

The bottom line is that Uber is a great innovation. It’s great for consumers. It’s better, cheaper, more efficient.  This is part of innovation, disruption and creativity in our society. It should be applauded. We should let the market decide. Long live Uber!