Uber is not a traditional taxi service. That’s what a lot of people like about the app-based car service.
Quite a few customers weren’t pleased with one of Uber’s quirks on New Year’s Eve, however, when they saw that their relatively brief rides—less than half an hour—cost as much as $350.
The company’s Twitter feed
is full of replies to customers reeling from the sticker shock. Here’s an example:
Many of Uber’s tweets also include a mention of a confirmation screen in the Uber app in which customers are asked to agree to what it calls “surge pricing.” They even have to type in the multiplier to agree.
The basic idea of surge pricing is that the company charges more during peak times—and when it comes to taxi cabs, New Year’s Eve is Mount Everest—to get more of its cars on the road. Drivers have more incentive to drive when fares are higher.
Of course, one would expect that people calling cars to pick them up on New Year’s Eve might not have the clearest state of mind and might just have overlooked that warning.
Uber warned people outside the app, though. A Monday blog post
offered an explanation of surge pricing and a video in which the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, recommended that people ride before 8 p.m. or after 3 a.m.
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“If you can wait until 3, it’s going to go well,” he said. “If you absolutely need a ride between 1 and 3 a.m., Uber will be very reliable, but it will be a pricy ride, and you just have to expect that.”
Even so, many customers are furious. Some, such as this Facebook commenter
, have posted their receipts on social media.