As a tourist, you are quite dependent upon taxis. This fact didn’t fully come to my attention until I was stuck in the middle of Paris, with a theatre reservation 8 miles away, unable to find a cab anywhere in the vicinity and without the time or resources to figure out the city’s seemingly complicated underground subway. Although an ingenious company concept, Uber has been causing quite the scuffle lately with Europe’s transport strikes against the mobile phone app. This was most apparent last week when thousands of taxi drivers spread across London, Paris, and Madrid in protested strike against Uber.
Founded in San Francisco, California, in 2010, Uber has gained immense popularity over a short few years and is now recognized worldwide as one of the trustworthy mobile apps to get you a taxi within minutes, and without hassle. Used in over 70 cities, in 36 countries, Uber’s legitimacy is not to be doubted.
By recording passenger’s credit card details, Uber estimates the total ride cost (using distance and time) as well as the time it will take the taxi to reach the pick-up destination. The app makes its money by adding a 20% gratuity and service charge onto the fare. Uber gives its customers the benefit of immediate taxi pick-up, guaranteed safety, and no-cash transfer, leveraging the ease of a seamless and invisible payment process. Currently valued at approximately $18.2 billion, Uber is giving taxi drivers a taste of competition to an industry that once seemed impenetrable.
While it seems like a great idea from a passenger perspective, European taxi drivers are protesting Uber’s alleged violation of certain taxi rules, including the right to use a meter, and the neglect of safety and insurance regulations. Not to mention the fact that they aren’t the only taxi drivers upset with Uber’s presence. Drivers from all around the world are criticizing Uber for cheating the alleged taxi system, and stealing away customers.
In the PR field, the age-old saying ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is not necessarily always true; however it seems that Uber has certainly only grown stronger following the strike that occurred just last Wednesday, June 11th. Taking advantage of the situation by offering passenger discounts, CNBC stated that Uber’s business had risen 850% during the transport strike.
Uber could not have entered the European market in a more flashy fashion. Everyone who hadn’t previously heard of the app now knows what it is, what it does, and has probably downloaded it to see what all this buzz is about. Not only did Uber show Europe what they are capable of, but they also took hold of Europe’s taxi market in one fell swoop. Never mind paid-for advertising, organized city-wide protests are the way to go!
While the secret behind Uber may be just as transparent as other popular apps (such as Snapchat and Instagram),
the reason being that the app fills a need that the customer feels they have – the real secret lies in the sheer power of social capital. In Uber’s modern technological connecting of passenger to vetted driver they create a powerful and trusting relationship that not every taxi company can harness.
On the passenger side, you’ll never see a driver with a lower than 3 star rating (out of 5) and on the other side, drivers can depend on passengers to be ready for the cab, and always pay their fare. It’s a win-win situation, which is exactly why Uber works; it keeps both parties continually satisfied. With that being said, however, Uber isn’t perfect. Its perks include a great looking, user-friendly app but there is no doubt that the 20% service charge is no small feat. And some people, myself included, just aren’t willing to pay that kind of premium for a service that offers little edge above its competitors.
With its social mission and trustworthy reputation, Uber proves worthy of its newfound fame. While we can’t be sure of Uber’s future success, something we can be sure of is the one question that comes to mind when you hear about these incredibly popular new apps: why didn’t I think of that first?
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