To Uber or Not to Uber?

As the controversial car service rolls along in Nevada, two 'Seven' staffers ride shotgun in their own debate

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Geoff Carter: I think we agree on one thing, Lissa: Las Vegas taxicabs pretty much suck. Considering the Escape From New York nature of this town—so many ways in, no way out—you’d think there would be a lot more helpful Ernest Borgnine types driving cabs, but noooooo. I’ve been refused cab service by drivers who don’t want to go to residential addresses; have smacked down attempted long hauls; and on several occasions I’ve called for cabs that never showed up. While I had similar problems when I lived in Seattle, it was nowhere near this bad.

Lissa Townsend Rodgers: Yes, Vegas has taxicab issues. I once missed a plane because a cab would not take me to the airport—and I lived close enough to see the airport from my house, and not in the way Sarah Palin can see Russia: I could watch the wheels coming down as they approached the runway. The unreliability of Vegas cabs is why I finally got a driver’s license at the age of 34.

Carter: Y’see, that’s why I’m excited to see Uber here. If Vegas’ cabs can’t get me to happy hour on time, how can I trust them to help me make my plane? The local cab companies had their chance; now, I’m into cars that show up promptly, show me the route they intend to take beforehand and cost slightly less than cabs. I’m not turning to Uber because all the kids are using it; I’m turning to it because Vegas’ cabs have utterly failed me.

Townsend Rodgers: Well, I don’t own a smartphone, and a 5,400-word terms-of-service agreement unnerves me, so I’ll probably never be an Uber customer. During CES, people bitched about not having Uber and the long waits for cabs at the Convention Center. But was that because there were no cabs, or because it took time to get them in and out? (You know techies: If they’re not getting what they want right now, they whine more than a 6-year-old who doesn’t get a cookie.) Will Paradise Road be perpetually clogged with Uber drivers and cabs playing bumper cars, and conventioneers running through traffic?

Actually, bumper-car Conventioneer Frogger sounds kinda fun—but only if we get double points for running down techies. …

Carter: I would buy a damn car if Nevada legalized Conventioneer Frogger. Where’s Paul Bartel when we need him?

CES is one week a year. We’re talking about a permanent alternative to taxicabs and drunken driving that millennials actually want to use. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to have those fernet-fueled lunatics off the roads.

Townsend Rodgers: There are conventions the other 51 weeks as well, so the mayhem will be pretty constant—not to mention a similar scene at the airport, adding to the Terminal 1 clusterfuck.

Also, Uber as a company seems pretty dickish. They want customers to call politicians on Uber’s behalf, but if you want to call Uber yourself … you can’t—there’s no phone number. Send an email, and maybe someone will get back to you. Uber drivers are promised salaries in the high five figures, but that’s more the exception than the rule, especially with rate cuts. Drivers keep 80 percent of their take, but they also have to cover gas, maintenance, insurance, taxes, Uber fees and candy and water for passengers.

Carter: Hell, all tech companies are dickish. Google and Apple are dickish. Facebook is major dickish, and has never offered me candy. Doesn’t mean they don’t offer a useful service.

Townsend Rodgers: I mean dickish like, “Our driver wasn’t trying to kidnap that girl when he drove her around for two hours/took her to a motel/locked her in the car.” Or, “Yeah, we charged you $250 for a 15-minute ride because you’ll agree to anything after eight blueberry mojitos.” Shit, they’ve added a $1 “safe ride fee,” which is kind of like a restaurant charging more for food that’s not spoiled or a babysitter demanding extra dough to not punch your kids.

Uber’s default seems to be “passenger’s fault.” That 5,400-word agreement you didn’t read clearly states: “You expressly waive and release this company from any and all liability, claims or damages arising from or in any way related to the third-party transportation provider.”

Carter: Passenger safety is hardly a problem exclusive to Uber. Given a five-minute Google search, I could send you a dozen news stories about cab drivers harming passengers. And Nevada’s courts are likely to be harder on Uber than they are on the Nevada Taxi Authority, because the former hasn’t had the opportunity to populate Carson City with lobbyists.

And yeah, I’m familiar with the Ulysses-size agreement. Don’t care. I wanna get from one side of town to the other. Even with the risks, Uber’s platform of Sure, We Can Do That beats the holy living shit out of the Taxicab Authority’s You’ll Take What We Give You.

Townsend Rodgers: Uber seems to have a business model that uses a bait-and-switch on both employees and customers: You’ll make a lot of money … until we slash rates. You’ll get a cheap ride … until the surge pricing kicks in. Besides, Uber’s founder is an Ayn Rand fan. Anyone who follows her philosophy is greedy and arrogant by definition, and anyone who thinks she was a decent writer has serious judgment issues.

Basically, I’m dubious about their practices and tired of listening to people sing their praises to aria levels. Uber, kale, Taylor Swift: I’ll leave ’em to the people who love ’em.

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