‘The premium car service removes the racism factor when you need a ride,’ she wrote. Peterson, who lives in D.C., said that since her original post, she has taken ‘hundreds of rides’ with Uber. ‘The Uber experience is just so much easier for African-Americans,’ she told me recently. ‘There’s no fighting or conversation. When I need a car, it comes. It takes me to my destination. It’s amazing that I have to pay a premium for that experience, but it’s worth it.’
Uber’s on my personal list of companies that would have to screw up really big, and clearly in an institutional fashion, for me to stop using it. I almost can’t even listen to the taxi industry’s complaints about it. Uber and other ridesharing systems are only thriving because of huge, longstanding failure points in the taxi system that the industry doesn’t seem to want to fix:
- Limited number of taxis on the road (which is often an artificially-created scarcity; many taxi companies have opposed the issuing of new medallions in their cities, to keep demand high and competition low);
- Drivers who discriminate, and it’s so deeply ingrained in the industry that drivers aren’t even cautious about how they do it;
- Entire geographic communities that taxi companies won’t serve;
- Utter and total unreliability, even when a customer books a pickup days in advance;
- Appalling customer service when things inevitably go wrong;
- Doggedly sticking the customer with rotary-telephone-era inconveniences, in an iPhone world.
I use Uber a lot. The only instance in which I refuse to call an Uber is when I need a ride from an airport. Taxis are right there, and I’m aware that taxi companies often have to pay beaucoup bucks for the right to make pickups outside the door. I feel guilty for using a service that doesn’t need to pay anything at all.
But overall? I feel the same way about the taxi companies as I did about the independent bookstore a few miles away from my childhood home when Barnes & Noble drove it out of business. I’m not happy about seeing a business go under and people losing their jobs. But the fact remains that the store never carried anything I liked. I stopped going there entirely when I walked in with a friend and the owner gruffly ordered me, and I quote, to “roll right back out of here just like the tide.” The new Barnes & Noble at the mall carried everything and they seemed to encourage me to hang out and browse for as long as I liked.
The point is that you can’t consistently tell me that you don’t give a crap about me and then expect me to be on your side when a new business that fits my needs well starts making life difficult for you.
I won’t celebrate when your company folds. It’s worse than that: I simply won’t care.