Ride Sharing airport Uber
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Completely Unimpressed With My First Uber Experience

I have never had a desire to use ride-sharing services. They were either too expensive; unavailable in whatever area in which I was located; or there was a better alternative to me…

Completely Unimpressed With My First Uber Experience

…but on a recent trip to the District of Columbia metropolitan area which was paid by Hilton — please note the disclosure — I was given a credit to use Uber; and my first ride was from Washington National Airport to The Graham Washington DC Georgetown, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. Although the stay was also covered by Hilton, I intend to give a review as though I paid for the room — but I digress.

First, I checked how much the Metro fare would have cost: $2.35; and it would have taken me 49 minutes. A Metro station is conveniently located at the airport; and I would have had to walk several minutes to reach my destination. That would have been my travel option.

I then checked my Uber options. Express Pool would have cost almost $13.00; while Pool was priced at almost $16.00. UberX would have cost approximately $25.00 or so; and Uber Black priced at almost $40.00.

I decided to go with Pool. I would have to wait 15 minutes; but that was okay with me.

The first driver was to arrive in a Honda Civic with a certain license plate number. That was eventually changed to a Chrysler Town & Country with a different license plate number. I saw neither vehicle arrive to the designated pick-up location at the airport. The ride was cancelled; and the account was dinged five dollars.

What the heck?!? I thought to myself.

The Actual Ride

I already lost almost 30 minutes and did not want to go through that again. I went with Uber Black this time for fewer than $40.00; and I waited for a Chevrolet Suburban with a specific vanity license plate.

I eventually saw the vehicle drive up; but with a completely different license plate. I looked around; and the driver opened the window. He had my name; so I entered the vehicle.

“My information has the correct vehicle; but the wrong license plate”, I informed the driver.

“What do you mean?” he asked, not knowing what I was talking about — so I showed him the license plate information which I was given.

“I don’t know why the license plate was wrong,” he said, “but this is the right vehicle. You are going to The Graham hotel, right?”

“That is correct,” I responded.

“What is the address?” he asked.

“1075 Thomas Jefferson Street,” I confirmed.

“That doesn’t make sense,” he replied. I did not understand why he said that — and he repeated that statement during the ride.

He initially headed in the right direction; but then he overshot the hotel. He turned right. He turned left. He did a U-turn. His frustration was growing. He had no idea why he could not get to the hotel. He even reset the Global Positioning System on his device.

“Are you sure about this hotel?” he asked.

“I promise you that I did not make it up,” I said.

“Did you check and make sure that the address was correct?” He asked.

I wanted to reply that I just made it up so that I can have some fun watching him frustratingly try to find this nonexistent hotel; but I was rather tired myself after having just flown in to Washington. I wanted to get to the hotel as fast as possible too.

“All I did was enter The Graham; and the address automatically popped up,” I politely replied — but now I was starting to get irritated.

He eventually stopped in a right-of-way lane to double check everything and reset the Global Positioning System once again — and this time, he realized his mistake: he took the viaduct instead of using the road underneath it to access Thomas Jefferson Street.

We finally arrived at the hotel. He apologized for the inconvenience and shook my hand. However, I could have arrived at the hotel at least 30 minutes earlier had I taken the Metro…

…and the Uber account was depleted by $53.96 — which was at least $14.00 more than I expected.


Now I am being asked to rate the driver — who was impatient, frustrated, rather brusque, and apparently not very knowledgeable about the streets of Washington — as well as offer a tip. Do I give a gratuity on top of what was paid?

This experience was probably my fault somehow — but regardless, I really do not understand why people like ride-sharing services. For me, there was little to like about the experience. It was expensive and frustrating — and I arrived at my destination later than I would have liked.

My choices of walking or using public transportation will still be my preferences as of now…

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

  1. You probably already know this. but there is a place in the app to let them know your driver took a poor or inefficient routing and it rerates the fare in most cases and refunds you.

    1. I will supposedly receive a credit of $20.04 for the trip, Chris Robinson.

      Additionally, the five dollar cancellation fee — not canceled by me — will supposedly be rescinded…

  2. It’s unfortunate that you had a bad experience the first time. I’ve had a few bad experiences with both rideshare platforms but for the most part I have found them quick and efficient. Sometimes you get stuck with an obviously new driver and that can screw things up. Happened in Chicago to me last October.

    1. I will keep an open mind pertaining to future rides, Jeff.

      Thank you for at least letting me know I am not alone…

  3. Pool you have 2 minutes to be where you dropped the pin or else you’ll be charged 5 dollars. Pool is like a bus and the bus will leave without you.

    1. I was in the exact spot where I was supposed to be picked up by either of the two vehicles, Gary Leff — but I saw neither of them…

      …and if one of them was supposed to be a Chrysler Town & Country, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb…

      1. Sometimes the gps puts the pin in a completely different location than where you actually are. Was in San Francisco once, and didn’t know to readjust the pin, and the app scheduled the pickup in the middle of the Bay.

        Uber is not so great in cities with lots of traffic but good underground public transit systems, eg: Washington DC.

        1. I’ve had that happen twice and both times I was at DCA. My pin was dropped in the middle of GW parkway. It’s always important to make sure on your phone you are actually where the pin says. I’ve used ride share services numerous times from DCA and have always had a great experience.

        2. The middle of the bay, Steve?!? Wow.

          Interesting point about in which cities Uber seems to be weak…

          1. FWIW, the position of the pin is not Uber’s fault. They are simply getting the GPS signal from the phone. Sometimes the phones are very confused. Which is why experienced users know to check their pin location. This is especially a problem when starting your pickup from inside a large building, when you want to be picked up outside. All bets are off if you are doing that and not looking at the pin.

  4. It is really hit or miss on getting a knowledgeable driver who knows there way around the city. I get so worried when I see the driver reply sole on GPS with no idea on how to at least get to the general vicinity .

    1. That is a good point, Rich.

      I probably knew more about how to get around the city than he did…

  5. I’ve taken Uber ~100 times, and probably 70 of those times I had an experience like this– where drivers never showed up, or where I was mischarged for a trip, or where drivers hit “start trip” when they were miles away and then didn’t realize for 20 minutes minutes (meaning that I a) couldn’t call an Uber for 20 minutes and b) received yet another mischarge)… I’d say more than 2/3 of rides end with me having to contact Uber for a fare adjustment (though hey, they always give it!). It’s a horrible awful terrible service. By contrast, I’ve had problems with yellow cabs maybe 2% of the time.

    1. One should not always be required to proactively contact a company for a fare adjustment, Rose — but at least Uber came through for you.

      I am sorry to learn of your negative experiences…

      1. I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe “Rose’s” story. Are we to believe that the service is that bad, but she keeps using it? I don’t think so. I think Aaron K nailed it.

        I’m a part-time Uber driver and a full time Uber passenger. I know the system very well from both sides of the fence. There are definitely issues on both sides. But if it were as bad as Rose says, the company would not be in business.

        1. Ha, I have no idea at all how the company stays in business. And obviously, there’s no way for my to convince you I’m telling the truth, though I really can’t believe my experience is unique.

          As to your questions: I only use rideshare services because a) I’m based in LA, where you can’t just hail a cab on the street (though I’ll always cab it home from LAX), and because b) Amex Plat gives me $15 Uber fees a month.

  6. This is not a great review of Uber. First you write about normally you would’ve taken the Metro. You failed to mention it’s a 5-10 minute walk or bus ride to the metro station. Also there is no Metro close to the Graham so it’s either another 15 minute walk or bus ride. Since this about Uber from DCA we need to take into account travels with luggage through the streets of Georgetown. You then show your lack of knowledge by using Uber Pool which is ride sharing and requires you to go to the pick up point. Uber Pool also takes longer do to multiple stops and pickups on the way to your destination. You then choose Uber Black which is the most expensive choice and is basically limo service. Everyone I know and myself use Uber X from DCA. Uber X is the most popular option. Most Uber drivers are sized for Uber X so I’ve always had a good experience with minimal wait time for pickup

    1. First, Kenneth Gati, I went to the exact pick-up point for Uber Pool. I am unsure as to how you came to the conclusion that I did otherwise.

      Second, luggage is not a problem for me. I travel light. I would have had no problem navigating the streets of Georgetown for 15 minutes from the Foggy Bottom Metro station; and I am a fast walker.

      Third, I know where the Metro station is located at the airport. I have used it before. A walk of five minutes is nothing for me.

      Finally — as per your suggestion — I intend to try Uber X in the future.

      Thank you.

      1. Brain you are correct that I don’t know if you were in the correct pickup point. I have had personal experience at DCA of my app placing me on GW parkway and I had to manually move the pin (the only time this has happened to me). Also the last 2 times I’ve used Uber at DCA I had to go to a specific pickup area. I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t but these are mistakes I can see someone new to the app doing. As far as the Metro I like using it as it is the cheapest option and the walks are no problem with a small carry on. I just don’t think it was proper to mention the Metro in an article about point to point service like taxi, Limo or ride share services.
        Hopefully you will give Uber X a try and it will be a better experience.

        1. I just gave Uber X a try, Kenneth Gati — and it was a far better experience.

          The driver showed up almost immediately; the ride was uneventful; the cost was reasonable; and I arrived at my destination on time.

          Thank you for the recommendation. I appreciate it.

  7. In all fairness, DCA probably was not the best time to use it for the first time. Since their construction started a couple months back, the pick up points have been a disaster with 15-20 minute pick up times being normal.

    Hope you give it another shot and you have a better experience.

  8. Obviously, if your one experience were the norm, Uber/Lyft would be out of business within a month. The fact that is isn’t and that so many people prefer it, should tell you that you got an exceptional experience.

    1. That was why I was perplexed, Aaron K; but I did have a significantly better experience after that.

      I intend to refer to it with an updated article…

    2. I have no idea at all why Uber continues to operate. As I mentioned above, well over half my experiences with the company have been just terrible. My personal favorite was when I got picked up at the airport, then asked the driver to turn off her music, and she flatly refused and instead took me back to the airport (a roundtrip of half an hour) and told me to order another car. She had a 4.85 star rating. I told Uber. As near as I can tell, they did nothing, aside from refunding me for the trip.

  9. When I used Uber for the second time to go to the airport, the driver drove right by me and then cancelled the ride. What???
    I then had to wait for another car that arrived in 15 minutes. Thankfully this driver did not cancel on me. I asked this guy what happened with the last guy that just drove by me without stopping and cancelled the rider at the very last minute. He said that with Uber, the driver does not know your destination till they get to you and the other driver apparently did not want to drive to the airport (40 minutes away) and cancelled the ride as soon as he found out my destination. What???? So this means Uber is a crap shoot where the driver and passenger won’t know till the last second whether or not the Uber driver will want to accept the ride. So this means that Uber is not reliable if you have no idea until the last minute whether or not they will accept you as a passenger. I have never had this problem with a taxi service ever – they knew up front where I was going.
    So now, if possible I will stay away from Uber because I can’t risk waiting 10-15 minutes before I know whether or not an Uber Driver will accept me. This is really crooked how Uber operates. Why not tell the drivers upfront where I am going so that neither the driver or myself wastes precious time. I guess I know the answer: because Uber doesn’t care if either the driver or the customer gets screwed.

    1. Jay,

      Actually, the problem you describe (not wanting to take you to a particular place) was and is rampant among taxis. I am a frequent traveler and used to take taxis all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I had a taxi refuse to take me somewhere because it was too short, too long, or in the wrong direction. Many, many times.

      Neither Uber nor Lyft tell you where the passenger is going before you get in, and with scrupulous drivers, that is never a problem. Sure, as a driver, I get a surprise once in a while, but it comes with the territory. I’ve only turned down one ride like that in my history, and it was because it was 2 AM and I’d been driving for 12 hours, and he wanted to go 1 hour in the opposite direction of my house. So I told him I had to decline.

      What that driver did was wrong, though, and he should be reported. What he did was get close enough to you that he could say he was there, then he started the trip. He didn’t like the destination and then cancelled. (The only way he knew the destination was he started the trip before you got in the car.) He is not supposed to start the trip until you’re in the car.

      Uber (and my) belief is that if they showed drivers the destination, drivers would cherry pick. This method is actually their way of fixing one of the number 1 complaints of taxi passengers — that they finally get a taxi and it doesn’t want to take them where they’re going. (bad neighborhood, too far, too short)

      FWIW, I still think that if this happens to you (which should happen rarely), it’s still faster than a taxi. I used to wait for taxis and they took forever to come, especially in the burbs. I’ve waited over an hour for a taxi in the burbs. I rarely wait longer than 5 mins for an Uber.

      Not perfect, but I’ll take it over taxis any day.

  10. As an avid user of UberX and a part-time driver, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. Here’s an insider’s perspective.

    1. Judging Uber by UberPOOL is really not a good idea. Uber drivers generally hate UberPOOL, as we make less for more work. And they REALLY hate it from the airport, as it gets extra-problematic having as many as three different groups in one ride — all with luggage. Your drivers probably accepted the ride, then realized it was a pool and cancelled it. Wrong, yes, but it happens way more on pool than on UberX. Rule #1 with pool is NEVER take it if time is part of the equation.

    2. I also don’t think that comparing it to the Metro is fair, either. I’ll be in DC tomorrow and I know the Metro well and love it, but I don’t see how you can compare it to a car that will take you door to door. You should be comparing it to a Taxi, not a train. Just my opinion.

    3. The license plate confusion was weird, but it happens. (Rarely) As long as he knew your name and destination, you were in the right car.

    4. He clearly didn’t know where he was going. This happens sometimes. Not on the metro, though. 😉 I’ve had an issue maybe 1 out of 50 rides with severe navigation issues. (I take about 10 UberX rides a week.) This is definitely a downside of using “amateurs” to drive you around. Some of them suck at it. But my experience is that it’s a minority of the time, and I just address it when it happens. I do one or more of the following:
    – Take over navigation by telling him/her where to go
    – If it’s HORRIBLE, I tell him to drop me off on the next block and I get a different Uber
    – If it impacted my bill, I contact uber and tell them he took a bad route. The adjust the fare no problem.

    5. As to your comment that you shouldn’t have to contact Uber to have them adjust the fare, I disagree. The app has no way to distinguish between “the driver is lost” and “the passenger asked to go a weird route,” or “the passenger said to ignore the destination and take them somewhere else,” or “the passenger kept changing their mind.” If a driver takes you a bad route, it takes like three button presses to let Uber know and they’ll fix it.

    6. As to your comment that you don’t understand why people like this, I’ll say this. It’s way cheaper than a taxi. Even cheaper if you’re willing to deal with the BS of pool. You usually get a decently clean car. You NEVER have to argue about payment. (I’ve taken way too many taxis where this was a problem.) You don’t even have to speak the same language as the driver, as the app will do all the work. (I’ve been in cars in the US where his app is in Chinese and the driver speaks almost no English. My app was in English and I got right where I needed to go.) Ubers and Lyfts are GREAT for going out and drinking without having to worry about how you’re getting home or whatever.

    Here’s hoping your next experience is better. Happy to answer any questions you have. I actually blog for therideshareguy.com.

    1. I truly appreciate the great information you imparted here, Will Preston.

      I agree with you that compared to a taxi, Uber offers a better value; but I was never much of a taxi guy — even when someone else paid for it — which led to the comparison to walking and the Metro.

      Also, thank you for sharing the link to your weblog. I intend to read it.

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