WHAT TO DO? More and more clients are asking me if I have heard of Uber. The question itself makes me queasy. For those of you who are living in the dark ages and unfamiliar with the business model of Uber, here is a nutshell version:
Uber finds people that own their own cars, a Town Car, BMW, or whatever. They find these people through such places as Craigslist. Anyone with a pulse, a car and a Smartphone can become a driver for Uber. Uber takes orders through a smartphone App from clients. The smartphone app finds the closest Uber driver based upon GPS coordinates of the person needing a ride and the person offering to drive people on behalf of Uber. Voila! The consumer has a car within minutes of ordering it.
It seems great for the consumer in the 23 metropolitan areas now served. For me, it seems awful. It is advertised as “better and cheaper than a taxi.” What? Cheaper than a taxi? For 20 years I have steadfastly purported that we should never be compared to a taxi. We are luxury, premium transportation at its finest. How dare you compare my rates to those of a taxi?!
Now, people can request a “black car” at the push of a button on their phones that identify client locations, find the nearest car/drivers, and charge the client credit cards at the end of the ride. There is no need to present the credit card to the driver or discuss money. It’s all done through the Smartphone app. The driver gets a green light on his phone that you have paid and you’re good to go. How can I compete with that? It’s really the same service I offer. Except, they do it better, faster, cheaper and better than me.
Here’s the big difference but clients don’t seem to care: The drivers require no special license. There is no background check. There certainly isn’t any drug or alcohol testing. Nobody is paying for a Public Utilities Commission license or paying livery related taxes as we do. I’m not really even sure the drivers have any special insurance requirements like the basic 1.5 million liability that most states mandate for livery companies.
What to do, what to do……It’s getting close to the point of, “If you can’t beat em’ — join em” time. What are your thoughts on the matter?
— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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