GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- It’s something a lot of people use to travel around and get home, but an 18-mile Uber ride after Saturday’s Michigan State vs. Iowa game in Indianapolis put quite a wrench in the post-game celebration for some fans from West Michigan.
An e-mail with the bill came through after they got dropped off at their hotel, informing them that they owed hundreds of dollars for that one ride.
“I thought that it had to be a huge mistake. There’s no way. That’s impossible,” said Lenny Teske of Grand Rapids.
After speaking with Uber, they found the price was the real deal, and they were responsible for it, said Teske, a college recruiter who was in Indiana for work and the Big Ten championship football game.
Teske, who took the Uber with some friends after the game, is upset about those charges and looked to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help.
It’s something people don’t always pay attention to. While many call it ridiculous price surging, Uber says it’s a process called “dynamic pricing.” Basically, they say, Uber always wants to guarantee you a ride even when there aren’t enough drivers to fit the demand for people waiting around for a car. It’s cases like those where you can get one of those high bills.
Unfortunately, the man FOX 17 talked with Wednesday was a victim of that, but he says the warning signs aren’t enough.
Teske was a loyal Uber customer for more than a year until he and his friends used an Uber to pick them up after Saturday night’s football game.
“My co-workers and I were discussing taking a cab. One of the guys is old school and wanted to take a cab,” said Teske.
He bragged about how quick and inexpensive Uber is. They were in a hurry to celebrate the Michigan State win, so Teske convinced his friend to try it out.
“It shows on the phone where the driver is. We pressed the car for him to pick us up at the location and we got a phone call and the guy says, ‘hey I’m too far away from you. Cancel it and start over.’ So I’m like ‘don’t worry. That never happened before. Let’s try it again,’” said Teske.
A new driver pulled up and they hopped in for the 18-mile trip to their hotel.
“I asked what the charge was, because I wanted to give him a tip. He told me he didn’t know. We get out and the car pulls away. Boop Boop. A thing pops up on my phone and said you were just charged $490,” said Teske.
He had been charged 6.8 times the going rate.
That $490 may seem shocking, but this isn’t the first time these high prices have made headlines. Uber got heat in Time magazine during a hostage crisis in Australia last December when riders were being charged hundreds of dollars to get out of a dangerous situation. Forbes wrote an article about the high surge charges being too unpredictable. The Daily Mail wrote an article about customers that slammed the app for high charges during Christmas, not to mention the dozens of testimonials online about surge charge nightmares.
“That’s what’s so frustrating is this is unethical because where does it stop?” said Teske.
Uber told FOX 17 that their “dynamic pricing” is to serve the costumer. Basically, when wait times for a car go up because there aren’t enough drivers, then prices go up. People who are not in a hurry wait until the prices go down, thereby reducing demand.
Simultaneously, the price increase brings more drivers to that area as an incentive to pick people up. Once more drivers come to the area, and the demand goes down, then the prices go down.
Uber says they take precautions when the prices fly high. For example, on the application riders always know the price before they get into a car. The surge amount is prominently displayed. When the rate is more than double the regular price, then people have to type in confirmation before they accept a ride.
Uber said Teske ordered an Uber Lux that night, which is one of their most expensive services available in Indianapolis. Teske contests that statement and said he just ordered a regular Uber.
He also says they never got the screen to accept additional charges. He said after they canceled the first driver and called the second, the car just showed up.
“There are problems with apps all the time on a daily account. I have a problem with an app on my phone every day. So is it possible there was no accept screen? Absolutely, 100 percent. The point that I can’t contact somebody, and there was no warning when I get in the car, that’s ridiculous. The guy didn’t even say, ‘hey, stop for a second. There’s a surge charge,’” said Teske.
He said he will pay the bill, but his biggest concern is what happens to the next person?
“I just don’t think it’s fair. I’m not going to just roll over and say ‘Take my $500.’ I am lucky that I am blessed and don’t have to worry about money this time of year, but that could have been a single mom that could have taken money for rent, or Christmas presents, or food for their kids and that’s not right,” said Teske.
That $490 Uber ride cost more than some of the flights from Indianapolis to Grand Rapids. After speaking with Uber on Wednesday, they are going to give Teske 20 percent off the bill, which is about $90.
Teske said this was his last trip with Uber.
Uber is also in the middle of a class-action lawsuit with its drivers right now. A judge ruled that Uber drivers can take part in a class-action suit when it comes to their employment status even if they did not opt out of an arbitration clause in their contracts.