Uber surprised a 26-year-old Baltimore woman with a spooky Halloween bill that hit $326 on a routine ride, resulting in her inability to pay her rent and general Internet outrage.
Gabrielle Wathen posted to the site GoFund.me, saying that she went out for her 26th birthday on the night of Halloween and, after taking an Uber an approximately 22-minute ride home around 3am, was charged $326. This means she can’t pay her $450 rent, and so she hit the crowd-funding site to ask for help. She raised upwards of $500 by using Instagram to build up awareness, which led to the story getting picked up by the media. (We saw it first on Business Insider.)
To be clear, I’m unimpressed by this Gabrielle Wathen in every way except that she managed to pull off what is clearly a con catalyzed by irresponsibility.
Since 2012, Uber has made its surge pricing unmistakably clear within the app. In fact, you have to key in the exact amount by which your fare will be multiplied in order to even request an Uber during a surge pricing time.
Sure, it might be surgier than you expect. 2.5x looks like a pretty small number, but it takes your $20 charge to $50. So on holidays, when the multiplier is around 7x or 8x in most cities, a 20-minute ride could easily jump to a $300 fare.
I’m not necessarily defending Uber altogether. Though the company’s dynamic pricing has been explained to exhaustion through simple supply-and-demand charts and promises that most of Uber’s cut goes toward maintaining the service, there is some question over whether or not those huge spikes (especially when it isn’t so tasteful) are truly where they should be to make sure the company can fulfill requests.
Still, this particular case seems more like an irresponsible girl, who was supposedly tricked by Uber, then turning around and using a sharing economy herself to fix her mistake.
Here’s what she had to say on the crowd funding website:
Last night was Halloween. Great time. Today is my 26th birthday. Not so great time. I live in Baltimore and went out with my friends to celebrate my birthday at midnight. When 3 AM rolled around, I suggested we take an Uber home to avoid drunk driving (#responsibility/#MADD). I live 22 minutes , tops, from the party I was leaving.
When I awoke this morning, I heard a friend talking about how outrageous Uber rates were the night before (9x original rate). I checked my bank account when, unbeknowst to me, I see a charge for $362. Not only is it my 26th birthday, it is rent day. My rent is $450 and I can no longer pay it today due to this completely outrageous charge.
I have had little to no luck in disputing this transaction.
I waitress at two restaurants and freelance for a City Paper. I worked incredibly hard this week to be able to enjoy my birthday this weekend. This misunderstanding has cost me 80% of the funds I have to my name (embarrassingly so) and I spent a good two hours of my birthday crying over it.
I feel taken advantage of and cheated by the Uber name. $367 for a 20 minute ride should never be justified, even on Halloween. Please donate even just $1 if you think this is utter and complete bullshit and also hilarious and very, very depressing at the same time.
Thanks for the ride, Muhammed.
Although it’s hard to defend a company that gouges you on holidays, I think Gabrielle is the one who took us for a ride.