One hour into 2016, Daniel Stettin jumped into
Fifty-one minutes later, he arrived and looked down on his phone. $217.33.
“I had a good night up until I saw the receipt after the ride. Then I was pretty angry,” Stettin tells New Times. “I knew there was the surge pricing, but Uber gave no indication that the ride was going to be so expensive.”
Stettin is not alone in being frustrated with the cost. As the night went on, the surge rate increased significantly. On Twitter, one user complained about the rate being 8.0. Another complained about it being 9.9:
@Uber_Support Dear Uber Remember whenugot thrown out of Broward Cnty? I do.Last night my daughter was Extorted- 9.9 surge.Govt Regulations?— LINDA (@nyheart12) January 1, 2016
Umm @uber how are you gonna charge me a surge charge in Broward, when the driver who picked me up was at his house across the street!— Tomeka C Meme Napper (@TomekaNapper) January 1, 2016
Stettin wrote to Uber to complain about the surge pricing. The company did not refund his fare but said: “We’re absolutely not trying to take advantage of you or the situation, which is why we’re extremely transparent in our pricing… In the future, be sure to keep an eye on the app when you request to be aware of the pricing in effect.”
A spokesperson for Uber tells New Times that the company sent all its users an email reminding riders to be mindful of peak times, even including an outline of the peak times based on previous New Year's Eve nights. In a blog entry on its site, it recommended ways to split the fare among riders and pointed out that the app can notify riders when the surge pricing levels out.
The app also requires users to type in the surge rate when they accept the ride as a clear indicator that they are aware of the higher-than-normal rate. Stettin admits he typed 7.3 into the app at the time he accepted his ride.
“Our goal is to make sure you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes — even on the busiest night of the year — and surge pricing helps ensure that choice is always available," the spokesperson said. "Riders are repeatedly notified about the pricing directly within the app and asked to confirm and accept increased fares or can opt for a notification when prices drop. When folks know that the option for a reliable ride is at their fingertips, it becomes much easier to make the choice not to drink and drive.”
Other cities like Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia experienced surge rates — users reported rates of 4.9 and 6.9 in those cities, respectively. South Florida Uber riders seemed to have braved much higher fares.
Insane Uber surge prices last night. 4.9 was mine in DC. 6.9 was my buddy in Philly. pic.twitter.com/WzoQXkcroy— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) January 1, 2016
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In 2015, there was a long squabble between Broward residents and the ride-sharing company. On July 31, Uber withdrew its services from Broward County because it did not want to comply with regulations like
“I don’t have an issue with Uber being in Broward,” Stettin explains. “The issue is that by having such high prices, they are essentially forcing some people to drive since they can’t afford a $200 ride.”
Still, as some people pointed out, an expensive Uber ride is likely cheaper than fighting a jail sentence: