Here’s a tip for Uber riders: be on time and, if you change your mind, cancel your request quickly. Due to complaints from drivers that riders often keep them waiting or take too long to cancel, Uber is piloting two new rider charge policies in test cities, according to Tech Crunch.
The test areas are New York City, New Jersey, Phoenix, and Dallas. The standard five-minute free cancellation period is too long, apparently. Chances are a driver will already be on the way, spending time and gas. Under the test program, riders will have just two minutes to cancel a ride request before incurring a cancellation fee. The fees currently are $5 for UberX and $10 for UberBlack service. If you enter wrong information in your request, like an incorrect address, you can still cancel with no penalty, but you need to do it right off the bat. Uber prides itself on convenient, fast service. In most cities, after two minutes it’s likely a driver has already accepted the ride and is on the way.
While that may sound reasonable, the second part of the pilot program is more problematic. The only answer, if it is implemented, may be to stand on the street when you call to hail a ride. If riders are two minutes late, the driver can charge the city’s normal per-minute rate for every minute waiting. After five minutes the drive can cancel the trip and charge a no-show fee. If the driver doesn’t wait five minutes, however, no per-minute or cancellation fee will be charged. The problem is that if you have to go out to the street before calling for a ride in order to be sure you won’t be hit with late fees, or even miss your ride, that sure doesn’t feel like the service is all that user-friendly. It’s easy to get stuck waiting for an elevator or having to run back to grab something you forgot and finding yourself hit with extra fees. Another issue may be drivers arriving early and starting the countdown before the requested pickup time.
Uber is in competition with other ride-hailing services for drivers and for passengers. Recently it was settled a class action with drivers in California with payments that may amount to $100 million. At the time of that settlement, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick said that the company had not “always done a good job” working with drivers and it is time to change. The cancellation timing change and late charge test policy tests look like a move in the direction of looking out for the drivers. The new charge policies, if they are deemed a success and are implemented beyond the test areas could put the company at risk of alienating riders, however. Many may not appreciate the “call when you’re ready” policy if it really means “standing on the street.”