My work/life don’t often place me in a position where I need to hire a ride. As a result, prior to last week I had never tried Uber and I can’t remember the last time I took a cab.
Following a CocoaHeads meeting last week, I was part of a group of eight who were walking to a Metro station when a thunderstorm broke out. Another member of the group called an Uber SUV which, though I think they’re only stated to hold six, managed to cram us all in for a brief trip to the station. Thus, Uber was already on my mind when I needed a way to pick up my car from the garage this morning.
I had set up my Uber account and downloaded the app last night in anticipation, so this morning I fired up the app (happily noting that a driver was a mere six minutes away), set a pick-up and drop-off location, then simply waited for my ride. That’s how I wish it had worked. After setting up the trip, however, I was told I couldn’t proceed until I verified my mobile number. Unfortunately I never received the verification txt after several attempts. My email address verification failed as well. When I’ve provided a credit card number and am obviously using the mobile app (which can send me notifications), the insistence on verifying my txt abilities is baffling and I had to give up after firing off a note to customer support.
One of the people I’ve met at the CocoaHeads meetups is Nitin Alabur, whose company makes the app TaxiMagic. Since Uber was out for today’s ride I decided it was time to give TaxiMagic a try. It’s very similar in concept to Uber – making the process of hiring a ride easier and more informative – only using traditional taxi services instead of individual vehicles.
The app setup was quick and didn’t require jumping through verification hoops like Uber. The payment entry included a nifty scanner mode that uses the phone’s camera to quickly OCR the credit card number. The scan was flawless, but unfortunately after submitting the info it said that my Discover card failed validation. A second flawless scan of my Visa ended in success, however, so I was on to ordering the ride.
Again, the process was the same as Uber, setting a pick-up and drop-off location, looking at an estimate of the fare, then ordering the ride. Then I waited. And waited. I didn’t check the time I started, but I estimate it was about twenty minutes before a ride was finally confirmed. I’m in the suburbs, so I can understand a bit of a wait, but this seemed excessive. The taxi was about ten miles away, so it was another fifteen minutes until I was picked up.
The driver asked me the best way to get to the destination, which was a bit disappointing given that the directions were “go down the road we’re on, then turn right on the destination road.” Nonetheless, in about fifteen minutes I was at the garage ready to pick up my car. The back seat of the cab had a TaxiMagic box with a credit card swiper and a screen with fare information, tip options, etc. Unfortunately, I used the swiper to pay for the ride before thinking of checking the app. Since I didn’t pay through the app, the $10 startup credit I had in my account wasn’t used so I paid the full fare. The credit is good through the end of the year, at least.
It was very disappointing that my fifteen minute ride was preceded by ninety minutes messing with two apps. Even so, I’ll definitely try both again. Uber has the advantage of giving a time estimate up front and the wait times I’ve seen were much quicker than my wait for the taxi today. When I’m in D.C. or otherwise near a more taxi-dense area I think either app would serve me well.