No holiday is ever long enough, is it? I spent most of mine in transit learning to use Uber! Yes, I’m late to this party but better late than never. To be honest, since I am not the most out going person, the need for a cab doesn’t come often. Living away from direct road access and needing to get to the airport early, I decided to install the Uber app for the 3rd time, and give it yet another shot.
The first time I tried to use Uber was about a year ago in Cape Town, South Africa. A trip up the Table Mountain was on my to-do list but I had no idea how to get a cab in the city, and the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa made me weary. I decided to try Uber the night before. To register, the app began requesting my international passport data for verification, and required that I send it in an email or something like that. Long story short, I got frustrated. I uninstalled the “useless” app and got a cab that cost me a fortune from the hotel front desk.
My next attempt to use Uber was when they had a free pizza partnership with Gourmet Pizza, Abuja. Well, this fat girl loves food, even more when it is free. I installed, followed instructions and waited. But even 2 days after, my free pizza never came. I uninstalled the useless app again and completely forgot about it.
Well, this Sallah holiday, I decided to give it one more try and to my surprise, the driver called and showed up in 3 minutes! He was friendly, his car was clean and smelled very nice. He answered all my questions and explained the whole Uber business model to me. But, here’s where it gets funny. He said the fare to the airport was not that stated on the app because it was difficult to get passengers coming back to town here in Abuja. At the airport, I paid the requested N5,000, instead of the N3,000 stated on the app because his explanation made a little sense. Checked in and boarded, I got an email receipt thanking me for my trip and informing me that I had paid N595! I was confused. Could this be a mistake or is this guy cheating Uber? Should I report him? But he knows my house. I don’t want to get murdered for N5,000 whistle-blowing.
I landed in Lagos, tried to get an Uber taxi to pick me up. Turns out the driver that took the call was too far away and I had to cancel, costing me N1000. I mean, “somebody cannot make mistake with your service?” I cancelled and got another cab in the airport after waiting 10 mins for the Price surge 1.9X to go away. This one was prompt, clean and everything and I was quite happy to give him a 5 star and thank you when he dropped us off at the hotel. The email receipt arrived and it was accurate, which made me question my first Uber’s sincerity even more, increasing my cognitive dissonance.
Settled and hungry on the mainland, I decided to find a place to eat. Uber’s cab took 18 minutes to get to me. My trip was short, and my driver was not remarkable. Charge? N371. The email receipt read N300. He refused to take me back, saying he had already taken another call. So, I humbly took keke back to my hotel.
Sunday, I got Uber to take me from Admiralty Way, Lekki to Sangotedo. Pleasant trip, nice driver, accurate receipt. The trip from Sangotedo back to the mainland however, was another story. I had my uncle cancel his Taxify driver, because I was feeling Uber and it was cheaper. The driver called to confirm my location which I did, despite the baby I could hear crying loudly in the background. The app said he was 4 mins away. After 15 mins, I called him because from the app, he appeared to me going farther away from me instead. He said he was on his way and the road had potholes. He swore he was on the expressway heading to me. I accepted. Dear friends, for another 15 minutes, I monitored the little red cab on the app and it went right past my location! I frantically tried to reach him again but my calls were forwarded and disconnected.
Like a joke, this guy went past and never called back. I watched him get to Lekki, Phase 1 and then Victoria Island. I couldn’t cancel the trip because I would have had to pay another N1,000 for something that wasn’t my fault. I reported the situation to Uber Nigeria on Twitter, with screen clips of everything including my calls, and then uninstalled the app. I humbled myself and called a Taxify driver. Getting to the mainland, I got a receipt (from the erring Uber driver that never came,) saying my trip (to Surulere) was successful and I had paid N300. This I reported too.
Arriving Abuja and feeling optimistic, I reinstalled the app for the 4th time to get a taxi home from the airport. This was a peaceful ride, quiet, cautious driver. I paid him N3,300 and the email receipt came in as stated.
Summarily, my experience with Uber Nigeria has left me with mixed feelings. The business model is great, aimed to create value for both the user and the driver. My disappointment however is in our need to cheat a fair system. I don’t know if it is a Nigerian thing because I haven’t used Uber outside this country yet. As for the last driver who didn’t pick me up, Uber Nigeria has responded and is looking into it.
Am I completely satisfied with Uber taxi service in Nigeria? Certainly not. Some of their drivers are not 100% reliable and some others are down-right dishonest. However, it’s not the business model that is flawed, it’s the people and their character limitations.
What can we do about this? I think Uber needs to provide a way to anonymously report an incident, to ensure that customers remain safe after giving feedback on a trip. I also feel like Uber should make room to cancel a trip for free if it isn’t the customer’s fault.
Do I recommend the Uber taxi service? Reluctantly, yes. There are a few good drivers out there and a good ride can have you feeling like you were in a taxi with a friend. Hopefully, I won’t have to uninstall this app anymore.
Do you use Uber in Nigeria? What have your experiences been like? Please let me know in the comment.