It’s rough being a cocktail enthusiast in Los Angeles. How can you enjoy cocktails at all your favorite bars in a sprawling city that suffers from a limited transportation system? I want my beachside Metro stop, dammit! L.A. was ripe for an on-demand private car service like Uber.
Plusher than a taxi cab and more accessible than a limo service, Uber started in San Francisco and rapidly expanded to other cities — New York, Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., Paris, Chicago and London. It launched in L.A. in March of this year but I didn’t book my first Uber ride til just recently. They gave me a $50 credit to check it out so I used it to take me and my visiting bff to see Magic Mike at the ArcLight in style.
Booking a driver is easy, too easy as I found out. Using the Uber iPhone app I was able to not only locate and summon a driver, but thanks to the GPS in their car I could track their journey to my house. The driver showed up in a black SUV within 15 minutes. She opened the door for us, gave us bottles of water to enjoy during our ride and even asked us if there was a particular style of music we’d like to hear on the satellite radio.
The cost of the trip from Mid-City to Hollywood was $23. The driver said that it was cheaper than taking a taxi. (Estimated rates for LA rides.) I don’t know about that but it is a lot more stylish and convenient. And who doesn’t like stepping out of a chauffeured car?
With Uber you don’t have to pay a tip as that’s already figured into the fee. In fact, you don’t have to hand over any money, period, since they have your credit card on file. So it gives the illusion that this is your own personal driver.
But naturally, there is a downside. Since L.A. is Uber’s fastest growing city, the company recently installed surge pricing, which means, during peak hours the rates double. As I found out when I was in Hollywood while the bars were closing, this really sucks. Since what little cabs there are are taken, and I was too, ahem, foggy-headed to come up with alternate solutions, I just agreed to paying $43 to get back home. $43 to go 4 miles!
Either you can just accept this reaming or wait around til the surge pricing hours are over (the service is available 24 hours a day). In any case here are the pros and cons of Uber, which pro drinkers like cocktail blogger Lush Angeles (pictured above) and Neat bar owner/Stoli Elit brand ambassador Aidan Demarest swear by.
- Uses professional drivers — limo drivers with down time — who have to undergo a strict screening process and then are rated by customers. Drivers with lots of low ratings are kicked out of the program. Plus if a customer gives a lackluster review, Uber responds right away to do damage control, sometimes with a $10 credit.
- Convenient thanks to its easy-to-use iPhone app.
- You don’t have to tip as it’s already figured into the rate. Perfect for those who hate doing math when three sheets to the wind, or at all.
- If you really care about appearances, it’s a heck of a lot more stylish to step out of a towncar than a cab.
- That surge pricing. If you don’t plan for it and like to hold onto your money, you’ll find yourself stranded or having to try and think of cheaper alternatives through an alcohol-infused haze. Good luck with that.
- Despite what Uber and its drivers tell you, it’s not cheaper than a taxi. Rate starts at $15 and then is determined by miles driven.
Suffice it to say, I like having Uber in my back pocket during a night of drinking. It may be pricier than a cab but I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for the special treatment, the professional drivers, the cushy cars and the dedication to building customer loyalty. I mean, except for that surge pricing thing. I’m going to try and be more careful of that next time.