Much Ado about Technology

Does Uber Care? No, I Don't Think So

Uber

Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, has been all over the media trying to rehabilitate Uber's reputation by telling us that Uber cares and will make things right when they go wrong. This is great spin, but is it really true? If my experience with Uber, lately, is any indication, it's not. It's business as usual at Uber.

Have you ever contacted Uber's customer service? First, you can't do anything except send a message with the app, but even then, you are constrained in your topics and ability to do so. Often, to get someone to read your issue, you have to select an irrelevant topic.

Once making it past that hurdle, you then send your message and wait for the inevitable misunderstood response. I have honestly never sent a message to Uber in which the response was in any way relevant to my actual complaint. Once going back and forth for the better part of a day with Uber, one may get a response that is aligned to the subject, but there's no guarantee there.

In my latest interaction with Uber, I requested a ride while in San Francisco. The app told me the wait would be about 8 minutes, and I waited while watching the car make its way to me. Once it was near, it was clear that the driver was going the wrong way and would never be able to reach my location. Sure enough, as the app was telling me that the driver was arriving, the car disappeared and the app told me that the driver had to cancel. Just like that.

I had to start over, wait another ten minutes and then... same thing. Driver cancelled.

The third time was a charm, some half-hour after I'd requested my first ride.

I contacted Uber and explained the situation and the response to me was that I should be fine, I wasn't charged a cancellation fee.

Wait. What?

I explained that it was the driver who had cancelled and noted that had I cancelled, I would have been charged $5, but when a driver does it, there's no consequence.

The response I received asked me for a screen shot of the $5 charge I incurred.

After going back and forth, I finally managed to explain what happened and was then told that this is the policy and there would be no refund. Not even an apology.

So... Dara? How is this "making it right?"

There Are No Aliens

One thing I've come to realize that really gets me down...

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Spam by Any Other Name

It's one thing to sign me up for spam. It's another for a company to do it and claim it's some kind of benefit.

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Burning Man: Power from your Car

One of the best things you can bring for your trip to Burning Man, if you're not going full-on generator, is an inverter to provide AC power from you car. This is something that can charge your USB devices, of course (and at a higher power level), but also provide standard plugs for AC power. 

If you're wondering what you might use it for, I have two words for you: coffee maker. Okay, yes, I also use mine to keep my laptop charged (writing while at Burning Man is a thing - just mind the dust!). I've also used mine to run an AC-powered air mattress pump and other random things that don't lend themselves to battery-powered alternatives. I have no memory of someone bringing a flat screen TV and feeding it from an iPad to watch sports. Nope, I'm sure that didn't happen.

No recommendation of an inverter would be proper, however, without a little background on its operation. The battery in your car provides 12 volts of DC power. Inverters take that DC power and turn it into the 110 volt AC power that you expect to find when you plug something in at home. But in doing this, it drains a lot of juice from your car's batter. In short, you don't want to use this without your car running. Think of your car like a generator - it burns gas to get you power. So especially at Burning Man, remember to pack in some gasoline to account for any time you're going to have your car running to provide power, lets you find you're out of gas when it's time for the great exodus home!

The unit I recommend, above, can plug into your car's cigarette lighter or be hooked up directly to the battery. When your car is running, it will be charging the battery while you're simultaneously using it for power. Make sure that your car's alternator is rated high enough to support the load the inverter will place on the battery. Determine how much power you will be pulling and just make sure your car can support that.

Considering that an inverter like this is cheap, it's a great thing to add to your packing list.

$#!& Happens

The failure at the Oscars demonstrates a good point to remember: $#!& Happens. My take is that after much analysis, we will find that there were duplicate stacks of envelopes on both sides of the stage, and the wrong envelope was given to the presenters (Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway). Clearly, Mr. Beatty was confused and hoping someone would notice the problem and correct it. Unfortunately, it took a little longer. 

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