I recently took an Uber X ride back to my home after a dinner in Washington D.C. When my wife and I were ready to take request an Uber, I noticed that Uber was assessing “surge pricing,” which they frequently do as a way to raise their prices, and what they claim is an incentive to “get more cars on the road.”
However, I have recently noticed that my wife’s Uber surcharge has sometimes been significantly more than mine, at the exact same time! During this recent trip her surcharge was 1.75x and mine was 1.25x. How could this be I wondered? We were both requesting an Uber X and wondered why pricing was not consistent between our requests. We obviously used my phone, which had a lower surge pricing offer, but I began to wonder what Uber was up to, and why they would offer different prices to different users.
After considering what happened, it occurred to me that Uber was price gouging my wife because she was a more frequent user of Uber than I was. Over the last two months she has taken at least 7 Uber rides, where I have only taken 2. Of course, we were both in the car, but she usually books the ride for us. Besides that, there is no clear difference between either of our accounts. Of course, this is just one observation, but it appears to be a valid reason why Uber would think they could increase their pricing for a frequent user, while attempting to attract an infrequent user by offering a lower surge price.
Is Uber’s Surge Pricing Is Unfair?
I believe the concept of surge pricing is somewhat valid and helps to alleviate supply and demand issues during peak periods, but I feel like Uber has begun to abuse this feature. I am seeing surge pricing occurring more and more frequently now, and coupled with the fact that the offer is different by user makes me think that Uber is price gouging certain users if it knows they will pay this price anyway. Now THAT I feel is unfair, and should be examined by government regulators.
That said, there are always alternatives if you are unfortunately targeted by Uber’s surge price gouging tactics. Here are some ideas for options to avoid such discriminatory practices:
- Use a competitor like a non-Uber taxi
- Use a competitor app like Lyft
- Wait for the surge pricing to dissipate (hopefully it falls after 10-20 minutes)
- Use public transportation