Boycott Uber If You Don't Like ItS

Uber is a luxury car service that sells increased convenience for a high price. It may be seen as a symptom of a wealthy lifestyle which rubs many people the wrong way. So what should you do if you don't like Uber? You should not use Uber.

I put forward this option in order to distinguish it from other, more vague proposals, such as "Throw Uber's asshole CEO in jail" or "Pass some sort of law against Uber's pricing scheme." If you find Uber objectionable, the proper thing to do is to cast your economic vote against Uber by not giving them any money. If you are particularly passionate about this issue, organize a large-scale boycott of Uber. But do not sit around complaining about Uber while also using Uber. That is nonsense.

Uber is a luxury good. If I were ranking urban transportation options in order of affordability, I would probably say 1) Walking 2) Riding the subway or bus 3) Taking a cab 4) Calling a car service 5) Uber 6) A private car and driver. Notice that Uber is at the very upper end of the price range. Uber is expensive because it is convenient. You can summon it without even making a phone call; your credit card is on file, so there is no need to pay the driver directly; just tap a button, and a car appears to whisk you to your destination. What a world!

Uber sets its price according to demand. The higher the demand, the higher the price. During busy hours, the price is higher. For busier destinations, the price may be higher. This pricing scheme has three main purposes. First, it makes more money for Uber. Second, it provides an incentive for drivers to make themselves available during times of high demand, meaning that it is possible for Uber users to get a car when they want one. And third—this one often goes unmentioned—it should disincentivize people from using Uber when it is most expensive. You, the consumer, know just how much an Uber ride is going to cost you. If you know that that ride will be absurdly expensive, you can either suck it up and pay it, or—more rationally—not use Uber.

It is perfectly appropriate to mock and denounce someone for paying $357 for an Uber ride of less than an hour. But assuming that the "surge price" multiple and the fare structure was made clear up front, the denunciation should be targeted at the rider, for being such a profligate rube. Anyone who knows even the broadest outlines of Uber's prices should know enough not to use it except in case of dire emergency.

I rarely take taxis. Regular taxi usage adds up to a lot of money. The people who live in New York City and use taxis more than the subway are either rich, or fools. Either way, they forfeit their right to complain about their choices. They are addicted to convenience. They know the cost. And they pay it. This is many more times as true for users of Uber, who cannot even be bothered to stand outside and hail a cab. I have never used Uber, and I never would unless I was on an expense account, because that shit is too expensive. If too many people feel the same way as me, Uber will either need to reduce its prices or go out of business. But if, instead, people use Uber, pay Uber's prices, and then whine about Uber afterwards, Uber will not need to change a bit. Actions speak louder than empty complaints.

Uber—like housecleaning services and laundry pickup and Seamless.com—is a luxury good for people with too much disposable income. Most people rarely use such items, because they are too expensive. If you believe that widespread use of such unnecessary luxuries is a symptom of systemic social and economic inequality (and economic illiteracy) in this country, I would have to agree with you. If you find this situation to be gross and outrageous, the thing to do is to take political action to change that system. Hollering at Uber because you are mad that you willingly and knowingly paid them an absurd amount of money to take you home does not qualify as useful activism. Likewise, if you believe that the cities in which Uber operates should have better public transportation options, you are correct. This should be taken up with federal, state, and local governments. Not with a car service.

As far as I'm concerned, Uber can go to hell. But I feel the same way about companies that make sweaters for dogs, and they just keep on existing, because people keep buying them. If you really can't stand Uber, the most meaningful thing you can do is to not use it. If you can't even manage to do that, your complaints are hollow.

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