Uber Is Great Until It Leaves You Out in the Cold

Uber works great — until it stops working, leaving your kid walking home alone on a cold and rainy winter night. Wireless technology opens up new avenues for innovation and excitement, with companies like Uber and Lyft. Most of the time, their technologies work just fine, but don’t let your guard down.

Prepare for the moment when something goes wrong, because eventually something always goes wrong. That’s one key mistake many people make. You should always have a backup plan ready to go, because something always can go wrong, and it usually happens at the worst moment.

When there are multiple competitors, I try to determine which service should be my primary choice and which should be secondary.

Until recently, I thought Uber was the No. 1 ride-sharing service and Lyft was No. 2. After all, Uber was the first and is the largest competitor in the space. However, a painful experience taught me something very important about its operation. That event, and the lack of response from Uber, elevated Lyft to No. 1 for me.

Adding Family Members

I’ve used Uber and Lyft many times and generally have had great experiences. When they work, there is no problem. So, I put my wife and kids on my Uber account so they could order up car service whenever they needed it. Everything worked fine for months… until the day it stopped working.

Allowing the addition of friends and family members to an account gives users peace of mind, just in case they need it. You figure they always have a reliable way home. Then you get slapped in the face with a horrible reality.

Lyft does not yet let users add people to their account, which is a mistake. That omission gives Uber an advantage. With Lyft, every user must have a separate account. It does let users order car service for family members, but that requires another step.

No Customer Service Number to Call

A big problem is that neither Uber nor Lyft has a customer service number to call. I still have not even been able to register a complaint with Uber. Lyft does not have an 800 number either, but it did answer my email and text messages immediately. At least that was something, and it was better than Uber.

My recent problem with Uber started when one of my out-of-town children texted me, having been unable to get the Uber app to work. An Uber had dropped my kid off a couple of hours earlier, but it wasn’t working for the return trip. I had used the American Express credit card associated with my Uber account to make a purchase just minutes prior — no problem.

So, the problem obviously was with Uber. I jumped into action — but like Superman exposed to Kryptonite, I failed. First, I had my kid restart the phone. Nothing. Next, I deleted the credit card from my account and added a different card. Still nothing.

Time was passing and my child’s iPhone battery was dying. There wasn’t much time left. I went to the Uber app to find a customer service link. Again, nothing. No customer service phone number — nothing!

At that point, I was getting angry. My kid was faced with a long walk home on a cold and rainy winter night, and I had no way to help. So, I decided to try my Lyft account. I logged onto my Lyft app. Where was the link to add family members? Nowhere to be found.

So, my kid was not only out in the cold on a rainy night, but also without a backup plan and no money for a taxi. As kids do, mine had thought, why worry? After all, I have an iPhone with an Uber app, right?

That’s when the light turned on over my head. You should never trust these apps. Never trust your smartphone. What if it gets damaged or lost or stolen? Technology does fail. Then you are out in the cold. Something always can go wrong and usually does on a cold, dark, rainy night. So, just don’t do it. Be smart.

Why No Customer Service Number?

Why don’t Uber and Lyft have customer service telephone numbers? That’s a no-brainer, don’t you think? Why do users who are out and stuck have nowhere to turn for help in real time? This is a major dark shadow.

Shame on you Uber. When your service works, everything is fine. When it doesn’t, that’s when your users are on their own. Not having a customer service number is a bad business decision.

Lyft has another limitation — not letting you add others to your account. However, it says it plans to add that feature. Once it does, it will run circles around Uber with regard to customer care, relations and satisfaction. There seems to be a big difference between Lyft and Uber with customer care.

This is the important lesson to learn. When Uber and Lyft work well, there is no problem. However, when you need customer service, the difference is apparent. Uber leaves you out in the cold. Lyft does not have a live customer service phone number, but at least it replies to text or email quickly. Both can improve, but today Lyft has the advantage.

So, don’t let your guard down. Always make sure you have an alternative ready and waiting in case the smartphone or app doesn’t work for one crazy reason or another. Remember, in this modern world, life is great when everything works — but be prepared for those times when something doesn’t.

It’s bad enough if a ride-sharing service leaves you out in the cold — it’s 10 times worse when it’s one of your kids and you’re helpless. Just saying.

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent

analyst, consultant and speaker.

Email Jeff.