Uber, Bacon, and Crazy… the Weekly Recap

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TJH_SkylineI cannot believe it is three days until Christmas.  Or rather, I refuse to believe it… mainly because I’m not done with my Christmas shopping (or decorating… or baking… or wrapping).  I need to watch Love Actually at least 17 times in the next 72 hours and drink massive quantities of eggnog.  And caroling… there has been no caroling.  My weekly recap is utterly devoid of anything holiday-ish… unless you count driving multiple Santas with Uber on Saturday afternoon.

Argh… meltdown coming.

None of this should be a surprise – it’s not like the calendar changed.  It’s me.  The crazy busy madness I talked about this past week has set in and now I have exactly 24 hours before work ends for the year and I get almost two more weeks off.  That should be plenty of time for sleep – and finally finishing my trip report from the Indonesian adventure.

I’m slowly but surely working on that content – what is holding me up is learning to edit GoPro footage.  Trust me, it’s worth the wait.  I did manage to make it up to Thanksgiving day which was spent at Prambanan and Jogjakarta.  After nasi goreng instead of turkey, I’m ready for some traditional holiday fare at Christmas.

I requalified for Executive Platinum this week – probably the second latest I’ve ever requalified (for a variety of crazy reasons) and my lightest travel year in a decade.  Still, I got there so I’m back on the island for the 15th straight year.  It was one of those trips that made me glad I have a couple of no travel weeks to chase it – other than getting to try National’s Virtual Aisle service, it was wrought with delays.  Not fun when I need to be home and doing holiday prep.  At least I didn’t have the worst passenger on MY flight.

I’ll be doing lots of cooking at home while I have over two weeks on the ground.  Saturday I came up with this warm bacon mushroom salad that I’m enamored with.  I’ll be making it again this week!  I also need to whip up a few of my winter favorites and try out a couple of the recipes I learned on the cruise.

I mentioned this yesterday in my Prior2Boarding weekly recap, but we had a bit of a lively discussion (across a few different blogs) about the ethics of dodging an Uber surge.  I still maintain that giving your driver a fake location to avoid the surge is fraud but there is a wide range of thought on the subject.  I have found that many folks are not aware that Uber’s surge pricing is based not on actual requested rides but the number of users in an area who are using the Uber app (this can be by requesting a ride or merely having it open and looking at the surge occurring).  I shared three tips to avoid contributing to an Uber surge.

To talk about surges in real time, let me relate a story from yesterday… I decided to do pickups at AT&T Stadium for the Cowboys/Colts game (sorry Colts fans… I was actually rooting for you!) because I knew it would be decent money because drivers (Uber, taxi, town cars) were spread out all over the Metroplex due to holiday parties, an event at the arena, and lots of airport traffic – plus many of the regular drivers have standing passengers they charge a flat rate to and don’t even use a booking platform.

The stadium started surging in the fourth quarter and it was evident that there were only a few cars in the area.  I reached the boundaries for the zone in Arlington as the game was ending and the surge had raced upward.  I inched slowly along in traffic, waiting for a ping.  The ping should go to the driver closest to the passenger so I should have gotten someone on the north side of the stadium.  The hope was to get someone in a side parking lot so I could pull out of traffic and then take a side street to escape it once they were in my car.  I finally got a ping as the surge was at 3.8.  The pin was less than a block away so I pulled into a parking lot to wait for them to get to my car.

But they didn’t get there… about five minutes later I got a “when are you coming to get us?” call.  It turns out that they had dragged the pin further away hoping to get a better rate and were expecting me to find them in a sea of 75,000 people.  So I got back into traffic and crawled north, keeping contact with my passengers by phone.  It took me close to 30 minutes to get to them and another 30 minute to get them home.  I ended up with a $47 fare… $1 to Uber for “safe rides”, 20% to Uber… I netted a bit above $36.  The total time I spent between waiting for the ping, accepting the ping, actually starting the ride and ending the ride was 90 minutes… and then I had a 30 minute drive home in the other direction as it was the end of my night.

My effective rate?  $18 an hour… and that’s before gas and maintenance.

This is why I don’t chase surges and I only drive them if I’m already in the area.  I could have done just as well staying OUT of the surge traffic yesterday – but then fewer drivers would have meant even higher prices for passengers.  Its a no-win – the lure of surge prices incentivizes drivers to get out there but half the time we get there and sit (and sit and sit) with no passengers.  After a short amount of time driving, you learn not to mess with the surge unless you are already there… so it doesn’t have quite the behavior modifying effect you would think it does.

Tomorrow I’ll kick off the first of my yearly wrap up posts and start talking about my strategy for 2015 travel.  I’ll also be sharing a few last minute gift ideas for frequent travelers and who knows what else.

I hope you have a fabulous holiday week, wherever you are and whoever you are with.

xoxo

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About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 47.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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