How “Select” is UberSelect?

Friday was one of my more frustrating days to be an Uber passenger.  Some of the usual complaints not withstanding, I had a bizarre day with Uber and one that gives me pause when considering the future direction of the company, at least here in the Dallas/Fort Worth market.

It started innocently enough – I requested my normal UberX ride to work.  I was surprised to be matched up with a Dodge Ram 1500 truck.

I’ve never encountered a pickup truck with Uber before and I was not happy to have to climb (literally CLIMB) to get into the backseat in my skirt and heels.  It was not a comfortable experience and as I rode, I pondered how I’d feel about receiving a truck with an open bed in lieu of a standard vehicle if I were airport bound with luggage, especially given the rainy/snowy weather we’ve had lately.  (Sure, if I was alone, the luggage could ride in the seat with me… but what if I was with others?!)

After my ride, I emailed Uber to ask why pickup trucks were a part of the normal Uber family and not included in their own category.  I was given this response:

Sorry for the confusion! You can always see the make and model of the vehicle once the request is accepted.

For future reference, you can drag the slider on the bottom of your app screen to select your car preference before you request a ride and request an uberXL or uberSELECT model.

Hmmm.  So were they telling me that I should upgrade to a more expensive car to avoid trucks?  Or that I should cancel if I didn’t like I got the vehicle I was assigned?

My afternoon ride didn’t fare much better.  It was busy and there weren’t many cars nearby so when I finally saw some on the map, I requested an UberX and was matched with a Toyota Prius.

Fair enough.  But my driver sent me a text from a minute away and told me he’d actually be in a Volvo SUV.  It turns out he was a car dealer and the other car was being used for something else.  So I got a 2004 XC90 instead of the newer Prius.  Switching out cars though is a clear violation of Uber’s service agreement with drivers – they can easily add a car to a driver profile if it meets the standards so he was clearly trying to fly under the radar.  Still, I agreed to it so I didn’t complain… but I silently wondered how often this actually happens?

My third Friday ride was to head out to dinner with a friend of mine (another Uber driver).  We requested and were paired with a Toyota Camry.  It was dark when he arrived but I commented to my friend as we approached the vehicle that something appeared to be off with the paint job which appeared to be two different colors – black & gray.  We rode the short six minute ride and as we exited, understood why the paint looked odd.  We were riding in a decommissioned taxi!  The two-tone paint was the first sign but it also still bore some of the trade dress from Liberty Cab.

After dinner and some discussion about the bizarre day of car requests, we decided to take Uber’s advice and upgrade our experience to UberSelect.

UberSelect is relatively new to the DFW market and is designed to create a subclass of cars that are nicer than UberX but below black car rates.  To qualify, a vehicle has to be on a specified list, have leather interior, and meet other requirements including age.  Some drivers have reported even having to undergo a secondary inspection to qualify for UberSelect.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have already had my own issues with UberSelect.  I was thoroughly disappointed when the vehicle list was released to find that Volvo is nowhere on it.  (View the current list here.)

I have corresponded with several Uber employees who have all given me the same cut and paste response to how “selective” the new service is and how they can make NO exceptions to the approved vehicle list lest they reduce the luxury experience passengers have shown a willingness to pay extra for.

After the day’s events, I decided I was exactly that passenger so I requested an UberSelect.

I was promptly matched with a Ford F150 pickup truck.

I cancelled.

My friend tried the same and was matched with the same truck.

Cancel.

I tried again… this time another Dodge 1500 truck.  I looked at my phone to be sure I was choosing UberSelect.  I was.

Cancel.

I paused and looked for my link to the vehicle list – these cars vehicles were not on it.  Two more attempts and two more prompt cancels from us.

We went back to UberX… where we were paired with a driver who broke three of my rules for drivers and still never arrived.

Cancel.

We decided to look at Lyft.  No drivers available.  (Maybe they are ALL waiting to be approved?!)

At this point, a taxi was looking like a great option.

We tried one last request – back to UberSelect – and finally matched with a GMC Acadia – on the list!

I got home and discovered I’d been charged a $20 cancellation fee from the Dodge Ram 1500.  I used this as an opportunity to correspond with Uber about the issue of vehicles not being approved and to question once again why my Volvo was not eligible.

Vehicle eligibility for uberSELECT was determined based on rider feedback. We learned that they have a preference for and would be willing to pay a premium over uberX rates for newer, luxury vehicles. We realize the accepted vehicle list is limited, but these strict vehicle requirements on uberSELECT are necessary to create a more upscale user experience.

Nice canned reply (again) but it doesn’t answer the question as to why vehicles that are not on the approved list are being allowed to drive for UberSelect.  I have since spoken with a half dozen drivers who also drive vehicles that are not in the approved list but were added to UberSelect anyway.

So how “select” is UberSelect?  Not very, it seems.

 

Comments

  1. Fascinating article, it seems that Uber makes strange rules and has a strange way of enforcing the rules. I’ve never gotten into a pick up truck with Uber, it’s 90% Toyota Prius’s in the Bay Area. We do have Uber Pool which works very well.

  2. I don’t see an issue with getting sent a pickup when selecting uberx. You know what you’re getting. And, I’m not sure what the obsession with Volvo is. If I were to use uberSelect, I’d be pretty upset if I got picked up in anything short of an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or similar car, NOT a Volvo. I’m actually surprised BMW 3 series is not on the list, whereas Mercedes has a blanket ‘any car’ rule.

    • I don’t think driving a Volvo makes me “obsessed”. But I’m genuinely curious why they would leave that car off the list given the cars that ARE on there (if you didn’t click the link… Volkswagen, Ford, Chevrolet). It’s a very erratic list.

    • Are you sure Mercedes Benz rules? think again . I been driving for Uber with Benz for a month and I just graged it due to they would not upgrade it to select or Lux from X . and just droped the rates again to .96 cents a mile from 1.18 . my take is about .56 mile seat in a car with engine on to stay warm for 4 hours get five calls , 2 canceled the other three drive 6 to 12 miles to pick them up for free and drive them 2 or 5 miles to their destination . drivers get paid 80 percent of the miles only everything else is to Uber up . do the matt . and some Iodates did not appreciate it and gave me 2 to 3 stars , so as you see dropping rate all you get is trash. so my Benz is out before this trash passengers turns it in to a garbage disposal.

  3. @Brian

    Agreed, the Volvo obsession is a little strange. Don’t get me wrong, Volvos are very nice cars, but I don’t think they’re _perceived_ as being in the same league as the German luxury brands (not saying that perception is correct or justified). And of all ride sharing brands, Uber is all about perception and being able to justify certain price points based on that perception. I’m sure the 3-series is absent for the same reason the Audi A3 and A4 are: they’re fairly common as far as luxury cars go, and no doubt Uber figured it would compromise the relative scarcity necessary to justify charging more for UberSelect. As an aside, you can request UberSelect classification for your vehicle if you feel it should qualify (I drive a late model Audi S4 and plan on requesting UberSelect classification since it’s much more scarce than an A4).

    • So I’m curious what your thoughts are on the various cars that ARE on the list. Volkswagen = Mercedes? Ford = BMW? I’m more concerned with the inconsistency, especially given that they allowed both a Ford F150 truck and a Dodge 1500 to be in UberSelect. I confirmed that, by the way, with a manager in Dallas who said both those trucks had been inspected and added to UberSelect manually.

      • Primary truck models are misleading. They typically correlate to engine size. There are several versions of Ford F150 or Dodge 1500 that are FAR nicer than some of the models on that list. 4 door and about as luxury as you can get.

      • I drive an F150 Platinum. It has leather, 800watt Sony Stereo, heated and cooled seats, sun roof, automatic retracting running boards, puddle lamps for lighting the ground around the vehicle. This is a $60k vehicle. It’s not the run of the mill truck. This is most likely the vehicle you were matched with. Do a little research before you pitch a hissy fit next time.

  4. They probably won’t allow Volvos for Select service because most Volvo drivers are moderately retarded.

  5. Volkswagen makes Audi and Porsche. They are actually very nice cars. I never recall anyone saying, “I love your Volvo” or “nice car” the 2 years we owned a fully loaded XC60. We own a Ram 3500 Megacab Laramie and Ram 1500 Limited. Both of these trucks recieve compliments constantly. The 1500 has wheel to wheel step bars and 4 corner air suspension that makes it ride as nice as any luxury vehicle and allows the truck to be lowered to a step in height similar to a 2 wheel drive mid size SUV. My 3500 has power steps that make it easy to get in and out. The back seats also recline which last time I checked, very few vehicles have that capability. A tonneau cover fixes the cargo issue easily enough. You were in Texas. We love our pick up trucks and they come equipped to rival any luxury vehicle on the market. European “luxury vehicles” are small and uncomfortable for anyone near 6′ tall to ride in the back seat until you get into something like a Bentley but if you can afford one, you’re not going to use it for Uber. Sorry. Ut Volvo is not at the top of many people’s list of luxury vehicles. I hated our XC60 because it was like riding in a clown car and the XC 90 wasn’t much better.

    • I agree I drove lift for a little while in Denver, with a ’14 black ram 1500 Laramie, and I would always get complements and frequently would have people leave cash tips because the said how nice and comfortable it was inside. Full soft leather everywhere you touch, heated and cooled seats, perfect climate control, and enough space to relax. Now in Dallas I have ’15 white 1500 limited with air suspension and tinted all the way down, and people say it’s feels like a black tie luxury car inside with enough space. My Ram has as much room as a 7 series in back and nobody bumps their head or has to duck ducking while they get in. Also, people who own that caliber vehicle take pride in their investment and take care of it. With that being said, maybe uber should add trim level to the car description when you request a ride. I completely understand that Ram 1500/2500 and Ram 1500/2500 Limited are night and day different, not only in quality but in one’s mental picture, especially when it’s a selection sight unseen.

      • Indeed, some of the newer pickups have all the bells and whistles and should be allowed as luxury vehicles. I just bought a 2016 ram 1500 Laramie package with all the options-heated and cooled leather seats (front and back), xm radio, nav, power everything, and a ride that makes you forget you’re doing 70 mph. Its seriously on par with a limo. I couldnt see anyone complaining about that – its even got running boards to make it easy to get into.

  6. My son lives in the DFW upscale area and drives a $65,000 F250, all leather interior, Platinum2014, covered lined bed, spotlessly maintained, non smoker. Uber denied his vehicle Select status so he only drives during peak or surge periods. Every person that he gives a ride says it’s the nicest vehicle they have ever been in. Perhaps the market and regional preference, should dictate what is a luxury rather than some arbitrary list.

  7. It sounds like there are two types of Uber Select customers: those looking for comfort and those looking for status. Those looking for comfort would love to get any car that was fully decked out (leather, heated & cooled seats, premium sound system, etc.). Those looking for status could get a Toyota Avalon with all those features and say, “Oh, a Toyota? I thought I ordered Uber Select.” The same person could get a Lexus with half those features and say, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Forget that a Lexus is a Toyota.

    I have a Kia Cadenza that should definitely qualify for Uber Select (napa leather, heated & cooled seats, rear window shade, panoramic sunroof, etc.), but the model is not considered luxury. I may be able to request a manual entry for Uber Select, but that still wouldn’t satisfy the status seekers.

    • Just caching a flight assuming you will have your privet screen in couch and you don’t get it , start screaming on plan and asking the flight I cam with it had privet tv screen and I want that plan back now . or my money back.

  8. Hmm, after reading your article i cant help but wonder if you were homeless would you refuse a cheeseburger because you don’t like cheese? You live in the home of everyone has a truck. You don’t have a car so why do you care what you get picked up in? Does it really matter? Uber select picked me up in a brand new toyota camry and it was beautiful! The driver was excellent and i couldn’t of had a better experience. Rather than canceling, report said driver or else uber will never know….just sayen.

  9. I have a Black on Black Lincoln MKZ. Heated and cooled leather seats front and rear. Top quality comfort. I am told by Uber that I am on the Select List but NEVER have I received a Select Request.

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