Last week San Francisco car matching startup UberCab was served a cease and desist order by the city of San Francisco because it did not have taxi licenses or taxi insurance and went beyond the normal scope of a limo service by picking people up right away.
As UberCab (which has now changed its name to Uber) serves primarily tech industry elite, there is much Internet debate over whether this is another case of “Innovation vs. Establishment” or a startup just straight up breaking the law.
Perhaps someone in the San Francisco Metro Transit Authority or the Taxi Dispatch service should pay a visit to Quora, where the “Why would anyone use UberCab when you can just call 415-333-3333 and quickly get a cab for a much lower price?” thread has reached epic proportions (with one Quora user reporting that a SF cab driver actually stole money from him).
Perhaps the most amazing answer comes from Micheal Wolfe, the CEO of JoinWire, who hilariously breaks down the typical SF taxi user experience.
Here is how it works:
You call the number. You get a busy signal, or no one answers.
You call again, nothing.
You get a second phone, you dial Yellow on one and Desoto on the second and hit redial over and over again with both of your thumbs until one answers.
Your wife grabs two more phones and does double redial.
Finally it picks up. You wait on hold for 7 minutes.
A dispatcher answers. He barks, “10 minutes!” then hang up on you (it is always 10 minutes).
You wait 23 minutes with your grandma in the rain.
You call back and repeat the redial/hold routine.
You tell the dispatcher, your guy didn’t show. He says, “10 minutes!” and hangs up on you.
23 more minutes later you give up and go wander around the neighborhood hoping a cab randomly drives by.
You are 53 minutes late for your event raising money for children with sarcoma. Your friends ask if you really do care about the children.
38 minutes later a taxi driver arrives and knocks on your front door. The babysitter answer and says you are not there. The cabbie screams at her and makes the kids cry.
(And if a taxi does show, you get a guy driving like mad with the windows rolled down, cell phone in one hand, and radio blaring).
“You wait 23 minutes with your grandma in the rain” is pretty much spot on here.
Like in the case of Airbnb, UberCab in the fortunate/unfortunate position of being a catalyst for industry change. There’s something not quite right about regulations that allow for a dispatched cab to pick up another fare instead of completing its original transaction yet make it impossible for a service that has obvious consumer demand and puts idle drivers to work to continue its business.
UberCab, which has $1.25 million in funding from First Round Capital, is still in operation, risking a $5,000 fee every time a cab gets sent out and threat of 90 days in jail per each day it’s still running.
Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for that Taxi Magic cab I called last Wednesday.
Thanks: Matt Van Horn