Thread: Uber strikes out at JFK.

The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, did a great presentation yesterday at Startup School. So great, that I decided I wanted to try the service, first chance I could when I got into JFK on my trip back to NY.

So I set up a new account, entered my credit card info, installed the software on my iPad and my iPod Touch, and read a few docs that explained that it was not possible to arrange for a pickup in advance, that I would have to request the ride from the location where I was to be picked up.

So here’s what I did when I got to the front of Terminal 7 at JFK at about 4:30PM today.

1. Opened the Uber app on my iPod, but it thought, for some reason that I was in the middle of Kansas. So that wasn’t going to work.

2. I got out the iPad, and it knew where I was (it has GPS, apparently the iPod doesn’t).

3. I got a confusing dialog that seemed to be asking me to choose which kind of ride I wanted. Either an SUV, or a Uber-x, or a regular ride. Too many choices.

4. Then the moment of truth. A nice big button that you click to request a ride. The caption below it says the nearest car is 9 minutes away. I click the button. Expecting to be congratulated with a map that showed me where my car was so I could watch it come to me! But nooooo…

5. A big error dialog comes up saying that before I can order I ride I have to have my phone number verified. Why didn’t they have me do it at the hotel. I’m standing in front of a busy terminal, with people rushing around me, and I’m supposed to do what? So I get out my cell phone, and do what they tell me to do. Text the word “GO” to a number they specify.

6. Now I’m juggling three different devices. And my luggage, and remember the nearest car is 9 minutes away. And there are cabs coming and going, any one of which would be happy to take me home.

7. I try clicking the big button again, on the iPad, but again I get the error message. You have to text to this number blah blah.

8. I look at the cell phone, and there’s an error that says the number isn’t registered with Uber. At this point I guess that my phone has identified itself by its T-mobile number, not the Google Voice number that I registered with Uber. I can never remember the T-mobile number (there’s no need to, no one but Google Voice knows it). I figure maybe I’ll go to the Uber site and register with that number instead of my real number.

9. So I get the iPad out and go to the Uber site. But I don’t remember my password (I used my Macbook Air last night to fill out all the forms).

10. So I open up Gmail, and start to search for the password and at this point I realize I’ve given it my best shot, and close everything up and get in a cab, give him my address and he takes me home.

And I was so excited to try the service! Oy.

If anyone from Uber reads this — validating the number is something I should have been asked to do when I was setting up the account, not when I’m standing on the street wanting to go home.


About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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