Uberior, Uberific — or Just Uberhyped?

By Vanessa Ledesma, Alyssa Herzog and Justin Gonzales

Lindsay Hamilton, a Texas Tech student who transferred from the University of Oklahoma, was thrilled to find out that Uber had come to Lubbock.

But when she tried to use the service, she was disappointed.

“We had Uber in Norman, and I used it a lot there,” Hamilton said. “When I came to Lubbock, I was so happy to see Uber was here, too, but the one time I tried to use it there was a three-hour wait. It was a game day so I figured the pick-up wasn’t going to be right away, but when I called again later that day, the wait was still super long.”

“I probably ended up saving money in the long run because I wasn’t paying for gas at the time.”

Others, however, have nothing but praise.

Dylan Bruton, a Lubbock resident, said he used Uber when his car got totaled in September.

“I was not 21 years old yet so I could not get a rental car, so instead I used Uber,” Bruton said. “It is affordable enough to where it didn’t put me behind on my bills and they pick up so fast. I probably ended up saving money in the long run because I wasn’t paying for gas at the time.”

The Roof has made sure the speakers coming from the DJ table face the opposite direction from the street in order to reduce noise complaints. Photo credit: Corley Peel

Driving in Lubbock can be stressful at times. Corley Peel for The Hub@ TTU.

Founded in 2009, Uber allows an individual to request to be picked up via a smartphone app. Uber then connects the person with a driver in the area, whether in town, at the airport or in the country, according to the Uber Lubbock website.

As of October, Uber is well worth $50 billion, three times more than a year ago, according to an estimate by a London Business School professor. With representation in 67 countries and more than 300 cities worldwide, the smartphone-hailing cab service is a poster child for the potential of person-to-person services.

This story map shows which Texas cities have Uber services.

Uber fares range depending on weather, traffic and distance, among others. Typically, a simple car ride, UberX, has a $1.50 base fee, while the larger vehicles, which offer UberXL rides, have a base fee of $3.75.

Aside from the convenience of getting a lift somewhere without the hassle of driving, many people also choose to drive for Uber as a part-time or even a full-time job. Uber has made strides in making the process easier for “independent contractors,” according to the company’s website, which also says that Uber drivers earn $19 an hour on average, while taxi and limo drivers earn about $11 an hour.

Jeremy Garcia, a chemistry major from Texas City, Texas, said he has been working as an Uber driver for a little over a month now. The best part about the job, Garcia said, is the convenience.

“The way it works is I just turn on the Uber Partner app on my phone and wait for a call,” Garcia said. “So it’s easy to lay around the house or be productive and then go do my job when the phone buzzes.”

There are qualifications to meet if an individual wants to become a driver, including being 21 or older, passing a background check and having a four-door vehicle no older than a 2005 model.

IMG_2225Kwilliam “Will” Call, a senior chemistry major from Corpus Christi, Texas, said he had applied to be an Uber driver earlier this year, but was denied because his vehicle did not meet the age requirement. Call drives a 2001 red Ford Explorer.

“I do drive a lot around town, and I thought I could use this service to get pick people up and get them to where they needed to be,” Call said.

The denial was not too surprising, he said, and since he is partial to his Explorer, it did not bother him. He said he is thankful, however, that such a service exists, and he occasionally enjoys being a passenger himself.

Uber has also developed a phone application to make its services faster and easier. The app features location services and allows for users to “set pick-up location” by simply clicking an area on the phone screen. The app also shows where Uber vehicles are currently driving around the user and approximately how long it would take for one to get to them.

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The application allows users to pay from their smartphones and even enter discount codes.

Jenna Renfroe, a senior art major from Frisco, Texas, said she was able to get a code for a free ride to her Christmas party last weekend.

“I called and said I was having a party, and Uber was kind enough to suggest I start a code so my guests could have free rides to my apartment,” Renfroe said. “The code was ‘JennaR415’ and it expired the next morning. It was a really cool thing to have because I knew all my friends could get home safely.”

Garcia said what he enjoys the most during his workday is meeting people. He said his most interesting experience as a Uber driver happened earlier this month.

“I pulled up to the address of the Uber call and the guy I went to pick up came out of the house with a disgruntled woman close behind,” he recalled. “She was screaming and cursing at him, while he said nothing to her until he opened my passenger door, and simply said “ok, bye,” as he slammed my car door in her face. It turns out that that he did not even know this girl’s name and woke up next to her.”

The client told him the woman was unhappy because he did not recognize her or recall meeting her while drunk.

Added Garcia: “This story … definitely lifted my spirits, and we shared a good laugh about it.”

About JOUR 4350

JOUR 4350 is the multiplatform news delivery class, which is the capstone class for journalism majors within the College of Media & Communication.

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