Complaining about the price of an Uber ride on New Year’s Eve is becoming a tradition akin to the ball drop itself. Every year, riders rack up $300 fares and cry foul that Uber has snookered their money.
But this year, some riders found it hard to find the fare estimate option to know the cost in advance, leaving them to blindly accept the ride without knowing how much it might cost them.
Bob Sullivan, a tech writer at his eponymous blog, was the first to publish a detailed report on Saturday claiming Uber’s fare estimator wasn’t working. Sullivan and other Uber riders had logged into the app, only to not see an option to calculate the estimated price after they had accepted surge pricing — critical information when some cities were having the price of a ride multiplied by nearly 10x.
Uber told Business Insider that the fare estimate tool was working correctly, but an experiment in New York City and Boston that changed the location of the estimator in the app may have made it harder to find than designed.
Rather than being on the confirmation screen, like in most cities, Uber had relocated the fare estimate tool was on the initial “slider” screen where Uber users could choose between UberX and Uber. Once a rider accepted surge pricing, like Sullivan did, the app would then take them to the confirmation page to book an Uber.
That’s where it becomes convoluted. If a rider wanted to check what the price of the ride would be at that level of surge pricing (a good step in order to avoid a $300 fare), Uber users in NYC and Boston would have instead had to go back to the original screen, delete their destination, and put the address in again to see an updated price. It’s not surprising that Uber riders in those two cities, especially on a night like New Year’s Eve, wouldn’t realise they needed to go back to the home screen and go through the process again to find out how much a ride would cost.
After Sullivan and other Uber users brought it to the ride-hailing company’s attention, Uber says it has already changed the fare estimate tool to be back on the screen when a rider is confirming a ride. The unintentionally harder-to-find fare estimate tool was only limited to the two cities, so Uber riders complaining about their $1,100 bill can’t put all the blame on the company.
“Based on reports of an issue with our Fare Estimate feature, we dug in and determined that the tool was working properly, albeit it was a bit harder to find than it should have been for some of our riders in NYC and Boston,” an Uber spokesperson told Business Insider in an email. “We apologise for the inconvenience and we have resolved the issue.”