Uber rage: Bostonians irate over price surge in snow rides

A screenshot of an Uber Boston transaction. Photo credit: Twitter/@SavvyBostonian
A screenshot of an Uber Boston transaction. Credit: Twitter/@SavvyBostonian

Plenty of Bostonians braved the snow Saturday night only to realize that getting back home in comfort would cost them big time.

Uber Boston’s rates saw a dramatic increase late Saturday into Sunday morning due to “off the charts” demand as the season’s first winter storm dropped 4.2 inches of snow on the city. Some angry Uber Boston users reported paying four times the usual price for a ride home.

Back Bay resident Jessica Gioglio was surprised to be charged $91 for a 3-mile trip.

“This was ultimately a learning experience for me. The road conditions were not good and I’m grateful that my Uber driver got my friend and I home safely,” said Gioglio.

“I knew it was going to be more expensive than usual, but didn’t quite expect my fare to be $91. I’ll continue to use Uber, but will be more cautious about accepting surge pricing fares in the future,” she said.

Twitter user @TheNeonBarbie reached out to the company Sunday, saying she unknowingly racked up a $170 bill on a 7-mile ride and planned to dispute the transaction.

“The fact that you guys think it’s okay to triple the cost of a normal taxi fare because of ‘high demand’ is complete bulls—t,” she tweeted.

The high prices were not unique to Boston; Uber New York customers were also subjected to sky high surges Saturday night. One Uber New York passenger reported being charged nearly eight times more than usual.

The company responded to frustrated customers on Twitter, saying, “The increased fare ensures more drivers on the road during a busy, snowy night! … You have to confirm their rate (showing the fare minimum) prior to requesting the ride. We do this so there are no surprises!”

In an email to Metro, Meghan Verena Joyce, general manager of Uber Boston, explained the reasoning for the price increase.

“The purpose of increased fares during periods of high demand is to increase reliability during the hardest times to get a ride. Increased fares encourage our partners to put more cars on the road and to stay out later during periods of high demand, like the cold, snowy night we had [Saturday] evening. This means that more people are able to get rides, and fewer people get stranded.”

She went on to say, “Prices are always displayed in the app, and at times of increased fares, riders are notified and given the opportunity to accept or decline a ride at the higher rate. After a rider taps Select Pickup Location, she will see a notice of the increased price, and is asked to tap ‘I accept higher fare’ before requesting a ride. When prices reach higher levels, as they did last night, riders are asked to confirm a second time by typing the actual price increase into the app.”


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