We learned a valuable lesson about UBER this past weekend. In case you’re not familiar with UBER, it’s an app you can use in lieu of calling a cab and actually ride with someone who’s earning extra money in their own personal vehicles. According to their website, they are evolving the way the world moves by seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through their apps. They also claim to make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From their founding in 2009 to their launches in hundreds of cities their rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.
I should probably state for the record that I’ve personally used UBER about a dozen times before on business trips out of town and have had positive experiences each time prior.
This past weekend my family and I attended the Liberty Bowl in Memphis (our Razorbacks defeated Kansas State). We decided to take my truck to the ballgame and park early (we had excellent parking situation next to the front door of the stadium) and then catch an UBER driver to take us to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in downtown Memphis. My parents were with us so they were pretty apprehensive because “they didn’t know this UBER guy!”
We had some friends that were going to meet us at the restaurant for lunch that were running late so they just met us at the restaurant and left their car there and shared an UBER ride back with us. Sounds like a fool-proof plan right? We thought so… actually we felt pretty smart.
We arrived at the stadium compliments of our UBER driver Jon who was very cordial and had a few funny stories for us along the way. When we got into the crowded stadium my cousin made the observation that he didn’t have any cell service, I glanced at my phone and didn’t have any service either. It didn’t register with me until after the game was over that my friends (who were sitting on the other side of the stadium) didn’t have cell service either and were unable to summon an UBER driver to pick them up –remember their car was across town at the restaurant.
Fortunately they caught up to us after the game and we were able to get them away from the vicinity of the Liberty Bowl so they could regain cell service to summon an UBER driver to take them back across town to get their car.
At one point my friends decided to just call a cab company since UBER’s app wasn’t responding and we found out from them that a lot of people were having the same issue and all of the cabs were already out and they couldn’t guarantee any pickups. Before catching up to us they had walked several blocks looking for a cab and couldn’t find one, the traffic was horrendous anyway and we learned later there was multiple accidents in the area that also prohibited them from making any pickups at the stadium.
In addition to our friends I also know of one other couple that was able to use UBER to deliver them but found themselves stranded at the Liberty Bowl stadium due to the lack of bandwidth / internet service.
This is a huge problem, we can’t really fault UBER for this experience. Once we found service we were able to summon them a ride no problem. The fact that the Liberty Bowl stadium area had zero cellular service was very disappointing –and even dangerous. Memphis isn’t exactly a town that you want to find yourself stranded in.
The more I thought about this the more frustrated I got. I did some asking around and found out that this is a common problem with large events and gatherings around the country. Our carrier AT&T had zero service around the stadium, as did Verizon and T-Mobile to some extent.
It’s great that we have technology like UBER and it’s competitor LYFT (that just got a huge influx of support from General Motors) but if our wireless infrastructure can’t handle the demand –what good is it?
Photos from the game and our weekend at the farm can be found here…