GOLDEN, Colo. — Many Halloween partiers last night opted to pay a driver instead of risking the cost of a DUI, but a Denver man who used Uber – the popular car service – paid a much, much higher price than he ever thought possible.
“Me and my bank account got taken for a ride last night,” said Elliott Asbury of Denver.
After leaving a Halloween Party in Golden on Halloween night, Asbury knew getting home wouldn’t be cheap.
“I was expecting $44, $50, $60, $100 on the outside,” Asbury said.
He had no idea how wrong he was until his first Uber ride came to an end.
“We got there and he pressed the thing on his phone and it said, $539,” Asbury said.
All that for a ride that took him from the Jefferson County Government Center to his Denver apartment near I-70 and Colorado, a trip of less than 18 miles with a fare that neither he, nor his driver, thought was fair.
“(The driver) was shocked, he was embarrassed actually,” Asbury said. “He gave me his card and he was like, ‘Make phone calls. Get in touch with customer service. This can’t be right.'”
But according to Uber it is right. On busy nights Uber uses dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing. It multiplies fares as a way to quell demand and attracting a greater supply of drivers.
In a statement sent to FOX31 Denver, a Uber spokesperson Michael Amodeo said, “For many riders in Colorado, Uber is their ride of choice, and dynamic pricing allows us to remain the reliable choice, even on the busiest nights of the year.”
The company doesn’t hide that pricing. Like all other riders, Elliott was alerted to last night’s surge before sending for his car. The surge at the time multiplied his normal fare more than seven times, but he said he didn’t realize what that would do to his total fare.
“You just wouldn’t stand there and be like, ‘Hmm, is this maybe going to cost me half a grand to get home?’” Asbury said. “The thought just wouldn’t even cross your mind. It was so outrageous. They could just say, ‘You know what? At a certain point, we’re not going to charge that much.”
Elliott’s huge fare was also due to his inexperience with the app. He mistakenly requested a premium, Black Car instead of a cheaper UberX ride because he didn’t see the options or understand the difference. He also didn’t spot an option to estimate his fare.
“It would have been a good button to hit last night, had I known it was there,” Asbury said.
Asbury says he definitely learned his lesson, and he has some advice to anyone else looking to use the service during a similar surge.
“Don’t bother man,” Asbury said. “Rent a helicopter.”
Uber stands by its dynamic pricing model as a way to balance supply and demand, but Amodeo said the company does offer a 25% discount to first-time riders who are caught off guard by the multiplied fares. He said the 25% discount will likely apply to Asbury.