GUEST COLUMN: Lyft, Uber prime time a rip-off

By ISABEL FORSMAN

Things that should be illegal: stealing, murder, drug use and prime time on Lyft and Uber rides.

As a college student, I use Lyft and/or Uber when I don’t want to drive on the weekends. Ergo, I always use it.

Prime time happens when potential customers request an excessive number of Lyft or Uber rides within a short period of time. A formula compares the number of Lyft/Uber drivers available to the number of ride requests, and multiplies the price of rides by a multiple.

On Friday and Saturday nights, prime time rates typically go up 50-100 percent. This is a little ridiculous but doable, especially if the party I need to get to is going to be worth it.

Just last weekend, however, I was out with a friend. We were going to request a Lyft to take us home, until we saw it was a 500 percent prime time markup.

Five hundred percent? This outrageous amount would have been roughly $50 for a 15-minute ride. If this isn’t robbery, I don’t know what is.

As a college student with enough to worry about and pay for, I am appalled by Lyft and Uber for putting these prices on their rides.

So why do they do it? They say that at times of high demand, the number of drivers become limited and higher prices encourage other drivers to become available.

With that in mind, I did a survey to determine whether college students (ages 18-24 from Pima Community College) would rather pay the extra $20 or wait an extra 45 minutes for an Uber/Lyft driver to become available.

The results concluded that 39 of 50 students would rather wait than pay. This survey shows that Uber and Lyft should have consulted with their users before raising prices.

Here I am thinking that whoever invented Lyft and Uber had a main goal of helping to provide cheap, easy and reliable rides for people who want to get to where they are going.

In my humble opinion, that person is doing a crummy job. College students should not, under any circumstances, have to pay prime time for services that are supposedly the “best deal” for rides,

Pima Community College sophomore Isabel Forsman is from Hagerstown, Maryland. She is a studying political science and plans to pursue a career in law after completing her education.

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  1. Christina says:

    If you don’t like then take a regular taxi. I use the app E-HAIL (www.goehail.com) same convenience but real taxis.

  2. Jeff K. says:

    “Things that should be illegal: stealing, murder, drug use and prime time on Lyft and Uber rides.”

    Hyperbole much?

    “As a college student, I use Lyft and/or Uber when I don’t want to drive on the weekends. Ergo, I always use it.”

    You know, there *are* other means of getting around town. You could bike. Or walk. Or take the bus. The first two are free; the third has a fixed fare that never changes. But I hear today’s entitled millennials reject most things that require actual *forethought* or, heaven forbid, physical activity.

    “Five hundred percent? This outrageous amount would have been roughly $50 for a 15-minute ride. If this isn’t robbery, I don’t know what is.”

    It’s not even close to robbery, hon. It’s called “the price of convenience.” You could have called to have a taxi dispatched, but lemme guess: it would take too long. You also could’ve waited until Lyft’s “surge” was over and *then* go home … but it would’ve taken too long. And I bet it was REALLY REALLY cold that night!!! And I bet your buzz was wearing off and OMG you just wanted to go home and get in bed already!!! Geez!!!

    Okay, that was kinda sarcastic. Allow me to explain *why* Lyft has Prime Time, but to start: no, it is not there to rip off penniless college students. I don’t know if you’ve taken Econ yet, but if you have then you probably already know about something called “supply-and-demand.” It’s the basis for most transactions in a capitalist society. The system works smoothly when there’s almost *exactly* equal amounts of both, but things get TOTES out of whack when demand starts to drastically outweigh supply.

    Back in Ye Olden Days before Lyft and Uber were around, people usually had to rely on taxis in situations like yours, and since taxis have flat prices 24 hours a day, it could literally take *hours* for one to arrive! And that’s if they arrived at all! (Seriously. I’ve lost track of the number of times I ended up ditched altogether after requesting a taxi pickup.)

    So: let’s assume for a sec that Lyft didn’t have Prime Time. What would happen when all y’all partyin’ college kids start requesting rides? Just like taxis before them, they wouldn’t be able to meet demand! Sure, you’d pay the same rate every time, but God only knows how long it’d take for a car to get there!

    That, my dear, is where a concept called “demand-driven pricing” comes in. You know how plane tickets can double or triple in price around Christmas and spring break? That’s how Uber and Lyft work, too! Except their prices fluctuate in real-time, based on the *actual* number of people within a 1,500-foot radius of you who are requesting rides at any given moment. If Lyft was at a 5x multiple, it means that they only had enough drivers available to fulfill 1/5th of the total demand. As such, their pricing algorithm — oh btw all this stuff is done by computers, not live human beings — raised prices to a rate that would significantly *reduce* demand, to the point where you could request a car and have it arrive in prolly ten minutes or less … with the CATCH being it costing *way* more than normal. Again, we’re back at the cost-of-convenience thing.

    Oh, one last thing. Wanna know who Uber and Lyft drivers like driving the *least*? College kids. More specifically, drunk and entitled college kids who whiiiiiiiiiine about *everything* and puke all over their back seats A LOT more than you probably realize. In effect, Prime Time is a bribe to get them out on the road to drive your drunken, annoying asses home, since there ain’t NO way they’d put up with your bullcrap if they’re only getting their standard 95-cent-per-mile fare!

    “I did a survey to determine whether college students (ages 18-24 from Pima Community College) would rather pay the extra $20 or wait an extra 45 minutes for an Uber/Lyft driver to become available. The results concluded that 39 of 50 students would rather wait than pay. This survey shows that Uber and Lyft should have consulted with their users before raising prices.”

    Um, no. I’m guessing you haven’t taken statistics yet, otherwise you’d know a sample of 50 students is too small in the first place, but regardless, their answers to your question are BULLCRAP if answered while sober! Of *course* they’re gonna say that … but then they go ahead and pay for it anyway, just like college kids do all kinds of stuff while drunk like make out with fugs, lose their phones, black out, etc.

    And again, there isn’t some big meanie sitting in Tucson just waiting to hit the “RAISE PRICES” button right around 1am on a Friday night and you’re tiiiiiiiiiiired and wanna go hooooooooome. It’s all done by computer.

    “Here I am thinking that whoever invented Lyft and Uber had a main goal of helping to provide cheap, easy and reliable rides for people who want to get to where they are going.”

    Well, you’re two-thirds right. They both want to provide easy and reliable rides – the one big area where taxis have TOTALLY failed for, like, decades now. As for “cheap” … guess what? You — and everyone else requesting rides — are the ones *directly* responsible for them *not* being cheap! Soooooo many of y’all are out drinking up a storm and requesting rides that they simply don’t have the manpower to keep up.

    And one more time: you have NUMEROUS other transportation options! You can call a cab! You can split designated-driver duties with your friends! You can go home earlier! You can go home later! But no. It’s all about *your* needs, right? And clearly, your biggest need in these instances is to get home, ’cause you *paid* that 5x, didn’t you??

    Life’s a *total* beeeyotch sometimes.

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