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Partnering Strategy, Subcontractors, and Uber

You can’t hire in courtesy and managerial competence; it has to flow from company management outwards.

I’m traveling to Atlanta and Boston this month, so starting to plan my logistics.  Part of what Uber’s customers pay for is an easy-to-use layer across multiple cab services in multiple cities.   I don’t mind too much paying them a premium when I’m traveling in a strange city, but I feel silly doing so when in my home city, New York.  I expect over time native New York cab companies will try to come out with Uber-type functionality.  This reduces somewhat the threat to the local taxi companies’ business, given a high percentage of their customers are locals.

Recently (Monday, October 22), I had a quick trip to Atlanta for a Social Fortress board meeting.  So, in the interests of not paying the Uber premium, I went looking for a NY cab service which made it easy to book online.  The service with the best website I found (by far) was Lincoln Limousine.  On October 20, I booked trips to and from the airport for October 22.

My first car was booked for 7am on October 22, to arrive at ~7:50am at Laguardia for a 9am flight.  At 7:03am I called to complain that no car had arrived.  The dispatcher told me, “The driver had mechanical trouble. It will take about 45 minutes to get you a new car.”

This was gross incompetence.  If a driver has mechanical trouble, the correct response is to call, email, and text me to alert me that he’s delayed, and give me an ETA for a replacement.  Don’t wait for me to call the driver service.

I understand that cars might have mechanical trouble, but the way Lincoln handled the situation was so incompetent, I immediately told the dispatcher to cancel both my reservations from and to the airport.  I couldn’t get a cab from any other service on short notice, so I ended up taking public transit to 125th Street in Harlem, followed by a taxi to the airport.  Fortunately I arrived at the airport with 10 minutes to spare, but I could easily have missed my flight.

My core mistake here was choosing a car service based on the one that had the best website.  That’s a decent proxy for professionalism, but far from a perfect one.

My suggestion to Uber: as you evaluate whom to partner with in the New York market, do your due diligence.  Lincoln Limousine successfully hired a website designer.  They can’t hire someone to teach them courtesy to clients, if that habit has not been instilled in the company from day one.

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  1. smjasmin says

    dteten , Great insights! Next time you are in Atlanta, let me know would love to grab drinks! Have a great New Year!