Being in a strange city or a foreign country, apart from airport shuttles to my hotel, I have been quite confident to use the Uber taxi service to get around town.
In Johannesburg where places could be so obscure, and some addresses are at best a guess rather than a precise location, that relying on the Uber navigation aids is very useful.
However, whilst reviewing some of my journeys to and from our offices dotted around Johannesburg and the suburbs, I could not help but think I was being taken for a ride in some sort of disadvantageous collusion between Uber and the driver against me.
Some journeys just seemed to be twice as long in the distance without really making up for time or missing the traffic and with that an unexpected tour of the periphery of Johannesburg, the cost, no doubt outrageous.
It got to a head that I had to register a complaint with Uber about my trips, because to my mind I was being unfairly taken advantage of, either through design, some Machiavellian scheme or the quirks of technology having a mind of its own. My complaint:
I am unhappy that on a number of journeys between Randburg and Sandton, I am taken on unnecessarily long journeys via the freeway doubling the distance that would have been covered without the need for a bypass especially when there is light traffic going into Sandton.
The idea that the distance from Randburg/North Riding to Sandton should be 33km is outrageous and a total rip-off.
One would have expected Uber to provide options of the shortest and probably the most optimal journeys rather than defaulting to the longest possible marathon coverable between 2 points in Johannesburg.
I have no problems with the drivers, but between Uber and the guidance offered by your navigation systems, this customer relationship is not only badly served, but seriously fleeced too.
Please do not spam my mail box with requests for comment, just sort this matter out.
Uber eventually apologised and offered a ZAR 50 compensation that was deducted from my next journey and whilst it appears things have been a bit better, it does not half ameliorate the fact that I have been well and truly rogered and ultimately fleeced.
The additional annoyance is that for every comment I leave, I get more spam from Uber asking me to comment on my comments, I really do not have the time for more small talk, just have the service delivered with professionalism and consideration.
I guess one other thing that will not go amiss on the Uber app is giving me the list of my most recent locations and destinations as well as not generalising street names when there is a possibility that there are many occurrences of that street name in the same city.
On such event was where there were two Industrial Roads in Johannesburg, the one we first arrived at was not right and in one morning I had a 66-kilometre ride on Uber for what should never have been more than 18 kilometres just because I trusted Uber to know better than I did about where I was going.
Besides all this, I will still happily use Uber, even if drivers end up on the wrong side of the road and I have to hobble across the wide and dangerous Johannesburg roads, cane in hand to join my ride.
For better for worse, Uber is here to stay, it, however, should get better at precision, direction, instruction and value.