Uber in Santiago

There is silence. Then there is madness. Then a quiet voice says, “we did this. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Last night Luis went to try take passengers from an event held in Huechuraba. He was joined by other taxistas hoping to find some work. Unfortunately, most of the taxi drivers left empty-handed as everyone used Uber. It was a bad night in general for work last night.

What is Uber? Is it really as “uber-cool” as everyone makes out? Uber is a smartphone app that provides transportation at the click of a button, and removes the need for cash as you pay via credit card.  The app is growing in popularity in Santiago, driven on by the justified and not-so justified paranoia of the city’s taxis.

While I appreciate the idea of Uber, I just don’t like it. Let us not forget that its in murky water overseas because it’s owners, Google and Goldman Sachs, (both huge billion dollar corporations) don’t pay tax. In Chile, people are turning to Uber because:

a) cars are airconditioned

b) cardoors are automatically locked upon entry

c) 6/10 vehicles are privately owned

d) 10% of drivers are women

e) offers: Uber Black (luxury), Uber X (economic), Uber SUV (6 people)

f) offers discounts and promotional rides

Sounds amazing so why do I have a problem?  I dont like the fact that Uber replaces the option to be self-employed – particularly in a world where industry conglomerates own it all – and that payment is handed out via a third party. I don’t like how Uber sells jobs by saying that you can earn up to four times the minimum wage because this selling point doesn’t really say much at all. I don’t like how Uber’s “wonderfulness” paints all other taxis in a negative light. For example, did you know that all new taxis have to be air conditioned by law? And that all taxis have doors that can be locked? That all new taxis must be new cars? Or that he statistics for car ownership is the same – if not higher – for regular street taxis? And – holy moly – women drive street taxis too!

I get that people have had bad experiences in taxis, and in an age where the sharing of information is so easy, it’s understandable that paranoia runs away with the facts a little bit. But let’s not forget that there are many good experiences to be had in a taxi. With Uber there is no room for negotiation because not only are you paying electronically but you are not even paying the driver himself. When I was molested on the metro near Los Dominicos, an amazing taxi driver found me distraught and took me home FOR FREE. When I found a good family run business I used them regularly and in return they offered me set prices. It doesn’t work like that with Uber. Without the control of the driver you are in the hands of a faceless machine, and mercy to its whims.

When people take Luis’ taxi, the money goes to us. It buys our food, pays our electricity, our gas bottles and our heater bill in winter. It buys Emilio clothes when he (finally) grows. It replacd our calefont pipe when we went without hot water for months (don’t get me started!).  Occasionally it allows us to go out to dinner, and buy birthday presents. The money goes directly back into the world around us, like when we buy our food at the feria.

So please consider this the next time that you need a taxi!! For every dishonest taxi driver there are ten honest more. If you need a good, decent taxi I can easily point you in the direction of a few.  Or try EasyTaxi or Safer Taxi – applications that give you convenience and peace of mind as well as the driver. Finally, it is worth remembering that from a psychological point of view, the taxi is one of the last places of equality left because the driver depends upon the passenger, and the passenger upon him. With Uber, the driver loses all rights of equality.

For airport transfers and trips around 10000 pesos: call Luis (and family): 91502396

For groups and day trips: RS TRANSIT

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