Uber, WTF happened to you?

Uber Malaysia Safety Customer Service

In the wake of the recent events surrounding Uber, I think it’s time we had a discussion about what I once called my favourite ride sharing service. Has Uber’s service been declining lately? Or is it just one terribly unlucky streak for them in Malaysia?

From my personal experiences, I have to say, it’s the former.

Uber started out as a godsend for me. I was sick of being bullied by cabbies and tired of the often poor service I received. When Uber came along, everything changed. Everything from payments to ratings were sorted out in the application so you didn’t have to deal with the driver directly.

Vehicles were new and kept in pristine condition so there were no weird smells. Drivers were also polite and considerate which made the entire experience so much more satisfying.

But in the last few months, things certainly have changed and in more than just a trip’s quality. I noticed a significant drop in quality in two key aspects: The drivers and Uber customer support.

Uber Malausia Safety

Let’s start with the drivers and the most objective representation of their capabilities — the Rating system. You may have heard of the story about the woman who was robbed by her Uber driver. One thing to note in that incident is that her driver had a rating of 2.8 stars.

Consider this, how generous are you with an Uber ride rating? Generally, as long as the ride doesn’t run into any major problems, I tend to give drivers a 5-star rating. What kind of act must this person have committed to get himself a rating of just 2.8 stars out of 5 stars? Further, we were told in the past that Uber drivers had to maintain a rating of 4 stars otherwise they’d be suspended from driving and subject to retraining.

Usually I’m not too concerned with a driver’s ratings but recently I was matched with an Uber driver, when I needed a ride back home from KLIA, that has made me hesitant to call an Uber ever since. He had a 4.1-star rating and drove a Toyota Vios.

The first red flag came when he accepted my request and immediately called me on my mobile to find out where I was going. Here’s the thing: Uber drivers are NOT supposed to do that. Uber set the system up in a way that prevents drivers from cherry picking their rides (a problem that Taxis had) so their riders would not be turned away. If Uber wanted their drivers to know where their rider was going before the driver picked them up, it would be displayed in the app.

I noticed this happening far more often in rides from KLIA (nearly every time) and even had a colleague asked to cancel his request by a driver because he wasn’t going where the driver wanted to go.

Regardless, I told him where I was going and he came to pick me up. During pickup, he zoomed past me (despite the fact I specifically told him which gate I was at) and seemed to be in a hurry the whole time. I got into the car and he asked if I knew the way. I wasn’t too familiar, so I told him to just follow the GPS navigation on his phone.

He didn’t seem too happy but complied regardless. One big problem, though, he didn’t have a smartphone holder and spent the rest of the trip driving like this:

Needless to say there was a lot of swerving which was really scary. It was also at this moment that I noticed his car didn’t have a side mirror on the driver’s side. How on earth did this guy’s car get approved?

After 30 minutes fearing for my life, I arrived home in one piece (not before I witnessed him being unnecessarily rude to my housing area’s security guard who was just doing his job). I gave him a one-star rating, selected several of the preset “what’s wrong with this ride’ options and closed the app.

Now, more than a week later I still haven’t heard a peep from Uber regarding my 1-star ride, which I suppose leads us nicely into the second key aspect: Customer service.

I don’t mean to sound entitled when I said I was waiting for a response from Uber, it was just my past experience led me to believe that they would at least contact me to ask my why I chose “Safety” as one of my main concerns with the ride.

Especially since in the past, I once left a driver a 4-star rating and the comment “smelled like smoke”, because his car stank of cigarettes and Uber Support immediately contacted me with a sincere apology and reassurance that they held their drivers to the highest of standards.

That moved me because I did not expect it at all and it really cemented my belief that Uber cared about their passengers.

Now? Now, I’m not so sure. Recently, in fact, I reported the issue of my driver calling me to find out where I was heading and this was the response I got from Uber Support:

Firstly, if the driver truly wanted to “get my pickup location right”, he would have asked me where I was, not where I was heading. Secondly, of course, he couldn’t see my destination, he hasn’t picked me up yet. What he was trying to do was cherry pick his rides and the fact that Uber tried to cover up for him is disappointing, to say the least.

To make matters worse, the recent set of events depicting some truly nightmarish events surrounding the ride-sharing service doesn’t do much to inspire confidence either. Drivers that don’t match the registration and robberies are both things that should not happen if Uber vets their drivers properly.

On Uber’s website, it is stated that for someone to be an Uber driver, that person cannot have a criminal record and that they will conduct background checks on all their drivers. If they really did that properly, then why was the driver who robbed the pregnant lady found to have two previous convictions allowed to drive for Uber? Perhaps it is a good idea to let Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) vet drivers instead.

Recently, there was also a case that came up regarding the alleged molestation of a Vietnamese lady by an Uber driver. Following that, SPAD said that all ride-hailing services should install a panic or SOS button in their application to prevent things like these from happening.

And this was Uber’s response to that:

“Uber has GPS tracking for every trip, giving customers the ability to share their trip information and estimated time of travel in real time with loved ones. Uber also has a two-way review feature so that both riders and driver-partners can give feedback on any trip”

Doesn’t sound like they’re particularly keen on following through, does it?

I used to think that Uber took ratings very seriously, but as I’ve discovered recently (from a friend who is an Uber driver), Uber doesn’t even contact the driver when he receives a 1-star rating. What does a rating system mean if Uber ignores it altogether?

And you can tell that the ratings have taken a backseat lately. In the old app, you couldn’t request a new ride until you’ve rated the one you took last. Now, it’s hidden at the bottom alongside the “promos”. There also used to be a box for you to enter your comments on how the ride went. Now? Nothing.

This incident with the Vios driver isn’t the first time I’ve encountered a bad ride — this was just the worst one by far. I’ve also been hearing negative reviews from my friends and colleagues who frequently use Uber, so I don’t think my case is particularly unique.

If Uber continues down this path that they’re on right now, they’re going to be having the same problems they sought to solve with the taxi service in the first place. Uber has put so much effort into implementing measures that were supposed to ensure that riders wouldn’t face the same problems they did when they had to take cabs.

But now, it looks like the company is growing too large and too quickly that they can’t maintain the quality and standard they set in the first place. This service went from something I trusted my life (and the life of my loved ones) with, to something I actively avoid when I need to get to places without my car.

What about you guys? Have you noticed a decline in quality in Uber’s services lately? What are some of your experiences? Let me know in the comments below.